Holidays and Festivals
Dear friend in Messiah,
As you may already know, Passover is one of the most important celebrations of the Jewish annual cycle of fasting and feasting. With Passover, the emphasis is definitely on the feasting. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the aroma of the matzah ball soup and the other traditional dishes we enjoyed so much at our family Passover Seder. In an age when families are scattered far and wide, Passover is particularly treasured, as it may be the only opportunity all year long that parents, children, and grandchildren will have to gather under one roof.
For many secular Jewish people, Passover is almost the only time of year when thoughts turn towards the religious aspect of our common Jewish identity. These Jewish people prize our Jewish heritage and culture, and esteem the many contributions our Jewish people have made in society at large. We take our Jewishness seriously! However, many Jewish people rarely think about a relationship with God as a part of this identity. Passover brings this to the forefront, as it is impossible to celebrate Passover without realizing the covenant relationship God has created with the Jewish people.
Jewish Identity and the Four “I Wills” of Exodus 6:6-7
Passover is celebrated in as many ways as there are Jewish communities throughout the world. But some things have not changed, such as the eating of unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs mentioned in Exodus 12. And although the Scriptures do not explicitly mention the four cups of wine around which the feast is structured, this tradition would have already been established by the time Jesus sat down to enjoy the Passover meal with His family and again with His disciples at the Last Supper.
These four cups correspond to the four “I Wills” of Exodus 6:6b-7:
“I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people….”
These acts on the part of God toward the children of Israel reveal so much. They form the foundation of true Jewish self-understanding. First of all, this passage reveals a God who enters history: At a specific time and place the Creator acted on behalf of a people whom He had already called, and changed their destiny. Next, the God of Israel is a deliverer: The suffering of the children of Israel moves Him to compassionate action on their behalf, liberating them from their bondage. Then, He is a Redeemer. He is a God whose redemptive will is revealed time and again throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and culminates in the greatest redemption of all through the cross and the empty tomb.
Finally, the God of Israel has drawn Israel into a covenant—a relationship deeply intimate and founded upon His love; holy, pure and everlasting. And through this same great love shown towards Israel, God draws all who believe into a new covenant relationship through the Messiah, who is the incarnation of the Redeeming, Delivering, and Creating Lord of Exodus 6.
Passover – a Time to Remember
And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place. …” (Exodus 13:3).
The Scripture tells us that the mighty deeds of the Lord were not done merely for their own sake. There was a “take away” for the children of Israel to ponder ever after. Reflecting upon that first Passover, each year was designed to remind the children of Israel of the Lord’s claim upon the Jewish people—acknowledged or not. It is perhaps for this very reason that the history of my people has been so troubled. We, the Jewish people, are “prone to wander” from the God who created, called, and loved us! This was true throughout the Old Testament period as the Jewish people rarely celebrated the Passover after leaving Egypt. In fact, my people probably observe the Passover festival more today than during days of the Bible!
I am sure this would be true if God had called any other people, as we are all sinners and tend to forget God in the midst of the “business of life.”
Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, we celebrated the Passover each year. It was always a beautiful time when we enjoyed family and food. And, because my grandfather was an Orthodox Jew, we spent hours going through the entire home-based Passover service found in the special Passover guidebook that is traditionally used called the Haggadah (literally, “the telling”). I always found the story of Passover compelling. It drew me back to the core of my identity as a Jew, even during those days when I was not even sure that the God of the Exodus existed.
Throughout the world, Jewish people will gather around the table to remember and retell this great story of redemption. Some Jewish people will be more skeptical about the role of God in the life of the Jewish people and others will be more certain. But every Jewish person will come face to face, through the beauty of the Seder, that while Pharaoh finally let us go, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will never let go of us.
I love the expression of His faithfulness to Israel found in Jeremiah 31:35-36 where the prophet writes:
Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”
Lessons from the Passover
When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.
And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14-15).
Passover holds many wonderful life lessons for Christians as well. The most obvious is the understanding that the Lord’s Supper was a Passover meal and our Communion is rooted in the Jewish Seder service. The depth of the Lord’s Supper is impossible to understand without knowing more about the Passover. As followers of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, we enter into the fulfillment of the Passover Festival every time we eat the unleavened bread, reminding us of His sinless nature and death for our sin. When we drink, we recall that He took the third of four cups, the Cup of Redemption, whereby He inaugurated the New Covenant through the shedding of His blood.
Experiencing Passover in Your Home
In the middle of this newsletter you will find a mini-Haggadah we have prepared for you. I hope you will use this to conduct your own Passover Seder. This experience will enlighten you to the great symbolism fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. Knowing these things will also help you identify with and share the Gospel with your Jewish friends.
There are many other Passover resources that you can find by visiting
www.chosenpeople.com/passover. A complete Passover set is also available for you to purchase—see the back cover of this magazine.
Reaching Jewish People for Messiah
As you read and learn about the Passover, I want to urge you to pray for your Jewish friends, family, and neighbors. Pray that my people will be open to hearing the Gospel.
Perhaps your church or a church in your community would like to host a Chosen People Ministries speaker and actually enjoy a Messianic Seder next year. You can find out how to do this by visiting www.chosenpeople.com/churchministries.
On behalf of the Chosen People Ministries family, serving the Savior in 16 countries around the globe, I want to thank you for your prayers and generous financial support. You are such a vital part of our ministry! May you and your loved ones have a blessed Passover and Resurrection Day as we rejoice in serving a risen Lord and Savior!
Yours in the Lamb,