Scripture: Exodus 12:21-28
The bitter herbs (horseradish) were particularly strong the year a boy from my mom’s confirmation class arrived late to our Passover Seder. We had already remembered the tears and anguish of the people under Pharaoh by tasting the bitter herbs. So when he sat down at the table his friends encouraged him to take a really big scoop for his Matzo. He was immediately overwhelmed by the spice in his mouth and began to turn red. Tears even came to his eyes. The bitter herbs (and some goading from his friends) had done their job.
It was always a gift to grow up in a home that celebrated Passover. As I grew into a better understanding of the Seder and its connection to the Last Supper, I appreciated it even more. The Passover commemorates God’s salvific work to move Israel out of slavery, into freedom. Jesus uses the opportunity of Passover to draw a clear connection that He rescues us from our bondage to sin and brings us into freedom.
The sacrifice of the lamb for Passover and the sacrifice of the Lamb on Good Friday are salvific acts. Blood is shed, flesh is torn, and reconciliation is made possible. There is no salvation without death. We see that in the Passover, in the life of Jesus, and in our own lives. Lent is a time to experience small deaths. Deaths to self that only silence, solitude, and fasting can accomplish. Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice so that we do not have to die an eternal death, but we are called to our own participation in sanctification by “throwing off the sin that hinders” (Hebrews 12:1) and “putting to death the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:13).
The bitter herbs of Passover are a reminder of the old life, the life that was full of suffering in the land of slavery. Lent is a season that reminds us that we must continue to throw off the old life, the life of sin. Christ has made a way out of slavery to sin and a way forward to new life in Him. That way forward requires not a one-time confession of our need for grace, but a continual transformation. May we allow Lent to refine our lives (1 Peter 1:7).
~Julia Sandstrom, Holy Community Covenant Church, Winnipeg, MB