Understanding Passover

By Munn, Harold | Anglican Journal, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Understanding Passover


Munn, Harold, Anglican Journal


"ANYONE know what Passover A is?" Blank stares.

One of the kids had put his hand up and asked what Passover is. So I asked the class if anyone knew.

I've always been intrigued by the number of times "Passover" is used in the holy week scriptures and liturgies as the central image for our Lord's death and resurrection. For Jews of the first century, the application to Jesus would have been startling. It was an image that commanded attention, whether one hailed it as a profound insight, or condemned it as blasphemy.

But to this particularly bright grade 12 class, it meant absolutely nothing.

I decided to take the risk and see if anyone had any church background.

"Anyone here go to church? Hands up?"

Not a single hand went up.

I had been invited to this class of kids who were studying cultures comparitively and doing sociological analysis, by their teacher, Mrs. Jackson. While not a religious person herself, she was interested in faith issues and thought her students should have some exposure. So here I was with a 50-minute slot in which to chat with the brightest students about religion. Knowing something about religion is part of having a well-rounded education.

So I'd started off by pointing out that religious language has several levels of meaning--not just the literal. So when we say, "Our Father," we don't intend to say that God is a man. Again, blank stares. Obviously, they had never heard of the "Our Father," and certainly it had never occurred to them to think of God as a man.

So I decided to provide a more concrete example: Passover. It was around Easter anyway, and they could grasp how the fascinating origin of that ancient, and still celebrated Jewish feast, could have multiple layers of meaning.

But nobody had any idea what. Passover was. One person had a vague sense that it is something that Jewish people do sometime around Easter.

The explanation would be fun, so I launched into recounting the ancient story--God wished to rescue the ancient Israelites from slavery and so God told the Israelites to mark their doors with blood so the angel of death would distinguish them from the Egyptians. …

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