By Michael L. Brown / Townhall.com
Two rabbis argue that Christians should not participate in the Seder, the traditional
Jewish Passover meal. Rabbis Yehiel E. Poupko and David Sandmel, in a call for respect
between the faiths, urge Christians not to engage in their own version of a Passover
Seder, especially if it is led by a Messianic Jew (a Jewish believer in Jesus).
First, they argue, the Seder meal as it is celebrated today contains elements that
were not known in Jesus’ day. So, whatever Passover meal Jesus ate at the Last Supper,
it was not the same as the traditional Seder, which developed in later centuries.
Second, the rabbis feel that Christians conducting their own Passover Seders turn
something that is sacred to Judaism into a Christian event. They suggest that if Christians
want to explore the meaning of the Seder, they should seek an invitation to a traditional
Seder where they can learn as a guest. Or ask the local rabbi to instruct them in the Seder’s meaning. But this sacred meal must not be co-opted by Christians.
How should we Christ-followers respond?
I would first ask a question: How many Christians or churches have their own
Passover Seders? My guess is that almost all are held in conjunction with
Messianic Jews. And that, I believe, is the real rub for these rabbis.
It is common at this time of the year for Jewish believers in Jesus to host special
church events with titles like, “Messiah in the Passover Seder.” During these
presentations, which can draw many hundreds of people, the teaching will
point to Jesus/Yeshua, the Lamb of God, as the centerpiece of the Passover.
He is the One who paved the way for a deliverance even greater than the Exodus
from Egypt. He is the One whose blood redeems us from God’s judgment. He is
the Passover Lamb! So, during the meal, the participants look back to the Exodus,
they look back to the Cross, and they celebrate the Jewish roots of their faith.
“But,” someone responds, “that’s what these rabbis protest. Jesus didn’t celebrate the same meal, and it’s wrong to transform Jewish traditions into a platform for preaching the Christian message.”
Actually, as a Messianic Jew myself— I have engaged in serious, academic
dialogue with my Jewish community for the last 45+ years—I understand this
objection. How would we feel if Muslims celebrated Communion but saw in it
a prophecy of Mohammed, co-opting something sacred to us? But here the
comparison breaks down.
Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus, whereas we do believe in the
Passover celebration, beginning with the Exodus and culminating in Messiah’s
resurrection. Jesus did celebrate a traditional (for His day) Jewish meal at
the Last Supper. (Remember: Jesus was called rabbi—not reverend—and the
Passover Lamb: 1 Corinthians 5:7.)
Before they accepted Jesus, many Messianic Jews grew up celebrating the
Seder. Once they came to faith, the Seder took on much more meaning. That’s why
they celebrate Passover in their congregations, and why they teach the Seder’s
meaning at churches. To them, it’s all about redemption, deliverance, the
faithfulness of God and His promises to Israel, and all about Jesus the Messiah.
Why shouldn’t they celebrate it and teach other Believers the beauty and
meaning of the Seder from their unique, Messianic Jewish perspective? And
why shouldn’t Christians learn more about the Jewish roots of their faith?
The stain of anti-Semitism has polluted Church history for centuries; the more
Christians appreciate the Jewish roots of their faith, the less likely this ugly
plague will resurface. Mitch Glaser and Darrell Bock, both Jewish believers in Jesus, answered the rabbis’ argument. They noted correctly that the question of whether or not
Jesus celebrated a Passover Seder by today’s standards is moot. He observed the Passover in the same way as any other first-century Jew. The Seder can draw Jews and Christians closer together rather than driving another wedge between our faith communities.
What concerns them is when Christians do not identify with the Jewish people and the Jewish background of their faith. Moreover, they write, “we simply cannot rob Christians of their heritage in Jesus—especially the events of theLast Supper, which was clearly a type of Passover celebration.”
While Christians remember this Last Supper every time we take Holy Communion, only in the context of the Passover meal do we understand the roots of that momentous meal: Jesus died as our Passover Lamb. As Jews around the world gather for Passover, they have no reason to be disturbed by Christian celebrations of Passover. Rather, I encourage them to ask the questions: Why is this meal important to Christians too? Might
they have some insight? (Click to Source)
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