Adonai spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt; he said, “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you. Speak to all the assembly of Isra’el and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household—except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats. “ ‘You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra’el will slaughter it at dusk. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it. That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah and maror. Don’t eat it raw or boiled, but roasted in the fire, with its head, the lower parts of its legs and its inner organs. Let nothing of it remain till morning; if any of it does remain, burn it up completely. “ ‘Here is how you are to eat it: with your belt fastened, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you are to eat it hurriedly. It is Adonai’s Pesach [Passover].
There is a time of year when Christians and Jews alike celebrate a momentous occasion. Easter falls on slightly different dates each year depending on the seasons.
The names of the Jewish months date back the time of Moses, when God brought the people out of Egypt. The biblical time of Ezra following the end of Jewish captivity in Babylon had a profound bearing on the calendar. Most of the months are either 29 or 30 days in length, with the lead month, Nissan, beginning in the civil equivalent of March/ April. Passover is celebrated in Nissan.
Because of the different dating system and extensive history of the Jewish people, years in the Hebrew calendar are also calculated differently from the common calendar, with the Jewish New Year commencing in the seventh month, Tishri. The exact lengths of the months of Cheshvan and Kislev are also dependent on Tishri.
Whereas the civil calendar is a solar one, the Jewish calendar operates as a "luni-solar" model, and is thus usually only 354 days as opposed to 365. Accordingly, the Jewish calendar adds an extra month (Adar II) every two or three years to compensate for the resulting 11-day lag.
During this time, Jews from all around the world celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the highlight being the eating of the Passover meal. During the evening, children usually ask a profound question, one of four questions called Ma Nishtanah, often sung in Hebrew. It is Why is this night different than all other nights? We shall look at the answer together and see why this is so important to Jew and Christian alike. The remaining questions are equally important, being-
- Why do we only eat unleavened bread on this night?
- Why do we eat bitter herbs?
- Why do we dip twice?
- Why do we eat our meal reclining?
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, on 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 the Goyim, or Gentiles, which refers to those with no covenant and God deals with each differently. When reading scripture we need to differentiate between them. Sometimes God is speaking to or about an individual.
At other times he speaks to a group of people. Sometimes He is referring to the Church and no one else, whereas on other occasions, He is dealing with Israel and no one else. Sometimes a passage of scripture may refer to events that have happened, are currently happening and are yet to happen in the arena of human life, referring in one part to Israel and a sentence further on to the Church. Unnecessary confusion arises when we mix them up, sometimes for pure lack of understanding or revelation and at other times for political expedience or correctness. This is one reason why there is so much misunderstanding.
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 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. See also Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 12:13.
Why are the Jewish feasts so important?
Jewish feasts represent the promise and the fulfilment of the promise 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. The Lord has set these special times to meet with His people. Scriptures show us that God took the initiative. Separated by sin, man could not otherwise reach out to God.
These appointed Feasts begin the biblical calendar and set the spiritual rhythm of the Kingdom. Each of the biblical Feasts are rich in symbolism that reveal prophetic truths and aspects of the nature of God and His redemptive plan for the world.
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.
From their early history, 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. Through the Plagues of Europe, most Jewish People did not contract these terrible diseases, simply by living in accord to the biblical commandments. Such commandments were given for practical purposes like the preparation, storage and consumption of food before the days of refrigeration or personal hygiene before reticulated water supplies, sanitation or sewage services as well as religious purposes. 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-
- They are part of the Scriptures that have been given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and are written for our learning. See Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
- They are a shadow of things to come. See Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, 23-24.
- They speak about Jesus. See Psalm 40:6-8; 29:9; Hebrews 10:7.
Holy Days in the Jewish calendar
There are several holy days or festivals in the Jewish Calendar. They are-
- Shabbat—The Sabbath (not to be regarded as one of the Feasts)
- Pesach—The Passover
- Sfirat HaOmer—The Early First Fruits
- Shavuot—The Latter First Fruits
- Rosh HaShanah—The New Year
- Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement
- Sukkot—The Feast ofTabernacles
- Hanukkah—The Feast of Dedication
- Purim—The Feast of Lots (Purim is not actually one of the Holy Day observances as specifically listed in The Law, but is a very important event in Jewish life as it commemorates the event when a little Jewish Girl called Esther was prepared to give up her life to save her people from extermination. Her words, If I perish, I perish ring in our ears today and remind us of how one other person, a Jew called Jesus, gave up His life to save His people.
An overview of the feasts
Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17. See also Exodus 23:14-19.
God is light and that He made the rainbow as a token of His covenant. The rainbow has three major colours, each manifest in seven primary colours. There are three Feasts of the Lord, each of which are comprised of sub-sections or feasts.
Contained in the first group is the Feast of Passover seen in Leviticus 23:4-5, the Feast of Unleavened Bread seen in Leviticus 23:6-8 and The Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits as seen in Leviticus 23:9-14.
The second group is the time we know as Pentecost. It is the Feast of Weeks and is seen in Leviticus 23:15-22.
The last group of feasts comprises the Feast of Trumpets seen in Leviticus 23:23-25, the Feast of Atonement seen in Leviticus 23:236-32 and the Feast of Tabernacles seen in Leviticus 23:33-34.
Please notice that they are God’s Feasts. They were to be held in the place of His choosing or appointment and they were to be held at the time He prescribed. If you look at these things in the light of redemption, God chose Jesus to be our Passover Lamb, God chose the appointed time and God’s appointed place was Golgotha’s ugly tree... the cross.
You can already see a wonderful and amazingly intricately woven pattern in these feasts, but we shall focus on one only, namely the Feast of Passover. See Hebrews 10:7.
There is one aspect to the Feasts of the Lord that is often overlooked. The New Covenant under which we live was provided through Jesus’ passion as the substitute for all of our sins. Before then, sacrifice for sin was continual, or repetitive, because the sin principle itself was not dealt with. Thankfully we no longer need to offer blood sacrifices or adhere to a rigid set of rituals. The blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin. Hebrews 10:10 reveals that Jesus made a once-and-for-all-times sacrifice, so that we do not have to live under the curse of the law, but many Christians do not fully comprehend the fullness of all Jesus did, without having some understanding of these holy events. If we have been grafted into the vine, then we are partakers of the same fruit of that vine, so our rich heritage embraces everything. Whilst we may not need to continue in their observances as the Jews did, the rich truths of these feasts impacts our lives. They looked forward to the promise whereas we can look back to them.
Clearly defined blessings are available by celebrating the feasts of the Lord.
In Exodus 23, God will be an enemy to your enemies (verse 22), assigns an angel to us (see verse 23), will give prosperity (verse 25), provide healing (verse 25) and bring increase and inheritance (verse 30). These blessings in themselves are another matter to consider elsewhere. I have discovered that as I unearth one treasure, another gem is revealed, only to reveal yet another. Little wonder John said in John said he could not record everything there is to write down.
Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31.
What is given to us is there to reveal Jesus and God’s plan for us. Everything points to the Son of God. There is therefore much more to this than meets the eye, but having said that, please understand that I am not advocating that Christians start embracing Judaism in any way whatsoever. Enter into the liberty with which Christ has made us free.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb
As I stated before Jesus was Jewish. Jesus… the Jew Is Our Passover Lamb.
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. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. Luke 2:21-24. 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. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us. So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. Colossians 2:13-23.
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.
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...After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies. And when they [Joseph and Mary] saw Him, they were amazed...And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business? But they did not comprehend what He was saying to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was [habitually] obedient to them; and his mother kept and closely and persistently guarded all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:40-52.
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 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.
The Passover story
When the time came for the deliverance of the nation out of Egypt, God gave Moses specific instructions which he preached to the people who had the choice to accept or reject. The heads of each household were to take a lamb of the first year on the tenth day of the first month and set it aside until the fourteenth day. That evening, the lamb had to be killed and its blood had to be applied to the doorpost and lintels of each house. I think of that as forming the shape of the Cross. The people in the household were to eat the lamb that was roasted with fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They had to eat it in haste, ready for departure or deliverance from Egypt.
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each must take a lamb for themselves according to their families — a lamb for each household. If any household is too small for a lamb, the man and his next-door neighbor are to take a lamb according to the number of people — you will make your count for the lamb according to how much each one can eat. Your lamb must be perfect, a male, one year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You must care for it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community of Israel will kill it around sundown. They will take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and top of the doorframe of the houses where they will eat it. They will eat the meat the same night; they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast and with bitter herbs. Do not eat it raw or boiled in water, but roast it over the fire with its head, its legs, and its entrails. You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning. This is how you are to eat it — dressed to travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover. Exodus 12:1-11.
Please notice the closing statement—It is the Lord’s Passover! God is the one making the provision. He is the one seeking something and it is simple... it is the applied blood.
The shed blood was to cover whoever remained in that house. It wasn’t just for the father of the house, but the fathers, or the mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, cousins, or the neighbours. Whoever chose to be inside the house that had the blood on it was safe. Each person had the freedom of choice, just as they do today to choose Jesus Christ or not. We see this in the New Testament with people like Lydia, the Philippian jailer and Crispus See Acts 16:14-15, 30-34, 18:8. We have the legal right to claim every member of our households for Jesus.
At midnight, the angel of death passed throughout the land and every house that did not have the covering of the blood would suffer the judgement of death of the firstborn of both man and beast. God stated that He was looking for the applied blood.
For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment [proving their helplessness]. I am the Lord. The blood shall be for a token or sign to you upon [the doorposts of] the houses where you are, [that] when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be to you for a memorial. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, keep it as an ordinance forever. Exodus 12:12-14.
This is the story of Passover and it is enacted every year at around this time. The Hebrew word for Passover is Pesach. It means much more than merely the passing over a household that had the protection of the applied blood, but a hovering over of divine protection. Mercy and judgement are thus applied simultaneously. God was dealing directly with sin and the false gods of Egypt whilst saving His people from the penalty of sin if they came under His banner.