Saturday, October 24, 2009

Discussion on the Christian Passover and the Exodus

I got one of those rare opportunities to lead the discussion during Sabbath School on the "Passover" and the Exodus at Andrews Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church. Knowing what I believe and not sure of the readiness of my class to receive what I had to share, I had to tread a very thin line of not making my presentation too radical or controversial.

The discussion I lead was with a small group of mostly mothers, many of whom seem to have not been prepared for a discussion. As usual, I wanted interactivity and not just for me to talk, and decided to begin with question asking. So I began with a discussion the scripture text of the week's lesson:

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).

I asked the question about the symbolism of the leaven. One mother from the group established the symbolism as being sin and its power to pervasively infect and contaminate. Then I asked about why is it that if leaven is sin, that the next line from the scripture links leaven to Christ being our passover and his sacrifice for us. The answer - that Jesus came to die for our sins and to remove it.

I then asked the question, that if Jesus is responsible for removing our sins, then why is it that the Apostle Paul starts out by stating that it is "we" or "us" that must purge ourselves of the old leaven.

The response - that Jesus removes sins, but we too have a part to play in putting away sin from our lives.

I then went on to discuss the Passover and how the Jews in keeping this Passover, observes it in remembrance of their ancestors and the deliverance that God gave them over their oppressors. I also mentioned that Jews try to imagine during this ceremony what it was like to be an Israelite on that night. I mentioned that the Jew personally puts himself in the shoe of his ancestors during the Passover to get the meaning of this tradition and ritual. Then after laying this background, I went on to the question of the Christian Passover, where I asked the question:

How are the followers of Jesus to commemorate the Passover today? What is this service to remind us of?

The response - The Lord's Supper. Communion Service. I probed for a deeper answer, and got the response that we must use the Christian's Passover to commemorate the Sacrifice of Christ to remove our sins.

I then went on to suggest that while we will focus on Christ's sacrifice, that the Passover should not neglect the past, and should not forget the story of the Exodus, in which God birth the nation that was to give the world its Saviour and the Scriptures (the Word of God). I encouraged the class that this festival or religious observance is to commemorate the purpose of God in his intervention in humanity, and it began at the first Passover celebrated by Israel. So while we reflect on Jesus suffering on the Cross for our sins, we must not lose sight of our spiritual ancestry and heritage. For the story of the Exodus is the story of Jesus.

I then told the group - that I am going to shock them, knowing that my statements would raise eyebrows and generate interest in what I would say next. Then I declared that the Lord Supper or Passover will be observed in the future, and the meaning of the Passover may transcend the current meaning of Christ's sacrifice for our sins. I thus reminded them that Jesus himself declared in Matthew 26:29 (King James Version):

"But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

The same is also recorded in Luke 22:18 (King James Version):

"For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come."

I then went on to discuss the following points raised by Ellen G. White:

The quickest way to Canaan from Egypt lay through the coastal area along "the way of the land of the Philistines." But God knew Israel was not ready for war (Exod. 13:17). Consequently, when the pillar of cloud signaled the tribal march, it led the nation east and north into the wilderness of Paran (Num. 10:11, 12), a journey of three days (vs. 33). "As they advanced, the way became more difficult. Their route lay through stony ravine and barren waste. All around them was the great wilderness. . . . The rocky gorges, far and near, were thronged with men, women, and children, with beasts and wagons, and long lines of flocks and herds. Their progress was necessarily slow and toilsome; and the multitudes, after their long encampment, were not prepared to endure the perils and discomforts of the way."(—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 377.)

I declared that God did not let the Israelites go through shortcuts, because he knew they were not prepared to deal with the challenges that the shortcuts provided. Nevertheless, he took them through a rough, rocky and rugged terrain, so that he could test them. He did not give them more than they could bear, but selected trials and tests for which he knew they could pass.

Someone in the group also raised the point that because they (the Israelites) kept failing the tests and trials, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years, longer than God had intended. This is familiar to most of us, who have to be faced with the same tests and trials until we are able to overcome them, before God move these test and trials from our lives.

As usual with programmed church services such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the limitation of time cut such a fruitful discussion.


White, Ellen and Gould Harmon. The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets : As Illustrated in the Lives of Holy Men of Old Mt. View, Calif.: Wiretap, 1994.

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