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05 April 2015

Old Testament + Easter ● by Jess

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Easter: that time of year when the devout among us decry the pink, egg-laying bunnies-- Those fluffy fiends! 

But let's get real for a second. 

The name Easter actually comes from the Norse goddess Eōstre (shown below), whose festival celebrated the Spring equinox. In reality, we pretty much handed the holiday over the moment we merged it with a pagan deity. 

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Maying, John Collier, 1900

It's sad though because the name “Easter” really undermines a deep and provocative Jewish symbolism going back millennia. It's stuff you miss if you think (as I previously did) that the Easter celebration starts at the cross and ends at the tomb.

So, let's go back... waaaaaaay back.

We're in Egypt, in an Israelite (Jewish) slum. For several generations now, your family has been enslaved by the Egyptian elite. You endure back-breaking labor everyday, building an empire to a faith you don't believe in. Each night you go to sleep, afraid that you captors will murder your children (because they have before), but know you can't leave. You have no place to go.

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Israel in Egypt, Edward Poynter, 1867

Then one day, there's an echo of hushed excitement; you can feel it buzzing in the air. The late king's son has just returned; months ago he'd vanished after killing a fellow Egyptian. But now, somewhat inexplicably, he's come home and plans to go to the Pharaoh, his stepbrother, to speak on your people's behalf.

However, as a monarch, the Pharaoh remains stoic and unmoved. He knows it would be economic suicide to free your people. Angered, he only increases your workload.

But the Pharaoh's brother (Moses) has something special-- it's a gift literally given to him by God. It's a staff, endowed with a power you don't fully understand, but you know works miracles.

Moses is determined to prove God's power to Pharaoh and that it is He who is asking for the freedom of his children. Moses begins performing miracles. He turns the staff into a snake, the river into blood, and brings plagues of frogs, lice and flies.

Unfortunately, the court magicians are able to mimic the wonders, so the king remains unaffected.

The horrors begin to escalate. Moses brings painful, festering boils to the Egyptians skin, famine to the land and fire from the sky. But the plagues only cement the Pharaoh's resolve. He will not budge.

At last, God tells Moses he will send only one more plague. If the Pharaoh does not relent, He will kill the first born child of every Egyptian family. He tells your people to prepare to leave the city by making food... you must prepare it quickly so the bread won't have time to rise. He also instructs you to kill an unblemished lamb.

You are told to take the blood from the lamb and put it around your doorway. That night when Death comes to take the first-born children, it will pass by the homes with blood on the doorframe.

In the end, when the Pharaoh learns of his son's death, he breaks, allowing the Israelites to go free.

Let's take a step back now. What I've just described is the first Passover Feast (so named because the Israelites were spared or “passed over”).

Now for the exciting bit: Passover is basically “pre-Easter.” In it, we see a perfect mirror to what would come later with Christ.

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Rescue of the Lost Lamb, Minerva Teichert

Take a moment to consider the parallels. A perfect, unblemished lamb (which Christ is repeatedly referred to throughout the New Testament – 1 Pet 1:19, John 1:29, Rev 12:11) is sacrificed. His blood is spilt to save us from death-- both in a physical sense (through resurrection), but also in a spiritual sense. In the end, the death of the firstborn (again, Christ – Heb 12:23) is what allows His people to be freed; freed from sin and allowed to return to live with God.

It's not a coincidence either that Christ shares the Passover Seder (the meal the Jewish people have to commemorate their deliverance out of Egypt) with his disciples the night before his crucifixion. It was important that his disciples made the connection to that dark part of their cultural history because, spiritually speaking, they were in the same place. Christ was about to deliver all of mankind the same way Moses delivered the Israelites.

Though most of us fail to realise it, Passover is an essential part of the Christian narrative of Easter. Through it, we start to see a beautiful and nuanced symbolism that connects the Old Testament to the New by making it a unified story.

For believers and non-believers alike, Jesus Christ's crucifixion is a pivotal moment in human history. However our Easter holiday is not just a celebration of mankind's transition into a new era, the ushering in of spring, or excitement about fluffy pastel bunnies (although I am rather partial to them).

We are observing a long history of pain, death, redemption and love. We are celebrating the resolution between the existential paradox of mercy and justice. We are acknowledging our indebtedness to the person who delivered us from our shortcomings so that we can find experience joy after death.

London LIfestyle BlogMay your day be filled with happiness, family and ponderings of Christ. Happy Easter from Jon and Jess!

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