There are four questions traditionally asked and answered during Passover. However, this morning I would like to discuss an unofficial fifth question that I believe has been gaining in popularity. This question is not always asked out loud, but I think is often answered incorrectly. This unofficial fifth question goes something like this, “Why does it even matter to celebrate or remember the Passover?”
It can be asked by many in the Church, but I think it is most often asked unfortunately among our Jewish people. After decades of Seders there can be a desire to change the status-quo. To radically alter the Seder to move it away from its biblical roots to something more trendy and “relevant”. Sometimes this is questioning if the Passover ever really happened or if the Bible is reliable. But it can also take the form of Passover additions and subtractions, and I am not talking about minor changes.
One example is adding discussions about some female gendered aspect of the Lord to the Haggadah. (I could say something about respecting the Lord’s choice in personal pronouns.) Another example is adding an olive to “remember” olive trees uprooted and protest Israel settlement expansions. Perhaps though the most well-known addition is adding an Orange to the Seder plate. This is said to represent feminism, transexuals, homosexuals, “Palestinians”, or any combination of the above and more.
Then there are the extreme subtractions. This seems to mostly be people complaining about Orthodox Seders when they were kids and a desire to “get it over with”, speeding through the Seder as fast as possible. I have been to Seders where the second half never takes place! Basically, trying to race through the Seder in twenty minutes like a fast-talking auctioneer. Perhaps there is a side-gig for them in selling their services this way!
All these issues I have described though, the questioning, additions, and subtractions, have a shared root cause. The root issue is doubt. Doubt in following the commands of God and doubt in His promises. Then the fifth question is asked. Is the Passover given by God in His Word, worth remembering and participating in? This morning I hope to answer that question.
First, let us look at Exodus and see the Biblical reason for participating in Passover. In Exodus we are told to celebrate the Passover every year and to teach our children so they will remember the Passover as well. We find one example of this command in Exodus 13:8-10, “On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
So, the purpose of Passover is to remember how the Lord saved us from slavery and death in Egypt and delivered us to the Promised Land of Israel. To not forget the promises of the Lord and how He has kept them. We must be constantly reminded because we as fallen human beings so easily forget what the Lord has done. Even the generation that left Egypt did so repeatedly.
Passover helps us to remember what Adonai has accomplished in our past, this present generation, and even to remember what He will accomplish in the future. (If you are wondering how we can remember the future I will explain shortly.)
How does Passover help us remember our past? This is probably the easiest to answer. We remember the past during Passover when we identify and participate in the faithfulness of our ancestors. By faith they spread the blood of the innocent lamb on their doors to be passed over the deadly final plague. They also by faith left Egypt at the Lord’s command not knowing how the journey would go.
Every year from generation-to-generation Passover is taught and remembered as part of our people’s living memory. When we eat the bitter herbs, we remember in a small symbolic way the bitterness of slavery, even though most of us will never know what that is truly like. When we lift the cup of blessing, we are faithfully thanking the Lord for the blessings He has provided. Each of us personally identifies with what the Lord accomplished in Egypt and acknowledge the gifts He has given us, the gifts of life and freedom. When we loudly recite the psalms of the Hallel, we remember the greatness of our God and that He is mighty to save in every generation. It is a shame that these powerful Psalms are completely cut from many Seders to “speed things along”. So, Passover is about remember that first Passover, when by faith we looked forward to the Lord’s physical deliverance.
Passover is also about remembering what the Lord has done in our lives and this generation today. Of course, we realize that the Exodus from Egypt was a very long time ago. But the exodus from death caused by our sinfulness in our lives is very recent. For those of us who have applied the blood of the true Lamb of God to the doorposts of our hearts, we have experienced spiritual deliverance. Passover then becomes a reminder of the spiritual salvation the Lord has given us today, something else to teach the next generation. In the same way that we personally identify with the Lord’s deliverance from Egypt, we personally identify with the spiritual deliverance provided by the Lamb of God.
This is one of the reasons why Messiah gave us the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Using the elements of a Passover Seder, the cup of blessing and the bread, we remember the sinless life of our wonderful Messiah, who poured out His life to provide salvation from sin, Satan, and death. It is a way to remember and join ourselves symbolically together with each other as we identify with the Son of God.
You know it is interesting to me there are some who ask why we should bother with communion; in the same way many do with Passover. Some say maybe it should be done once or twice a year? Maybe we should change the elements of the Lord’s Supper?
In fact, the Unitarian Universalists do not have a Lord’s Supper at all. They do have a flower communion though where everyone brings a flower, puts them all together, and then takes a different flower to show their diversity. Now please do not misunderstand me, I do not think there is anything wrong with celebrating diversity in the body of Messiah. But no one should presume to change the meaning of the commands the Lord has given.
Passover is also about remembering the future. Now that seems a bit weird, how can we remember something that has yet to take place? Through the Word of God, we have some knowledge of the future in the form of prophecy. Prophecies are promises by the Lord about what will eventually happen. We have been promised that the Lamb of God, Messiah Yeshua, will return to Earth. He will touch down right where He left on the Mount of Olives. We are promised He will return not as a gentle lamb but as a roaring lion. On that day all who have turned against the Lord, will have their rebellion ended and then be judged. Our Messiah will finally lead us to the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem in the New Israel, where we will live with Him forever. It is by faith we look forward to these things happening.
Faith that is alive is reminding ourselves that this darkened world is not our final home. It is by faith that we believe the future described for us in the Word of God and know that Adonai will fulfill everything He has promised. We know that He will do so just as He has done for every promise He has ever made. He promised to rescue us from Egypt, and He did. He promised to rescue us from our sins, and He did. He has promised us eternal life with Him forever and He will make good on that promise as well.
This is the kind of faith defined for us in Hebrews 11:1-2, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” I also like how the NLT translates these verses, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” So, faith is having confidence even when something is not visible to our eyes directly. This is what our ancestors throughout God’s Word were praised for. They looked forward by faith to things that had yet to happen.
We also read in verse 28, “It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.” So, it is faith that moves us to participate in the Passover. If we have no confidence in the promises of God, then there is no point. Do whatever you want with Passover or Communion if God and His commands are not real.
But Moses and all those who have gone to sleep faithful to the Lord, had confidence in His promises. They knew that what the Lord promises He will do. They believed in the coming of the Messiah, and those who came after accepted the Messiah and the salvation He provided by faith as well. So, we today need to do the same thing, accepting the work of the lamb of God, and remembering the future He has promised to us.
So, is Passover still worth celebrating today? Absolutely, for Jews and Gentiles alike. We are not saved by celebrating Passover, or even the Lord’s Supper. But when we uproot ourselves from the promises of God, we will be blown down a dark and confusing path.
So, if you are someone who has perhaps become a bit apathetic about Passover, my hope is that this year it is something you confront honestly. Instead of trying to slip an olive onto your Seder plate or rush through things, take the time to really dig into the biblical meaning of Passover. Maybe that means upgrading your horseradish to something a bit stronger to better experience the symbolic bitterness of slavery. It could also mean slowing down to really think and read the Hallel Psalms. Seriously considering the great saving and awesome power of our Creator.
But the greatest way to really understand and make the Passover meaningful is to know who it is all pointing to. Passover is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel, Messiah Yeshua. He was our Passover Lamb, saving us from our sins, and will lead us to the New Jerusalem where we will live forever with Him. Messiah Yeshua is the cornerstone that connects Passover to the past, present, and future. Time does not permit me to explain all the various ways Passover points to Him. But tonight, Rabbi Glenn will be during our livestreamed Passover Seder!
Messiah Yeshua is the greatest answer to the question of why Passover is worth celebrating. When we become followers of the Son of God, Passover takes on an even deeper meaning just as He did with the elements of the Seder during His Last Supper. During His Last Supper He told us to remember His sacrifice when we gathered.
Applying the blood of His sacrifice to our lives by faith is also the most important decision each of us can make. If you have yet to experience a Passover in your life, to have the punishment of death pass over you and experience new life, then I encourage you today to reach out to the Lord.
I pray each of us would experience a deeply meaningful and God-centered Passover this year. May each of us know and embrace the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. May each of us have faith in the promises of the Lord, especially in the promise of living with Him in the New Jerusalem forever.