In many circles there appears to be an increasing interest in the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. This Easter season numerous congregations across the globe will hold a "Passover Haggadah" or more traditionally known as a "Seder" to gain a greater understanding of the Christian - Jewish relationship. To understand more about the holiday of Passover and how Christians can meaningfully celebrate it today, let's dig into the history and traditions.
A Brief Passover History
Passover is the oldest and most important religious festival in Judaism, commemorating God's deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and His creation of the Israelite people.
The festival of Passover begins at sunset on the 14th of Nisan (usually in March or April) and marks the beginning of a seven day celebration which includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The highlight of Passover is a communal meal, called the Seder (which means "order," because of the fixed order of service), which is a time to rejoice and celebrate the deliverance for the Hebrews that God accomplished through the exodus.
What every Christian needs to know about Passover
As many prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, knowing the cultural Jewish soil on which Jesus walked is important to a mature and growing Christian faith. Here are a few steps for help along the Passover journey.
Step One: Read the Bible about Passover.
Jesus and the apostles were celebrating Passover at the Last Supper, because they were Jewish men with Jewish observances:
"This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord - a lasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:14)
"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying ‘go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'" (Luke 22:7-8)
Step Two: Attend a service at a messianic temple. Most congregations at a messianic temple are made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Or, you might consider having your own service in your home with family and friends. For resources see www.messianicjewish.net.
Step Three: Learn traditional prayers that are said during Passover. You can find these online at www.jewfaq.org/prayer.htm. Or, you can learn them from a rabbi.
Step Four: Cook a traditional Passover meal. You can find out how to do so by obtaining a book about Passover from the library or search on the web articles like, "How to Make Passover Eclairs" or "How to Make Matzo Meal Pancakes for Passover."
A few foods include:
- Matzoh: three unleavened matzohs are placed within the folds of a napkin as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving no time for dough to rise. Two are consumed during the service, and one (the Aftkomen), is spirited away and hidden during the ceremony to be later found as a prize.
- Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
- Charoses: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, as a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of buildings as slaves.
- Beitzah: a roasted egg, as a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence.
- Karpas: a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, representing hope and redemption; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed.
- Zeroah: traditionally a piece of roasted lamb shankbone, symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering
- Wine: four glasses of wine are consumed during the service to represent the four-fold promise of redemption, with a special glass left for Elijah the prophet.
Step Five: Remember to separate Passover from Good Friday and Easter celebrations. Jewish and Christian traditions are different and must be observed as such.
Some might debate whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to celebrate Passover. Whether one chooses to do so or not is a decision for the individual Christian to make. While Passover remembers the Jews deliverance from slavery, it also is a depiction of Christ's atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. The end result is certainly worthy of a Christian's consideration and could provide needed "bread for the journey" - whether it is unleavened or not!
As a final step in the process, allow me to encourage you to speak with a Rabbi about Passover if you have additional curiosities. He can inform you about this important Jewish observation.
Russ Jones is co-publisher of the award winning Christian Press Newspaper (ChristianPress.com) and CEO of BIG Picture Media Group, Inc., a boutique media firm located in Newton, Kansas. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri and St. Paul School of Theology. As a former NBC TV reporter he enjoys reporting where evangelical Christian faith and news of the day intersect. He is president of the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers. Jones is also a freelance reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Total Living Network and writes blog reports for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. He may be reached at [email protected].
Original publication date: April 1, 2010
Bible Verses About Passover
Numbers 9:1-5 - "The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, "Have the Israelites celebrate Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations." So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate Passover..."
Deuteronomy 16:1-8 - "Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of hte Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrfice as the Passover to the Lord your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in hate - so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt..."
Exodus 12 - The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!