For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
Marie is a gentile Christian who got caught up in the legalistic teachings of Messianic preacher Michael Rood. Please understand that not all Messianic teachers, or those in the Hebrew Roots movement, are rigidly Torah observant. Some, however, are deceived by false doctrines and precepts which deny the very power of the Gospel.
Those who are led astray become very kosher in their behavior and witness. They will almost exclusively refer to Jesus and His disciples by their Hebrew names, and are seemingly disdainful of those who call our Savior Jesus Christ as if that name is somehow unclean.
Sister Marie bought a lamb for Passover. (Sort of reminds us of the children’s nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb.) It was not an easy task to find a perfectly unblemished animal, but she was so excited to be celebrating this God-appointed feast which she believed Gentiles were legally compelled to observe.
Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight'” (Exodus 12:1-6).
In the passage we just read this month refers to the month of Abib, or Nisan which roughly corresponds with the month(s) March-April on the Gregorian calendar. It essentially begins the ecclesiastical year. Passover, in the year this article was written, runs from the evening of Monday, April 14 to the evening of Tuesday, April 22. Pesach (Passover) is a fixed date on the Hebrew calendar as commanded by the LORD. The apparent shift between March-April is because the Jewish calendar is not in sync with the Western calendar as it is based on a lunar cycle which is only 29.5 days per month, or 354 days in a year compared to the 365 days in a solar calendar. To ensure that the appointed feasts occur on the seasonal dates as commanded by the LORD, the Hebrew calendar occasionally adds a calculated leap year, or pregnant year (Shanah Me’uberet) to compensate for the astronomical shift. This means that some years on the Hebrew calendar will have 13 months. In contrast, the Western calendar adds a leap day to the month of February to compensate for the solar shift.
What this all means is that Passover and Easter, while celebrated in Spring, do not fall on the same date. Typically, Easter falls after Passover with the random exception in 2008 when Easter fell on March 23, and Passover fell on April 19.
Messiah Gate is a ministry that teaches the Hebrew Roots of our Christian faith. There are some churches that will not teach from the Old Testament because their elders have determined that the Law is not relevant to the body of Christ. When the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) established the date for Easter they did so with the not exclusive intention of separating the celebration from the Jewish feast of Passover. Church fathers, though not in accord, believed that it was sacrilegious to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ — who was the paschal Lamb slain from the foundation of the world — while the Jews were celebrating that which only foreshadowed the coming of Messiah. A more agreeable view was that the church wanted to ensure that Easter always fell on Sunday — the day of our Savior’s resurrection.
Many Christians know only the tradition of Easter, and are not taught that Jesus Christ arose on the Feast of Firstfruits — a Jewish holiday — which follows Passover:
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
The mystery that was hidden in the Old Covenant was revealed in the New Covenant. The prophets looked forward to the coming of Messiah while Christians look back to Calvary to see His fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the convergence of our faith — both Jew and Gentile.
It is essential that we understand this demarcation. Christians are not commanded — as the Apostle Paul so clearly details in the Book of Romans — to live under the yoke of the Law. Jesus said, Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). Christian pastors will typically use the metaphor of an oxen to explain what Jesus meant by yoke, but they miss the point that His Jewish followers would clearly understand — that the Law of Moses was a heavy burden to carry.
Messiah Gate is not Torah observant. That is, to say, we don’t teach that Christians should go out and slaughter a lamb for Passover. Keep in mind that the law would require you to clean your house of every last crumb of chametz (leaven) before you even sat down to enjoy your roasted lamb!
Well, in a short while sister Marie became personally attached to her lamb. As Passover approached she decided that she couldn’t kill the animal, but at least she had the cleanest house on the block as she spent days with a spoon and toothbrush cleaning every cupboard and sofa cushion of bread crumbs. But that misses the point, too. My Christian brothers, the LORD will not strike you down for eating a bowl of oats during Passover although it’s good for the soul to eat a little matzah. No, what the Lord instructs us to do is remove the sin from our lives — not the bread crumbs from under the stove.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
The Apostle Paul exhorts us, then, to celebrate the feast. What feast? Of course, he is referring to Passover. The early Christians, who were mostly Jewish, continued to observe the holy convocations, or feast days while recognizing that HaMashiach Yeshua is the fulfillment of all that was prophesied.
When Christians celebrate Communion, or the Eucharist, they are observing a very Jewish ceremony. The breaking of bread was the centerpiece of the Last Supper, and we are told that the disciples continued daily in their prayers and communion (Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46) even as Paul instructed the assembly at Corinth:
Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
You can partake of this observance in the quiet of your home. All you need is some grape juice and a cracker. We prefer using Concorde grape juice and matzah. During Passover week our local market sells a five-pound box of matzah for almost free.
When studying the Bible it is essential that we understand not only the symbolic context, but also its literal fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Simply read aloud the following prayer as we share together in communion with our Lord:
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He bore my sins and my punishment in His body upon the cross, and by His stripes I am healed. He restores me before Adam and reconciles me to the Father. He offered Himself up as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice wholly acceptable to the LORD. He is the bread of life (John 6:51). Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. He poured out His blood at Calvary for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). His blood cleanses me of all my iniquity. He clothes me in a white robe of righteousness, and the blood of His covenant blots out the record of my sins to be remembered no more. We eat of this bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him for He said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the coming of the Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). Blessed we say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus. Come to gather your body and to claim your bride so that our Father who is in heaven may be exalted.’ To God be the glory forever and ever.
And everybody’s invited over to Marie’s house for Passover dessert. I think she’s serving coconut macaroons in chocolate shells. Bring your own jelly beans! (Her little lamb just loves ’em.)
Copyright © 2014 Messiah Gate
Editor’s Note: Even before the Council of Nicaea, as early as 150 AD, the church debated when to celebrate the Resurrection, or Christian Passover. Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, went to Rome to discuss the matter with Bishop Anicetus. They had differing opinions, but did not break fellowship over the matter. The church had a problem with the Jewish calendar which shifted the date of the Resurrection one or two months from the approximate date that was generally agreed upon which meant that the Christian Passover would not always fall on a Sunday — the day of our Lord’s resurrection — and on occasion it might even fall before Passover which was not acceptable.
That the early church, in fact, observed the Resurrection within the week of Passover is not disputed. Polycarp understood from John’s teaching that the Christian communion would commence on Nisan 14 concurrent with the start of Passover. This view was held by the early church fathers Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp) and Tertullian.
When we consider the pagan traditions of Easter it is important to understand that the early church — well before the Council of Nicaea — had good faith discussions to maintain unity and fellowship. They had their differences as to when and how to observe the Resurrection but, as Irenaeus wrote:
And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other.
Finally, it is true that Easter has been corrupted by pagan influences, but no more so I should think than Christmas. The church will surely answer for her sins, but whether a brother is right to observe the Resurrection on Passover, Firstfruits, Good Friday or Easter I will have to defer to John’s disciple and keep fellowship with all (Romans 14:5).