“Why is tonight different than other nights?”
This question has been asked by one of my children every year on Good Friday for as long as a couple of them can remember. As part of our family Good Friday/Easter tradition we celebrate elements of the Passover feast. Why would we do this, as no one in the family is family is Jewish? The answer lies in the Scriptures; in the book of Exodus, chapter 12, we read of God giving Moses instructions for the night of the Passover and their deliverance from Egypt and from death. After giving instructions about the meal, we read in vs. 14:
This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. – Exodus 12:14
Then, after giving instructions for the memorial feast to held every year, we read the reason for the feast in vs 26 and 27:
And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ You shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ – Exodus 12:26,27
Throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New, God makes clear that parents should be passing on knowledge of the things God as well as providing experiences and object lessons designed to show who God is and what He has done for us. This is what we are attempting to do, both for ourselves, and for our children when we roast some lamb over a fire, read these passages, drink the ceremonial cups of wine, and recite traditional blessings and questions and responses. We are reliving, in a small way, part of the historical context through which came the Gospel. There is not time in this one blog post to explore all the ways in which Jesus Christ is vividly shown to be THE Passover lamb. Nor is it my intent to re-live a detailed play by play narrative that shows Christ himself partaking of the Passover feast the night of His arrest and expressly pointing out He is the fulfillment of the promise of Passover. However, it was in the context of the Passover feast that Christ uttered the well-known words:
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. – Mark 14:22-24
These words have been repeated in churches throughout the world for the past two thousand years as Christians pause to remember the death of Jesus Christ. But these words were not spoken out of the blue, they were spoken in the context of a feast that they had been commanded, over a thousand years before, to keep as a memorial feast for all generations. A memorial of the night that God walked among them bringing death, but provided a lamb that protected them from His judgement. It it was this night that God delivered his people from slavery and led them out of Egypt.
Again, it is not my purpose in this brief article to expound all the Biblical teachings associated with Passover, The Lord’s Supper, and the substitutionary death of Christ, but to explain why we choose to continue this tradition with our children. It is our obligation as Christian parents to teach our children the ways of God. One powerful tool we have is the creation of “memorials.” Living experiences that give their imaginations and memories something to hold on to that give our words more life.
Celebrating aspects of the Passover in the context of Good Friday is one way in which my family seeks to fulfill that charge. It is not the only way that is available to parents, however. I would challenge all of us parents to be looking for ways to make our faith tangible for our children, and for ourselves. There will be other articles in the future that will deal with memorials and the charge to be teachers and the importance of knowledge in the salvation and sanctification process. In the meantime, I challenge you to think back over this Easter holiday that has come and gone. What opportunities did you take to intentionally create opportunities for conversation with your children, grandchildren, or other family members? Did you take those opportunities? If so, praise God and trust Him for the results, be encouraged that He is helping you to be faithful. If you look back and wish you had done things differently, do not despair, but learn and look ahead to the opportunities that will be available to come.
Often these will take work. It is not a simple thing to host family members and guests – to clean and cook and prepare and teach. It takes intentional effort. It is worth the effort, however, to follow the instructions of our Lord, and to be able to answer the question,
“Why is tonight different than other nights?”
Residential Program Director