By Chris Mitchell, Christian Broadcasting Network, www.CBN.com
This week marks the celebration of Passover for Jews and the beginning of Holy Week for Christians around the world.
For a growing number of Messianic Jews in Israel and elsewhere, the holiday has double meaning: commemorating the time of deliverance for the Jewish people, as well as the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah.
For days, Jerusalem has been filled with preparations for Passover, one of the most important of all Jewish feasts. It commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the slavery of Egypt.
Some of the most visible and colorful preparations took place in the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Many Jews brought their cookware to be cleansed in large vats of boiling water to make them kosher for use in the Passover.
On the streets, people burned hamatz. Hamatz is any food like bread that contains leaven. All hamatz has to be removed from Jewish houses to fulfill the biblical command found in the book of Exodus to cleanse their homes of leaven.
Instead of bread, Jews will eat matzoh, or unleavened bread, for the seven days of Passover. Prior to the feast, it was a time of intense preparations.
“Cooking and cooking and cooking and cooking. If you don’t have everything done as far as cleaning, you’re in trouble,” said one woman.
“It is a holiday when the family all sit together,” explained one man.
Jews here in Jerusalem and around the world are observing the Passover. Among the diverse Jewish groups observing the traditions handed down over 3,000 years ago are Messianic Jews– Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
“There are six elements put around the Pessach plate,” said Uri Marcus, a Messianic Jew. He sees within the elements of Passover a reflection of God’s salvation through Yeshua, or Jesus, as the Messiah.
“As Messianic Jews, we don’t have to look very far to apply our own traditional views of these elements, the matzoh inside of these covers, into our own understanding of what and who Yeshua was as the Messiah. It’s all a picture of redemption. Redemption for the world from the beginning of time until the end of time,” Marcus said.
“It fits very well with everything that the New Testament teaches us and everything that Yeshua Himself commanded us,” he continued.
Steve Schneider is another Messianic Jew. For him, Passover signifies not only national redemption but personal salvation.
“Passover to me is a joyous, joyous occasion as I recognize that all of the elements that are celebrated are all pinpointing and focusing in on Yeshua, my Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” Schneider said.
“It’s a family gathering that we as a family that can come together and celebrating that which was commanded by the Lord God of Israel. To commemorate year by year, in light of what has taken place, of that great deliverance that God brought about so many thousands of years ago,” he explained.
“And in Jesus’ day, if I had asked you for a Passover meal you would have been so concerned not to touch any leaven that you would have brought your own dish and plate along to eat from it,” said Elfie Gill of the Biblical Resources Center.
Many believers in Yeshua believe Jesus not only celebrated the Passover meal, but fulfilled it. It’s this fulfillment with Jesus as the Passover Lamb that many Christians rejoice in at Easter. At the Biblical Resources Center just outside of Jerusalem, they explain the significance of the Passover meal and the relationship between the observance of Passover and celebration of Easter.
“Once you finished with the meal you would ask the youngest child to look for that special piece of bread called the afikoman,” said Gill as she explained the meal to a group of participants.
“That was also the piece of bread Jesus took that night. ‘This is my Body, broken for you’ — the afikoman. Now when you say, you break it, you wrap it, you hide and then take it out; doesn’t it also symbolize the Body of Christ? Broken for us, buried, and resurrected. And I’m sure God is saying to each one of us, eat from that bread which is the living Bread,” she continued.
“You would share it among you and then you would take the third cup of wine called the cup of redemption,” Gill said. “And that was the cup that Jesus took that night when He said, this is the blood of the new covenant, My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Take you all from it and as often as you do so, you proclaim My death until I come back again. You know, I always remind people here that we have a beautiful promise — He’s coming back one day.”
It’s this promise of His return that is a source of hope for Messianic Believers.
“At this time we have a very special meaning for Pessach. We can celebrate it with more vigor than ever, with more faith than ever. These are times when anyone with eyes open to the Torah and to the Prophets and to the writings and to the New Testament can see with clarity that God is working the ends. We’re about to enter the End of Days and we’re looking forward to it,” Marcus said.
Yet this year, Israel is on edge and virtually at war with the Palestinians, so for Jews and Messianic Jews this Passover has extra meaning.
“We want to encourage Believers the world over to raise Israel up especially during this season, Passover/Pessach, because it is a season of redemption,” Marcus said. “It is a season of our protection. It is a season that points us to the reality of the world it will be in a Messianic Age–that God would be King over all the Earth.”