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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

The Gospel of Redemption: a Reflection on Exodus 12:1-14 and John 13:1-17, 31b-35

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt.” And the text goes on to explain Passover. The plague on the firstborn was the last plague God placed on Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God would kill every firstborn, both human beings and animals in Egypt. But God would pass over the firstborn of the people of Israel. On the tenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar year, each family was to take one lamb, a male lamb a year old without blemish, and protect it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that day, they were to slaughter the lamb at twilight. Then they were to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and the tops of the doorframes of their homes. On that night, God would pass through Egypt and strike down the firstborn, both human beings and animals, and bring judgment upon Egypt. But the houses with the blood would be passed over. The Jewish people commemorate that day as a festival to the Lord. Each year, the Jewish people commemorate Passover in that God led them out of Egypt.

According to our gospel reading, Jesus and the disciples had gathered in the Upper Room for Passover. But it was more than Passover. Jesus taught the fulfilled meaning of Passover. Yes, God passed over the Jews in Egypt. But now, God would pass over the sin of humanity with a perfect sacrifice. John does not mention the “body and blood of Christ,” because he emphasizes the foot-washing as the beginning of Jesus demonstrating how he is the perfect lamb to be “slaughtered” on behalf of all human beings.

If the disciples witnessed the foot-washing carefully and Judas’ identification as the betrayer, they heard a call to participate with Jesus in his way of living and doing such sacrificially. In that way, death would be conquered and eternal life made possible for all. Jesus was demonstrating the way “Passover” would be accomplished once and for all; death to resurrection would be a reality for all. The Lord’s Supper is the sign and seal that we will participate with Jesus in his life through his execution to his resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is the New Passover. Death led to new life for the Jews in Egypt. Jesus’ death and resurrection leads to new life for all.

Here is the bottom line about this day in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday. Foot-washing and the Lord’s Supper give us the mandate to love others as Jesus loved; to give our lives away for the sake of others so that eternal death can be “passed over.” In that Upper Room of the Passover meal, Jesus set the stage for his death on the cross to make the way possible for the consequences of original sin to be “passed over.” How? By participating with Jesus, through faith, we understand and experience how his death was a substitution for your death, my death, all of humanity’s death that God’s judgment of sin required. As we partake of hand-washing and particularly the Lord’s Supper, the New Passover, be reminded that you have been spared.

As your hands are washed this evening, know that you are to love others as Jesus loved. As you partake of the bread and cup, know that you have been “passed over.”

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