Two great stories will occupy the minds of millions of humans today. Most of the people listening to these stories will have heard them many times before – and know that they will likely also hear them many more times before their life ends. Do you not also have stories that you read or listen to over and over? Have we not all been that child who loves to hear a favourite story told over and over? For many of us the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the story of Passover are exactly this kind of story. Despite their sad elements, each is a story of salvation and redemption, and many of us take comfort in their telling and retelling.
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt by their great prophet and leader, Moses. It is commemorated over seven days. An integral part of the celebration is the reading of the story of how the Jews were liberated from slavery. God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to set the Jews free. The last and worst of these plagues was the death of the firstborn son of every household. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb – their sons were spared. For those who are interested there are many accessible guides, called Haggadah, available to download from the internet. All of these include a description of the traditional Passover Seder meal, as well as recitatives of the Passover story and the very beautiful prayers used in Jewish homes around the world for this celebration. This is an excellent Haggadah, endorsed by the Jewish Federations of North America Rabbinic Cabinet.
For those who might want to read about the Crucifixion of Christ, I recommend reading from the Gospel of Mark. The story of the Crucifixion itself can be read in Chapters 14-16, but the entire Gospel of Mark is not long and can easily be read in one afternoon. It is the oldest of the Christian gospels, the only gospel believed to have been written by an author who lived in the time of the historical Jesus. It was written between 65 CE and 70 CE. The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus powerfully and compellingly. David Rhoads and Donald Michie’s Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel is an excellent short guide to the Gospel of Mark.
The great stories of Passover and the Crucifixion of Jesus have sustained humans of Jewish and Christian faith for generations. Why not read one of them, on this day when both these stories will be remembered and retold?