Jesus’ historical resurrection and ascension is fundamental to Christian creed, confession, and witness. It is upon this revelation the apostles located their vocational identity (Acts 1:22). It is as a result of this merciful surprise that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given (Acts 2:33). In fact, according to Paul, atop the ground of Jesus’ resurrection sits our salvation from sins and hope for life after death (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

In this singular and foundational act of God, He has unquestionably revealed Himself to be the God who brings life from death. With the resurrected Christ before our eyes, we then can read salvation history with Paul, seeing the God who brought Jesus back from the dead is the same God who has always demonstrated His life-giving power, especially at the location of death and despair (Romans 4:17).

The Old Testament records the story of God’s people who continually find themselves in the grip of death and the God who at the place of such despair, faithfully rescues. Consider Abraham and Sarah, their bodies “were as good as dead,” and yet in these dying bodies, God brought forth new life (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:19). Similarly, Joseph, left for dead by his brothers, was miraculously upheld by God so that he might be the means of sustaining the life of his family (Genesis 37-47). Once you start looking for the pattern of certain death/despair which God transforms into miraculous life, you will see it on nearly every page of the Old Testament. Consider Naomi, Job, David, Jeremiah, Esther, and the remnant of the exile. Yet one narrative stands out, perhaps surprisingly, as particularly powerful as we approach Easter: the crossing of the Red Sea.

The opening of Exodus 14 finds the people of Israel in a precarious moment. They have seen the strong arm of the Lord in Egypt and have received the first Passover. They have journeyed the disorientation of the wilderness and are now in view of the Red Sea (Exodus 13:18). All the while, Pharaoh retracts the emancipation he proclaimed under distress, and sends his hosts to recapture the Israelites as slaves (Exodus 14:4). When the people see the approach of Pharaoh’s army “they feared greatly,” and cried out to the Lord with unbelief and despair (Exodus 14:10-12).

“Why do you cry to me?” says the Lord to Moses, “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground…and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:15-16). The Lord confounded Pharaoh’s army with a pillar of cloud, cleaved the Red Sea into two, and His people walked through on dry land (Exodus 14:19-22). Pharaoh’s army pursue the people of Israel and perish as the water returns to its rightful place (Exodus 14:28-29). The narrative closes with these words:

Thus, the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:30-31)

In reading this narrative, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ own path through death to resurrection. I think about how He shared the Passover meal with His disciples, liturgically recounting God’s mighty deliverance in Egypt (Exodus 12:27; Matthew 26:17-25). I think about Jesus in Gethsemane, as the faithful Israel, crying out to the Father in honest trust not despairing unbelief (Matthew 26:36-46). Unlike Israel, Jesus was given over to the reign of death in all of its devastating finality. Yet, three days later, Jesus was raised from the clutches of death, and appeared before His friends.

At the Red Sea, the people of Israel faced certain death, on one side threatened by a vast imperial army, and on the other taunted by an impenetrable sea. Just as the people looked at such certain death directly and with despair, God displayed His power through a miracle of salvation. Surrounded by certain death, God created an unforeseen and miraculous way for the people to live. Days after the first Passover, the Lord leads them through the inevitability of death to the miraculous gift of life.

In Jesus, the God of Israel who saved Israel from the clutches of certain death is the God in whom we hope. Because of the resurrection of Christ, God’s mighty deliverance displayed at the Red Sea is available to every human being surrounded by the vast army of death and the impenetrable waters of sin.