The Word: The Great Escape

Published 6:16 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen and James Garner, is a movie that tells the real story of British prisoners-of-war that escape from a German POW camp during World War II. It was called the Great Escape because 76 prisoners got a taste of freedom. But that’s nothing compared to what we celebrate at this time of year – the Paschal Feast.

Pascha is the Greek word for the Passover which God commanded His people to celebrate to remember the night that they escaped from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God told every house to take a one year old male lamb without blemish and kill it. Then they put some of it’s blood on the wood above and beside the door. Weird, right? But here’s why. God was sending the angel of death to strike down the firstborn male in every house in Egypt. But here’s the promise God made to His people. “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

That’s exactly what happened. It didn’t matter who was in the house. It didn’t matter what they had done. The angel of death passed over everyone living under the blood of the lamb in that house. That’s the great escape that is celebrated during Passover celebrations every year.

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But now skip forward to Jesus’ day and listen to what John the Baptist calls Jesus in John 1:29. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” On the night when he was betrayed (Maundy Thursday) Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples. It’s there that he says to them “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)

From that upper room Jesus will travel to the garden of Gethsemanee and the cross of Calvary (Good Friday) where his blood will stain the wooden cross so that everyone who takes refuge under that bloody cross will be passed over by the Angel of Death. Once again, it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It only matters that you live under the bloody cross of Christ. 

The World War II movie doesn’t end where we’d like. Only three of the prisoners who escaped from the camp make it all the way to freedom. The great escape that we celebrate beginning on Maundy Thursday, continuing on Good Friday and finishing with the Resurrection of Our Lord is so much better. Jesus passes over from death to life. Now he invites you to join him in his pascha, to leave behind sin, death, shame and guilt and passover to life with him!

Rev. Matthew Sorenson is the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church. He can be reached at