“Could you imagine life without hope?” This probably isn’t the first thing that you think of when you think of Easter— images of a make-believe bunny and uneaten pastel-colored hard-boiled eggs might come to mind instead.
In our secular culture, we have largely separated Easter as a holiday from its religious origin, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the central message of Easter is still relevant, particularly in our current time of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Passover Is a Celebration of Freedom from Tyranny
This is the message of Easter in a nutshell: there is hope that transcends and delivers us from the darkest circumstances. The message of Easter is rooted in the ancient Hebrew holiday Passover. In order to properly understand the hope of Easter, you have to understand the deliverance of Passover.
Passover originates during one of the darkest times in Jewish history—when the Israelites were captive slaves to the ancient Egyptians. According to the Exodus story, Pharaoh ordered slave masters to brutally rule over the Israelites as a means of “population control.” Pharoah’s most cruel mandate was the mandatory execution of all Jewish baby boys. He even hired midwives to kill the infants immediately before the mothers could hold their child in their arms. This was a dark time for Israel indeed, and their existence and continuation as a people seemed hopeless as Pharaoh brutally ruled over them and killed their most vulnerable.
Passover is a story of freedom, the hope of deliverance from even the darkest moments in history.
This is why Passover is a story of freedom, the hope of deliverance from even the darkest moments in history. According to the Exodus story, God (in Hebrew, Yahweh), brought up the leader Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery under the Egyptians into the “Promised Land” where the Israelites would form their own nation. Nine times, God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh the famous lines “Let my people go,” and each time, Pharaoh said no. God would respond to Pharaoh by sending a “plague” to punish Pharaoh’s disobedience. However, the story of Passover emerges during the tenth and final plague—when God warns Pharaoh that the eldest son of every family in Egypt would be slaughtered if he did not let the Israelites go.
Just as Pharaoh took the life of every first-born Israeli baby boy, Yahweh threatened to take away the firstborn of every Egyptian family. God commanded that the Israelites slaughter a pure and spotless lamb and paint its blood on their doorpost as a sign of their hope in God’s deliverance from this judgment. As the “angel of death” slaughtered the first-born sons of the Egyptians, he “passed over” the houses of the Israelites, saving them from destruction. After this gruesome plague, the Pharaoh finally relinquished the Israelites and they finally received their freedom and deliverance.
Like Moses, Christ leads his people out of the greatest bondage: sin and death.
So where does Easter come into the picture? In the Christian tradition, Christ is considered the ultimate Passover lamb. Like Moses, Christ leads his people out of the greatest bondage: sin and death. Like the Passover lamb, he died so that, by the mark of his blood, death would pass over his people. Though God spared the sons of Israel, he did not spare his first-born Son, who died so that the rest of the world could have everlasting life. He died for our deliverance, and he rose again to give us hope of an everlasting life. Through his death, we have freedom. Through his resurrection, we have transcendent hope.
Hope for Our Time
So what does Easter have to do with COVID-19, and how is the Easter story relevant in our secular culture? Like the ancient Israelites, we are eagerly awaiting when we will be delivered from our current moment of fear, chaos, and uncertainty. Even in the midst of our current fear, the Easter and the Passover stories tell us that there is reason to hope, even during our global crisis. No matter what you believe, the Easter story can tell you this: there is reason to hope even in our current darkness.
This Easter, let us hope, even in the midst of our uncertainty, and celebrate our deliverance from our current circumstance, even though it may seem distant. The plagues preceded the Passover, the Crucifixion preceded the Resurrection, bondage preceded freedom, and fear preceded hope. We too can have hope and confidence that we will be delivered from our current season of fear. There is hope in the midst of our fear and deliverance in the midst of our uncertainty.