The observance of Passover is rich with theological imagery and symbol. Paul recognized this when he wrote, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). The promise of the perfect substitutionary sacrifice goes back go Genesis 22 when Abraham was ascending Mt. Moriah in obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son.
Passover is the annual celebration of Israel’s release from Egyptian bondage to enjoy the freedom of their relationship with God. The term Seder (“order”) describes the ceremonial meal which serves in Jewish tradition to memorialize the Passover as God instructed (Exodus 12:13).
Passover is a springtime celebration—a time of new plantings and new beginnings. Passover and Israel’s exodus from Egypt marked a new beginning for Israel and served to illustrate God’s redemptive work. This is the event that the prophets and psalmists look back to and celebrate, even as followers of Jesus look back to and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and our deliverance from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ.
On its surface, this passage looks like it means that one’s eternal salvation is determined by one’s acts of compassion. Whenever we help the disenfranchised and the downtrodden of society, our entrance into heaven is all the more assured. On the other hand, as I heard one famous teacher describe it, Jesus will turn away at the final judgment from self-identifying Christians who failed to help the poor during their lifetime, saying, “I don’t want to hear it!”
Does the Bible say anything about the role that the local church ought to play in missions at the leadership and congregational level? Over the next few weeks, I would like to summarize some preliminary investigations into these questions.