Opinion: Christians and Jews should celebrate Passover
Once the root of Christian anti-Semitism against Jews, Passover has recently gained significant popularity among followers of Jesus. For over 3,000 years Jews have been celebrating the Passover Seder meal, their crown jewel of holy days. But now, more and more Christians gather each year to celebrate this same meal, bridging the gap between the two religions.
A unique characteristic of the current generation is the Christian community embracing an appreciation of Judaism. Though many of the Jewish symbols and holidays filter through a different lens — the best example is the Passover Seder.
Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ, foreshadowed at the Last Supper, is the root of Christian anti-Semitism.
Judas’ deviousness, greed and other vices were painted across the entire Jewish people by Gentile Christians for centuries.
Another major catalyst of traditional anti-Semitism was the belief in “blood libel,” sometimes called “ritual murder charge," which is also connected to the celebration of Passover. The derogatory terms refer to a centuries-old false accusation that Jews murder Christians — particularly little children — to use their blood as an ingredient in the baking of Passover matzah (unleavened bread).
Either term wrongfully conjures up racial wickedness and unfounded superstitious fears. What makes this claim so preposterous is that eating or drinking blood is absolutely forbidden for Jewish people. The Torah, the holy book of the Jews, requires us to eat kosher food — that which is pure, proper, and fit for consumption. Specifically mentioned, blood is not allowed in any form.
The blood libel belief dates to the Middle Ages and has persisted despite Jewish denials, official statements by the Catholic Church, and many secular authorities.
But Passover was never meant to be a source of division between Jews and Christians. In fact, in recent times the celebration of Passover has extended beyond the traditional Jewish community as Christian congregations around the world started to celebrate Passover.
Each year, instead of just celebrating Resurrection Sunday, I conduct a Passover Seder aimed to satisfy Christians’ hunger to learn more about Judaism and their faith, as well as providing a broader context to Jewish believers in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). The reason for observing Passover is to remember how the Israelites were saved and freed from Egypt. I also share how Jesus fulfills the ultimate goal of Passover.
The celebration that the church calls Easter developed over hundreds of years in a highly controversial situation between the Eastern and Western churches during the Roman era.
Physical distance between the East and West caused at least two Christian traditions to develop. The opinions were: Do we celebrate Jesus’ death on Passover, which is the oldest known tradition; or do we commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection on Easter?
The unfortunate schism developed over the next two centuries until the church of the West at the council of Nicaea in 325 determined that those celebrating on the day of Passover were following heretical, hostile Jews. This solidified for centuries an anti-Semitic stance of Christians against Passover.
Today, this centuries old anti-Semitic stance against Passover is dissolving. Once inconceivable, participating in a Passover Seder among Christians has become more popular today than ever. Although this shift was 2,000 years in the making, Passover can be and should be a loving bond between Jews and Christians alike.
Rabbi Kirt Schneider is a Messianic Jewish Shaliach (messenger) and host of “Discovering the Jewish Jesus” television show that is available to more than 100 million homes in the U.S. as well as approximately 200 nations worldwide.