When my father was dying he had talked with my mother about his funeral. He asked for very specific music, but the only one I clearly remember was, “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done,” an old traditional Easter hymn. Many people commented. Was it appropriate to sing an Easter hymn at a funeral? But my mother said that my father asked for this song, because now he is with Jesus. But I most remember the response of Uncle Max, a Jewish uncle whom my father thought highly of. After the funeral he said to my mother, “If I wasn’t Jewish, this funeral would have made me want to be a Christian.” Apparently it was the words of this hymn that most touched him.
This weekend is a rarity. Sadly, church history separated Easter from Passover, possibly to assure that Easter always fell on a Sunday, for Jesus was raised up on the first day of the week. But probably to try to separate from its Jewish roots. This weekend two victories are celebrated: God’s victory over the so-called gods of Egypt which culminated in the slaying of the first-born son of all who did not have the blood of a lamb on their door-posts (Jew and Gentile). And Israel was delivered from Egypt to freedom.
And God’s victory for the souls of mankind, through the sacrifice of His son Jesus, to redeem all who believe in Him (Jew and Gentile) from the slavery of sin.
Sometimes we focus so much on God’s love we forget His holiness, or we focus so on His holiness we forget His love. Or we focus on both so much that we forget about the paltry state of our hearts that needs His redemption. Just as the Passover lamb had to live a few days with the family for whom it would be sacrificed, so Jesus dwelt for a while among man and lived with those for whom He would be sacrificed. Compelled by holy redemptive love; the same holy redemptive love that delivered Israel from Egypt.
And I strive to not take these truths for granted, and to let gratefulness and a song of praise permeate my being. It is so easy to let things distract me from just who God is. And so I am thankful for this special time of year which reminds me again of my hope in God, who delivered, delivers, and will deliver, because of His great holy and redemptive love.
May you have a blessed Passover and Easter remembering what a wonderful God we have. And if you don’t know the hymn I cited above, here are the words of the entire hymn.
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!
Refrain: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!
The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!
He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!
Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!