When you write a column scheduled to appear at regular intervals, you face the inevitable challenge of the news cycle rendering the column obsolete, or the due date not corresponding with any scheduled event on which you can build the column.

Fortunately for me, the column you are reading now appears one day before the beginning of Passover, two days prior to Palm Sunday, and a little over a week from the end of Passover and Easter Sunday. That creates the opportunity for some philosophical musings on the significance of the two holidays, which more or less, but not precisely, coincide for reasons grounded in history.

I’ve written before about the relationship of the two holidays, and why their coincidence is not precise. Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox on March 20th or 21st. That’s why it can vary from late March to mid-April. Passover falls in accordance with the Hebrew calendar, which is likewise lunar in its origin, but calculated a bit differently.

Knowledgeable Christians and Jews know that Easter falls at the Jewish holiday because Christ was in Jerusalem with the twelve Apostles to observe Passover, and that the Last Supper Christians observe in Holy Communion and celebrate on Maundy Thursday was a Seder meal commemorating the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. After the meal, from which Judas Iscariot exited to collect his thirty silver coins, Jesus retired to the garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed until arrested by Roman soldiers.

Until not so long ago, one television network or another played the classic film, The Ten Commandments, every year about this time. I always looked forward to it. This production, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and featuring an all-star cast of Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Ann Baxter, Yvonne DiCarlo, and Edward G. Robinson, remains a riveting spectacle. I recommend Charlton Heston’s auto-biography, In the Arena, to anyone who wants to know more about its production.

The movie, which is quite long, was usually broadcast in two parts on succeeding nights. Nowadays, with films available at the click of a button on iTunes and so on, the practice of broadcasting The Ten Commandments on network television has been discontinued. I suppose that’s a pity, but these days I avoid most network broadcasts anyway; and I can watch it any time I want. That’s progress. I guess.

When I was much younger, I always thought of Easter as a sad holiday. I couldn’t get past Good Friday. I couldn’t get over the crucifixion. It seemed so unjust, and so unnecessary. I couldn’t get my arms around the notion that the holiday is really about the Resurrection, with all that, that implies.

The Exodus story is, I thought then, a happier story, because it ends with the Israelites getting out of Egypt and beginning their journey to Palestine, with all the great Bible stories that followed. Joshua. The Judges. The chronicles of the Kings, including David and Solomon. The Prophets. And so on until the birth of Christ, which gave us the really joyful holiday of Christmas. In the film, Rameses’ (Yul Brynner’s) final comment to Queen Nefertiri (Ann Baxter) about Moses, is “His God is God.”

Advancing years and continuing thought have given me a different, and I hope better, prospective. I still like the Exodus story, and yes, I believe it is real, although I doubt Rameses II was actually the Pharaoh when it happened. I accept the recent proposition, supported by a fair amount of archeological evidence, that it occurred several centuries earlier.

And I have a different handle on Easter. I still think the crucifixion was unjust. I still believe it was unnecessary. But I know that people are frequently emotional and not logical. I have seen in my line of work how emotion can overcome logic.

Pontius Pilate understood that there was no logical reason to have Jesus executed. But he was also under pressure to keep a lid on the Judean pressure cooker that, within a generation, would result in rebellion. The Sanhedrin, which bore the brunt of the blame in the eyes of early Christians, didn’t trust their own people, who were flocking to hear Jesus speak. They were afraid of the Romans.

Now I can see Easter Sunday more clearly. Salvation came out of tragedy.

With that focus, I wish all my friends and relatives, Jews and Christians alike, a blessed Passover, and a Happy Easter.


Originally published in the Kingsport (TN) Times-News.

Photo by gamagapix (Pixabay)