In Exodus 12, for the first time in the Bible, God tells His people that some days are more important than others, some days are worth remembering – and not only worth remembering, God makes it a command.
Passover marks the day God delivered Israel from Egypt, the most important saving event in the whole Old Testament. It would also mark the beginning of the Jewish year (observed in our March-April).
Because God was the Savior, God dictated the terms of observing Passover. It involved roasting an animal, eating it whole, in community with others and everything about it was filled with meaning. The Passover lamb was a sacrifice, a reminder that others died that Israel might live. The bitter herbs reminded Israel of her bitter oppression. Eating it dressed for travel, while standing even, remembered the hopeful expectation.
Remembering God’s saving act was not a personal thing to be remembered on a personal level. God did not save Moses. He did not save Aaron or Miriam or Joshua or any other single individual; God saved Israel. Because of this, the Passover would be remembered in community. It is interesting that the word for “community” (some versions have “congregation”) occurs for the first time in the Bible in this chapter. The Passover celebration was not something Israel shared with non-Israelites, for the non-Israelites were not recipients of the salvation.
Today, God’s saving act is rooted in what Jesus did for us, remembered not on a day of the month, but on a day of the week, the first day, for that is when Jesus rose from the dead. It is remembered with the Lord’s Supper, which also is eaten in community when the church assembles, and every part of it has meaning.
I like these words by J.G. Janzen: “When Pharaoh is in charge of time, one’s days become an endless repetition of wearisome toil that in time may seem to go on forever. Past and future are just limitless extensions of an intolerable present.” As God urges His people to “mark” time, He underscores that He is in charge of time, and in His time, He brings blessing. We should remember it as we see the Lord’s Day approaching. Our time is not marked like the pagans, nor is our future the same.