Several years ago my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Egypt and Israel along with a Rabbi and his wife who made the whole experience very enlightening for us as Christians. We were such good friends that we actually enjoyed learning of both our similarities and differences as we visited all the Holy sites. I finally began to understand for the first time the connection, and our basis of having the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, the Jewish Torah. My biggest question to Rabbi Levi was how our Easter fit in with Passover, and he was much more knowledgeable than I. Years later I now know both the dates and the Spiritual connection for Christians.
This year, Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, began at sundown on March 25th and ends at sundown on April 2. For us Christians, or those who may simply not know, this is the holiday commemorating the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, as Moses led them out and on to the Promised Land. It lasts seven days and begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar and ends on the 21st of Nisan in Israel and for Reform Jews. Since Hebrew days begin and end at sundown, Passover begins at sundown on the preceding day. Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. The holiday can occur anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians and celebrate Easter, it hopefully means more than a new dress or suit for church (if we go at all) However, for the “secular” it may simply mean decorated eggs hidden for the kids by the “Easter Bunny.” But if you want to know what it really means and how it relates to Passover for us Christians, The Council of Nicaea in 325 established that Easter would be celebrated on Sundays. Before that Easter was celebrated on different days in different places in the same year and actually wasn’t called Easter until later.
Last year, a friend of mine who was born and raised Jewish but later converted to Christianity, invited me to her place of Worship which still holds all the Jewish traditions and celebrations. She said, “The only difference I have now is that I believe Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” So even though many of my traditional Jewish friends strongly disagreed, for the first time I celebrated Passover. Since it is in remembrance of the time in Israel’s history when the angel of the Lord moved through Egypt destroying the firstborn of all people and animals (see Exodus 11 and 12.) I felt strongly this was part of my Judeo-Christian heritage as well. This was the final of the ten plagues God visited upon Egypt designed to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave the country and their captivity. The Israelites were commanded by God to take the blood of a male lamb—one without blemish—and smear it on the doorposts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord saw the blood, he would “pass over” that house. For Christians, this is a foreshadowing of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus, whose blood would cover the sins of those who believe in Him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them. Ever since that night, Jews have celebrated the Passover in remembrance of God’s grace to them.
There has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Messianic Jews to retain their cultural heritage while professing their Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value. I was deeply moved as this was an understanding for me of how the Passover Seder has application to my Christian faith; and a Christian celebration of the Passover provides a unique way to bring the story of salvation to the ceremony. So whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, for Christians the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We are told in the book of Colossians that we should “let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts
While it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Passover, it is beneficial to study it and could be beneficial to celebrate it if it leads to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. That is something we should celebrate every day of our lives.
Whether you are Christian or Jewish, or other or “nothing,” I do hope you take this time to seek and explore for yourself. My search took me a long time in my life to make my decision, but what a difference it made for me – literally life and death.
Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.