Tag Archives: passover

“Redemption” ?

Luke 2:22-40 What do you make of that story? Only Luke tells it – so is it less interesting, or less relevant? It starts as a bit of ritual. Jesus was brought up as a Jew, so circumcised a week after his birth, and then at 40 days old taken with his mother to the Temple. Mary presents him in the Temple, and makes a sacrifice – the 2 pigeon option allowed for the poor – in a ceremony required by the Old Testament.

So far, not very helpful you might think. But hold on. That ceremony came from the Exodus and the Passover. You remember how the slaves in Egypt escaped after a series of plagues, and the last and worst of the plagues was – the death of the firstborn. And Exodus 13 explains how all the firstborn of the Israelites belonged in a special way to God. There is more detail, but it makes sense – Jesus belonging specially to God; a small fee paid to ransom him and return him to his family . .

Then the excitement grows again. Simeon appears. How can he tell one baby from another? Somehow the Holy Spirit makes it possible. He has been promised (and, since God keeps his promises) now understands he is seeing the promised Messiah.

He speaks of a light for the Gentiles – all the world!

And of glory for God’s people

and he warns Mary of suffering, as Jesus will bring some people down, as well as raising others up.

If you feel excited (and perhaps you should), Mary and Joseph are amazed. They haven’t forgotten the earlier messages and promises, angels, shepherds – but how does Simeon know? This Holy Spirit has something.

To reinforce the importance and transforming power of the Holy Spirit, Anna arrives – and she is a prophet. Whether she accepts Simeon’s word, or knows by her own spiritual insight – she now also give thanks to God, and talks about Jesus to all who were still looking for God to do something.

It started with a bit of Jewish ritual. It gained significance as we found a connection with the Passover (don’t forget the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and the Christian eucharist depends on it). God’s people were set free at the Exodus, as they will be again more lastingly by Jesus and his death. The idea of Redemption is interesting.

Then there is the excitement of the Holy Spirit giving revelations and warnings – the same Spirit who will be active in Jesus ministry, the same Spirit who guides and empowers Christians today. It is beginning to happen, and it is good, and we know it hasn’t stopped. Where is the Spirit active today? Who are the Simeons and Annas, praying, understanding, talking about God?

Even at 40 days old, Jesus is exciting, making things happen.

Look again!

It’s the story we have all known for years, the feeding of the five thousand!  But before you get bored, look again at John 6:1-21.  It is strange how Jesus, who often refused to perform public miracles, here feeds a very large number.  True, they need the food, but there is much more to it than that!

Jesus deliberately involves other people – the boy with loaves and fish, the disciples.  It is God’s power, but they are being taught to be participants.  Then John notes it was Passover time.  He’s not just giving a date – he is remembering the significance of the first Passover, as God’s people escaped cruel slavery, shared a meal, marked their homes with blood, and began to learn new ways.  There will be another Passover meal to be shared in Jerusalem before the betrayal and death.  The timing is significant.

Even the gathering of leftovers has a point.  God can, and did, provide – and generously!  But if God’s Kingdom meets needs, let us not get lazy.  Jesus will not be made King.  (How ironic for the Messiah, yet this is not the time, or the way). He will again show his power on the lake, and go on teaching about how he chooses to use it, and what sort of a King he will be.

We shall continue reading this chapter for a couple of weeks yet – it has much more to say.  But start by seeing how much more than a free picnic is remembered here.

Exodus and Easter (Easter 2c)

This week we read the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the victory at the Red Sea (Exodus 14), along with stories of the Resurrection and the Acts sequence.  The Exodus is a long time ago – c1250BC, so 3000 years, when we find 300 a big gap.  Can I convince you it still has something to say?

The Israelites were freed from slavery (still an issue), and given an identity as a people bound to God by a Covenant agreement.  They had to learn – repeatedly – of God’s power, faithfulness, and ability to lead them.  They might have learnt from the plagues which eventually convinced Pharaoh to let them go, but it seems they were always ready to complain!

So what is there for Christians in the old story?  Well

  • Easter is very much about celebrating freedom from slavery to sin and death.  We have a Christian identity, and are part of a Christian family, because of the victory God has won without our help.
  • Sadly, we often forget – who we are, what God is like, what we are to be like.  We have Christian stories to tell, but they are sometimes left out, and sometimes we miss their relevance and significance.
  • The journey through the Red Sea is sometimes compared to Baptism, or to the becoming Christian.  In Romans 6 Paul talks about our dying with Christ to the old life, and rising to a new (quality and purpose of) life.
  • Jesus last meal with his friends was a Passover (or very much reflected it – scholars argue the timing).  Jesus took the story of the Passover meal the night of the last plague, when the Israelites were kept safe from the death of the firstborn in houses marked with the blood of a sacrificed lamb, and gave it new significance.  Jesus gives the cup of wine the status of his blood – blood of a new Covenant.

So perhaps the Exodus story has something to teach Christians about Easter.  The final point I find reassuring: the Israelites found it hard to learn, to keep the discipline, to follow their leaders.  Perhaps Christians aren’t so bad!