One of the main recurring themes in the Passover Seder is the continual reminder that we Jews were there. We were there in Egypt enslaved, we witnessed and were spared from the ten plagues, we sacrificed the Passover lamb, marked its blood on our doorposts, and we crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
If this was your first Passover celebrated, you may have noticed that the recounting of the Passover story is almost exclusively in the first person. You would almost certainly have read the passage in the Haggadah that the Jewish people are commanded to view themselves as having personally, first-handedly, experienced the entire saga of the Israelite exodus from Egypt.
There in Person
This hyper-personalization may seem strange, as today’s Jewish people are well over three thousand years removed from this event. However, this story is at the absolute core of the Jew’s identity. This event made the existence of the Jewish people possible; we would not be here today had this not occurred. The God of Israel and his commandments would not be known the world over, and we would have no blueprint for the final redemption that will look similar, but will be much greater and final. Therefore, we cannot help but view this as having happened even to us.
The Haggadah tells us, “In every single generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he had gone out from Egypt.” The Haggadah provides the source text of Exodus 13:8, “You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘On account of this that the LORD did for me, taking me out of Egypt.’” This is a commandment for the Jewish people in perpetuity; each generation is to recount this to the next, personalizing the redemption.
Indeed, every Jew was there at the time of the redemption from slavery. As we are physical descendants of the Israelites, we were there in the bodies of our forefathers, just as it says in Hebrews 7:9-10, when the author explains that even the Levitical priesthood offered tithes to Melchizedek, “One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.”
Just as we have placed ourselves personally and communally at the Passover exodus, we do so also in regard to our presence at Mount Sinai, hearing the revelatory voice of HaShem and receiving his Law. We see ourselves in every step of the redemption. Indeed we were, and we must never forget.
The Whole Assembly of Israel
Just as we were present in Egypt, through the sea and at the mountain, so too, were we present at the cross when the Messiah was being sacrificed along with criminals. As Jews from every land and from all parts of Judea ascended to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they brought us, the entire Jewish nation, along with them as well.
As it says in Exodus 12:6, “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” Only the Jewish people can bring the Passover lambs for sacrifice, and so too, only the Jewish people were able to bring the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We were present, witnessing and presiding over the sacrifice to which Messiah went willingly and lovingly.
And just as we were there that Passover, we were also there during that Shavu’ot that came fifty days later. We were there with our ancestors who were in Sinai, and with those in Jerusalem. We heard the revelation of the commands of God in the Decalogue, and we heard the revelation of the Messiah and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
There in Spirit
However, it is not only us Jews who have a stake in this remembrance, but a person from among the nations can see themselves spiritually, and even in a sense, physically, to have been there at Mount Sinai, at the cross, and at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Shavu’ot. Just as the mixed multitude was present at Sinai, just as the Romans (whose empire stretched across most of the known world) were present at the foot of the cross and complicit in hanging our Messiah on it, and just there was a multitude present for Peter’s message at Shavu’ot, so too, can Gentiles see themselves as having been present as well. The various Gentile nations are represented in conjunction with these redemptions that bear universal significance and are of eternal proportions.
This is not to say that the election of Israel is trivial, nor is this to say that every Gentile had a physical ancestor present in all events. However, this shows that the nations’ participation in and benefit from the redemptions was not a later amendment added in the New Testament, rather it was always meant to be so.
Collective Memory of Universal Redemption
As Jews, we must extend that national memory beyond just Egypt and Sinai, but every step of the Israelite journey is our story; every event is alive in our collective, physical memory. And just as we were present there, so too, were we present at Yeshua’s death. This is not our curse, but our blessing. We are not guilty of deicide, but of leading the sacrifice to the altar for the sake of the whole world. We can find room both to rejoice and to repent as a nation.
For Gentiles, the redemptive memory is not foreign to you. Whether your nation was physically present at any of these moments, you were still represented. You have a share and a presence at the revelation on Sinai and the sacrifice at Golgotha. We all participated in the Messiah’s sacrifice and we all benefit from that shed blood. There is no one group to blame for his death, there is only one God in heaven to praise for the atonement and rescue he brings.
Let us never forget our presence, and may we never cease to praise HaShem for the redemption he has wrought for all of humanity. Let us continue to hope expectantly in the final redemption that is yet to come.