The Passover message of radical freedom

By Giles Fraser
7 Apr 2007

Christians have been so blinded by generations of anti-semitism that they've failed to recognise the Jewishness of Easter. Jesus is the new Moses who will lead his people from captivity. Of course, Jews also want to discourage the idea that Easter has a Jewish significance precisely because Christianity is seen as a perversion of Jewish theology. All too often, Christianity has hijacked the Hebrew scriptures and twisted their meaning. The idea that Christians might have hermeneutic designs on their beloved Passover feels like one more insult in a succession of historic insults.

Yet, insult or not, the heart of all Catholic Christianity is the Eucharist, the commemoration of the last supper. As the Passover host, Jesus takes unleavened bread and breaks it. He offers wine. He calls his followers to do the same in remembrance of Him. During the Eucharist, Christians recreate a stylised Passover meal with unleavened bread and wine. It's the means by which we relive and retell the story of Easter. We may not have a use for roast lamb. Instead, Jesus is the lamb of God.

Not much of this is readily apparent on a Sunday morning. Which is a pity, because the message of freedom so powerfully announced by the celebration of Passover is one that contemporary Christianity badly needs to reclaim. For freedom is the lost virtue of the Christian church. Sure, it's easy for Christians to join in the celebrations of Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade. It's easy enough to be a radical 200 years after the event. But on many of the issues of the day, the church stands against human freedom. For evangelicals particularly, freedom means licence. From the freedom of the market to the freedom of gay people to marry and adopt children: for too many Christians, freedom is sin. That's why the church has always been obsessed with control.

Yet what's promised through Easter is that condition described by St Paul as "the glorious liberty of the children of God". Sure enough, this is not a commitment to outright libertarianism - for the freedom of some can be the bondage of others. Even so, a church that fails to proclaim human freedom is one that has lost sight of the good news of Easter.

The whole of this article can be found on The Guardian, 7 April 2007: Embrace Freedom

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