Passover, also known as Pesach is one of three major Feasts of the Lord, starting on the 15th day of the Hebrew momnth of Nisan. The account is seen in Exodus chapter twelve and it is considered to be the first month of the Hebrew year according to the Hebrew calendar. It is held approximately at the same time as Easter.
Passover and Easter has enormous significance has affected the whole world ever since God told the Israelites that it would start a completely new way of life for them. During this time, Jews from all around the world celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the highlight being the eating of the Passover meal.
Throughout Church history there has been great misunderstanding between the Church and the Jewish people. Both Christians and Jews have often believed that there is little real or practical connection between Christianity and Jewish life. These views are based on ignorance, false presuppositions, traditions of men or upon erroneous teachings. One such error is what is called Replacement Theology, which basically says that God has finished with Israel and the Jew and that the Church has superseded them in the New Testament. God’s covenant with Israel is an everlasting covenant, attested to in the bible more than thirty times. He deals with three classes of people. Paul said
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 1 Corinthians 10:32.
The Jew has a covenant with God. The Church has a different covenant with God and there are the Goyim, or Gentiles, who have no covenant as such. God deals with each differently and when reading scripture we need to differentiate between them. Sometimes God is speaking to or about an individual.
We should also be mindful not to forget the Jewishness of Jesus. He was a practicing Jew and is still a Jew. His early followers were Jews who had found the promised Messiah and in many ways continued the Jewish expression of their faith. Please understand that we are not advocating that Christians adopt Jewish manners and customs or vice-versa. I grew from childhood in a Christian environment. Priests boarded in our home. I was the parish priest’s protégée and on several councils as was my father, but I did not meet Jesus as personal saviour until I was 26 years of age. In all this time, something drew me to Israel. My heart was for Israel, but I was not sure why. I have discovered that my family tree dates back to the convict era in Australia when my forefathers migrated as free settlers or pilgrims starting a new life in the new land. I have embarked on a journey of exploration to discover my rich Jewish and Christian heritage and I am amazed and blessed to unearth truths I never saw before as a firm believer and follower of the Messiah we call Jesus. It is like seeing both sides of the coin simultaneously. God has a covenant with Israel that still remains in force and He also has a covenant with the Church that, as I just explained, may be different. Please also consider that the New Testament teaches us that there may in fact be no distinction.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28-29.
Why are the Jewish festivals so important?
Jewish feasts represent the promise and the fulfilment of the promise is in Jesus. A Hebrew word for Feast is Mo’ed, meaning Appointed Time, so they are appointed times set By God for His people to spend with Him, but there are prescribed ways to approach Him. Scriptures show us how God took the initiative, which in this instance is via the feasts.
Whilst the format or the actual order of service may have changed somewhat from the original, the Telling, or the purpose remains the same, passed down from generation to generation. This is not unique to Passover of course. This continues right throughout scripture and history. Deuteronomy 6:7 gives wise instruction to:
teach them [all the statutes and commandments] diligently to your sons and to talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
For time immemorial the Jewish People have taught their children by the Torah and this has helped to preserve them as a People, despite the ravages of time and adverse human intervention.
God is a very practical God! Through approximately two millennia of suffering persecutions, pogroms, and the Holocaust, with no country to call their own, the Word of God bound them together and to God, giving hope, promise and purpose from generation to generation.
Christians should thus understand that there is also an intangible spiritual benefit to learning and doing the Word and the Will of the Lord as the Jews do. These feasts were revealed by God for his own particular reasons, and through them all believers can be blessed, Jews and Gentiles alike. As I said before, we would do well to constantly remember that Jesus was a Jew and is still a Jew!
The Feasts of Israel are important for many reasons, some of which include:
Types and purpose
The Feasts of the Lord, or the biblical holy days, teach us about the nature of God and his plan for mankind. A classic passage in regard to the holy days is found in the New Testament.
So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Chodesh or Shabbat. These are a shadow of things that are coming, but the body is of the Messiah. Colossians 2:16–17.
We look on this passage as a means of avoiding legalism, but there is more to it than that. These festivals are not the ultimate goals of faith, for we reach our fulfilment in God through Jesus, by faith. Forgiveness and acceptance comes only by the cross. These feasts and celebrations however do hold tremendous lessons for God’s children. They are legitimate types, shadows or models of God’s truth. This truth had yet to come in the flesh, so until that great day arrived, they were given as a model by which people could pattern their lives—something to look towards. The Sabbath for example, has much to teach about our weekly lives, providing rest and relaxation and pervades every area of life right through to agriculture when the land was to remain fallow, giving the soil time to replenish itself, but it may also speak about our rest in God through Jesus Christ.
Passover is rich in the symbolism of the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection whilst Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur declare the reality of Jesus’ return to this earth.
The Royal Law of Love under which we are to operate is a much higher level than merely adhering to the letter of the Old Commandment. The Law, or the Old Testament was put into place to point us on the way to what Jesus ushered in. When speaking about the Law, Paul said:
Now before the faith came, we were perpetually guarded under the Law, kept in custody in preparation for the faith that was destined to be revealed (unveiled, disclosed), So that the Law served [to us Jews] as our trainer [our guardian, our guide to Christ, to lead us] until Christ [came], that we might be justified (declared righteous, put in right standing with God) by and through faith.
There are several holy days or festivals in the Jewish Calendar. They are:
I stated earlier that Jesus was Jewish. He was brought up in accordance with The Law.
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
See also Exodus 13:1-2; Leviticus 12:2-4.
It became His custom to worship on the Sabbath, but He did not adhere to the man-made religious traditions that invaded the purpose for which it was given. See Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5. Paul (who was a Jew) reinforces this in many places, saying that we have been set free from such things. For example:
When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ. Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are.
God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks (or the adherence or not of holy days). Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives. The person who serves Christ with this in mind is pleasing to God and respected by people. Romans 14:17-18 (emphasis mine).
We see more about Him when He was twelve years of age. The full account (continuing from after His dedication at 8 days old) reads as follows:
And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Passover Feast.
And when He was twelve years [old], they went up, as was their custom. And when the Feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem...
If this were modern times, we could say that Jesus was studying for His Bar Mitzveh at that point and in twelve months time He would be an adult according to Jewish Law and Culture.
On the very night He was betrayed, Jesus ate the Passover. He stated that He desired to do this, but we forget that what we call the Last Supper was a Paschal Meal that took 4 days of prior preparation! The Passover Haggadah, which I shall mention later, was the actual dinner that I shall describe as the climax of days of observances and that the preparations were lengthy... not merely putting a roast lamb into the oven for a few hours! See Matthew 26:2,17-19; Mark 14:1, 12-16; Luke 22:1-15; John 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55; 13:1; 18:28-40; 19:14.
Jesus was the Passover Lamb. See 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
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