Kauffmann, Angelica, 1741-1807 ; Bartolozzi, Francesco, 1727-1815. The Macklin Bible — Christ Appearing to the Marys, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54069 [retrieved May 2, 2023].

RCL Easter Vigil
Genesis 1:1–2:4a, Genesis 7:1-5 and 11-18, 8:6-18, and 9:8-13, Exodus 14:10-15:1, Isaiah 55:1-11 Romans 6:3-11, Psalm 114, Saint Matthew 28:1-10

“What mean ye by this service?”[1] This was the question put to the fathers of the ancient Israelites by their children concerning the ritual of the Passover. You can read the question in Exodus, chapter 12, verse 26, and Moses’ answer to the question follows immediately. Moses taught them to explain, generation after generation, the meaning of the Passover service and its connection to Israel’s great deliverance through the Exodus. Tonight, I solemnly announced to you that “this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share in his victory over death.”[2] Any number of you might well ask the same question, “What do you mean by this service?”

Moses’ answer is pretty good. He says to the children of Israel, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.”[3]

But we are Christians, and this is not Passover, is it? This service is our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in remembrance of Our Lord’s passover, his passage from death on the cross to life eternal. It is the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, whose sacrificial death brings life eternal to all who put their trust in him.

Sometimes, when I talk about the meaning of the Scriptures, I try to get across an idea that many find a stumbling block. And that idea is this. To understand the Scriptures, and to understand the human experience on which they are based, you have to be willing to put events side-by-side. You have to be willing to compare and to contrast them.

Tonight, we compare and contrast the Passover in Egypt and the Passover of the Lord. Both are passovers. Both are mighty acts of God bringing redemption and release from slavery. Both are events in which people have difficulty believing, even after the fact, especially after the fact. But they differ at a key point of contrast. The Passover in Egypt brought redemption and release from slavery to the Egyptians, whereas the Passover of the Lord brought redemption and release from sin and death. There’s the key difference. One Passover brought redemption from a political and physical entity; one brought redemption from a moral and spiritual entity.

Put the Passover in Egypt beside the Passover of the Lord, and you see that these events, so similar in many respects, have this definitive difference. Having shown that the bondage of his people in political oppression is against the will of God, God shows that the bondage of his people in spiritual oppression similarly is against the will of God. God sent his son to break that bondage. God provided a Lamb to take on the iniquity of us all to break that bondage. The freedom and liberty given to us by the victory of the Passover of the Lord are our song tonight.

“What mean ye by this service?” This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.”[4] It’s all been said before. It’s God’s victory over death, which God gives to you. God gives you the victory so that you might live, and live forever.

[1] Exodus 12:26. KJV

[2] BCP, page 285.

[3] Exodus 12:27. KJV

[4] BCP, page 287.