26. The Runaway Train – Thursday

‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 26. The Runaway Train –  Thursday

Lk 22:7   Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.

Approach: It’s Thursday. I have been tempted, because so much happens this day, to spread it over two days but felt if we were to catch something of this day we need to pile it all in together. It strikes me that it is like a runaway train, flashing through the countryside so we almost miss everything we’re passing. Perhaps it would be best to simply itemize the things that took place and leave you to look them up yourself. Let’s start from, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives.” (Lk21:37)

The Events:


– Jesus sends his disciples to prepare the Passover meal (Mt 26:17-19)

– in the evening (v.20, Mk 14:17) they participate in the Last Supper.

– Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (Jn 13:1-12)

– Jesus declares one of them will betray him (Mt 26:21)

– Jesus instigates what we call Communion, The Lord’s Supper, etc. (Mt 26:26-28)

– Judas slips out (Jn 13:30) to convey Jesus’ intentions and prepare the arresting force.

– Jesus predicts they will all fall away but he will rise again (Mt 26:31,32)

– Jesus predicts Peter will deny him three times (Mt 26:33-35)

– Jesus gives extensive teaching (Jn 14-16)

– Jesus prays (Jn 17)


– They go out to the Garden of Gethsemane outside the city (Jn 18:1, Mt 26:36)

– There Jesus prays three times while the disciples keep falling asleep (Mt 26:36-44)


– Judas, knowing where Jesus would be (Jn 18:2) arrives with the arresting party (Mt 26:47-50)

– When Jesus reveals himself, the whole arresting group fall back and down (Jn18:6)

– One of the group, Peter (Jn 18:10) lashes out with his sword taking off the ear of a servant (Mt 26:51) but Jesus heals him (Lk 22:51 – notice it is Dr. Luke who picks up on this detail!)

– one of the party, a young man flees (Mk 14:51,52 – thought to be Mark who wrote for Peter)

– the rest of the disciples flee (Mk 14:50)

– They take Jesus to the High Priest’s palace (Mt 26:57)

– Peter follows at a distance and his threefold denial takes place. (Mk 14:66-72)

– the mock trial takes place through the night, through what we would call Thursday night, Friday morning, but from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset is Passover.

Confusion: In formulating the list above, I have included at least twenty items, all things that occurred on this Thursday, starting from their return from overnight on the Mount of Olives, possibly back to the temple precincts and maybe some more teaching, preparations for the evening meal, probably taken after sunset, the meal and all the conversation that went with it, two lots of prayers, the betrayal and arrest and the denials. Yet, again, we must ascertain what was going on in people’s minds:

For Jesus it was time of absolute certainty, knowing exactly what would happen and who would react in the way they did, and never losing control.

For the disciples generally, they are in the heart of the storm. It started off like an ordinary day except Passover was about to happen. How would it happen? Jesus directed them. Before the meal Jesus insists on washing their feet. Peter, in particular, found this especially confusing. They lounge around participating in the meal and then Jesus starts speaking of his death again. They must be struggling to take it in still. As we’ve seen from John’s detailed account of the teaching at the Last Supper, Jesus again and again refers to his departure. They are still confused and various questions are asked. Then Jesus starts predicting that one of them would betray him. Uncertainty. Who? Then he predicts Peter will deny him three times. Uncertainty. Peter is almost heartbroken at the thought. The he predicts they will all fall away and desert him. Uncertainty. Surely not! He prays some things that must have left them even more confused in its nature (Jn 17 – read it and think about it from their viewpoint then.)

They follow him to the Garden of Gethsemane and he asks them to stay awake while he prays. They cannot and I guess felt bad about that. But it is late in the evening and they are no doubt tired and coming into constant semi-wakefulness they will be bleary eyed and muzzy-headed. Then there are voices and lights and the shambles of the arrest take place. The disciples flee in terror but Peter and John follow the arresting party at a distance. It is the middle of the night. They are confused, frightened and fearful of where this might end. It is the most terrible night of their lives. The word ‘uncertainty’ cannot do justice to all they feel. They mostly hide away behind locked doors. Are the authorities going to come hunting for them? They are ordinary guys facing the might of institutional Judaism and maybe even the Roman authorities. What is going to happen to us?

– For the authorities, it must be exactly the opposite to the experience of the disciples. Whereas their day had started off without problems but turned worse the further on it went into the night, for the authorities their uncertainty earlier in the day, about how and when they could arrest Jesus, gave way to certainty when Judas turned up with the information where Jesus could later be found, and agree to go along in the dark with the arresting party to identify Jesus in the half light of lanterns.

– And for God the Father? Here is someone who is rarely considered, but let’s speculate here, for that is all we can do. This is the Father who had led His Son on earth for three wonderful years, bringing good into this fallen world, day in, day out. This is the Father who had spoken His words of approval of His Son audibly more than once. This is the Father who delighted in His Son, the only one who could truly understand the wonder of who this being referred to as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ was, His divine Son who had put off his heavenly glory to live as a human on earth. And now that plan, formulated from before the foundation of the world, was coming to its awful climax. Two terrible things have got to happen. His Son in human guise is to experience the ghastliest death experience mankind has devised with all the physical agony that that would involve, made worse by the emotional sense of rejection as he is abandoned to his fate. And yet something far worse is to happen, but that we will leave to the next study with all it entails. The Father’s heart must be breaking for His Son and it’s going to get worse.

And Us? I’m not sure, having run through these things above, if I can make any further comment. Perhaps without sounding too trite, I can just sum up by saying we have been reading what the apostle Peter summed up: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge and you, with the help of wicked men….”  (Acts 2:23) There was no other way the Son of God could die for your sins and mine. Let’s be staggeringly thankful in the midst of whatever other emotions we may have as we ponder these things. Enough said.

23. Shock

 ‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 23. Shock

Mk 11:15  On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.

And so: It’s a new day. Every day with the Master is a new day; you never know what is coming next. Yesterday was excitement as we followed him into Jerusalem as he rode on a donkey and the crowds welcomed him and called him king. We went into the temple, looked around and left. Some days we travel, some days we stay in one place, some days we see no one, some days we see many people. It seems, here outside Jerusalem, it’s going to be a people day, staying here in Bethany waiting for Passover to come. In Jerusalem yesterday it was a people day, crowds shouting in the morning and then gradually in the confines of the city it was quieter. The master was talking quietly with us when Andrew came up – Andrew tells that Philip had had some Greek-Jews visiting for the Passover who had stopped him and asked if it would be all right to talk with the Master (Jn 12:20-22). People. But then we left the city and walked back to Bethany where we stayed overnight, and so here it is, Monday, a new day. It looks like the Master is getting ready to go back into Jerusalem.

Funny thing happened on the way back in: he stopped by a fig tree but because it didn’t have any fruit on it, he cursed it and it died. (Mk 11:12-14, 20,21) Arriving in Jerusalem it was clear he was going back to the temple and when he entered he caused a riot by turning over the tables of the money-changers and the sellers of doves for sacrifice and bellowed at them all, Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” (Mk 11:17) His anger was great and the traders just protested feebly but it was clear the temple authorities were furious. I don’t know what got into the Master. I mean he saw it all yesterday but didn’t do anything about it, and he’s seen it before. In fact, as I come to think about it, he did the same thing three years ago when he was starting his ministry (Jn 2:13-17), but it seems he’s being purposely provocative, almost like he’s working on an agenda to upset the authorities, what with coming in with the crowds yesterday and now this! He sometimes says or does thing that are hard to understand. I remember at that first time, the Jews got really upset and challenged him and demanded he reveal his authority for doing it by performing a sign (Jn 2:18) and all he said was, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (Jn 2:19) I tell you that had them confused – me to if I’m honest. I mean what did that mean?  I don’t know what this present action is going to do. The people obviously love him and they seem to be rejoicing in him upsetting this mockery of religion, but it’s equally obvious the authorities are getting more and more upset.

Following: “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” (Mk 11:18) “When evening came, Jesus and his disciples] went out of the city.” (Mk 11:19)

What if? To try and get into what is going on here, I want to ponder for a moment or two on what the disciples must have been thinking about all that was happening. They had surely been to Passover with Jesus on previous years and so there would have been a certain familiarity about going up to Jerusalem for this Feast. However it was the events we have been following which made it different. What if, back in Bethany, early in the morning, Jesus had got the twelve together and, in modern language, said, “Guys, I’m thinking of going into town today to clear out the temple.” Some furrowed brows, some lightening of spirits.

Disciple Responses? I have a feeling (and this is only speculation remember) that somehow Peter would have felt protective of Jesus and would not think it was a smart idea. Perhaps he would remember back to when he had challenged Jesus over his death talk (Mt 16:21-23). Maybe that challenge back then had not be so much that it just won’t happen as more I won’t let it happen to you. Anything now that puts Jesus under threat, he’s going to be against. James and John? Maybe they were still smarting a bit at having been rebuked by Jesus when they suggested calling down fire on the Samaritans who had rejected Jesus (Lk 9:52-55) and had the feeling now, “Oh, come on Lord, one law for you, another for us. We can’t do something violent but you can?” Maybe there was Judas, whose mind was confused, possibly wanting Jesus to reveal himself as king, and was ready to let him provoke such a declaration, or provoke it himself?  Or, of course, there was the one of the twelve simply known as ‘Simon the zealot’ (Mt 10:4) whose background would have been as a member of the party simply known as the Zealots, who were actively against Roman rule; perhaps he is thinking, “Awesome, Master, you’ve come round to my way of thinking. Go for it. But hold on that’s against the Jews not the Romans. What’s the point?”

And Us?  The thing is, we all come to the crises of life with different agendas formulated by different backgrounds and different experiences. For us as Christians we come to these things with different understanding of Scripture. Some of us hold the “turn the other cheek,” attitude to the wrongs of the world – let them do their thing and God will sort it, all we’ve got to do is hold a right attitude – while others  hold the ‘salt attitude’ – we’re to be changing the world, purifying it and sometimes that means we demonstrate, protest and so on. It is never an easy path to walk. It is perhaps easy to say, “Just listen to God and only do what He says,” which is the path I would prefer to take, but that can be a cop-out for doing nothing, it is not always easy to glean the will of God. As I had to text a friend the other day who was worrying about the part they had to play in the midst of the immense complexities of the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, “The complexities of the present often mean that we can only pray and then act and just trust in Him that He will be there for us in it, whatever the outcome.” If we get it wrong then we may have to appeal for forgiveness through the Cross, if we get it wrong we may upset other people, but if we get it right, whatever the outcome, we will have a sense that somehow we have managed to conform to the will of God.

Back to Jesus: The fact is Jesus said he always did what he did, following the Father’s guidance. He knew the big picture that the Godhead had agreed upon before the foundation of the world, that he would come, reveal the Father and then die for the sins of the world.  How that death would be procured – through the sinful acts of mankind against the perfect Son of God – starts being seen as the events we have been following are rolled out. It involved, on Jesus’ part, doing good, teaching the people, healing the sick and raising the dead AND correcting wrongs – the  wrong use of the Temple. All those things collectively raised the ire of sinful mankind in its many forms, to eventually take him and kill him. Thus they will, without realizing it, offer the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and progress the will of God to eventually bring glory to the Father and reconciliation of those who would hear and respond. Today’s events have been part of that.  Much to think about, but at the end of it, realize we are each part of the plans and purposes of God that are being worked out this very day. We may not understand them but our part is to listen, respond, act and trust, as imperfect as we sometimes feel that is. Be blessed in this day. Amen.

15. Target Jerusalem

PART TWO: On the Way

‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 15. Target Jerusalem

Lk 9:51-53 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.

Lk 18:31   And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.

Context?  We are two weeks off Easter and as much as I would like to map Jesus’ activities in this period running up to Passover, our Easter, it is not clear. There are some time and date indicators but it is very difficult to be able to pin down various parts of the Gospel accounts to specific days. When we get nearer to that final week that we tend to call Holy Week it does become a little clearer and when we get there we will try and do that, but for now we simply want to try to gain some perspective using Luke’s Gospel.

Direction?  In Luke at least, 9:51, our verse above, is a turning point. He is in Galilee and he determinedly turns south and aims for Jerusalem. Shortly afterwards we find in 10:38 him coming to the home of Mary and Martha which we know was in Bethany, which is close to Jerusalem, but he doesn’t now go on to Jerusalem. Whether this is an insert (but out of historical context just to remind us who Mary and Martha were for later on) is unclear.

It seems as if Luke, is using

– both Mark’s information,

– the other general information picked up by the three Synoptic Gospel writers referred to as ‘Q’ (from the German ‘Quelle’ meaning ‘source’, thought to be a written Greek document of sayings etc. in existence in the early church),

– and his own sources, people he came across who contributed to his account,

but is not necessarily following a historical narrative, but partly narrative and partly individual teachings picked up along the way.

Confusing Direction: Perhaps it is because of this it seems like Luke jumps back with a general comment insert:, “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues.” (Lk 13:10) which would suppose he is in Judea, having passed through Samaria but then we find, “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.” (Lk 13:22) Along the way we find other incidents, for example, “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee,” (Lk 14:1) and we also see that, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus.” (Lk 14:25) Later on we find, “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” (Lk 17:11)

Modern Frustration? It could be at this point that you might be muttering about divine inspiration and wondering where there are signs of it? But this is where our uncertainties have a modern flavor to them, this need that I have referred to before in these studies, to be in control and to package everything in a neat, concise, easily understood document, but God doesn’t work like that. He chose a time in history for his Son to come, a time in very many ways very different from ours and one of those was the Jewish mentality. It didn’t have this same neat orderly package approach that we have. They weren’t out to ‘prove’ a case by its logic and order, they were out to simply convey the wonder of what was going on. Sometimes it did have chronological order but for the most part that wasn’t the all-important issue, it was what Jesus was teaching and doing and sometimes I think their writing is like our memories. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this but sometimes if you are in a group that is talking about the past, as someone is sharing a recollection, suddenly, from nowhere it seems, a memory comes to you that you hadn’t thought about for years and as the group of you share memories, sometimes they are in neat chronological order and sometimes they appear haphazard.

So if, like I’ve just tried doing, you try to get a clarity through the Gospels, a neat order of events, don’t be frustrated if you can’t do that. Just take the clarity you can get but relish the wonder of what is being taught and what happened. I warn you, the closer to the awful events of Easter we get, the more confusing it will be, but that is simply because it was an utterly confusing time.

Catching the Order: Go back to that thought that comes in Jn 5:19 that the Son only does what he sees his Father doing. What that says is that the Spirit picked up on what was going on in people’s lives, the things the Father was saying to them or, perhaps more accurately, the things they were doing, probably without being aware of the prompting coming from God. So Jesus arrives in town and the Spirit prompts the spiritually hungry people to put down what they are doing and go and see him. Some, as we’ll soon see, will be prompted to climb trees to see him.  Some will be prompted to simply cry out for his help. Can we enlarge our understanding to see that actually God is at work all the time, even though we either don’t understand it or realise it ? Can we see that living ‘in Christ’ is partly looking out for what God is doing in the lives of people around about us, and acting accordingly? It may appear confusing or uncertain but it is an area we perhaps need to think about as an area where we can learn.

So instead of seeing a neat pattern in the Gospels sometimes, I suggest we see Jesus moving about the countryside teaching in the open and teaching in synagogues, taking any and every opportunity that came before him to flow in the Spirit and address that situation or those people, hence one of them we saw above, was simply to go and eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee (Lk 14:1) We’ve seen previously how he was there for Nicodemus in the night, how he traveled up to Sidon for a rest but was there for the Canaanite woman when she came with her need. We’ll see him pausing up to respond to blind men crying out to him, and calling out a chief tax-collector watching him up a tree.

And Us? Are we too concerned to maintain order in our lives to be open to the prompting of the Spirit to guide us to something or someone new? Do we ignore the thought to ring a friend, write a letter, send some flowers or whatever other possible opportunity the Lord wants you to create?  Does he want you to write something, a poem or a story, or be creative in some other way through which His glory might shine? These may appear as small things but they could have big consequences. Being available to the Father was the key to Jesus’ ministry, and even if life around about seems confusing and uncertain, learn to let His whispers into you mind and spirit bring guidance, direction, blessing, assurance and certainty into your life.

5. Passover Sacrifice

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 5. Passover Sacrifice

Mt 26:2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

It is almost an oblique reference made by Jesus that links his death with the Passover and yet it is a very real connection. John had recorded John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) Later Jesus was to be identified in prophecy as a lamb who had been slain (Rev 5:6)

Now a lamb featured strongly in Israel’s history having been a key feature of the original Passover, a perfect lamb to be slain by each Israelite family in Egypt and the blood smeared on the doorposts of their home so that, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Ex 12:13)

At the Last Supper, speaking of the wine, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:27,28). The blood, the lamb, his death and our salvation are all closely linked.

I have referred to this, in the title, as the Passover sacrifice for the word ‘sacrifice occurs over 350 times in scripture. A dictionary defines it as, “the act of offering the life of an animal or person or object in propitiation (appeasement) or of homage to a deity,” and the central aspect of ‘a sacrifice’ is the ‘giving up’ or ‘relinquishing’ of life.

Although Jesus himself is not recorded as having used that term of himself (which might sound a bit self-aggrandizing if he did), the apostle Paul did (see Rom 3:25, 1 Cor 5:7, Eph 5:2) and also the writer to the Hebrews (Heb 7:27, 9:26, 10:10-12) and the apostle John (1 Jn 2:2, 4:10) It is a clear and distinctive teaching.

Now we could use this term in a forensic or legal sense and leave it at that, but we have already noted in a prior study the fact that this act was something to be endured, something which Jesus naturally shied away from as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, yet he taught, “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn 10:16,17) i.e. this was a voluntarily, sacrificial laying down of his life for us.

One cannot at this point, help remembering Pauls challenge to us: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom 12:1) It is a call to similarly give up claims to our own lives and instead submit them to the will of God, not in harsh conforming to the rules, but in loving response to how we see Christ gave his life for us.

7. Silence and Questions

Meditations on Aspects of Easter: 7.  Silence & Questions

Lk 23:54-56    It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment

It is Saturday, the Sabbath in Israel. Let’s clarify days and times first. For the Jew the new day began at 6pm (yes, of the previous day) and so the day of celebrating Passover and eating the lamb started at 6pm on Thursday and finished at 6pm on Friday. The Sabbath, the Saturday on which no work could be done according to the Law, started at 6pm on Friday and finished at 6pm on Saturday, after which work could be done and spices etc. purchased from the markets which had reopened, to be able to be used next morning (Sunday) once the sun had come up. It is Saturday, the day of no work and so it is quiet. Behind some closed doors in Jerusalem (or maybe in Bethany) there are red eyes, red from weeping.

Now there are two perspectives that need considering in respect of that first Easter. First there is our perspective from two thousand years afterwards, and with the knowledge of hindsight – we have the completed Gospels and so we know what follows. We know that tomorrow we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, but because of this knowledge I would suggest we have a tendency to complacency. It’s a bit like the film, ‘The Titanic’. My wife says, “I don’t want to see it; I know the end, it sinks!” From our perspective, we know the end – he rises from the dead: God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24) Yes, tomorrow we will sing victory songs about Jesus rising from the dead but we will have lost the sense that you would have (and we’ll consider tomorrow) if you had been there.

So let’s go back nearly two thousand years and see if we can grasp something of the awfulness of this day – because it was awful!  It is a day that is almost worse than yesterday. Yes, yesterday contained those awful events, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, but somehow it seemed somewhat unreal. Some had been up all night long. Peter had fled in tears from the courtyard where he had three times denied his master. He is devastated and guilt ridden. John had been there and seen the trial and had no doubt heard about Peter’s experience. The others had mostly fled and were now behind locked doors. At least yesterday there was a faint glimmer of hope: if he is the Messiah it is just possible he will call down armies of angels and step down off the Cross and claim his Father’s kingdom. When he dies – well, we saw him raise others from the dead; is there yet hope? But he was taken down from the Cross, a lifeless and bloody body. They take him away, do some temporary embalming in a rush (6pm is rapidly approaching and nothing can be done on the Sabbath), place him in a cave, a tomb belonging to a follower, and roll a massive stone across the entrance to keep off predators (animal and human!)

And so now it is Saturday morning and there is an air of finality hanging over the day. Everyone else is taken up with observing the Sabbath. For them the continuity of life brings an air of normality but for those who had followed this wonderful man, this incredible miracle healer, there is an emptiness that is only filled with despair. It is all over, he is gone. Death is final. All our hopes have been dashed. Rome and the establishment have triumphed; they have got their way and removed him. All the bright hopes of ‘your kingdom come’ have evaporated. Was God in this? Was it all a dream, these past three years? What had it all been about? Is Satan stronger than God? Will evil ever more triumph over good? Has the whole Jewish history been a sham? What is the point of life? Well, we have some good memories, but you can’t live on memories, memories won’t stop you being hunted down as a supporter of this rebel who has now been executed? Nothing makes sense any longer. For three years, goodness had triumphed over evil. For three years, the sick had been made well, the deaf had been enabled to hear, the dumb had been enabled to talk, the blind had been enabled to see – but now that is all over, it is just memories. No more. The end. Where is God when we needed Him? Why didn’t He turn up and save Jesus?

Such are the questions on this Day of Silence. If the Old Testament had taught us anything it was that God is a communicator, God talks to us, but now – He is silent. Had Jesus got it completely wrong? Was he just a pretender (but what about the miracles????) and so had God judged him and put a stop to his ministry? God, are you there?????  What is going on??????  It’s no good saying, “Just hold on, be patient, it will all work out to the good if you just hold on,” because the very foundation of all we believed has just been crucified and, yes, he is truly dead and death is the end. We gave up our lives to follow him and we traipsed miles around the country following him. What for? What was the point? If it was God giving us a little glimpse of what was possible when He was on the scene, surely that seems a bit unkind, devastatingly unkind, when He walks away and we’re left with nothing!

Don’t you dare look at this from our perspective and think, well just maybe there were some of them who had held on to Jesus’ words and were just waiting for him to come back; we would have.  Oh no, all the accounts (and you can read them yourself as an exercise later today) show that these devastated followers were blown away when he reappeared, and the two on the road to Emmaus show they were utterly confused. No, there is no false hope here today. Just silence and questions.

Only a few days ago I was talking to a good friend who is going through harrowing life and family circumstances and all of his angst is summed up in one word – why? It is the word many of us ask out of circumstances of pain, anguish, loneliness and so on. I could attempt some answers but this Saturday is a day with no answers. Tomorrow may be different, but don’t hold your breath.

When God turns up with answers, they tend to come like a bolt out of the blue, unexpected and unforeseen. There is one thing I am sure about though, and it is this. If, when we get to heaven, should the Lord allow us to see back through all of history with His full and total sight and knowledge, I am utterly convinced that when we see it all, we will never be able to find a thing to criticize Him about. But for the moment, weep at loss, weep with fears, weep with frustration, weep for all these things, but may I come and sit or kneel beside you and weep with you so the three of us may weep together?

2. Anticlimax & Provocation

Meditations on Aspects of Easter:  2.  Anticlimax & Provocation

Mark 11:12   The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.

It is Monday morning. Across the city and, indeed, in the surrounding villages where Passover pilgrims might be staying, people are waking up and wondering. They wonder about what had happened yesterday. Yesterday the Messiah had come to the city, they thought, yesterday he was welcomed by the crowds. For the Roman commanders, no doubt they had held their breath for a moment as the potential for a riot, if not worse, appeared to be approaching the city. But then it had dissipated as, instead, the crowd had gone up to the Temple. No doubt they breathed a sign of relief.

But not so in the house of the Chief Priest or in the homes of the temple administrators.  The agitator from the north had come and then, thankfully, gone. But at least he didn’t seem to upset the Romans! If he does that we’re really in trouble. It’s bad enough that we know we have these various rebels and troublemakers around who want to cause trouble and rise up against them. If they are allowed to cause upset – and just before this most important feast of the year – the Romans will bring such a crackdown it may even curb the entire festivities. We mustn’t let that happen! (We will follow what happened now in Mark’s account in chapter 11 – different from the others but we’ll comment on that in a later meditation))

And out at Bethany, just a few miles away where Jesus is staying with his disciples, the disciples wake and wonder. What will the master do today?  Yesterday was pretty exciting but where did it go? As they go to leave Bethany early in the morning, Jesus pauses for a moment and then wanders over to a fig tree. (v.13,14) It’s the time of the year when fig-trees normally begin to get leaves but do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in June. This tree was an exception in that it was already, at Passover time, full of leaves. A tree that looked good but bore no fruit!  And so he cursed it. His disciples looked on and wondered.  It wasn’t until they passed it next day on the way into town and saw it shriveled that they wondered some more and Peter commented, but Jesus gave no answer that made sense, it seemed, but simply taught them about having faith (v.20-). It would only be with further reflection that we might see Jesus highlighting a failure of Judaism – looking good but not producing godly fruit, thus worthy of divine condemnation.

But now on this Monday, he makes his way back up into the city and up to the temple. (v.15-) He enters and in a loud voice starts denouncing their making the temple a market, and starts turning tables over. Total chaos. There is much shouting. What is going on? He’s turned on his own people, or at least he’s turned on the administration of Judaism. If this is the Messiah he seems to have got it wrong. We expected him to have sorted out the Romans but instead he’s turned on us? The temple officials come running but Jesus has left. They had been made to look fools as this agitator from the north had gate-crashed the crowds in the temple and caused havoc and denounced them.

It is Tuesday and the familiar walk into town from Bethany starts again. They see the withered fig tree but continue on into town and again aim for the temple. In the temple courts, before he has time to do anything else, a band of the religious leaders approach him (v.27) and expecting a repeat of yesterday, demand, By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus floors them with a question of his own which they refuse to answer, but it leaves them disarmed. Jesus turns away and teaches the crowd and tells a parable (12:1-) that had distinctly Old Testament echoes about it, of a vineyard owner who lets out his vineyard but whose rent-collectors are rejected, eventually sending his son who they then kill. The authorities, standing there in the background listening, know he is talking about them. The vineyard story was a familiar one used by the prophets to denounce Israel. They are angry, and they turn away angrily talking in whispers about how they could arrest the provocateur. (v.12)

Jesus leaves but they aren’t done with him yet. They gather some Herodians (more politically motivated and friends of the Romans) and some Pharisees (from a very conservative religious grouping who thought themselves guardians of the Law), both groups with their own agendas, (v.13) but both of whom would be upset by any challenge from an outsider from the north, and they send them to challenge Jesus, but he confounds them.  Then there came (v.18) a group of Sadducees, (another religious party of wealthy Jews who focused in Jerusalem on the temple) and challenged him, but again were confounded by Jesus.

It is a week of continual confrontation. By the way Jesus comes each day to teach in the vicinity of the temple, it is almost as if he is provoking the authorities, goading them into wrong action. He simply speaks the truth and his depth of teaching confounds all those who come to try to pull him down. The Chief Priest and the other priests are zealous to protect Judaism as they know it and they fear his presence might cause the Romans to react harshly against them. The Sadducees are jealous for their city and their temple and are angry that an interloper can barge in during the week running up to the great festival, causing upset. The Herodians fear political challenge and upset and see him as a real threat. The Pharisees can’t quite understand where he’s coming from, but it feels like he is challenging everything they believe in. He must go! The forces of opposition are mounting day by day. How will it end?

For those of us familiar with the story (possibly too familiar) we know the end, but what have we got here? We have the Son of God working out his Father’s strategy that will bring about his death on the Friday of this week. The apostle Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, would summarise all this: This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) Yes, it was God’s set or pre-ordained purpose for this to come about and His foreknowledge knew that if sinful men were provoked enough by goodness they would rise up and sacrifice the Lamb of God who had come from heaven for that very purpose.

That is what is happening here and with hindsight it is easy for us to take it in, but imagine you were a disciple in this week. I suggest you would be largely clueless as to what is going on. Yes, Jesus has spoken about what was to happen (as we’ll remind ourselves in a later meditation) but it all seemed so strange, as to be beyond believing and so you had pushed it to the back of your mind. What we don’t understand we ignore and, if we are honest, often circumstances are so strange, we just don’t understand them; that’s just how life is so often but just possibly, God is working out His plans around you, even though you may not yet understand them. Simply trust Him and be at peace.

Additional Note:

In both this and the first meditation, I briefly noted that we were following Mark’s account of the things that occurred and because I am aware this differs in order from Matthew’s & Luke’s accounts, and question has been made about it, it seemed appropriate to add this further comment.

The Gospel writers, as they collate the reports and writings they have been collecting, aren’t always as clear as we today might wish report writing to be.  For instance, in the first meditation I cited Mark’s account of Jesus coming into Jerusalem, going to the temple, leaving and returning next morning to overturn the tables (Mk 11:9-17). Bear in mind that it is thought that Mark is dictated by the apostle Peter for whom these events would have been graphically imprinted on his mind!

Now if you look in Luke he, at first sight, appears to show the overturning tables on the same day of arriving. See Lk 19:41-46 and also Matt 21:9-13.  One reason, which is sometimes put forward, may be the total confusion that surrounded these events, which we’ll attempt to draw out as we proceed further through the week. Another reason, more likely, may be the simple fact that the Jewish writers approached their composition in a completely different way to the way we do today, often not bothering to include every detail (hence different accounts) and not showing the gaps in a series of (as they see them) individual actions. Thus in Matt 21, taking Mark into account, there is a twenty four hour gap between verses 11 and 12. Also Matthew being the ‘kingdom writer’ of the four, wants to emphasise Jesus’ ruling activities. Luke simply follows on. A different age, different styles and approaches to writing – but presenting the facts nevertheless.

43. Unique to God’s People

Meditations in Exodus: 43. Unique to God’s People

Ex 12:43   The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No foreigner is to eat of it.

In the verses we now come to there is an important if not vital principle to be noted: the things of the Passover apply ONLY to God’s people. This may not appear important in respect of the instructions as to the feast, but when we see the wider implication and application through the New Testament, it becomes crucial.

Let’s simply note first of all, the Lord’s instruction to Moses and note its exclusivity: “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.” (v.43-45) In respect of the Passover no foreigner can partake of it, i.e. it is only for Israel, God’s people. If a slave has truly been brought into the covenant community (as seen by him being circumcised) then he may eat of it but not anyone who is temporarily with them or who is hired by them. No, this is for the covenant community only. That is important!

Then comes the way it is eaten, individually: “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones.“ (v.46) Note, one house per animal, i.e. each home must have their own sacrificial lamb and not rely upon anyone else. Each individual family must be obedient to God and show it by having their own lamb. They are to eat it within their home and not take any of it outside the home and have a picnic outside. No, in Egypt they were huddled in their own home and there they fearfully took their own lamb which was to be roasted whole, without breaking it up; this will have significance in the later application.

Then, we might say, come a reiteration of who may eat it and take part in it, how it is taken corporately: “The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.” (v.47) It is to be taken by ALL of Israel, men, women and children, all who are part of the covenant community. We can’t help repeating this because the Lord does, that is only for those who have entered into covenant with God and so any aliens or foreigners who have joined themselves to Israel must show their commitment to Israel but doing the same things as Israel: “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.” (v.48,49) If you wanted to be an Israelite and you were male you would have to be circumcised. No circumcision, no Israelite, no Passover.

And so it is summarized: “All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.” (v.50,51) Note the two halves to this: Israel’s obedience and the Lord’s deliverance; one opened the way for the other.

Now to the wider application today, and of course it focuses on Jesus. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming he heralded him by declaring, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) and then later, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:36). It could not be any clearer. This prophet-herald whose job was to prepare the people to meet their Messiah portrayed him as God’s lamb. Isaiah had prophesied, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth,” (Isa 53:7) indicating the meek and humble way the Messiah would come, but John’s emphasis on taking away the sin of the world takes us back to the picture of the Passover lamb. In his Revelation John recorded, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,” (Rev 5:6) and the onlooking assembly sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Rev 5:9) and in that they encapsulate the work of Christ on the Cross for it is clear this is who it is.

The lamb was slain so that the destroying angel would Pass-over the offeror and his family and they would be saved. For the Israelite their lamb was literal. Each individual family had to do it and it would only be applicable for anyone in the covenant community. In the bigger, world-encompassing picture, the Lamb is Jesus who was crucified for us, but his death acts only as a means of staying the destroying angel if we take his death for us; we believe he came and died for us, we claim his death for our own lives and we rely entirely upon his death to save us. We become the covenant community of God by our surrender to God and acceptance of His way of salvation, the death of His Lamb, Jesus Christ on the Cross, and in so doing we are saved. Saved from destruction and saved for a life in God’s presence in eternity. Hallelujah!

Picking up a point from earlier on, the lamb’s bones were not to be broken. When it came to Jesus being crucified, to make it even more obvious for those with eyes to see, his bones were not broken contrary to the usual custom (so the body could not support itself and in hanging in tension would suffocate and finish off the crucified person). See Jn 19:36.

If you have never realised that this is what it is all about when we talk of Jesus, then surrender your life to God right now and accept His Passover Lamb as the means of your life being saved from judgment and for a life with God that goes on into eternity.  Declare your belief in Jesus and his work on the Cross on your behalf and let him lead and guide your life from now on in this new covenant relationship.  My it be so.

42. A Hasty Departure

Meditations in Exodus: 42. A Hasty Departure

Ex 12:40,41   Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.

It is important to catch and hold on to the details of all that happened to Israel. Pharaoh has apparently capitulated and told them to leave. The Egyptian people have encouraged them to leave and have heaped them with goods to take with them. The slave people have eventually been paid for their years of servitude!

They are on their way: The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth.” (v.37a) Rameses was one of the store cities the Hebrew slaves had helped to build (see Ex 1:12) and they obviously still lived in the vicinity. It is thought to be somewhere on the Nile delta (possibly to receive imports from the sea). Succoth is thought to be to the west of the Bitter Lakes near the eastern border of Egypt. As we had noted in a much earlier meditation the Egyptians had used the Hebrew slaves for mining in the south of the Sinai peninsular and so they were possibly kept in Goshen in the north of Egypt for easy access. What was once used to his benefit by Pharaoh, now works for the benefit of Israel as they look to make a quick escape from Egypt. (Yet, as we will see in a later study, that brought its problems!)

Who went? We are told that, “There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.” (v.37b) When they had arrived in the land some four hundred years earlier there had been just some seventy or so of them (see Ex 1:5), but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” (Ex 1:7) Adding women and children it is quite possible that they exceeded two million people departing the land.

But that is not all: Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.” (v.38) The ‘many other people’ have to be Egyptians who had had enough of Pharaoh and the ways of Egypt. As you follow the adventures of Israel you see that various non-Hebrews joined themselves to this people (e.g. Rahab and her family – Josh 6:25, and the Gibeonites – Josh 9:27) but not always without difficulties as we will see later on in their travels.

And then we are reminded yet again of the haste with which they go and the effects of it: “With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.” (v.39) It is a point made again and again, e.g. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.” (Ex 12:11) The references to using no yeast (which would delay the making of the bread, waiting for the yeast to rise) come again and again – 12:15,17-20,34,39)  The point is  being made again and again – this is a hasty exodus and it is hasty because of the activity of God. So great and powerful was His work that Israel are almost being shot out of the land. It is a mighty work of God and it will be remembered every following year by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The facts of the case are then simply stated: Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.” (v.40,41) Centuries before the Lord had said to Abraham, In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here.” (Gen 15:16). At that earlier time a “generation” was the age of a man when his first son (from the legal standpoint) was born, as in Abram’s case, 100 years (see Gen 21:5). ‘In’ the fourth generation means in the time in excess of 400. Here the chronicler details it very specifically as 430 years. God had said it and it is clear from the Lord’s conversation with Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3 & 4) that He knew exactly when He would be acting against this current Pharaoh (thought by many to be Ramses II).

It is summed up: Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.” (v.42) The Message version expresses this verse as, God kept watch all night, watching over the Israelites as he brought them out of Egypt. Because God kept watch, all Israel for all generations will honour God by keeping watch this night—a watchnight.” Vigil – kept watch. A slight understatement of what happened in respect of the last plague but the Lord certainly was watching over Israel and protecting them. Thus future generations would hold the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread and would hold a ‘vigil’ to remember what had happened.

In these verses we are presented with very specific information. Some commentators have struggled with the numbers of Hebrews leaving and there a questions as to how the 430 years is calculated but the record is quite specific and has been put there for our information and to build our faith, and that is the all-important thing – this was a work of God. God decreed it hundreds of years before it happened. The Lord saw what the need would be with the passing of time. He saw how history would work out and spoke of that and then fulfilled it.

For us in our lives, be assured that God is Lord over all and knows everything there is to know about us and despite that (AND because of it) sent Jesus to die for us at the right time in history (Gal 4:4). He is not caught out by anything happening in your life and He is there for you in every circumstance. As with Israel here, our circumstances may not always work out as we expect – but the Lord KNOWS and is there for us! Be at peace and rejoice in that!


39. An Ongoing Memorial

Meditations in Exodus: 39. An Ongoing Memorial

Ex 12:14   This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.

In the previous meditation we noted that the focus of every new year was to be the Passover, the reminder of how the Lord redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt and took them and made them a people of His own. That is at the heart of all this, and thus the Lord now reiterates that very clearly to Moses: “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.” (v.14)  but it isn’t just a one-day thing, it is in fact to be a week-long thing. The trouble with a one-day event is that it is gone so quickly that it can almost be forgotten or lose its significance.

So we find instructions for this one-week memorial: “For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel” (v.15) Note, first of all, how serious this is: if anyone fails to follow these instructions that is tantamount to outright disobedience which will take away the meaning or significance of what they are doing.  We noted before the absence of yeast in their bread is to be a strong reminder of the haste with which they eventually left Egypt. This is an important thing. For months (or years?) these plagues had been building and building and there was no sign of any movement in Pharaoh and then all of a sudden, after this last plague, there is going to be almost a violent spewing out of Israel from Egypt and they are going to have to be ready to leave at an instant and then go very hastily. This was all because of the work of God and that essential piece of information was to be incorporated in this ‘meal’ lasting a week, every year.

Now what follows is not what will happen now before this plague comes, but what they are to do every year thereafter as a memorial. On the first and the seventh day of this ‘feast’ everything else, except the food preparation, is to come to an end: “On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat–that is all you may do.” (v.16) i.e. there is to be no work done on either of those two days. Those two days were for a special gathering together to remember before the Lord, the wonder of what He had done for them.

This becomes the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because unleavened means to be without yeast (normally when yeast is used in making bread it takes time for it to rise in the bread. Such was their haste they would not have time to wait for the yeast to rise so they had to make bread without yeast, i.e. unleavened). “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” (v.17)

Now we have to re-emphasise the importance of the absence of yeast:  In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” (v.18-20) We emphasise it because the emphasis is there in the Lord’s instructions. Some, wanting to typify this, say that yeast is a picture of sin and therefore everything here is about obedience to the Lord and therefore the absence of sin. Nevertheless the main emphasis, we believe, is what we have already picked up on, that it was all about recognising the amazing work of God that brought about the exit of haste from the land of slavery, deliverance to a new life in a new land.

Now there may be some confusion between the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in terms of timing. Note again the timing in the verses we have already considered: In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.” (v.18)

In the Law we read, “The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.” (Lev 23:5,6)

What actually happened was that the lamb was slain at sunset on the 14th. Now in Hebrew reckoning the next day began after sunset of the previous day and ended at sunset of the next day. So technically the Passover was celebrated on the 14th and because the 15th started straight after sunset there would be no gap of time between the death of the lamb, the sprinkling of the blood and the keeping of the feast. In what happened in Egypt, the lamb was slain in the evening of the 14th, the judgment fell at midnight and the redeemed people of God started out of Egypt in the morning of the 15th.

The seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread that would be celebrated in subsequent years was able to be celebrated because of the Passover and the two are often spoken of as one. In the days of Unleavened Bread there was opportunity to reflect upon the wonder of what the Lord had done, not only in the event of the Passover but also in the days of escape that followed in which the power of the Lord was seen yet further, which we will yet see in future meditations. It was also a time of communion with God and thankfulness for their very existence that was due entirely to Him. It was a time of presenting burnt offerings to the Lord (Lev 23:8) as a gift to the Lord (Deut 16:16,17) – and it was all possible because a lamb had been slain. Hallelujah!

But that unique night in Egypt they were feasting on their particular lamb, as someone has said, ‘not in cool indifference, nor unconscious slumber, but in anticipation’, dressed to travel, wondering about the hours ahead, how it will all work out. For years they have been slaves under the domination of the ruling Pharaoh, in the midst of this occult-heavy, superstitious people. Now the word has come to them – be ready, you are about to witness one of the most horrendous judgments of history and yet be untouched, and then you will be free to follow the Lord as He will lead you out of this place of slavery to a new future.

So much of this study has been about ‘remembering’ in the future the events that were about to take place. When we participate in ‘Communion’ or ‘the Lord’s Supper’ we are remembering Jesus’ death on our behalf. That is something built into our corporate life, but I wonder how often we reflect back on our own lives and remember the things that the Lord has done for us over the years.  Some times those things will be very obvious, other times less obvious and we say by faith, ‘it had to be the Lord.’ It is important that we remember and keep on remembering.

38. Passover Preparations

Meditations in Exodus: 38. Passover Preparations

Ex 12:12   On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.

For a moment we step aside from the confrontations with Pharaoh for the Lord has to instruct His people how they are to get ready for when He will bring the tenth and last plague. They will have a part to play to avoid the destruction that is coming.

So significant will this event be that it is to signify the beginning of the calendar year for the Israelites from now on: The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (v.1,2) The focus of every new year was to be the Passover in the middle of the first month, the reminder of how the Lord redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt and took them and made them a people of His own. That is at the heart of all this. Put it the other way round, the New Year month for Israel is always to start with the Passover because it is the very reason they exist and before anything else happens in a year, they are to remember that.

Then come the instructions about ‘the Passover lamb’: “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.” (v.3,4) There is very much a community feel about this. They are, as a community, to do this every year and if they are only a small household they are to share with a neighbour.

Then comes an instruction about the lamb: “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.” (v.5) John the Baptist identified Jesus as God’s lamb (Jn 1:29,36) and this was picked up by the apostles: the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Pet 1:19) and in the Revelation vision of heaven, the one before the throne had the same identity: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” (Rev 5:6)

When they chose their lamb, each family was to hold on to it so that they would all do the same thing at the same time: Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.” (v.6). So far the focus is on the oneness of them as a people, all doing the same thing as prescribed by God, but next comes instructions that will prove very significant: “Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs,” (v.7) so that, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (v.13) Of course the Lord knew those who were His but this putting blood on the doorposts is an act of faith, and act of obedience. In the same way “coming to Christ” means believing in his work on the Cross for us, his blood being shed for the forgiveness of our sins so that God’s judgment would pass over us and we remain unscathed.

Then come directions for the way the lamb is to be eaten – for it is NOT only to be USED, it is also to be ENJOYED as it is taken into each person. Taking this lamb into you was the human side of the act. Jesus was later to say, I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53) Becoming one with Jesus is as important as relying on his work on the Cross. Note the instructions: That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire–head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.” (v.8-10)

The meat was to be well and truly cooked, not in a rush, but as shepherds used to cook their meat. The bitter herbs in years to come would remind them of the bitter years they had served as slaves. Bread made without yeast reflected the haste with which they eventually left Egypt. To this last item was added, “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.” (v.11) They were to eat it all up at the meal in the night and anything left over was to be burnt; this is a one-off meal and their form of dress indicates they are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Try to catch the picture of these Israelites in the middle of the night holding their feast and waiting for God to act.

Finally comes the awful judgment that will come on Egypt: “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.” (v.12) The death of every first born is the judgment and in their helplessness to stop it, the so called ‘gods’ of Egypt are judged, found wanting, found powerless, found to be nonentities, figments of superstitious imaginations!  Yet for the Israelites, they will be passed over: “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (v.13). There it is, this is what will happen, God has decreed it.

These verses very much speak of community and today we are, as Christians, part of the community that the New Testament calls ‘the body of Christ’, the Church.  Individual local churches are important in that they give us local expression of this so we can each realise the wonder of it, but the bigger picture is that all Christians are part of the world-wide body of Christ, with no one greater and no one lesser than any other. Rejoice in who you are, a significant member of the body of Christ.