For the week of April 11, 2009 / 17 Nisan 5769
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 13:1-16;
Bemidbar / Numbers 28:19-25
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:37 - 37:14
Tell the Story
You shall tell your son on that day, "It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt." (Shemot / Exodus 13:8; ESV)
Pesach (English: Passover) starts this year the evening of April 8. At Pesach we gather together for a Seder (pronounced say'-der) - a ceremonial meal designed to retell the story of our deliverance from being slaves in Egypt many centuries ago. For Jewish people Pesach reinforces this crucial part of our history as our defining moment. Our beginnings are in the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but our peoplehood is defined as those whom God himself delivered from bondage in Egypt.
The events of the past, both good and bad, are what shape us as individuals and communities. Knowing our history provides us with understanding of who we are. Today's overemphasis on the individual gives us the impression that we can define ourselves apart from our history, but that is plain nonsense. Just as we cannot define our own genetic code, but have inherited it from our past through our parents, so we enter this life with our historical background pre-defined, setting the stage for whatever part each one of us will play.
Pesach reminds us that we have a story to tell, a story that reaches far back in time. At Pesach we recite these words verbatim to our children: "It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt." Even though we were not literally in Egypt at the time of the deliverance, these words intimately connect us to this past event. We are the children of the Great Deliverance. We are the descendants of the slaves set free. We are the benefactors of God's rescuing power. We tell the story of Pesach so as not to forget. We tell the story so our children would know who they are.
However, to effectively tell the story, we must do more than simply go through the motions. We may recite the Seder much in the same way as our parents and grandparents did, but do we really grasp that this story really is our story? Whether we do or not doesn't change the reality of our past, nor does it change our true identity. Yet failure to effectively tell the story cuts us off from the impact of that reality. We are slaves set free. More than that! We are slaves set free not due to our own ingenuity, strength, or popularity, but rather we are slaves set free by the hand of God. What a story to tell!
But there's more! This story, however wonderful it is, is the backdrop of an even greater story of deliverance. What God did by rescuing us from slavery in Egypt foreshadows our deliverance from slavery to sin and death. What we as a people experienced in Egypt is a taste of what all people may experience through the Messiah.
Just as we need to retell the story of our deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so we need to retell the story of our greater deliverance in the Messiah. It is fitting that Yeshua directed us to do just that when he celebrated his last Pesach with his disciples. The matza (English: unleavened bread), the wine and the other elements of the Seder, which were designed to be part of the retelling of the earlier deliverance, now also retell the story of the greater deliverance.
Through the Messiah these stories of deliverance can become the stories of everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, who trusts in him. God invites us to make these stories our stories. And once these stories are truly our stories, then we will truly have a story to tell.
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