Wednesday, March 23, 2005

What God Has Done

I wrote the weekly devotion for my church's e-mail newletter this week. As always, it was a blessing to me to do so -- very likely more of a blessing than it will be for those who read it. The same is generally true of this blog. I think what I wrote this week is worth sharing, so here it is.

It feels strange thinking about Easter during Holy Week. I feel like I'm jumping ahead. Shouldn't I think about the sobering events of Holy Week before moving on to the joy of Easter? You have to go through the cross to get to the resurrection. But as I was thinking about this, I remembered that it all belongs together: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.... These aren't three events. They're one event, and that event is our exodus.

The Bible shows this in an amazing way. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we are told that Jesus' last supper with his disciples was a Passover meal. This meal is overflowing with imagery and meaning. As Jews eat the Passover meal, they tell their story, beginning with Abraham, "a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt." They remember the oppression of their ancestors in Egypt. And they celebrate how God delivered them from bondage and oppression and made them into a great nation.

As Jesus shares this meal with the disciples, he draws all of this imagery into the sacred events about to transpire and infuses the story with even more meaning. In what was about to take place, God struck the decisive blow against the oppression and slavery of sin, death and the power of the devil in the world. And as he prepares for this, Jesus shares a meal with his disciples that will become the focal point for Christian community.

John's gospel also makes a strong connection between Jesus' last days and the Passover, but John emphasizes a different aspect, a more mystical aspect. John doesn't speak about the connection between the Last Supper and the Passover. John shows that Jesus himself is the Paschal Lamb. He records that Jesus was crucified "on the Day of Preparation for the Passover" (John 19:14) at the hour that the lambs were traditionally slaughtered.

This presents the fulfillment of what John the Baptist had said of Jesus at the beginning of the gospel, that he is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." God delivered the Israelites from Egypt through death, the death of every firstborn in Egypt, of both man and beast. But God spared the Israelites from this death by having them mark their doorposts with the blood of a slaughtered lamb. Even so, though death ravages the world around us, God has marked the world with the blood of his Lamb. He has delivered us.

Having seen this, we should not be surprised by Easter. God has promised. He will do it. And I think that's what Easter is about. It is the great proclamation. God has done it! A couple of years ago at an Easter service we were singing "Say It Loud." When we came to the words "Tell the world what God has done," it clicked for me. I saw, no, I felt what Easter means. "Death has been swallowed up in victory!" (1 Co. 15:54) I wept.

God has done it. The world is changed. Life, true life, the life of God, has broken into the world. And now the Lord invites us to join with him as he renews the world from the inside out.

Say it loud. Say it strong. Tell the world what God has done!

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