In the Jewish tradition the Passover is celebrated every year at spring time to remember the liberation of the Hebrews from the Land of Egypt. So that they can recall that they were once oppressed and to thank God for their deliverance.
From the Exodus reading of the Passover story this morning, we can bring out some important points of the instructions God gave to Moses for the Hebrew people.
First, according to the account, the Hebrew people are to take a lamb which is without blemish, a year-old male, and it can be taken from the sheep or from the goats.
Second, God provides some details as to what to do with some of the blood: They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
Third, God instructs the people how to eat the lamb and what to do with the remains if they do not consume the food that night. They are to burn it.
Forth, God tells the people how they are to eat the food: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.
Fifth, God provides further directions: For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments said the LORD.
Lastly, God tells them that:
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
For Christians the reading of the Passover story can represent some challenges.
Why you might ask?
Well, according to the story God is taking sides with the Hebrew people and God is against the Egyptian's firstborns (including the animals), if we were to read the story in a literal form.
As we know from the story, the angel of the Lord that night was going to passover the houses where the blood was put, but it was going to strike those who did not have the blood on their doorposts.
Basically, the angel of the Lord was going to kill the Egyptian firstborns and the animals. Included in this group were also those firstborn Hebrews whose families did not obey God's instructions.
There is another way to read the Exodus story, however.
If we consider reading the story as a metaphor, then we could arrive at a different outcome or conclusion. In this case, then, the message that God is conveying to us is that God's judgement will passover us when we obey His commandments.
Thus, the Passover could be celebrated by everyone, not just the Hebrew people. In fact, this is the Christian reading of the Passover story.
Let us consider the following:
The apostle Paul, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, refers to Jesus as “our paschal lamb, Christ, who has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7), and in First Peter we find that Jesus' sacrifice is “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
In the Exodus story the Hebrews are to select a blemished lamb, and they are to put the blood on the doorposts. In First Peter we are told that Jesus' sacrifice is the blood that save us from our sins.
Thus, the Passover that we heard in the Exodus story now is open to all who come and receive Jesus in their hearts.
The invitation made by Jesus is an open invitation for all of us to receive the gift of eternal life. This is an act of love from God to humanity.
The New Testament story is a love story, but not in the romantic form that we receive from the entertainment industry in Hollywood, but a brotherly love – a divine love from God to humanity and vice-versa.
For example, in Romans, the Apostle Paul instructs us that we should love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the Apostle Paul when one follows the commandments he or she is right with God. However, Paul remind us that the message of God is summed up in this, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
The Apostle Paul is summarizing the fundamental teaching of Jesus: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
As we come to receive Communion, let's keep in mind that we are celebrating the Passover of the Lord, and let us also remember Jesus' promise: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them – meaning that Jesus is with us in this celebration where are forgiven of our sins. Amen.