For Christians worldwide, Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, is the most important celebration of the year. Yet quietly, almost unnoticed by the mainstream media, there’s a revolution taking place in the evangelical community.
Believers are increasingly celebrating the biblical festival of Passover – and it could change the way Christians view the events of that time forever.
Though Easter is a bedrock of Western culture, it has undeniably pagan origins.
For some evangelicals seeking to recapture the culture of the early church, celebrating Passover like the first followers of Jesus (or Yeshua) is a way to reconnect to the primal roots of the faith. What’s more, a careful reading of Scripture has led many pastors to conclude Jesus was crucified on Passover, thus establishing a deep connection between the Jewish holiday and Holy Week. It also leads to the uncomfortable conclusion many Christians are celebrating the Resurrection on the wrong day.
“It has always struck me as strange that the vast majority of Christians in the U.S. and around the world do not observe Passover week, which represents the most important, spiritual and historic actions of Jesus performed for His people – from dying on the cross to rising from the dead,” said Joseph Farah, author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” “In addition, it was the holiest of weeks for Jesus and all of His Apostles and nearly 100 percent of His followers for decades after His resurrection. It’s a shocking example of how church tradition has overcome the biblical record and the explicit Hebrew foundation of Christian faith.
“In my book, I deal with how harshly Jesus Himself judged those of His generation who put their faith in tradition over the Word of God,” said Farah. “But isn’t that exactly what most Christians, their pastors, teachers and leaders are doing when they create their own holy days and ignore God’s? I’m greatly encouraged that more Christians are beginning to deal with this disconnect and recognizing Passover as a very Jewish and very Christian and very biblical holiday.”
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One of the Christians leading the effort is Bill Cloud, author of “Esau Rising” and the head of Shoreshim Ministries, which is dedicated to reconnecting Christians with the Hebrew roots of their faith. Cloud claims his message is becoming increasingly accepted among evangelicals.
“I’ve seen this interest grow dramatically over the last 20 years to the extent that it has given birth to a movement,” Cloud told WND. “Among the gateways people have used to come into this understanding is the observance of Passover. In my opinion, this is the logical first step for believers in understanding the roots of their faith because this is the festival that focuses on the sacrificial lamb whose blood secured redemption for God’s people. Paul said that Messiah has become ‘our Passover,’ meaning that He is the Lamb sacrificed for us. It was Yeshua who, within the context of Passover, said, ‘As often as you do this (observing Passover) do it in remembrance of me.'”
Paula White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida and a speaker at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, is among those urging Christians to celebrate Passover. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a letter from Paula White to her congregants in which she tells them Passover “is part of your special heritage that God designed as His own Holy Days with specific instruction given for their observance.”
“He set the divine appointment, Passover, with His people at a time of release from past bondage and freedom of new life,” the letter said.
The concept of “divine appointments” has been championed by Pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries, another pastor who emphasizes reconnecting Christians with their Hebraic heritage. He received widespread notice by discovering the “Blood Moons” phenomenon. In his newest book, “God’s Day Timer,” Biltz explains how certain holy days on the Jewish, or biblical, calendar mark times God has set aside to intervene in human history.
Among the most important is Passover, which Biltz calls “essential” for Christians to celebrate because it marks when Jesus Christ actually died. According to Biltz, incorporating Passover provides an entirely new way of understanding how Jesus fulfilled prophecy by serving as the Lamb of God.
“We find in Luke 22:15 that Jesus said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,'” Biltz explained. “So we see the ‘Last Supper’ was actually a Passover Seder meal that Jesus was keeping. In Luke 22:19, we find how Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.’
“When He said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ He was talking about how every year when Passover is commemorated we are now to remember His death. This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul when he writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, ‘For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.’ For Jesus to be the Messiah, He had to die on the very day the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed. In Leviticus 23:5 we find that it was to be, ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is the Lord’s Passover.'”
For that reason, Biltz believes it is not just encouraged but “incumbent” upon Christians to celebrate Passover. “How are we to preach Christ and Him crucified if we don’t even remember or honor His death or the day He died?” he asked.
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Biltz says his own congregation has done a corporate Passover Seder every year for the last 16 years, as well as encouraging families to host their own celebrations.
“We have had probably one of the world’s largest Seders with over 1,500 people,” he said. “Christians from every denomination come and you can go to our website and watch some of our past Seders.”
Biltz’s ministry is not the only church organizing official Passover celebrations. Countless churches around the country are marking the biblical holiday around the country.
First United Methodist Church is hosting a “traditional Passover Seder table with all the articles of the Jewish celebration” to be followed by a presentation called “Messiah in The Passover,” which will show how Jesus “fulfilled the ancient feast of Passover.” A spokesman told the Pine Bluff Commercial: “Messiah in The Passover gives the Christian community insight into Jewish traditions so that the Jewish roots of Christianity can be better understood. This program also helps the Jewish and Christian communities understand their common heritage.”
Mountain Bible Church in California is hosting a “traditional Passover dinner” on April 9.
Becky Mason of Mountain Bible writes: “The Seder dinner is indeed a meal, but everything about it is also symbolic. Showing the redemption of the Israelites from bondage, it also illustrates how Christ rescues us today when we trust and obey Him. It is important to understand the foundation of what we believe.”
Several Christian and Jewish congregations are joining forces to host a “Community Seder” at College Place United Methodist Church in Brunswick, Georgia. The Brunswick News reports Temple Beth Tefilloh, Atlama Presbyterian Church, Christ Church Frederica, College Place United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick, First United Methodist Church of Brunswick, St. James Lutheran Church, St. Simons Presbyterian Church, Unitarian Universalists of Coastal Georgia and FaithWorks will all be participating.
St. Theresa’s Parish in Orofino is hosting an annual interdenominational Christian Seder-Passover Meal on April 12, in cooperation with the Orofino Methodist Church and Ascension Lutheran Church.
First Presbyterian Church in Paulding will host a “Christ in the Passover” presentation by Peter Blitshteyn of Jews for Jesus. David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, stated: “We exist to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.”
Jews for Jesus has reportedly hosted the “Christ in the Passover” presentation at over 38,000 churches. The Jewish newspaper Forward, in an article covering how evangelicals are adopting Passover, described Messianic Jews as “a sort of bridge, introducing Jewish rituals or appearing as ambassadors of sorts.” The Forward sneered Jews who believe in Messiah are “seen as apostates by most mainstream Jews, [though] Messianics still identify as Jewish”
Some Jews have long opposed efforts by Christians to celebrate Passover, calling it an example of cultural appropriation. Rabbi Mark Miller of the Houston Rabbinical Association expressed concern about Christian churches independently hosting Seders.
“If a non-Jewish group wants to celebrate a Seder, I’d prefer they do in a Jewish setting,” he told the Houston Chronicle in 2010.
The Forward repeated Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee’s charge from 1997 that Christians celebrating Seders “completely distorts the meaning” of the practice.
However, pastor Bill Cloud says such objections don’t hold up.
“Christians should embrace Passover, not as a Jewish holiday, but as a biblical feast that acknowledges the suffering of the Messiah,” he told WND. “Furthermore, with all due respect to our Jewish friends, though they have faithfully kept the Passover for 3,500 years, it is not an exclusively Jewish feast. According to Scripture, God ordained Passover as one of His memorial feasts so why wouldn’t believers in the Messiah of Israel want to participate in this as well?”
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, who heads one of the largest Messianic ministries in the world in the Beth Israel Worship Center, said the entire debate should be reframed. After all, God never actually mandated Easter.
But he mandated Passover.
“Passover is the communion, the Lord’s Supper, in its original form and riches,” he told WND. “It’s what the disciples celebrated throughout their lives, at the Last Supper, and undoubtedly after that in remembrance of the Lord. The Lord never gave a holiday called ‘Easter,’ but He did specifically give a holiday called ‘Passover.’ And it was Passover on which He chose to die.”
Cahn, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Harbinger” and his newest title, “The Book of Mysteries,” argues the celebration of Passover provides a systemic way of understanding Christ’s death and resurrection. “The entire Good Friday/Easter cycle is really Passover,” he explained. “In fact, for centuries, the early Christians celebrated Messiah’s death and resurrection at Passover.
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“Passover is filled with amazing riches and revelations about God, Messiah, and each of us. Each element holds a mystery and a revelation – several of these mysteries appear in ‘The Book of Mysteries.’ The mysteries of the Passover Seder include that of the Afikomen, the mysterious piece of matzah that is wrapped in a cloth and hidden away, the mystery of the Four Cups, the mystery of the Zeroah, the object on the plate that has to do with the creation of the universe, the mystery of the Dipping and much more. Even the Psalms that are read at the Passover, the same Psalms that were read two thousand years ago and by Messiah and the disciples, contain the mystery of His death.”
Rabbi Cahn argues Passover isn’t just about understanding the past, but the future. And he believes it can be a powerful tool for witnessing.
“The Passover Seder also contains the mystery of the second coming, as the door is opened symbolically for the prophet Elijah whom we know is the precursor of that day,” he said. “Passover is filled with the message of salvation. So it becomes a witnessing tool of the Gospel to those who don’t yet believe, Jew and Gentile. And for the believer, it’s an amazing revelation of our salvation.”
Cahn’s own ministry celebrates Passover with a massive celebration every year.
“At the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel, on the Friday night approaching Passover we hold a Passover Seder/Last Supper Celebration, which is free and open to all, that all may experience the beauty of the Lord’s Supper in all its fullness,” he said. “And we literally have hundreds of people from all walks of life, all nations and backgrounds, and all denominations rejoicing together in the Lord’s wonders, presence, and blessings. Thus, the Passover is a gift not only to the Jewish people, but to all believers. How could it be otherwise? The day of our salvation, the day Messiah died for each of us was Passover.”
Bill Cloud also says his own family and his church celebrates the holiday. And he urges all believers to do the same.
“As for our family, this will be the 27th year we have observed Passover in remembrance of the Messiah’s sacrifice,” he told WND. “Needless to say, it has become an integral part of our life (as are the other biblical feasts). Coming to understand the Hebrew roots of my faith has been one of life’s most enriching experiences. It has helped me to better understand the words of Yeshua and to appreciate the depths of God’s Word. I enthusiastically recommend that Christians participate in a Passover Seder this year – it just might change your life.”
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