Passover as a Christian- Why We Celebrate
When I first became a Christian, there were several families in the church that celebrated The Passover. I didn’t think too much about it, it was just something that they did and we didn’t. One family was made up of Messianic Jews and the others had all spent many years in Israel and had adopted the practice there. I just learned to expect that for the week leading up to Easter, they wouldn’t be eating at church and the daughters and I would put a pause on our customary ‘sharing of delicacies’ that we loved. I’d done enough strange things prior to becoming a Christian that I didn’t feel that I was in any place to wonder at someone else’s custom.
After I got married, the subject of celebrating the Passover didn’t come up for several years. My husband and I had, by the time that it did, developed a desire to serve God, and not man, and began to reject the teachings of our local church (a different one from that first I mentioned) that were not based on the Bible or could be backed up with Scripture. We made more than a few pastors and church elders quite upset over of flat out refusal to participate in false practices. Then, my husband and I began a conversation about Old Testament Laws and suddenly we were confronted head first with the commandment to observe the Passover.
I want to take a moment to say I’m not trying to start a theological debate about whether or not the Old Testament Laws were done away with, because I understand that all the decisions that came from our studies were incredibly personal and difficult for us, even with our already established fasting, and our already particular diet and would even more difficult for another family that doesn’t have the same practices in place, so I’m not asking anyone to change the way they live, but simply to allow me to express the why’s of how we do. 🙂
That being said, the main reason that we could discover, and the verse we kept hearing over and over again against celebrating was found in Colossians 2.
So, don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, nad it grows as God nourishes it.
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you on following the rules of the world, such as “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
We discovered several problems with using this passage as a reason to not follow the celebration of Passover, and dietary commands. Obviously, the sacrificial commands were but a mere shadow teaching the people to be ready for Christ’s Ultimate Sacrifice (Matt. 5:17-20, Hebrews 10:1-14, Isaiah 42:21 among many others), but the question remained: where did Jesus or the apostles and disciples abolish the Old Testament laws, specifically the dietary and Passover laws?
In Exodus 12, when He institutes the Passover, God tells Moses:
“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time” (v14)
“This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate it from generation to generation.” (v17)
“These requirements apply both to the foreigners living among you and to the native-born Israelites. (v19)
“Remember, these instructions are a permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever!” (v24)
Now I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I was taught about studying Scripture was that if someone says something three times in the same, it’s because it is very important; if it’s said more than three times (like the four times above), it’s because God wants to make sure that we get it through our thick skulls because it’s important to Him.
I also want you to notice that the Passover was instituted as a permanent festival to be observed forever before even the 10 Commandments were given to Moses or any other of the Mosaic Law was laid down. So, although it is considered part of the Laws of Moses, it actually came before- just like marriage and bearing children and the promise of the rainbow, etc, etc.
Since my husband and I have a hard time with excuses (if you do or do not do something, don’t make excuses for it. State your belief with the confidence you can back it up- don’t give us a wishy-washy answer), the answer of ‘Paul did away with it’ began to hold even less water for us. Paul was not God. Peter was not God. John was not God.
Jesus is God.
And Jesus celebrated Passover.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”
“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: my time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house,’ ” (Matthew 26:18)
It may be easy to take for granted that Jesus was Jewish, but he was. The above verses get debated because it’s talking about the Last Supper, which Jesus ate the night before His arrest and crucification, does not mean that for the 32 previous years He had not followed this early command and observed Passover exactly as God had laid it out in Exodus. His was a direct, earthly line straight back to Abraham, who began the covenant with God and was the first of the ‘Jews’, not to mention the little fact of His being the Son of God… who instituted the holiday in the first place.
If you’ve ever known, or lived closed to, Observant Orthodox Jews, you know that without question, they observe Passover. Now imagine a country full of them. Passover was (is) a National Holiday like Christmas is here in America. The disciples were Jewish. There was no question in their minds that they should observe the Passover. Even Paul was a devote, observant Jewish man who came to faith in Jesus. He probably always took it for granted that he would observe the Passover.
I sat out to attempt to be brief and I’m not succeeding. So I’ll try to wrap this up shortly. Remember, this is all that convicted us– I’m not trying to preach to you! 🙂
So, this is the conclusion we came to (and I could continue on in this fashion for quite a while, but I don’t want want go on too long).
Christians understand that they are supposed to strive to be like Christ during their earthly life
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6)
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
We’ve established that Jesus observed the Passover, and that His disciples celebrated it with Him.
We found no evidence that Christ, in His life, death, or our belief thereof, abolished the Passover (among several other things, but that’s another post!).
Therefore, my husband and I came to a couple of conclusions.
#1- Observance of the Passover isn’t a Salvation issue (i.e you will not lose or gain your Salvation by observing the Passover).
#2- Jesus, God in the Flesh, saw the value of observing this oldest of traditions. Since we are supposed to work towards being like Him, that would include making choices concerning our lives that He has given Himself as an example for… including observing Passover.
We, of course, still resisted. All that trouble for an observance of ancient Jewish tradition? Seriously? We have a packed schedule as it it, barely time to celebrate Easter, much less an entire week of observance!! But once God puts a conviction on your heart, he is not to be denied!
We have been so wonderfully blessed by making what seemed like dramatic changes to our lives at the time. We fretted and stressed. We worried and argued. BUT in the end, God has blessed us for being willing to follow His commands. We are healthier. We have more energy. Who knew those changes would have physical benefits? Besides, we have more time, somehow, to draw closer to Him.
I don’t know if He commands all people to still observe, and I could never even pretend to be a pastor or scholar in this or any area- but for me and my family, bringing the Mosaic Law, using the entire Bible as our guide into our house has been the right choice. And while I’m looking forward to and preparing for this year’s Passover Celebration, I hope that you will take some time to read the first five books of the Bible as well, to read the amazing works of God, to meet, or get re-acquainted with the people who paved the way for the Christ, and to more fully appreciate how much we needed, and still need Him!