Reflecting on Passover, Good Friday and ‘the shot heard ’round the world’
SAN JOSÉ, Calif. Today, Friday, April 19, 2019, we discover a remarkable convergence moments — moments when freedom began to unfold in the course of human history. This Friday is the day that Passover begins. It also marks the somber hours of Good Friday for Christians worldwide. However, we should note that in the year 1775, April 19 also became an important date in American history. For that was the day that the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired in the English colony of Massachusetts. It marked the beginning of the American Revolution.
How is there any connection among these three Fridays?
Certainly, if one is locked into the secular world, no sensible connection exists. However, all three share an incredible significance when one views them from a Providential perspective.
For those of the Jewish faith, one of four names for Passover is Hag ha-Herut, which means “The Holiday of Freedom.” For Christians, Good Friday marks the beginning of three days that commemorate and celebrate the transformative journey toward a new freedom for mankind, one that began with Jesus’ death on the cross and concluded with His Resurrection from death, which marked the beginning of Christianity.
In both cases, through the Providence of God, there was a new beginning, leading to something significantly greater. A new birth of freedom shone forth for those who believed that freedom was more important than life itself. The same holds true for the momentous events that began to unfold in Massachusetts closer to our own time.
What is freedom? What is truth? The lesson of Good Friday and the promise of the Resurrection
Freedom. This aspect of belief, or faith, lies at the heart of each moment, though the connection seems insignificant in the secular world. Yet, in the light of the pursuit of freedom, these three moments in history can be aligned, making deeper comparisons possible. The Passover experience of the Hebrew people was the beginning of their eventual freedom from slavery in Egypt under the Pharaoh.
Christians know what began to unfold when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate on Good Friday. Before effectively condemning Him to death, Pilate questioned Jesus.
Pilate therefore said unto him, “Art thou a king then?”
Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
Pilate saith unto him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, “I find in him no fault at all.”
— John 18:37-38 (KJV)
Christians know that the ultimate end of that Good Friday encounter led to the crucifixion of Jesus and His death on the cross. Yet just three days later, His Resurrection from death led to the birth of Christianity.
Another profound Christian truth
There was another significant point in the New Testament during which Jesus spoke of truth in a most serious manner. We also find it in the Book of John.
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”
“The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
Even as he spoke, many believed in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The teachings of Jesus showed us yet another dimension of freedomas he revealed the truth of His Father in Heaven. For those who can grasp this, the world still repeats this sequence, the clash between the secular vs. the religious realms.
Passover: When the Jewish people began their move toward freedom
In the history of the Jewish people, the secular realm was represented by Pharaoh, while Moses represented God’s very different perspective on value to the government of Egypt. In Jesus’ fateful Good Friday appearance before Pilate, He succinctly revealed to this representative of Caesar and the Roman government what was valuable to God. In each moment in history, the government clearly held the reins of power. Yet God, through Moses, humbled the Pharaoh. In a similar manner, the death and Resurrection of Jesus launched the religious movement that gradually conquered the Roman Empire over 400 years. These historic events and their profound, transformative effects cannot be denied.
Centuries later, the American colonists begin their own march toward freedom
The beginning of freedom in what was to become the United States of America holds a parallel significance. On April 19, 1775, history shows that 77 brave Massachusetts men and boys gathered their powder horns, muskets and shot. They made their way to Lexington Green to await for the feared Redcoats, the soldiers of the English King, who represented another government determined to dominate its people. The historic showdown that next occurred involved regular, everyday people pitted against the well-armed representatives of a repressive regime. Can we relate this historical moment to the showdown between Moses and Pharaoh. Or the philosophical confrontation between Jesus and Pilate?
Not from the secular perspective, but from the Providential view, the “shot heard ‘round the world” initiated a new freedom movement that would once again transform the world in most powerful manner. The battles at Lexington and Concord began a sequence of events leading to the vote by the American Colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain. That, in turn, led to their formal Declaration of Independence.
Significantly, the Declaration of Independence appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” It concluded by stating: “for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” This was indeed a more formal act of belief, or faith. Arguably, an element of Divine Providence linked this moment to those other significant and dramatic moments in the history of humankind. All three moments – revolutionary moments – led their people to freedom from slavery or tyranny.
Lexington to Concord
Those boys and men of Lexington rose from their sleep, left their beds and braced themselves to face a formidable foe. Just a rag-tag band, they made their way to Lexington Green to wait in the cool April morning, uncertain of what would happen next. Because it had never, ever happened before. Yet at the appointed time, these brave souls stood their ground. Some may have wondered if they would ever return to their homes that day. But, these brave individuals stood for freedom, and knew full well they could lose their lives to their noble cause.
Emerson and “the shot heard ’round the world”
Ironically, the very “first shot” Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to in his famous poem The Concord Hymn, was fired at Lexington and not at Concord, where a larger skirmish occurred later on the 19th. Nevertheless, his poem immortalized this moment in human history.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world….
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
Freedom always comes at great cost
Secular historians may not agree on the deeper significance of those who laid down their lives that day. But as Emerson clearly states: “To die, and leave their children free…”
This day was America’s new beginning to stand up to tyranny, the beginning of their dramatic stand for freedom, not just for the nation, but for the entire world. The birth of the United States of America came at a great cost: the cost of many lives. America continues to bear a great cost in the ongoing fight for world freedom. Again at the cost of many lives.
To gain some perspective, we should note that Jesus Himself proclaimed that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” This was not a random string of powerful words. He absolutely meant what He said. By those words He lived, and ultimately fulfilled that which He proclaimed. Similar to the central truth of the Jewish “Holiday of Freedom,” this is why Christians celebrate Easter.
America likewise was born when good people were willing to lay down their lives for the freedom of their children. America today contains countless good people still willing to lay down their lives for the sake of others’ freedom. Such a true standard of love is the foundation upon which Freedom is built.
— Headline image: Stained-glass window depicting the Passover Lamb, a concept integral to the foundation of Easter.
(Image via Wikipedia entry on Easter, GNU 1.2 license)