The Red Hands of Passover

Isn’t it funny how things come full circle? Around this same time of year, many years ago, my almost sixteen-year-old was six. At six, he just wrecked me and in ways that have yet to be repaired.


My eldest, Emerson, was barely school age and I was beginning to understand that he was in a new phase of awareness about the world around him. Which is a very gracious way to say, he used the phrase “going commando” appropriately. And then, after a day of me having FOX News on in the background, asked my mother if she had had a “lifestyle lift.” Wrecked.


The children are listening. There’s no going back to the good old days of having adult conversations in their presence. This was a sobering revelation, but it also made me curious. What else were they processing through more mature lenses?


Obviously, a social experiment was necessary. Enter the Bible series from Roma Downey, as opposed to Veggie Tales, SuperBook, etc. I wanted to know how much content my kids were drawn to or able to comprehend, even if it wasn’t necessarily intended for kids. How much of the “grown-up” world were they able to process?


They loved the Creation episodes. They were quick to recognize Noah and were captivated by the flood. Amazing! I was so proud. My humans worked just like they were supposed to! I hadn’t messed them up too badly yet.


To preserve our winning streak, I watched an episode ahead so I would know if I needed to skip anything. A lesson I learned when Emerson attempted to “decapitate” the giant (his father in a costume,) at his four-year-old “David and Goliath” birthday party. I could tell by the horrified looks on the other children and mothers that not everybody was aware of that detail in this beloved Bible story.


In the next episode, Moses gave the Israelites instructions on preparing their house for Passover and the death and mourning that would befall those who did not obey. The movie cut to the slaves killing the lambs and draining the blood to paint their doors. It made me cringe just a bit and I was glad the kids weren’t there to see this.


Then you saw parents comforting their children, their firstborn sons, as they stood and watched their doors be smeared with blood. I don’t know why, but it was the first time I ever thought about what that act of obedience must have been like for families, for children to witness and parents to fulfill.

The Bible is historical accounts, friends–real people, real problems… very Real God.


I thought about those children. What were those children thinking? What were those sons thinking as they hurried bowls of blood to their own homes and their neighbor’s door? Do you suppose some of the older among them understood that their very life, their own salvation, was entirely dependent on the God of mercy and their parent’s obedience? Were there sons who understood their life was in the blood that was shed to cover them, and God’s response to that blood? Do you think they understood how important the details of these instructions were or that explicit directions had been given on the killing, preparing, and eating of the sacrifices and that their entire community was busy trying to follow each one?


They had to have been afraid, they had to have heard the whispers of what awesome and terrible judgement would come that night. The children, if they were even the age of mine, surely saw the earlier plagues. Even if they didn’t fully understand what was happening or the context and value of it, they saw the content. They saw rivers run red, they saw frogs and swarms of bugs, disease and darkness. They saw enough, don’t you think? Enough for it to have penetrated their mind and heart??


I think even those who didn’t have full knowledge and adult understanding of what was happening, knew enough to be afraid. Were there some children more afraid because they knew the obedience their parents were capable of, and it hadn’t been much thus far? Friends, I have taught every age, including adults, and kids know. They are not near aware as you think of social status or material things at a young age. But they know intentionality and good care when they see it and feel it. They don’t verbalize it that way, but I assure you–they KNOW it.


More importantly, were there houses where no one was afraid anyone would perish? Were there houses where the only feeling was excitement because they were about to be free, and it must be so because the Lord said so? I imagined children at rest, unafraid, filled only with joy at what the next day would bring–because they lived in houses where God was known to be good and trustworthy, and they were confident their parents would be obedient.


I wanted to have that kind of home. I wanted to have a home that did not pass on fear but faith to the children in it.


And, what about the parents of those children? Can you imagine the burden bore by a mother or father? I watched those few minutes of the movie, over and over again, and was really challenged to put myself in their place.


Can you imagine, “Sara, here is My Word, My instructions. Your child will live or die based on how well you follow them. Your child will live or die based on your belief, that I AM… on your ability to take Me at My Word.” Could there be greater motivation for absolute and accurate obedience to be given??


His judgement passed over the homes where parents obeyed.  And there was weeping in the homes where they didn’t. That is as cut and dry as it gets.


Countless lambs I would have unnecessarily killed. Countless bowls of blood I would have wanted emptied for my children, covering every crack. Countless times I would have gone in and out, waiting and inspecting my efforts on that Passover.


Don’t you know there would be no comfort for those parents who heard, knew, failed to obey, and found bodies in the morning where babies had been the night before? Aren’t we glad that our efforts have been made redundant by the blood of the Lamb?


As I sat mesmerized, I hadn’t realized my son had wondered in and out a few times until he stood at my feet, “Mama am I your firstborn?”

Wrecked. Yeah, you are buddy. “Would you have painted the door red for me?” Absolutely. In every way. Over and over again. If not the blood of a lamb, then in my own obedience, let it all be poured out in Your name.


I cannot save my children through effort or obedience. But my obedience can welcome God’s mercy, acknowledge His sovereignty, and model fidelity to them and those around me. Obeying God who is already good and faithful seems like the least I can do.


For those of you reading this today, in 2024 as part of The Bible Recap, here is a sidenote to go with this. I wrote this and two other articles in January of 2014 as a very personal offering to the Lord. Our church had an annual mission offering called “The Big Give,” where money was handed out to members in a Sunday service, and we were to multiply that money with our talents and bring it back in a few weeks to give to missions. I was given $20 and used that money along with flowers I already had (I was an interior designer in a previous life.) and made Christmas wreaths. I brought back $200 and felt it was utterly insufficient.


It didn’t feel sacrificial. It felt easy. And I didn’t feel like I had used my “giftings,” rather just stuff I knew how to do. So I decided I would write something to offer the Lord, even if no one ever read it. I prayed about it over Christmas, asking the Lord to lead me in whatever direction He would have me go. In January, I saw the Passover episode and was so convicted and burdened about…OBEDIENCE. The one blog post became a series of three on obedience, “Red Hands, Black Friday, and One Salty Lady.” Passover, the crucifixion, and what happens when we only almost obey. 


In February 2014, the nice little blog I had about family, faith, and child-rearing shuttered and became Hey Salty Lady, with a goal of clarifying things in our culture, calling out to those in peril, and inciting obedience in the Body.


How ’bout that? How great is our God? Even as I sit here this morning, I am packing to travel hours away to share the message of obedience with others this weekend. I still don’t have a date to give you for when my book will be published, but when it is, it is titled Hey Salty Lady and Other Terrible Tales of Almost Obedience.

Paint those doors, papas and mamacitas.

Sara Johnson


  1. Yolanda Rankin on April 6, 2023 at 2:13 PM

    Powerful Sara. Thank you

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