Narrative Lectionary Reflection
October 4, 2020
Read: Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
As the book of Exodus starts, we find things are not so good for the descendants of Joseph and his brothers. The book opens us by telling us that a new pharaoh rules the land and he “did not know Joseph.” Between the time of Joseph and the current period, the Hebrews grew in size from a handful of people to a vast group within Egypt. The new Pharaoh did not have the same generous attitude as the first Pharaoh. He feared the Hebrews because of their large numbers. In order to keep the Hebrews from being a threat due to their vast numbers, he set them to work doing hard labor on his building projects. A people who were once guests were now slaves.
Enter Moses. He was saved from a terror campaign initiated by the Pharaoh which killed every Hebrew male child. Ironically, Moses grows up in the Pharaoh’s household taken care of by Pharaoh’s daughter. God calls Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.
Pharaoh refuses to let the people leave and it become a match between Pharaoh and God. A series of plagues strike the Egyptians until after a final plague kills all the firstborn Egyptians, Pharaoh lets the Hebrews go. But then Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he sends the army after the Hebrews.
This is where the story beings for us. 1
A Dinner to Remember
Chapter 12 begins with instructions. God is telling the people of Israel to eat on the run because God was going to force Pharaoh’s hand. As Pharaoh sought to destroy the Israelites by killing the young boys, a spirit would come for the firstborn of Egypt. The people of Israel were to put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes so that the spirit would “pass over” their house.
The preparation of the meal was incredibly specific. They eat bitter herbs as a reminder of their suffering. They use flatbread or bread without yeast because they had to eat in a hurry. The lamb was not to be eat raw or boiled. Why did it matter if the meat was boiled? Because the waters of Egypt were the places where the Hebrew male infants were drowned at the Pharaoh’s command. The water brought death and this lamb could not come in contact with a reminder of the evil inflicted upon them.
But God also told the people that this night was a new beginning. God wanted the people to remember this time and share it to future generations. In fact, it was reordering time. This day would be considered the first day of a new calendar. What God was doing was in a way a new creation. History would start at this moment. We all have moments that are defining moments in our lives: births, weddings, deaths, but we usually don’t throw away our calendar and start anew. But what God was doing was so important, so life-altering that it had to be remembered in a different way.
The placing of the blood of the lamb on the doorpost is a reminder to Christians of the death of Christ. The blood allowed the angel of death to pass over and spare the first born Hebrews. Christ’s blood in a way also protects us from sin and death.
Passover is an important holiday for Jews as they remember when God brought them out of Egypt and slavery. Christians have a similar meal where we remember when Christ died in our stead to liberate us. The Lord’s Supper or Communion it should be noted was first practiced by Jesus during Passover.
The call to remember is a way of taking a past action and making it part of our present. For Jews, Passover is taking what happened long ago and making it a part of their present. Jews don’t say “We remember this night how God led those people long ago out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.” Instead they say to each other, “We remember this night how God led us out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.” Past and present are joined together.
In Passover, Christians can see a parallel to the death of Christ on the cross. Passover is a reminder of the salvation of the Hebrews. But that salvation came at a cost. So it is with our salvation. We are free in Christ, but only because of the death of Jesus.
This post was originally a Story of God Bible Study for October 2, 2016.
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.