Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week, Passover, and when God doesn't rescue everyone

Many Christians celebrate this week as "Holy Week," the week leading up to Easter. The week in which Jesus was betrayed, killed, and resurrected 3 days later. An even larger number scratches their heads and wonders what Holy Week is.

Holy Week is the 'Christian' name for this week. But all those events happened during this week because of where we are on the Jewish calendar. Last night, at sundown, was the beginning of Passover.

Passover is the super huge Jewish holiday that celebrates when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. When, during the 10th plague, God instructed the Israelites to put the blood of a lamb on their doors so that their houses will be 'passed over' and the firstborn of that house would not be killed.

It's the same holiday that Jesus and his followers celebrated when he performed a ritual that we now call communion.

I find the parallels and symbolism of communion to the passover to be awe inspiring. Not only that, but also the comparison of God redeeming the Israelites and then Jesus coming to redeem all of humanity by his sacrifice.

Because it's not just the Israelites anymore. We (me and you...assuming you're not Jewish) finally got included into it as well. Along with everyone else.

All of that aside, there is something about the story of the Exodus that we gloss over. Something that is far more important than I think we give it credit.

First of all, yes! God did redeem his people.
Yes! They cried out to him, he heard their call and he came and rescued them.
Yes! He is the great redeemer, the great rescuer, he is faithful to his chosen people. God does indeed hear the cry of the oppressed in Exodus and come save them.

But he did not do it right away...

The Israelites had generations of oppression and slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. The first few chapters of Exodus are pretty clear on this. Moses was born once the oppression was fully underway, during the slaughter of the Israelite babies.

And God hadn't intervened.

Moses grows up, moves away, gets a new life, it's 80 years later...and God still hasn't intervened. We don't even get to God saving his chosen people in this story until we've gone through a few Pharoahs.

You can not tell me that the cries of the Israelites weren't happening for decades and decades before God intervened. There were entire generations of people in bondage in Egypt, crying to God for salvation...and they never got it...

Yes, as I said, God eventually delivered the Israelites from Egypt...but not all of them. Those people whom he did rescue? They had family and friends, grandparents, parents, children, who died in Egypt before God came to deliver them.

I can't imagine their salvation was much comfort when they thought about those who never had the opportunity. When they thought of those whom God never rescued...


Why do I think this is important? Why do I think that we shouldn't overlook it? Because God's redemption of the Israelites directly compares to Jesus' redemption of all humanity.

Only this time, everyone can be rescued!

Moses didn't come to free the Israelites, he came to announce that God will free them. In the same way, it is not our job to attempt to free others from their lives...but we are to let them know that Jesus has freed them.

Not that he is coming, at some point in the future, maybe once it's too late for some...but that he already has come. That's it's not too late, that it's just the perfect time.

And just as the Israelites who did make it out of Egypt probably didn't find comfort in their own salvation when thinking of those who died in bondage, we shouldn't either. Yes, we should rejoice in our salvation, yes we should thank God that we're rescued.

But we can never let that blind us to those who are still trapped.

Those who are still slaves.

For what good is it to them if we've been rescued, and we leave them in Egypt?