by Blake Berg
This year our family celebrated our first Passover— the Jewish holiday that celebrates God freeing His people from the slavery in Egypt by His mighty hand. I’ve participated in various Seder meals in the past, this isn’t my first rodeo, and so I had high hopes for this one (not to mention all of the prophetic words surrounding Passover this year).
I don’t know why our family doesn’t keep some kind of tradition celebrating Passover. Not only did God free his people from slavery in Egypt, but now, in Jesus, a New Testament Passover Lamb, He has freed us from the slavery to sin, death, and the law! Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate that? I don’t know, the truth is…we don’t. But these are unprecedented times and this year, unprecedented-ness is showing up not only in quarantine, but also in our celebration of Passover.
Everything started out great. We downloaded a kid-friendly Messianic Haggadah (the Haggadah is the order of service for the Seder). We had our Seder plate, complete with Matzah, Charoset, Bitter Herbs, Parsley, and a bone (unfortunately it was rawhide, but these are unprecedented times and our dog appreciated it).
It didn’t take long before everything spiraled out of control. We had new plates, candles, and a roast in the oven. As we patiently waited for the oven door to be rolled away, we started the Seder…
The bitter herbs (horseradish) caused one of my children to gag at the table and throw up. I wish that was the end but it was just the beginning. They suffered through the first two cups of grape juice (which apparently now none of them like) and the telling of the Israelites exodus from Egypt. During dinner, they began acting out the final plague sent to the Egyptians with their broccoli. The downward spiral continued from there until they ultimately were all sent to bed early.
We were unable to finish the celebration we started.
What. Just. Happened? We went into this believing that God was going to move, believing that we’re standing on His promises, believing that He’s going to meet us here and do incredible things in our family. If I’m being honest, I was pretty disappointed as our Seder came to a close. Our family was separated, our kids were mad, we were made, and it didn’t seem like God did any of the great things we thought He was going to do.
I thought this was going to be a night of victory, but everywhere I look all I see is defeat. Where’s the victory in that?
Shame starts to creep in. I teach the Story Class at The Ascent (www.jointheascent.com) where we’re currently journeying through the narrative of the entire Bible. WHAT IF THE STUDENTS I’M TEACHING THE BIBLE TO FIND OUT I CAN’T DO SOME OF THE THINGS IN THE BIBLE?
In the Story Class this week, we were in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11, jumps out at me…the faith chapter. All of these heroes (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David, etc, etc, etc) are commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised (TL;DR – it’s Jesus, Jesus is what was promised). But their faith wasn’t shaken. Some were saved from destruction, others were sawed in two, one went straight to heaven not even tasting of death. Some places I see victory, but some look like defeat. How can you be commended in defeat? That has me looking differently at what victory really is. Is victory found in our circumstances or is it found in our faith?
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
2 Peter 3:14
Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Hebrews 4:11 tells us to make every effort to enter into Sabbath rest with Jesus. Jesus himself tells us to make every effort to enter through the narrow door (Luke 13:24).
What does it mean to make every effort? Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? I remember mine. I fell off of it. A lot. I quickly moved from cement to grass so when I fell, it wouldn’t hurt so bad. I took my pedals off so I could just push myself and if I got in a jam I could quickly put my feet down. What if that’s what it looks like to make every effort? None of those things pointed to failure. Everything I did (every effort) pointed to one day finding success in riding a bike. The only thing that would have pointed to failure would be if I quit trying.
So why do I feel shame when making every effort? Why do I feel shame showing up at a bike park without pedals on my bike so I don’t fall over? What better place to learn how to ride a bike? Shouldn’t it be more shameful to just quit trying? Why does an out-of-shape person feel shame at a gym? Why do I feel shame if I need to set phone reminders through-out the day to invite Jesus into whatever I’m doing at that time and to engage with God in prayer? Isn’t that just me making every effort?
Somehow we’ve taken passages like Hebrews 4:11,
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
and we turn it into, Let us therefore be perfect at how we are at rest with Jesus, or else you will perish because you are disobedient.
And because we don’t know how to do it, we just don’t do it. Shame sneaks in and rather than choosing communion, we choose condemnation. So we quietly go away, hoping no one sees us, to perfect something that we aren’t going to try to do.
I couldn’t ride a bike the first time I tried. But I made every effort and I made every effort and I made every effort again. Guess what? Now I can do all kinds of cool things like not fall over. I can also ride my bike down a small curb. So who’s ashamed now? Not me. I’m living my best bike-life.
Last night our family celebrated our first Passover together. We fell off the bike. We learned a lot of ways not to do a Seder. Our next Seder will look different. Maybe we’ll take the pedals off the bike (metaphorically), maybe we’ll be on grass instead of cement (again, metaphorically). The only thing we aren’t going to do is stop making every effort.
I get to join the faith heroes of Hebrews 11 in chapter 12…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Run with perseverance. Make every effort. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Our Seder didn’t go as planned. But it was a victory. Mountains are ascended one effort at a time. And not only do we have a lot of effort left in us, we have the promise that our faith fathers didn’t—Jesus. So we’ll keep fighting, we’ll keep running, we’ll keep persevering, and we’ll keep the faith. In the end, we’ll make every effort to be found in Him.