Connections 09.06.2020: This Day. This Night.

Exodus 12:1-14

This week’s lesson text contains the Passover instructions that God gave Moses and Aaron to share with the Hebrews who were enslaved in Egypt. In the last verse of the passage, God tells Moses and Aaron to say this to the people about the Passover: “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance” (v. 14).

Later in the chapter, Moses tells the people,

You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this observance?” you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses” (vv. 24-27a).

The children still ask this question. In fact, at the Passover meal in a Jewish home, the youngest child who can do so will sing the question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” That question is answered with four more questions, the answers to which explain the meanings of the special Passover meal observances. Those practices remind the participants of how they were slaves in Egypt and of how God intervened to set them free.

People observing Passover these days weren’t actually there when it happened, but the questions and answers of the evening imply that they were. In the reenactment of the original Passover meal, people place themselves in the original Passover event. Ideally, their annual observance will remind them of what is always true: God sets them free.

Jewish people have taken seriously God’s words that the Passover observance was “a perpetual ordinance,” which means it is an instruction that people are to follow forever. Three millennia later, they still follow it. They still gather on that day to remember that night. When they do, the Passover experience comes alive on this day and in this night.

Christians have our perpetual ordinances too. Having said that, let me also say that we should take care not to disrespect Jewish experience by appropriating it. On the other hand, the roots of Christianity are in Judaism. We are forever connected to the Passover by Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper during a Passover meal (according to the Synoptic Gospels).

The Lord’s Supper is one of our perpetual ordinances. In 1 Corinthians 11, which is our earliest written account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Paul reports that Jesus said we should eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of him. We should remember that Jesus gave his body and blood for us, that he gave his life for our salvation. When we remember what Jesus did, we should appreciate it.

The Lord’s Supper is a perpetual ordinance for us in another sense. Paul says, “For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We proclaim the Lord’s death by consuming the elements that represent his body and blood. But we also proclaim the Lord’s death by living in ways that show we serve the One who gave his life for us. We proclaim it by giving ourselves away.

How do we do that? We do it by living in the ways Jesus taught us through his words and his actions. We do it by loving our enemies. We do it by seeking to serve rather than to be served. We do it by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

We should be living in these ways perpetually. We should be living in these ways continually.

We should be living in them every day. We should be living in them every night.

Discussion

  • Why do you think Passover month was to mark the beginning of the year for the Hebrews?
  • Why were the people supposed to eat the Passover meal in the way prescribed in verse 11?
  • Why does God say that in striking down the Egyptian firstborn, God is executing judgments on the gods of Egypt (v. 12)?
  • What are some other ways we can live so as to perpetually remember and proclaim our Lord’s death?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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