Thursday, April 21, 2016

Should Christians Celebrate Passover?

Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 22, this year, beginning at 7:20 p.m. and ends at nightfall on April 30. On the Jewish calendar the date is Nisan 14. “So what?” you may say. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (I Cor. 11: 23-26). We understand Jesus was referring to the Lord’s Supper (Communion). Or was He? Suppose He meant for us to celebrate the entire Passover meal, just as He and His apostles were doing when He said that? It was the night He instituted the New Covenant and then went out and died for us as THE Passover Lamb who took away the sins of the world. If He meant for us to celebrate the entire Passover meal, then the church has missed it down through the ages! Should Christians today celebrate Passover?

We consider that the Passover is just for the Jews, one of their feasts. But the feasts that God gave to Israel at Mt. Sinai are “the feasts of the Lord.” There were seven annual feasts (read about them in Leviticus 23). In Jesus’ first coming, He fulfilled the first four feasts on the exact day! There are three more to go and will be fulfilled at His second coming. Guess what? He will fulfill them on the exact day also. Does that mean we can set a date for His return? No, we cannot, because Jesus Himself said He did not know “the day or the hour.” However, rest assured, the events of the second coming will certainly coincide with God’s appointed feast times, even if we don’t recognize it until after the fact!

Back to the original question - “Should Christians celebrate Passover?” You bet! We don’t “got to.” We “get to.” We get to see Jesus in every facet of the Passover meal, called the Seder (order). The apostles and the Jewish church continued to celebrate Passover after Jesus returned to heaven. Should not the church, which is largely Gentile today, celebrate the Passover, since we have been grafted into the Jewish olive tree (Romans 11)?

The feasts of the Lord really “preach the gospel,” as Paul alluded to in I Corinthians 15:3,4. The first three feasts overlap. Passover is the first, and the second one is Feast of Unleavened Bread. It begins the day after Passover and lasts for seven days. The next day is the Feast of Firstfruits. All three feasts have been incorporated into a “Passover week” of eight days. Here is how Jesus fulfilled the first four feasts: On Passover, Jesus died. Did you realize that? Just as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered that day at the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus was crying, “It is finished,” and He breathed His last breath! There was an earthquake, and the Father in heaven was so grieved at the sight of His Son dying, that He tore the veil of the temple (as His own garment) from top to bottom!

On the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the sinless body (“without yeast” and not left in the grave to decay) was buried. On the Feast of Firstfruits, the third day of Passover, Jesus rose from the dead! The early Christians never heard of “Good Friday” or “Easter Sunday.” That was a change from the biblical feast days that God gave us to commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Messiah. The church today, however, does celebrate the fourth feast, Pentecost, so named because it comes 50 days after Firstfruits. It was on Pentecost, also called the Feast of Harvest, that the Holy Spirit was poured out and the harvest of souls was over 3,000! Jesus kept His promise to the apostles and made sure He fulfilled Scripture by keeping this feast day with His people on the exact day appointed.

Why then do Christians not celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus on the days appointed by God in His Word? Easter was first officially instituted by the Roman Emperor Constantine at the Church Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Constantine, a sun worshiper, had made himself head of the church. He also changed the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week, Sunday, the day the pagans worshiped the sun. Jewish believers were excommunicated from the church if they continued to keep the Sabbath on the seventh day as God commanded in the Ten Commandments. It was at that time that the Jewish roots of the church were cut off, and the grafting in of pagan customs began. As a result it seems strange to Christians today to suggest that we should celebrate Passover. But what do you say? Should Christians celebrate Passover? Jesus told His apostles, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).