I love the movie,The Prince of Egypt. It came out when I was about ten, and I fell in love with the move. It was a story that I knew well, the story of Moses, the Passover, and God delivering his chosen people from slavery in Egypt. It was a story of God’s love for humanity and his desperate desire to draw his people to himself. But something about that movie resonated first with my ten-year-old self and then on into adulthood in a dramatic way.
Several years ago, I tried to convince a friend of mine that it is an Easter movie, and he disagreed with me. I don’t really remember his premise, but thinking it over, I think that I’m right.
On the surface, it is the story of God using Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land of Canaan. Well, okay, the movie only takes them just past the Red Sea, but the ultimate goal for them was the Promised Land. And it is clear from the movie that they will get there. It is the story of the first Passover. (Exodus 1-14)
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and from there Christians move through Holy Week towards Holy/Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and ultimately Easter Sunday, Pascha. In those days, we celebrate Christ’s Passover. Just as God led his chosen people, the Israelites, out of physical slavery and into a physical Promised Land in the Exodus, so too in his Passion, Christ led his people out of a slavery to sin and death and into a the Promised Land of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ death and Resurrection took place at the time of the Jewish Passover, and that is no coincidence. He wanted to make it clear who and what he was. As the Paschal Canon of St. John Damascene says, “It is the day of Resurrection, * O People, let us be enlightened by it. * The Passover is the Lord’s Passover, * since Christ our God, has brought us from death to life * and from earth to heaven. * We therefore sing the hymn of victory.”
Christ is the Passover that comes once and for all. The lambs who were sacrificed and the first-born sons who died were for the liberation of those particular slaves, for that particular group of people’s freedom. They were but a foreshadowing of what was to come. They prefigured the Firstborn Son who would come into the world and become the Lamb of God, the Lamb who was “slain, and purchased for God with [his] blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9)
That is the story prefigured by The Prince of Egypt. The story that began in the Garden of Eden, continued with Noah, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Jacob’s sons continues with Moses and the enslaved Israelites. It is the story of a God who tells Moses that “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry…for I know their sorrow.” (Exodus 3:7). That is the same God who will send his only Son into the world because he continues to see the affliction of his people and heard their cries. And in the appointed time, he sends Jesus to live as a man, to suffer and die, and to rise from the dead to save his people from their slavery to sin and death.
To me, that means that The Prince of Egypt is absolutely an Easter movie. It tells a story of God’s relentless desire for his people, his tireless love for a people who continually turn their backs on him. He is a God who hears his people crying out for him. He loves them, and while his plans may not always make sense to us humans, he will never fail us.
And that is also the story of Easter, the story of a God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son into the world to give life and freedom to all people.