The Passover Vigil

Earlier that day, they followed the instructions. It was quiet and somber. The bleating of the lambs was likely the most noise heard throughout Goshen as twilight emerged and as the Israelites followed through on the message from God that Moses and Aaron had delivered.

They began to prepare the meal (in haste), and others went out and stood in front of the doorposts. As they dipped the hyssop in the blood of the freshly sacrificed lamb and painted it on their doorposts, you would likely have seen the mixture of questions and hope on their faces.  

This night was unlike any other night before. Full of questions, full of the weight generations had carried, and full of wonder. For 430 years, they had eaten their meals as slaves. But this night, they were to gather around this table as if they were already free. 

It was the first Passover. Time for this nation had begun again. The clock was ticking. 

At midnight, everything changed. Like a siren, the wailing emerged from the gut of Egypt. The consequence of sin and pride had been delivered. The redemption offered had been rejected, and the impact was just what He said it would be. 

Pharaoh finally said, “Go.” And all the while, the God who was making a way for His people kept vigil over His chosen ones to bring them out of bondage. 

“Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.” Exodus 12:42

That Passover night was a special night. A night of shimmur (Hebrew for a watching or a vigil). It was a night where the God of the universe acted as a Watchman for His people. 

And then there was another night. Hundreds upon hundreds of years later. 

Earlier that day, the disciples followed the instructions of their Rabbi. During a festive season in Jerusalem where it felt like nothing was quiet and somber, the Rabbi had a weight attached to every word He was speaking. They needed to find a place to observe the Passover, and he gave them specific signs to look for. 

Jerusalem was bursting at the seams in preparation for the Passover. The City of David typically had a population of 25,000-35,000, but during Passover it likely grew by another 150,000. It was a time when travelers came from every dispersed corner of the Jewish community. The likelihood of them finding a room was slim to none, but the Lord had miraculously reserved a place to be set apart for this pivotal meal. 

At this Passover table, they tasted the matzah. They remembered the tears of bondage as they bit into a vegetable dipped into saltwater. They tasted the bitterness of slavery as they chewed on the bitter herbs. They drank the wine remembering the sweetness of freedom and deliverance.

And then… He showed them that He Himself was the afikomen – the bread of affliction that is broken, pierced, hidden, recovered and dipped during the Seder meal (Luke 22:19; Matt. 26:36). He showed them that He was the cup of Redemption, poured out on their behalf (Luke 22:20; Matt. 26:27). On top of all that was being revealed to them, the Rabbi even conferred on the disciples the kingdom of God (Luke 22:29). It was a night unlike other nights. 

The Watchman was preparing for deliverance again. The clock began to count down. 

They sang a traditional Hallel at the end of the Seder meal, and they left that upper room to head to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26). 

As they arrived at the Mount, it was not unfamiliar territory for them… but, this night was different from other nights. Once again, the King of Kings kept vigil through the night as He prepared to make a way for people to be free from eternal bondage (Luke 22:39-46). Though His disciples fell asleep, this Watchman never did. Love drove the heart of our Pesach Lamb to stay… even though He knew what was coming for Him.  As He sweat drops of blood, and as they fell to the ground there on the Mount, He kept a shimmur again. 

My family is preparing for Passover today. Tonight, we will sit around the table, I’ll cover my head and light our candles while blessing the LORD our God, King of the Universe, Creator of heaven and earth.

We’ll have the computer open and my extended family will be joining through the wonder of the internet, and we’ll navigate the awkwardness of doing it this way for the first time. It looks different than any other year I’ve celebrated Pesach because of COVID-19.

But, as different as it looks, I am comforted and awestruck by a God Who keeps a watch over His people as He prepares a way for them. His love is a wonder! That on the very night He would repay our debt with Himself, He would keep a watch over us. 

Our Passover Lamb is also our Watchman, and His love endures forever. May you rest in this beautiful truth on this night – the same night He kept vigil and the clock began to count down to the cross and an empty tomb. 

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