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Every year, the Jewish people celebrate the Passover. It is an annual memorial of God’s great deliverance of his people out of their slavery in Egypt. (You can read about the institution of this commemorative feast in Exodus 12.)

Reading through the early chapters of Exodus and imagining what it would have been like to witness such displays of God’s great power and grace is breath-taking. Ten devastating plagues are brought to bear on the land of Egypt.

Imagine how awe-inspiring it would have been to be present when God turned the Nile and all the water in Egypt to blood. Darkness covered the land at the word of God brought through Moses–except for the place where the children of Israel were living. Disease on all livestock of the Egyptians, and a plague on all the people of Egypt. Then the final judgment fell. All the first-born of Egypt were killed in one night while the first-born of Israel were all saved, the angel of death “passing over” their homes–for the Israelites had marked them homes with the blood of a lamb slain as a substitute as commanded by God through Moses.

For weeks on end there were incredible, awesome, astonishing displays of divine power. How could the people of God not fall down humbly before their God as they saw all he did on their behalf to free them from their slavery?

And then Pharoah let them go, reluctantly. And as the Jewish people marched out of their slavery and toward freedom there was one last act of divine power to be associated with this Passover wonder.

Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, following a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day. Their journey led them up to the Red Sea. It was no mistake. They were following God. But it looked as though they were trapped against the sea. And Pharoah had experienced a change of heart and he and his army were in hot pursuit of the slaves they let go.

At God’s command Moses raised his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22)

Imagine with me, for a moment, what it would have been like to be one of the approximately two million children of Israel, walking on the now-dry sea bed, passing between two towering walls of water. The Red Sea was piled high on both sides; churning and splashing but not coming anywhere near as all the nation passes through on dry land. Picture it. Hear the sounds. Feel the breeze blowing down between the great parapets of sea water. See the blaze of the pillar of fire holding off the Egyptian army in the distance.

Incredible. Breath-taking. Beyond words. And that series of event–the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage–is remembered every year since that first deliverance in the Passover celebration by Jewish families the world over.

And Jesus himself, with his closest friends, celebrated that memorial. They recalled God’s glorious, humbling, miraculous, worship-inducing deliverance.

When the hour had come, Jesus reclined at the table, and the apostles with him.  And Jesus said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” . . . And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:14-20)

Jesus is making reference to his imminent death. The pouring out of his blood and the breaking of his body on the cross. What is so staggering about this is that he takes the Passover celebration and adds to it, augments it, substitutes his own dying for the breath-taking, God-honoring display of power associated with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.

You don’t displaces a great thing with a lesser. You wouldn’t substitute a minor miracle in the place of a greater. No one would suggest replacing a supreme showing of God’s grace and power and mercy with something less.

I know that I don’t see it when I look at the cross. It is hard for me to conceive all that God was doing in the crucifixion of his beloved Son. I can hardly grasp the magnitude of what was transpiring on that hill outside the city of Jerusalem.

But if I understand what Jesus is doing in altering the Passover in the institution of his “last supper,” then I must be willing to admit that the cross is a greater, more awe-inducing, more worship-provoking manifestation of the power and goodness and sovereignty and grace and mercy and wisdom of God than all the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea taken together.

It is sad that I can feel the hush of wonder and the gasp of astonishment when I contemplate the plagues and the parting of the Sea but not feel far more when I turn and look at the cross where God did not simply part waters to save his people but where he parted heaven and earth to rescue you and me.

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2 Comments

  1. Wonder-full, sweet, rescue!!!

  2. Amen. Wonder-ful! If only I saw the reality of it more and more every day.


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