There's a story from Jason Micheli's book Preaching a Better Atonement that has been on my mind over the past few days. Micheli tells of taking his boys to a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant and getting sucked into one of those trivia games. Near the end, the group of competitors came to this question: 'During what Jewish holy day did Jesus die?' Here's how Micheli described what happened.
"The guy next to me, the one on the phone with his ex-wife, asked his friend for the answer: 'Hey, you're Jewish. What's the answer?' And his friend looked up from his laptop and said: 'Yeah, I'm Jewish. I don't know anything about Jesus.' So then they asked me, having been outed by (my son) as a minister. And only because I was ahead of them on the scoreboard, I said: 'Passover, he's crucified during the Passover.' The Jewish guy at the table, contestant #4, he squinted at me and said: 'That doesn't make any sense... Why doesn't Jesus die on Yom Kippur?' he asked me. 'If Jesus dies for our sins, like you all say, why does he die on Passover and not Yom Kippur?' I think I probably blushed because I'd never thought of that before. 'That's a good question,' I said. 'It might be the most important question,' I thought."
Here's what Micheli has to say about Passover and Yom Kippur:
"Jesus casts his death as a Passover. As an Exodus. And that can only have one meaning. For Jesus, his death will mean our liberation from captivity. That's why, I think a stranger's question at Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the most important questions we can ask as Christians. Why does Jesus interpret his death - why does Jesus schedule his death - in light of Passover and not Yom Kippur? After all, Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, the day when the people's sins are covered over by the blood of another. Yom Kippur is the day when the guilt of your sin is taken off you and put on a scapegoat. Yom Kippur is the day when your sins are washed white as snow and you're forgiven. But Passover - Passover's not about forgiveness. Passover's about freedom."
I've written elsewhere about the atonement and how our friends here in Mozambique best connect with what Jesus did at the cross. And now beyond those typical metaphors of the atonement, more and more I'm coming to believe that the best lens we can use to view the death and resurrection of the Christ comes by way of exodus.
The exodus was the defining event for Israel and the resurrection of Jesus was the defining event for the early church. As those first Christians recovered from the initial shock that their beloved leader had triumphed over death, I think it began to sink in that this new event, the resurrection, had the power to undo all the destruction humanity had first released in the garden of Eden. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the new exodus. At Easter we are delivered from death, Satan and the dastardly effects of sin. Forgiveness is apparently not enough. We also need liberation from sin. Why?
"Because sin - sin isn't just something we commit. It isn't just something we do. Just like the Israelites in Egypt. Just like the Jews under Rome, just like the disciple sin Jerusalem - sin is also sometimes done to us. By others. Sin isn't just something we're guilty of; it's also something that binds us. It isn't just something we need to be forgiven of; just as much as it's something we need to be liberated from."
May we be a people who experience true liberation through the death and resurrection of Jesus!
Grace and Peace,