Beginning last Sunday we started a new Church season. Easter. There are seasons in the life of the Church because we’re digging into deep things that require more than a 15-minute sermon, or an hour-long service, or a single day of the week. Some of our faith is complex and hard to understand; some of it is just hard to believe; some of it, worth taking the time to enjoy and celebrate. Easter season is all of those things, so together for this series we’re going to spend six weeks dwelling on Jesus’ Resurrection and its implications for us all.
The core image we’re going to use is at the ancient heart of Easter — the Hebrew Pesakh. Now, not too many of you this time of year, in the mix of your candy and eggs and pastel what-not, get “Happy Pesakh” cards. There is no Pesakh bunny. But some of us know Pesakh simply as the “Passover.” If that’s not familiar to you either, read the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament. Chapters 1-12 will get you there; it’s not overly-short, but it’s for real. To sum up the action, God’s special people (the Hebrews/Israelites) have been slaves in Egypt for 400+ years and the time is finally right for God to set them free and unite them as God’s own nation. To do that, God speaks and acts through a man named Moses, even sending hardcore plagues and destruction on the Egyptians when Pharaoh, in his pride, refuses to free them. Over and over this goes on, until the big one — Moses tells Pharaoh that God will strike dead all the firstborn in Egypt, human and animal, if he doesn’t free the slaves. Pharaoh refuses again and it goes down. To be sure that no innocent person dies, God tells them that whoever is faithful should gather together in their homes for a special meal, and slaughter a good, year-old lamb. They’re told to spread the blood of that lamb on the tops and sides of the doors to their homes, so that when death sweeps through they might be “passed over” and spared.
And this is how it went (Ex 12:29-30):
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
Before morning even came, Pharaoh gave the order for the Hebrew slaves to go free. This night of darkness and a close brush with death, and the sacrifice of blood that saved the people, and deliverance to freedom, was the start of something. It was a hint of what was coming. So, God told the people to never forget it, and to celebrate this night every year, with special preparations, as the Passover. And for all the ways God’s people screwed up from then on, and that was a good bit, they maintained the Passover. So that hundreds and hundreds of years later, when Jesus lived, it was still being celebrated. So that, in a small unknown upstairs room in Jerusalem, with a group of “nobodies,” Jesus could finally fulfill everything the Passover represented. God-in-person, Jesus, took up the cup and bread of the feast and did something new, saying: “Take and eat; this is my body… Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Then came the cross, and death, and blood. But along with it came life. Resurrection. And Jesus promised those who would believe and follow him to share in his resurrection. This was the far deeper and more universe-rocking Passover that was always to come. That’s why Christians, followers of Jesus, look forward to eternal life; we are hoping in the truth that we have been passed over.
So, here we are at Easter time, and we live in a funky place. We’re promised that we’ll live forever in communion with God and each other, in paradise, eternally. But it’s not yet. We still sin, even though it’s been forgiven; we still die. It’s like the great reward is deferred to a later date. Future hope. But, then again, something has ALREADY happened; Jesus is alive right now, and he defeated death back then once and for all. Funky. That’s why I like the feeling that we, by faith, are “Passed Over.” The dark night of death came and went, and we were left standing in God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice, but that was just the beginning of freedom. We have already been passed over, but it’s not simply over. So in the series our goal is to consider Resurrection, ours yet to fully come, but also Resurrected life here and now. We’ll consider that we are those who have been…