Episode 1. In Slavery
Freedom is a commodity much in demand, but in short supply. Oh sure – plenty of things seem to offer us freedom. That new car ad on TV last night – that was all about freedom. But how many of those things actually every deliver? I mean – real freedom. Imagine if you could be […]
Freedom is a commodity much in demand, but in short supply. Oh sure – plenty of things seem to offer us freedom. That new car ad on TV last night – that was all about freedom. But how many of those things actually every deliver? I mean – real freedom.
Imagine if you could be free – truly free. If you could have the gift of complete freedom, what would you want to be set free from? Why do I ask? Well, because this whole Easter thing, believe it or not, is all about … your freedom.
Imagine that you’re one of the people in slavery on this earth. One of the between 20 and 100 million people estimated to be living as slaves. And you’re living in this yoke of slavery without the normal freedoms that people take for granted. And one day someone comes to set you free. To take you out of your land of slavery to a place that, well a place that’s so different. So much better. On the one hand your heart would leap for joy, wouldn’t it?
But when they outline their crazy escape plan, well, doubt and fear and uncertainty, they’d creep into our hearts wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t it play on your mind? It would mine. And we could be seriously tempted to knock back the offer of freedom. Perhaps the certainty of where I am at the moment is better than, well better than the unknown. Better than a freedom that I don’t understand. Better than the risk of an uncertain escape and an uncertain freedom.
It sounds strange but that, in fact, is how it is for so many people. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. And so, we just stay where we are.
Well what, may you ask, does this have to do with the whole ‘Easter’ thing?
We’re talking about Easter this week because we’re heading towards Easter. And we’re taking a look at the link between Easter, the Jesus’ last supper. His arrest. His trial. His crucifixion. His resurrection. And the Passover Festival which is when all this happened. They were celebrating the Passover Festival in Jerusalem at the time.
And we’ve seen, this week, on the program that the Passover is all about 1270 BC. When Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for 430 years. And Moses was chosen by God to send plagues and all sorts of horrible things to happen to convince the Pharaoh to let God’s people go. And the last of those plagues was of course the death of the first born in every Egyptian household.
But it didn’t happen that way for Israel because God said to them, ‘look, grab a lamb. Kill it and take the blood and use some hyssop and wash the blood on your door posts.’ And then when God came over at midnight on that night and caused the death of the first born in every Egyptian household. When He saw the blood on the door, He passed the Israeli households over.
Now this was a double-sided miracle. To the Egyptians it was a curse. To the Israelites it was a blessing. And there’s a strong parallel between that and the Easter which happened at the Passover celebration in the 1st century. Because the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist points out, is Jesus. And the blood that people put their faith in is the blood of Jesus. The life of Jesus poured out on that cross. When we put our faith in what Jesus did on the cross, that causes the punishment of God, for our sin, to pass us over, through our faith in Jesus.
See, it’s still a double-sided coin today. It depends on which side of the equation you’re on as to how it works. Whether it’s a plague or a blessing. A punishment or a blessed release from slavery. The decision is up to us, whether or not we put our faith in the Lamb of God.
But it’s easy for us to skip over the Passover story really quickly. I mean, back in 1270 BC, which is around when the Passover occurred. People had been slaves, the Israelites, in Egypt for 430 years. That’s about 18 generations. It’s a long time. And what’s been happening, as God has been bringing these plagues down on Egypt, is that Pharaoh has been steadily making things worse for the Israelites, not better. Increasing their workload. Reducing their food. In response to God’s plagues on Egypt.
Put yourself in their shoes. You wonder how they felt when Moses kept going to Pharaoh and send a plague and they get worse for them. And finally, Moses comes to them and says, ‘This plague, this is the last one. With this one Pharaoh will let us go.’ How do you feel?
We saw the other day the instructions they received. Exodus chapter 12, verse 1:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they are to take a lamb for each household. The lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish. A year old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the 14th day of this month when the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
This is how you shall eat it. Your loins girded up, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand and you shall eat it in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live. When I see the blood I will pass over you and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.’
Now there’s a part of that that I want to focus on right now. Because it speaks volumes to us today. It’s this – the manner in which they shall eat the Passover meal. That final meal. That last supper before God sets them free out of Egypt. It’s here in Exodus chapter 12, verse 11:
This is how you shall eat it. Your loins girded up, you sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord.
Why do they have to eat it like that? Why so hurriedly? Because God wants them to be ready. He’s saying, ‘don’t lounge around. Gird up your loins.’ What that means is, men wore tunics in those days and when you’re running and fleeing and walking it’s easy to trip over your tunic. So what you did, to prepare, is you would gird up your loins. You tucked the long tunic into your belt so that you could move quickly. Put on your sandals. Eat in a hurry. Don’t lounge around. Be ready because God is about to set you free. If you’re just going to laze around and make yourself comfortable in this dung heap of slavery, you’re going to miss out.
See, here it is. Easter’s coming. And so many of us are just kind of sitting around looking forward to a long weekend and a break and a rest and an Easter egg. We’re not ready. Listen to me. The Passover was about setting these people free from their slavery. And that’s what Easter is about today.
When we put our trust in the Lamb of God – Jesus, who gave up His life so that the punishment would pass us over. If we put our faith in Him then we’re set free from our slavery to sin. The consequences of our mistakes – we’re set free.
Let me ask you something, are you ready? Are your sandals on your feet? Are you ready for this new freedom? See, we can even be prepared to believe in Jesus but not be ready for the journey to freedom. It’s a strange journey. It’s not just sitting on the couch waiting for God to do it all. It involves us. And there are going to be battles along the way. There are going to be things in our lives that we have to overcome. Hurdles to jump. Mountains to climb. “Oh yeah, I want to believe in Jesus but I don’t want it to cause me to work up a sweat or to have to change my lifestyle or anything.”
Listen to me. Israel had to get up and walk to their freedom. God opened the door. God did the miracles. But they had to go and take the Promised Land. And it’s the same with Jesus. It’s the same with Easter. God’s done everything. Everything that’s necessary for our forgiveness and our freedom and our new life to begin. Everything. It’s all done.
But now, now we have to get up. Get up and take it and believe it and live it with our lives. Let me ask you something, are you ready? Are you prepared to go? Are you prepared to live out this new freedom?
If those Israelites had decided to stay instead of go, God’s miracles wouldn’t have meant a single thing. Do you get it? We have to be ready to go and take and live this freedom.