Passover and Holy Week
Holy Week was totally foreign to me when I became a follower of Christ at 20 years of age. I had no idea of the importance of Jesus’ final week on earth.
Now I spend Holy Week considering each of Jesus’ days – where he went, who he interacted with, how he trusted his Father over circumstances, confusion, and fear that surrounded him.
Some years ago, Holy Week became much more personal for me when I began to integrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection with the final meal he shared with his disciples. We call it the Last Supper. When I was growing up my family called it the Passover Seder.
I have celebrated the Passover every year of my life. For the first 19 or 20 years, my Jewish family remembered the redemption of Israel when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. And we were admonished to “remember as if you personally were delivered from slavery.”
I always found that a bizarre statement. After all, I was not in slavery and, in fact, lived in an incredibly free country!
Over time some things clicked for me, especially in how Jesus relates to his ancient story from the book of Exodus.
We are all slaves.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. When Jesus celebrated the Passover he knew that people are still slaves – to our own sin and brokenness. The exodus from Egypt now reminds me that we continue to need God to bring us out of slavery.
Holy Week is the story of freedom.
At the end of the Passover Seder, the leader (usually grandpa) raises his glass and says excitedly, ‘Next year in Jerusalem!” As a child I never knew what that pointed to. Today I find it fascinating that Jesus’ last week on earth was spent in Jerusalem.
The City of Peace that has experienced so little peace. The city over which Jesus wept (Luke 19) as he entered it and said to the Jewish people, “if you only knew what would bring you peace.” Holy Week is all about deliverance and freedom and ultimate hope that God does what we cannot. He forgives us, he redeems us, he gives us life now and for eternity.
We don’t slaughter lambs anymore because we don’t have to!
Israelites were commanded to slaughter a lamb (Exodus 12:5-8), to put its blood on the doorframes of their houses, and God would pass over those houses marked by the blood. It’s a gruesome part of the biblical story!
When Jesus celebrated the Passover, he marked the fulfillment of killing a lamb. He told his disciples that HE was the FINAL Lamb of God and that HIS blood would now “cover” the people of God. No longer would people have to sacrifice a lamb – no animal’s blood would be spilled.
This year I enter Holy Week with a deep sense of gratitude to God for my heritage and celebrating Passover, and all the more for how Jesus fulfills all of the longings in the Passover story.