Pasaka. That is the Kiswahili word for Passover but here it is also used for Easter. As it turns out for me it gives it a lot more meaning. As we are planning our Pasaka party for friends and neighbors here I have been thinking a lot about Easter. About what it really means. Re-reading the story in Exodus about passover while living in this place brings so much more of it to light for me. I so vividly see the animal sacrifice and the idea of atonement as our friends here offer animal sacrifices on certain holidays. It just all seems more real and I am able to read the story of the New Testament as a continuation of the first passover in a new way. Jesus instituted a new passover within the context of the Old Testament’s Passover. I can really feel the trepidation as God’s chosen people followed the instructions given about how to be saved from the coming wrath, the tension as they ate in haste and dressed ready to be delivered from slavery, the hope they had as this day was to be celebrated and passed down through generations as a day of commemoration. The Passover meal tradition was a sign of unity with God and dependence on His divine care. It’s purpose was to establish a bond of unity between God and His people. Passover remains but the meaning changed with Jesus’ arrival on the scene.
Yes, I have been doing a lot of thinking on this. Thinking that has woken me up several times in the last weeks. Thinking about life, promises, and Jesus’ sacrifice for once and all. And about death. Recently we have heard of so many deaths here. Back home I no doubt heard about death everyday on the news but as much as I hate to admit that sometimes felt more removed. I was more apathetic because the constant stream of “honor roll student gunned down in a drive by” seemed endless and sometimes hopeless. Here it has become much more real to me. On this small island we hear of death almost everyday. And it is not just wazee (older people) everyone is vulnerable, Jason’s good friend lost his 21 year friend to malaria, a small child was hit by a car and died, a van carrying 11 people crashed killing everyone, our neighbor’s friend lost his 9 year old son, and just yesterday Jason heard of a woman who did not have enough breast milk to feed both her newborn twins so one died. It seems hopeless. Loss and tragedy are everywhere and some days I feel stifled by it, I grasp for something to say or do to make it better.
But I cannot make it all right. No one on or of earth can. Only One who has overcome death can take that pain and turn it to joy. He who has overcome the curse of death. He who has shattered the grasp of darkness.
But how did Jesus get there? To the point of death on a cross for the sins of the world. To finishing the work of passover. To overcoming.
A week before His death he arrived to a triumphant crowd spreading their cloaks and branches down on a muddy road chanting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” He met a crowd of adoring fans, on whose lips were whispers of a triumphant victory and of a new king. Buzz. Excitement.
And not a week later many of these same people would be the ones shouting “crucify Him!” The people that were shouting and hungry for Jesus’ death did not see it. They missed the triumph that was to come. But I am sure it looked pretty pathetic and hopeless at the time. They were waiting for a King. For power. For a David. A man willing to fight, to conquer, to win. What they saw was a man who talked of a triumph to come, of a victory in heaven, the scriptures being fulfilled. The chasm was huge: between what was expected and what was.
Easy to look back and to know which “side” I should have been on. But would I have had the courage to to follow Him, to believe His promises in light of the current reality, to hold onto hope when things are crumbling around me, to trust that ultimately the way of sacrifice is better than the way of earthly triumph? Would I have had faith that all that is seen is not all that is. Even as I ask this, I know.
I know in my heart.
I would have been among the scoffers. Among those disappointed that His triumph was not the stuff of man. Wanting those who ruled unjustly to be punished now. Wanting those who lived good lives to be rewarded. Immediately. Unwilling to believe, to wait and see that the Lord is good. Always. Even in the darkest hour.
I know this because I so often can easily praise Him when things in my life are going well, when the world is as I deem right. But how quickly I turn to prayers of advising, counseling, drawing diagrams, suggesting courses of action and shaking my fists at Him when things are tough. Like the disciples that one minute were claiming they would follow Jesus anywhere and the next deserting Him or denying Him. I too sometimes grasp at maintaining mere existence over loyalty and humble greatness. Yes, too many days I embrace disappointment more than hope, anger more than love, apathy more than action. I fail; again and again. And herein lies my need for a Savior.
When will I learn? When will we learn? We cannot look to man or simply ourselves for understanding and overcoming the things of this world. When I feel overwhelmed by the pain that exists here and in the world I know I cannot fix anything but I know one who can. I know His finished work is enough. I know real peace is freely offered. I just have to share the joy I have.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
He has overcome the world yet we are to live in it and we are promised trouble. Not easy, pain-free existence. But trouble. Pain. Refining.
But Jesus can handle it. All of it. My questioning. Yours. He knows what He is doing even if it is beyond me. He uses flawed people like me. Like you. To accomplish His purposes in this world. Not because He must but because he chooses to. Because He loves us enough to refine us, to guide us, to show us what real love is all about.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10. More and more I am thinking on this scripture. What does it mean for me to know the power of His resurrection? to share the fellowship of his sufferings? and to become like Him in death? First, is to accept He is who he says He is. And apart from Him I am stuck, unable to fix myself. And He can do for us what is promised. But we get to decide how now we will live.
Salvation is freely offered. The death of the perfect passover lamb was for told and has come to pass.
It is a new reality.
It changed history, it alters the current, it affect the future.
Jesus did not come, live, die, and be resurrected to start a new religion. I don’t need religion. Jesus spoke harshly against those who claimed to be “righteous.” Those who did not acknowledge their deep need but rather invested in acts alone. Those who claimed that by following every letter of the law they were better off than those around them. I don’t need law and religion.
I need a relationship. He came to offer relationship.
But it is uncomfortable. It requires choice. He will not force Himself into my life. Or yours. He left it up to us, His creation to choose, to decide for ourselves. For me this is profound. I guess I realize more and more how much I need Him to cover my sins. How much more I want Him to resurrect my life from the pit I dig it into, time and time again. How much more I want to live in His victory. How much more I desire abundance in my life that only comes from chasing after Him.
I love this passage from Jesus with Dirty Feet by Don Everts, I came across this section last week and it spoke to me as I contemplate Easter.
“Salvation has always been a beautiful thing.
And it has always been an immensely unpopular.
Salvation implies need.
A savior by (definition)
isn’t something people merely
or opt for
or settle for.
A savior is someone who is utterly,
Jesus was always clear about this.
very early on he clarified his purpose:
“those who are well
have no need
of a physician, but those who are sick
“I have come to call not the righteous
Just as repentance assumes
people are facing the wrong way,
so salvation assumes people need to be saved.
it’s simply logical. And very
Over and over Jesus’ repeated
“You need me.”
You need me. Jesus’ parables and teaching
were utterly saturated
with this one simple message:
You are lost sheep. And I am a shepherd.
You are blind. And I am the healer of eyes.
You are stumbling in darkness. And I am light.
You are branches. And I am the life connecting vine.
You are starving. And I am bread.
You are dying of thirst. And I am water.
You are on a journey.And I am the path to,
and the gate for, you final destination.
Jesus knew that be being killed
and not staying dead
he would change reality forever
for those who would respond to his news,
and entering his Kingdom.
He knew he could offer life.
He knew that after seeing him alive again
“We really do need you.”
So, in a steady, compassionate voice, in his life and in his words,
“You need me.
I come offering real life.
You are the sheep.
I am the one who can shepherd you.”
It is no wonder
he was embraced
by those who knew their needed condition,
and rejected and fought
by those who felt
they could get along just fine,
thank you very much!
but he said
“yes, you desperately need life,”
he assured people.
He came to offer life. But this life is abundant,
is a feast!”
Jesus didn’t come offering
to a dying people.
He came offering
an amazing, opulent, lavish, unending feast
to a dying people.
This is the nature of how God provides.
Today is our party for our friends and neighbors here. I have a lot of cooking, cleaning, and preparing ahead but I pray we can show half as much hospitality that has been lavished on us by our neighbors and friends since arriving. I have such joy knowing that even in a small way we can share the abundant life with people who; in a short time, have touched my heart, opened their lives to us, and have made me think more and more about my own.
This Pasaka I am allowing all these things to sink in, to the place in my soul reserved for me and my maker. God reversed the curse of death for all those who believe He did what He said, for all those who hope all that is seen is not all there is, that the victory and deliverance from pain and death is available now. Jesus bore all the mess, all the crap, all the pain…. for us. We should rejoice, take heart, and celebrate Pasaka with a joy that only comes from knowing our deep need and sensing the profound peace that life in the lamb brings. Happy Easter! Pasaka Njema!