Faith traditions prevail in spring
By Myrtle Virginia Thompson
Springtime! Traditions prevail, a time when new life is celebrated all over the world. Passover, the Resurrection and the Persians’ Nowruz are among them. A sense of exhilaration prevails, not too different from decades ago, my childhood Easter celebration, egg hunts, the new Easter outfit with a hat and for some, a corsage. Good Friday and Easter Monday were school holidays.
I learned more about Easter when I became a part of three other cultures which celebrated spring holidays. The dates were close together this year, governed by the Vernal Equinox, or Lunar calendar. The earliest date is in March, Nowruz, the latest in April, Easter and Passover. The word Easter is well known. It comes from a pagan celebration of the goddess of fertility, Eastre, “new life,” thus, rabbits and eggs. Each culture has its own reason for celebrating.
Nowruz is the celebration of the Persian New Year, dating back more than 2,500 years or somewhere near the time when Esther, Daniel and other young people were taken out of their land. While in Iran we were invited to dinner to celebrate Nowruz. We sat around a white cloth spread on the floor. On it were items connected with food including an egg and some herbs — seven things, as I recall. Their celebration rituals last about a week, a great fun time during which they spent time outside their homes to enjoy nature.
The Jewish faith celebrates Passover, the biblical narrative in Exodus 12 which takes place in Egypt. The Jewish people had been in terrible servitude and bondage for many years — cheated, their lives made miserable, crying out to God for deliverance. Moses was told to go before the Pharaoh to get their release. Pharaoh was unwilling. God would even the score. It would be an ordeal, but they would be made a wealthy people.
There was one requirement. Before leaving, the people were to kill an innocent lamb without blemish and brush its blood over the lintels and doorposts of their homes. That night an angel of death would pass over the land. If the angel saw the blood, everyone in the home would be saved. The ordinance of Passover was to be forever. The reminder of a lamb would also be prominent. It is at this point the Jewish and Christian traditions converge, then later separate.
The Bible teachings move through millennia. The prophetic word given from Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve sinned told of a Savior. More than 30 prophecies about that coming One are found in the Old Testament. Among them are insights in Numbers 24, Deuteronomy 18:15, the Psalms, the Prophets and Job, who understood there was life after death. He said, “I know that my Redeemer lives … in my flesh I will see God.”
Isaiah summons Zion to “Awake!” and “Behold my Servant…” He then says, “his visage was marred more than any man’s.” In Chapter 53, he asks, “Who has believed our report and to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed…” He writes about “a lamb led to the slaughter.” The gospels treat those words like a picture of what happened when Jesus was crucified.
In the New Testament, the apostle John sees Jesus coming to him and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
The picture is there for all who will believe. Only the blood of a sinless One, the Lamb of God, can keep us from the sentence of death. Jesus took the cup and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It has been a forever ordinance that Christians celebrate in Communion. Jesus would die and be placed in a tomb, but His death would result in victory. He would rise again, be seen by some women, by the disciples and “by over five hundred brethren at one time” said the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 15).
We rejoice, and like the early church were able to say this Easter, “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed.” It is now up to us to observe what Jesus told His disciples to do, “Go tell everyone!” Ours is a blessed Easter message to be remembered and retold, relived every day.
Myrtle V. Thompson, 91, is a retired missionary and educator. Contact her at email@example.com.