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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.
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? (click to view)
Otrher 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, 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called Replacement Theology, which basically says that God has finished with Israel and the Jew and that the Church has superseded them in the New Testament.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.
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 or 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 religious 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 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.
See also Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 12:13.

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.
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 is rich in symbolism that reveals 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.

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.
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.
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 Feasts of the Lord were given to Israel and to grafted-in believers to help us understand more about God and his plan for the world. Whilst it is true that Jesus fulfilled the Law, it is equally as true that the Law has not really been abolished. He brought greater depth of meaning to the Law. For example, Exodus 20:14 says that we are not to commit adultery. Jesus took it one degree higher than merely committing the physical act by saying in Matthew chapter five that looking and thinking inappropriately is the same as committing the act. Exodus 20:13 tells us not to kill or commit murder, but Jesus said that hatred was just as good as killing someone.

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.
But now that the faith has come, we are no longer under a trainer (the guardian of our childhood). For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ.
There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham’s Seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and [spiritual] heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:23-29.

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 of Tabernacles
  • Hanukkah—The Feast of Dedication
  • Purim—The Feast of Lots (Purim is not actually one of the Holy Day observances as prescribed 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.

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.
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 (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...
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 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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