Holy week – Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is a week that represents the breadth of human emotions – jubilation to despair.
As a preacher and teacher, I am personally intrigued by the back story of what transpires when you read ancient manuscripts and letters. Maybe it is the search for a nugget of truth, a revelation of something not seen at first blush, or simply the insight into culture and practices of the time. That was certainly the case this week.
When you read the Exodus account of the struggle between pharaoh and Moses the drama rises from pronouncement to pronouncement, plague to plague, and entrenched reaction that is reinforced. Ultimately the recorder of the story tells us that God intercedes in a deadly way in the announcement of a final plague…”Every first born son in Egypt will die.” Except those covered by blood.
God reoriented the calendar – proclaims that the month they find themselves in will now be their first month of their year. Study Bibles inform us that it is the month of Nisan or what we call March/April. God then commands the people that on the 10th day of Nisan they are to set aside a spotless lamb for each family or group of families to be sacrificed. Then at “twilight of the 14th day of Nisan” the lamb was to be slaughtered. The blood of the lamb was to be placed on the sides and tops of the door frame of the house where the lamb was going to be eaten. They were also commanded to roast the entire lamb and serve it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Each member was to eat the meal in haste and they were to be fully dressed with their sandals on and staff in hand – ready to go. And if anything of the lamb was left over, it was to be placed on the fire to be completely burned up – nothing was saved or left to be served with a meal the next day. This was the first in an annual tradition of the “pass over” meal because it was the night that the angel of death came into Egypt and took the first-born sons who were not covered by the blood of the lamb on the doorframe…it was the dawn of liberation for God’s oppressed people.
Some may be unfamiliar with this story while others of us are steeped in the tradition and know the story well. But we may not have made all the connections to Jesus’ story.
Palm Sunday – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem fulfills the Hebrew Bible’s descriptions of the messiah. But let me propose this to you – on the 10th day of Nisan, Jesus (the lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world) is set aside. The perfect lamb of God is set aside for sacrifice. That on the night of the Passover Meal as Jesus dined with his disciples, the act of breaking the bread and blessing the cup is sign and symbol of the sacrifice of God’s lamb. And on the 14th day of Nisan God’s perfect lamb is given up to preserve life for generations to come.
Understandably I could go on and on because the typologies and symbologies are rich – but to be set aside. We talk about ministry as set apart or set aside for a specific calling or purpose. I really believe that God is calling all of us to be set aside for Him.
We set aside our vision for our lives and discover the vision God has!
We set aside our objectives and we live for God’s objectives first!
We set aside our self-reliance and lean into God’s mighty arm trusting that God is all-sufficient.
The list is lengthy when you consider it but that is the key – to consider it!
What do you need to set aside so that God can speak and call and minister?
What do you need to set aside so that you can hear and respond?
What do you need to set aside so that you can be set aside?
I think our Easter identity is truly wrapped up in the answer to these questions. God wants to consume our lives for His purposes – we won’t get any earthly reward or fame for it and I seriously doubt that four different authors will come snooping around to tell the world our story. But that doesn’t make our sacrifice any less significant – if being set aside for God points one soul to Him, it will be worth it. So answer these questions for your self and in the presence of God.
Have you been set aside for God? Are you still living this way? If not, why not?
Behold the Lamb of God set aside for us! Alleluia! Amen.
Blessings for your Easter journey.