Jews around the world are celebrating Passover in a different way this year. It’s not just the number of people at the event (immediate family only). It’s not just the distractions from the pandemic.
It’s the fact that, as Jim Beckerman writes in USA Today, “Passover is a remembrance of a plague.”
The tenth plague led Pharaoh to release the Jews from captivity in Egypt. Prior to that night, they had been enslaved for four hundred years (Acts 7:6).
Few in those centuries could have imagined that the Jews would become a nation through whom God would bless the world (Genesis 12:3) and would be a people still remembering their Passover twenty centuries later. Nor could they have imagined that God would bring through them a Messiah who would offer salvation to us all (John 3:16).
That’s because the past is no predictor of the future.
Consider another example.
The past is no predictor of the future
Acts 9 tells us that Saul of Tarsus was on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus when he met the risen Christ and his life was transformed. Nonetheless, his reputation for animosity against the people of God so preceded him that when he went to Jerusalem and attempted to join the disciples there, “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
It took Barnabas, a respected leader in their community, to vouch for Saul and make possible his inclusion and ministry in the Holy City and beyond (vv. 27–30). Later, when Barnabas brought Saul with him to Antioch to teach the new Christians there, a prophet named Agabus predicted a “great famine” to come (Acts 11:28). These Christians in Antioch then chose “to send relief to the brothers living in Judea” (v. 29).
Note this: “And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (v. 30).
The former persecutor of Christians had become their teacher and was even trusted with their finances. His story reminds us that the church must not be “the army that buries its wounded.” Some of our greatest heroes were people whose past would not have predicted their future.
Remember Moses the felon and David the adulterous murderer. Or Mary Magdalene “from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:2). When Jesus exorcised demons from a man in Gadara, he then sent him to his friends to “tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). As a result, “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (v. 20).
Matthew the former tax-collector helped Jesus reach his fellow tax-collectors (Matthew 9:10). Paul the former Pharisee was able to quote the Hebrew Bible in leading Jews to Jesus (cf. Acts 13:15–43).
On Maundy Thursday, it’s tempting for us to remember the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus with derision. But Jesus didn’t give up on those who gave up on him. Nor will he give up on you.
Or on those he wants you to serve today. David Vryhof of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston notes: “We cannot choose to love only those whom we like and to whom we are attracted. . . . No, this new commandment is not based on feelings or emotions or personal preferences. It is based on a choice: a choice to recognize and respect the dignity of every person, a choice to see them as God sees them . . . ; a choice to love and serve them with the same humility and generosity with which Christ as loved and served us.”
God has never given up on you. Claim his grace and celebrate his unconditional love.
Now choose to pay forward his crucified love.
If you’ll be a Barnabas, God will give you a Paul.