Let’s be honest, our generation is not the biggest fan of tradition. I am one of the biggest culprits of having an issue with tradition. Just ask people who know me and my opinion on traditions in many South African Schools/Universities. Tradition feels like a dirty word to many of us. That being said, there is a beauty to certain traditions and over the last few weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has made me reflect on this a lot more.
Right off the bat, I want to be honest with you. This is going to be a blog post exploring a few elements of Christianity. Don’t stress, I won’t be preaching. What I rather want to do is look at how certain traditions developed within Christianity and why celebrating Easter, Passover or just this moment in history might be a great idea.
Most people know the general story of Easter. Basically, it is the remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which in and of itself was a tragic event for his followers at the time. Well, to be more correct it was a tragic event turned into a triumphant moment for them.
What is interesting is that Jesus’ crucifixion took place during the period of Passover. Another historical story many people know, but to illustrate what I am trying to say in this blog post here is a brief breakdown of the ceremony and its origins.
Passover is a ceremony still celebrated today, that is taking place from the 8th of April until the 16th of April in 2020. It has been celebrated since the ancient world. In Jewish and Christian tradition it is a week where God freeing the Israelites from Egypt is remembered.
The original story takes place in the Book of Exodus. God brings 10 plagues to the nation of Egypt because Pharaoh refuses to let the children of Israel return to their homeland. Basically, they were trapped. Does that feel familiar right now?
The final plague saw God would sweep through Egypt and kill every firstborn Egyptian son.
Quick sidenote: Before you say “How could a good God do that!?” Understand, the previous Pharaoh had ordered the death of every Hebrew baby boy before that. Moses – a key character in the story – was a survivor of that genocidal order. Basically, God was carrying out cosmic justice.
How the Israelites would protect themselves was the following: they were instructed through Moses to paint the blood of an unblemished lamb on their door posts. By that, the angel of God would know to protect the firstborn boys of the Israelites.
The night passed, and every firstborn son in a household with the lamb’s blood on the doorpost was spared. After that, Pharaoh let the people of Israel go.
However, after a little while, Pharaoh took an army and pursued the Israelites. Then the parting of the Red Sea happened, where the Israelites escaped the Egyptians for good. That is celebrated on the 7th day of Passover.
There are far more elements to the ceremony and tradition that I am not going to get into. Also, I may have missed some key elements that other Christians or Jews will know far better than me. So, if you want to know more, please do research it.
In Christianity we believe there is a big correlation between Jesus’ death and the freeing of the Israelites, with the blood of an unblemished lamb often being noted as a picture for Jesus.
Back to Jesus’ death. For his followers it likely would have seemed like the end of the world. The reason for that is because they fully believed he was the Messiah, meaning the expected king or deliverer of the Jews.
The Jews at the time were under Roman rule (Romans ran the world during that period). Many of Jesus’ followers believed that he would rescue them from that rule, much like Moses helped rescue the Israelites from Egypt.
Then he was crucified. Crucifixion was one of the most brutal methods of execution that the Romans used. You can imagine how hopeless they must have felt?
In Christianity, we believe that three days later Jesus rose again. Rather than freeing the Jews from the Roman empire, he freed them and the gentiles from sin by dying for our sins. There are longer ways to explain that but as I said, this is not a sermon.
That being said, can you see why the tradition of celebrating Passover and Easter are big moments for Christians and Jews alike?
It is about celebrating where you came from and where you are now. The tragedy of past experiences and the joy of future hope.
Right now, we are in the midst of a global tragedy. We cannot miss that. Easter and Passover can give us an amazing look into ways to cope with our current situation.
Celebrating tradition right now, especially something like Passover looks at and addresses the fact that we are trapped at home. Leaving home feels like it could result in death. That is a pretty terrifying trap.
Here is where celebrating or creating tradition can help. It can provide a way for us to address our situation but to look at this moment and imagine ourselves 10 years from now doing something in April with our families. While we’re doing that we can look back and say “Do you remember the COVID-19 tragedy? How great is it that we can celebrate that we survived that and got through that?”
For me 10 years from now, I want to thank God for that. Celebrating the tradition of Easter this year is a way in which we can prepare to celebrate triumph over COVID-19.