It's about that time again. Spring is coming. New life springs up. Flowers bloom. The sun shines (only for a few days in Seattle). And Passover arrives. It has always been my favorite time of year (except when Passover falls on my birthday and I can't have cake)! Of course Passover is the retelling of Israel's exodus from Egypt; it is about freedom from slavery and oppression. Passover is also a reminder every year that God's promise to never leave or forsake His people, Israel, remains intact.
One of the traditional names for Passover in the Hagaddah is z’man cheruteinu, the “season of our freedom.” I love the word "our". Judaism is very much about "us" not "I". It is about "we" not "me". What God does for one, He does for all. What God offers His people, He offers to Kalal Yisrael (all of Israel). The focus is on the corporate experience of the people and the God we call "Our God". Traditionally we are encouraged to treat Passover and the exodus from Egypt as our having personally been there. For us, it is not just something that happened in the past. But it is about freedom that we have been given and that has been experienced by "us", together. As we left Egypt together, we also followed the very presence of God, a cloud by day and fire by night, through the wilderness, together.
This season of freedom is a concept heard in Exodus 6:6-8 when God promises to free us from Egyptian slavery:
6 “Therefore, say to the people of Isra’el: ‘I am Adonai. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians, rescue you from their oppression, and redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am Adonai your God, who freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov — I will give it to you as your inheritance. I am Adonai.’” (CJB)
During our seder (meal/celebration) we say a blessing over four different cups (one cup, filled four times). The four cups come from verses six and seven:
- The Cup of Sanctification – based on, “I will free you”
- The Cup of Plagues (Deliverance) - based on, “I will rescue you”
- The Cup of Redemption – based on, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm”
- The Cup of Praise – based on God’s statement, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God”
As a Messianic Rabbi and Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus), these four statements are seen with deeper significance in light of all that Yeshua did during Passover when He was thirty-three years old. As an observant Jew Himself, Yeshua was in Jerusalem for Passover. It is during this "season of our freedom" that Yeshua has a meal with His disciples (a Passover seder). He is betrayed, arrested, put on trial, sentenced, put to death, and rises from the dead. All of this is during the preparation for and the celebration of Passover!
Of course, none of this is a replacement of the original context of Passover; rather it is an amplification of how awesome the God of Israel is! God is so invested in our freedom and in giving us new life that He has done everything He can to clear the way for us. It is why God's name receives an addition following the story of Passover. In the giving of the ten commandments at Mt Sinai (exodus 20:1), the first commandment is "I am Adonai your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery." God freeing us from physical slavery and bondage becomes a part of His actual name. In the rest of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), God refers to Himself as "The God who brought you out of the land of Egypt." What He did becomes a part of Who He is or at least how His people recognize Him.
In the same way, John says of Yeshua, "Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes:
"6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Cor. 5:6-8, NIV)
In Yeshua, Who God is and what He has done are one in the same. During this awesome season of freedom God has given us the opportunity to be free from sin and death itself. And this not just for the Jewish people, but it is for everyone and anyone who calls on the name of Yeshua our Messiah. For Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, offered Himself freely as a sacrifice so that we can live with Him forever -- even past this life on earth and into the rest of eternity. That is a free gift that should not be passed over!
Chag Pesach Sameach! (Happy Passover!) May you come to know the One who formed you in your mother’s womb so that you could experience the freedom that only knowing Him brings!