I’m pretty sure that every society has memories. These memories work to bring identity to the people. They give the the people stories, commonality, and are foundational in forming their culture. Memories help give cultures their flavor. Today, in both our nation and the church, we’re pretty crummy at remembering stuff. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we in the church aren’t always sure about who we are and what we’re about anymore.
But anyway, in Exodus 12, we read about a particular event that has been seared into the memories of the Jewish people. They’d been held captive for centuries, being treated as slaves. But this night, God is on their side. God has heard the cries of his people. This night, God is gonna move. He is busting them out. Cue the slow motion action sequence. This is going down. Tonight, Pharaohs are gonna scream like little girls.
God’s chosen are going to be set free. Those who disobeyed will be punished.
God had made the instructions to his people pretty clear. Get some lambs, and make sure there’s enough for everyone. Slaughter those lambs and collect the blood. Then, slather the blood up on top of your door frames, and on the sides as well.
They were supposed to mark their households with that blood.
After that, cook those lambs and eat them. But eat them with your sandals on, your cloak tucked in, and your staff in your hand, because this is your last night in Egypt. It’s time to move.
That night, God’s spirit moved through Egypt and killed the firstborn son of every family. Even animals weren’t spared. But every household with lamb’s blood on the door was passed over. For centuries later, the Jews remembered that night. They call it, appropriately, the Passover.
Shortly after midnight, one could hear the wailing start to rise all throughout the land. Mothers and Fathers discovered their firstborn sons dead. Even Pharaoh himself was not spared this tragedy. It wasn’t that they hadn’t been given chances. They had – lots of them, in fact. It truly is a tragedy when people force God’s hand by disobeying him time and time again.
The Jews continued to remember the passover every year. They even took time to prepare for the coming of that special day, during a festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
It was at this time thousands of years later that Jesus sat with his disciples in an upper room, about to remember the passover. He took the unleavened bread and the wine and passed it out. But this time, Jesus did something a little different. He compared them to his body and to his blood. Then, he said, “do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus, knowing full well what he was saying, on the most significant day of the Jewish year, which commemorated the most significant event in Jewish history, told them that they ought to instead remember him.
They took the bread – the body of Jesus – and they ate it. They took the wine – the blood of Jesus – and they drank it.
It’s like they marked themselves with it.
Jesus wasn’t replacing the passover. He was finishing it. That night would lead to another firstborn son dying. There would be no escape route this time. Blood would be shed, but not as protection. There would be more wailing as well, but not from a whole nation. Just one mother and a few friends. But I imagine that Heaven wept, too.
God turned the tables that day. God’s chosen was punished. And those who disobeyed were to be set free. God suffered the fate of Egypt to give us the freedom of Israel.
If that’s not worth remembering, I’m not sure what is.
The kings of Gentiles Lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.