Why Celebrate Passover?

The time for our Easter celebrations are soon coming. I love Easter! I love remembering and celebrating the FACT that Jesus is alive! But this time of year also means that it is time for my family to celebrate the Passover. This is something we have done for many years, and something that we consider precious. Although, I’m often a bit shocked by the reaction I get from fellow Christians when I tell them that my family celebrates ‘Passover’, it’s something I hold dear to my heart. I’m not a legalistic person, but for me and my family this observance is one that coincides with our heart for Israel. Let me try and explain…

“Where’s my young, Jew-loving friend?” This question was asked by Pastor Bob Roberts, to a room full of pastors at a Pastor’s Conference I attended in 2010. The context of this question was a message that he was preaching in which he was inspiring the ministers in attendance to begin looking outside their own church and prayerfully consider the important task of church planting. Pastor Roberts was attempting to emphasize the fact that we must be those that ‘love’ and ‘pray’ for all peoples, of all nations.

Earlier in the day, during a luncheon, I had met Pastor Roberts and he had commented on a necklace I was wearing. The necklace is a simple star-of-David, with a Cross in the center. I’d grown accustomed to being questioned on this particular piece of jewelry, due to its uniqueness. The short conversation went something like this, as we each loaded up our plates on the buffet line:

“That’s an interesting necklace, what’s it about?”

“Well, it’s the Cross, which of course reminds me of Jesus’ sacrifice… and it’s the star-of-David, which reminds me to pray for Israel and the Jews.”

“Don’t you think we should be praying for the Palestinians and the Muslims as well?”

“Uh… sure.”

“You know, there are a lot of people who need Jesus.”

“Absolutely.”

“I’d love to talk more about this with you.”

“That would be great.”

Pastor Roberts and I were assigned separate tables and so we each went to our respective tables after this interesting verbal exchange. The next thing he spoke to me was publicly in the afternoon’s meeting, as he asked the congregation, “Where’s my young, Jew-loving friend?” After a short pause, when no one answered, I raised my hand and was then used as an example for his message. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. Then, to my surprise, I was approached by a number of pastors with questions like, “Were you offended when he called you ‘Jew-lover’?” and “Hey, Michael, are we supposed to refer to you as the ‘Jew-lover’ from now on?”  My response has been consistent: “No, I was not offended, because I am a Jew-lover.” I don’t believe that Pastor Roberts meant to sound anti-Semitic, although he was apparently perceived that way by some.

Although Pastor Roberts is correct when he says that we cannot view anyone as ‘the enemy’, and must be willing to work with, and pray for all people, I believe that we also have a very clear mandate in Scripture to have a special heart for Israel and the Jews specifically. Why? For many reasons, here’s four:

First, because God has a heart for Israel

Romans 9:1-8 – I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.         

Romans 11:1-7 – I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;

Romans 11:25-29 – For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Deut. 7:7-8 – “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Isaiah 49:15 – “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

 

Second, because God’s Word calls us to preach the Gospel to the Jew first

Matt. 15:24 – But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Acts 3:25-26 – “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 10:1 – Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

 

Third, because God’s Word distinctively promises Israel’s certain future Salvation

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Romans 11:24 – For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

2 Cor. 3:14-16 – But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Zech. 12:10-14 – “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. “The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.

Finally, we should have a heart for Israel specifically, because God promises to bless every believer who blesses Israel

 Genesis 12:3 – And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse, And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Psalm 122:6 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.

Psalm 122:6 (The Message)Pray for Jerusalem’s peace! Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!

Romans 10:1 – Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

The celebration of Passover is in remembrance of the time in Israel’s history when the angel of the Lord moved through Egypt destroying the firstborn of all people and animals (see Exodus, chapters 11 and 12.) This was the final plague God visited upon Egypt designed to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave the country and their captivity. The Israelites were commanded by God to take the blood of a male lamb, one without blemish, and smear it on the doorposts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord saw the blood, he would “pass over” that house. This is a foreshadowing of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus, whose blood would cover the sins of those who believe in Him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them. Ever since that night, Jews have celebrated the Passover in remembrance of God’s grace to them. There has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Messianic Jews to retain their cultural heritage while professing their Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value. Many of the rituals associated with the Passover Seder (pronounced ‘say dur’) have application to the Christian faith, and a Christian celebration of the Passover provides a unique way to bring the story of salvation to the ceremony. Whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Colossians 2:16-17 tells us that we should “let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts (Romans 14:5). While it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Passover, it is beneficial to study it and could be beneficial to celebrate it if it leads one to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. That is something we should celebrate every day of our lives.

In a day when we have a lot of ‘weirdness’ being preached in relation to end times and Israel’s involvement, I believe it is imperative that we understand God’s purposes for His covenant people and how this revelation is impacting the Church. I’m convinced, with Israel and her people once again center stage at a crucial moment in world history, our prayers for them are vital. If that makes me a ‘Jew-lover’, then I’m proud to bear that title.

Psalm 122:6 (The Message) – Pray for Jerusalem’s peace! Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!

By the way… This doesn’t mean that all Israel does, as a state or as a government, is right. It’s not. But we need to realize that Israel, as a nation, has a special place in God’s economy. Our own country has historically had a heart for Israel and stood in alliance with Israel – and I believe that is one of two fundamental reasons God has previously blessed America. The second reason is that we are a missionary nation. Since our founding, we have sent an untold amount of money and people to the mission field. God hasn’t blessed us because of our constitution or our capitalistic system. No, I believe we have been blessed by God’s grace because we have been a country who has sought to evangelize the world… and to stand by Israel.

Shalom!

Comments

  1. Kelli Craft says

    I love how you put this! I love to celebrate the Passover and I love how it ties me into the roots of my faith.This whole blog puts, in a simple way, to be able to explain to any one who might ask, why my family celebrates this amazing feast!
    Thank you for posting this:)

    • Rebecca Fox says

      Thank you for your blogs! It’s always a blessing to me to take extra time to read and listen to Pastor’s who love Israel. I saw you had to leave Liberty and your church. I pray you and Kelli are finding your niche for what God has for you now and that Kelli would have full recovery from her illness. I’m a church coordinator for Chosen People Ministries and a Jewish believer in Jesus. I was updating my files in MO and stumbled across your letter to your church and why you had to leave. I just wanted to drop a line and say hello and Shalom.
      In Messiah’s love,
      Rebecca Fox

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