Celebrating Easter And The Jewish Passover Connection

Spring is a time when everything in nature starts to bloom, the birds start singing outside of your window and the promise of warmer weather is just around the bend but it is also a time of celebrating the most important aspects of our Christian and Jewish faith.

What Is The Significance Of Easter

Easter is typically celebrated in the U.S. on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the month; celebrating God’s victory over death through the crucifixion and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus sits at the core of Christianity as Christians believe that whoever believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior will no longer be a slave to sin and receive eternal life. Celebrating the day Jesus rose from the grave, in turn, celebrates mankind’s freedom from sin and a new life with Christ. Though Easter is not a celebration that occurred during biblical times it later became one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar following the celebration of Passover.

The apostle Paul said that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and hope are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). Without the resurrection, faith and preaching of the good news would be non-existent as Jesus would have only been seen as another teacher or prophet. The resurrection, however, became the foundation of everything; affirming that Jesus was not only the prophesied Messiah of Israel but the King of a new Jerusalem.

Today, Christians worldwide celebrate Easter in a variety of ways including non-religious traditions like Easter egg hunts with baskets full of goodies. Other meaningful traditions include making resurrection rolls that teach children about the empty tomb or decorating with Easter lilies as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and the new life we have through Him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – (1 Peter 1:3)

What Is The Significance Of The Jewish Passover

In the book of Exodus, specifically chapter 12, God instructs Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites in Egypt to mark their houses with the blood of a lamb so that when the angel of death came by it would ‘pass over’ their house and thereby spare their firstborn son which was ultimately a prophecy of Gods own son Jesus Christ who would later die on the cross for man’s sins that all would be saved. Within the first five books of the Bible, God gives instructions about the Passover with details on how to observe it once the Israelites left Egypt. These include Numbers 9:1-4, 28:16-25, Deuteronomy 16:1-6, and Leviticus 23:4-8. These references also reveal that God did not intend for the Passover to be a one-time event but instead an annual feast where the Israelites would show remembrance of how God saved them which even Jesus commemorated with His disciples before being turned over to the soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas.

The Feast of the Unleavened Bread begins with the Passover meal on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month (which Easter follows) and lasts seven days. Together, these feasts commemorate Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Why Both Hold An Even Greater Significance

The Passover was a feast for the Israelites to remember what God did for them and how He delivered them from the bondage of slavery they were in but there was an even greater significance to this feast as it pointed the Israelites to the coming Messiah who would eventually come to earth to free man from sin of whom we know as Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were to know Him through the blood of a slain lamb which was a sign pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God (Son of God). “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Yet, even when Jesus came and walked on earth they did not recognize Him.

When Jesus himself sat down to have the Passover meal with His disciples he spoke these words which shifted how his followers would see the Passover. He said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus claimed himself as the Passover lamb knowing that he soon would be sacrificed and that through His sacrifice all that believed would be saved.

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and as He told Thomas in John 14:6 “no one comes to the Father except through me”. As you celebrate the Passover feasts and Easter this season may you reflect on all that God has done for you and how He has been ‘Your’ Savior in this world.

Image credit @ slgckgc

What Does Easter Look Like In Israel?

For Christians, Easter is a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ which brought freedom from sin and death. There are many traditions and celebrations around this holiday; one that reflects on Christ as the Savior of all mankind. In Israel, however, this celebratory week in springtime is considered a Holy week for the Jews. It is the Holy week of Passover which celebrates the early Israelites exodus from Egypt and their freedom from slavery. Easter and Passover are a time when both faiths of Judaism and Christianity meet together with the centerpiece of the celebration being in the city Jerusalem. Here we will look at what Easter traditionally looks like in Israel.

Palm Sunday in Israel

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of this celebratory Holy Week. Thousands of Chrisitians climb to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to revisit Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed on the path before him as he rode in on a donkey. Palm branches are symbolic of goodness and victory because of this. After descending the Mount of Olives many continue on to Saint Anne Church, St. Steven’s Gate otherwise known as The Lions Gate, the Old City and then further down the Via Dolorosa. As Christian pilgrims take part in this procession there are still many others that line the route to greet those participating with songs and blessings. Before heading into Good Friday, people can join in on a daily mass held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden of Gethsemane Church or the Basilica of the Agony.

Good Friday in Israel

Good Friday is significant for Jesus’ journey up to Golgotha where He was crucified. For Christians, it marks the death of Jesus at Calvary and the day He was buried at the tomb. During this part of the week in Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is packed with people making it worthy of noting in case one desires to beat the crowds. If you do plan to visit, this will surely be one of the most amazing experiences to behold where thousands upon thousands follow the same path that Jesus once walked.

Good Friday in Israel

Holy Saturday in Israel

The following day is of course, Holy Saturday where many typically gather in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, the annual miracle of the Holy Fire can be seen which is the lighting of the Patriarch’s candle from within the tomb that occurs every year.

Easter in Israel

For many Christians, the highlight of this week is Easter Sunday where services take place come sunrise. In Israel this service takes place at the Garden Tomb where people can gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Not all Jews and Christians, however, agree that Christ was resurrected but the celebrations in reference to Passover are still honored and by all.

Regardless of the differences between religions, the Old City of Jerusalem is lavishly decorated in preparation of Easter. The monks and priests are known to wear all white robes while chanting the liturgy and burning incense above the tomb where Christians believe Jesus Christ was buried and resurrected. All over the city, shops and stores celebrate by having their own decorated displays with many traditional delicacies prepared in honor of this time, though the daily commemorating of the week is considered more significant than any of the feasting or parading celebrations. As Christians celebrate Jesus during this time, the Orthodox Jews celebrate Passover and here one ends up with what Easter looks like in Israel.