The images presented in the Passover account of Exodus leave not much room for imagination as the details of slaughter and splashing of blood on doorposts mark an event, a sign, for a people of what is later referred to as a “pilgrimage to the Lord.” It seems like rather odd images of how one pilgrimages to the Lord but it is a “forever” statute for a people that understood slavery and the lack of freedom that seems to be a means to somehow arriving at the “Lord” and what it means to be a people of faith.
Although the pilgrimage may vary for each and every one of us, the marking of such events and the Passover of our own lives carries with it much of the rich tradition that has been from the initial marking of such events for people Israel. To this day the Passover and the events of our own exodus in life are marked with the shedding of blood, in some ways, and the trauma of leaving behind a life, that, despite it being thrust upon Israel by Egypt into slavery, was all that they had known. When the moment comes to pass over, they do as is commanded in utter trust and faith that God would somehow free them from the bondage, a bondage that went far beyond Egypt to the very heart of a people that would require a sacrifice and a shedding that went beyond the leaving of one location but their very way of thinking and learning to live with a transformed heart.
For Israel it will be the shedding of layer after layer, and even the splattering of blood and the loss of life, or at least a life, before they could begin to taste the gift of freedom that is being offered them by this God, not a freedom to do as they wish but rather a freedom that opens them to deeper and greater trust and faith as they pass over, not just the splattering of blood, but the very waters of the sea that very well could engulf them in their lives, swallowing up a life once known in order to open them to the new life and the eternal promise in which all hope has lied.
The shedding of layers marks a very intimate moment for the disciples in John 13 in the washing of their feet. As Israel is stripped of all that it has known and forced to flee that only life they had known in Egypt, Jesus again models a new way, and a passing over, of his own, much different than the accounts of the other gospels. John presents Jesus in the very act of removing the layers in which he wore, that somehow “marked” him as different or someone other than the disciples, and reveals the richness of his own humanity that often lies within, a humanity no different than their own. It’s the act of humility where reality is revealed to the disciples as to how to follow and the way to passing over in their own lives to the deeper richness of who they are as followers.
The symbolism of blood and water, even on the night before he died, reminds us of the pilgrimage to the Lord that we too are to make in our own lives. Over the course of our lives we tend to accumulate layers that we believe define us as people and it’s not until we begin to shed the layers, revealing our own vulnerable humanity, before we can begin to make sense of the passing over of Israel nor the passing over of the Lord. We become enslaved to the personas, images, and illusions that we have created and which we too need to be freed from in order to understand these events as a lifelong covenant, a statute forever, that as we accumulate and become enslaved ourselves, it is only in the painful process of passing over, through the turbulent Red Sea and the confinement of a grave where we can begin to come to a deeper understanding of our own identity in Christ, marked on each of us before the world began.
Do this in remembrance of me? Do what would be the most obvious of questions that the people of Corinth would ask. Do what? Seemingly it’s become an act of obligation in a celebration that often seems to lose its bearing by our own doing and definition, but the act of blood poured out and bread broken open moves us to the place of our own passing over. It is the Passover of the Lord but is also ours as well, as Israel reminds us. They’re not simply told to gaze upon it or even simply to eat it. They’re told to “do it”. Do the passing over of your own life in the shedding of layers revealing our own humanity and the deeper intimacy we desire, freed from the bondage of our own thought, personas, illusions that we believe give us what we want but simply act as our own Egypt, confining us and the Lord, to being who we are and then doing it. The doing follows the being.
In the commemoration we are pointed towards the pilgrimage of our own lives from slavery to freedom. In the commemoration we don’t simply remember an event that once was but a mystery that continues to unfold in which we are invited, shedding the layers of our own lives, the outer garments in which we have grown attached, painfully feeling like the shedding of blood splattered on the very doorposts of a place that has held us captive, in order to grow more intimately in trust with the Lord and the lives given freely to us. It is the Passover of the Lord, the Passover of Israel, the Passover of our own lives that we commemorate and live. Although our own Egypt entices us to return to our enslavement, the promise lures us out of the darkness of slavery to trust and to faith in order to live a fuller life, revealing as it does for Jesus, our deeper humanity, a humanity beckoned to love and to be loved, the true culmination of the commemoration of this pilgrimage of life moving toward the Lord.