Easter – Seeking to Understand a Messianic Perspective

Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Easter has always been a wonderful time for the church and Christians to remember what Christ has done for each of us as He died on the cross and was resurrected almost 2000 years ago. In doing so, He gave us the possibility of having eternal life with Him. This has been my tradition too, for almost half a century. However, this year has been different for me and I have struggled with the celebration of Easter more than I ever have before. While I understand the significance of the Christian celebration of Easter, the intertwining of our Christian understanding of Easter with the bunny, colored eggs, and apart from Passover has really tugged at my heart this year.

There is no doubt a connection between Christianity and the Jews (Messianic Jews in particular) and I have always thought that Passover and Easter fell during the same week. I suppose since I am more aware of the Messianic Jewish perspective this year, I am also quite aware that they are actually completely separate celebrations since Passover is not celebrated until the latter half of April this year.

It was during Passover that Jesus was crucified and it seems natural that these two celebrations would fall during the same time frame. It was also during the Passover Seder (the Last Supper) that Jesus instituted communion – to do so in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:7-23). So if we are to remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, why isn’t it at the same time as Passover? Why has the church completely cut out any observance or even an awareness of Passover each year? Something is off.

It is well known that the early believers did not celebrate Easter as we know it. They still held to the Jewish feasts and festivals with a Messianic perspective – that Jesus is the Messiah and came to fulfill and give full meaning to these divine “appointed times” (the Jewish feasts and festivals). These early Christians continued to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread just as Jesus did His final moments with His disciples. It was not until much later that the church adopted Easter as we know it.

There is a website written from a Messianic perspective about Easter and Passover that I have found very intriguing (http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wrongeaster.html). The author raises many good points and also gives an explanation that demonstrates when the switch to an Easter celebration and away from a Passover celebration actually happened. It was not immediately after Christ left earth, but a few centuries after Christ.

For over 300 years, Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews alike would celebrate Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Sabbath and many of the Jewish traditions prescribed by God in the Old Testament scripture. The early Christian Church was very Jewish in her practices. (The Gentile Christians were grafted into something that was already in existence and very Jewish in nature. See my post on the Messianic Gentile vs. Christian).

The Council of Laodicea (363 AD) actually made it illegal for Christians to celebrate the Sabbath or Passover and it was during the various church councils in the 300’s AD during which decisions were made to separate the church from the Jewish practices that had been celebrated by the early Christian church for over 300 years.

Over the centuries, many of the traditions and philosophies surrounding Easter and the coming of spring  (the bunny, the colored eggs, a celebration of spring – even the sunrise service that could be said to have its root in worshiping a sun god) can be attributed to different pagan celebrations. I have always known this, but what has struck me more so this year than any other year is why does the church continue to include these things in their celebration of Easter? I have seen numerous churches this year that advertised an Easter Egg Hunt as part of their festivities. It seems innocent enough and a fun activity for the kids, but any Google search into the origins of Easter will tell stories of a goddess associated with this aspect of our Easter celebration.

Somewhere along the line, it seems that the church has syncretized some of these pagan rituals and ideas with our Christian celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. (From the perspective of the Christian Church, to syncretize is to combine or attempt to combine the characteristic teachings, beliefs, or practices of differing systems of religion or philosophy into our own Christian teachings, beliefs and practices). In other words, we have taken some of the pagan ideas and made them fit our understanding of what Christ did for us. For example, we have made Easter Eggs (or resurrection eggs as I have also heard them called) about celebrating a new life in Christ.

I am in no way trying to condemn the church or anyone who celebrates Easter. I love the church and it continues to be a part of who I am. The points above are questions that I am wrestling with and would encourage others to wrestle with as well. It is my desire to see Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews come together in a way that will be encouraging to both sides. In my opinion, it is only when Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews come together that the church will truly be complete as God intends. Both sides have something to bring to the table and both sides are missing out by not being in unity with one another.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  ~Galatians 3:28

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Easter – Seeking to Understand a Messianic Perspective

  1. Interesting that you write this today. I was thinking of asking how did you (as a church) celebrate Easter (Resurection Sunday.) Do Messanic Jews celebration the Resurection on the Christian holiday (weekend) or do you celebrate it during the time of Passover?

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    • Well… our services are held on Saturday (Sabbath) so there is no Easter Sunday celebration. Secondly, they don’t celebrate during the Christian Easter season at all. Their celebration is during Passover which isn’t for a few more weeks yet. I am very anxious to see how it is celebrated as a congregation. They actually encourage people to hold a seder dinner in their home with their family and friends rather than doing a joint seder as a congregation (which some congregations do). We are going to attend one and are anxious to be a part of it. I’m not sure how the preaching/teaching during the Saturday services will support the Passover celebration yet.

      The other article I linked to (http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wrongeaster.html)has a really good Messianic perspective – similar stuff I’ve been hearing the past few weeks during service. There has been a lot of talk about how the church has developed its own “holiday” rather than following the “holy day” (Passover) that God instituted. I thought this was pretty telling (from that other blog post) and accurate from what I’ve seen so far:

      “There are certainly Christians today who criticize Messianics, without mercy, for not celebrating Easter. Yet as it has sadly been the case, many Messianics usually respond to these Christians without mercy as well. They accuse Christians of participating in pagan “fertility rites” or that they are worshipping the Babylonian goddess Ishtar or the sun god. Likewise, because Messiah Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection are not emphasized at many “Messianic” Passover sedars, such Christians may feel that we have lost hold of this monumental event, and perhaps can rightfully say of some people that they treat Yeshua’s resurrection with disgust.”

      And I’ve been sensing this as a theme too:

      “We do not deny Yeshua’s death or His resurrection; we just believe that Christians are commemorating it inappropriately. They are honoring it outside of the bounds God has given us, and have given credence to a holiday that has some questionable origins. We advocate that Yeshua’s atoning work and resurrection are best remembered in the context of Passover, and various teachings during the week of Unleavened Bread. …While as Messianics we do not celebrate Good Friday or Easter Sunday. I would ask Christians to reconsider what they are doing, and really consider whether or not “the Church” has the right to replace God’s holidays with its own holidays.”

      This has been an interesting year for us. Matt and I both see the tremendous value in understanding Christ in the Jewish feasts and festivals, and yet it challenges the traditions we’ve always held. We’ve had quite the deep theological discussions around here lately!

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  2. If I remember correctly, Jesus actually rose on the Feast of First Fruits — the Sunday after Passover. Not only does this give extra depth to Romans 5 (Jesus is the First Fruits of life), but it once again ties the Old Testament with the New. God is amazingly consistent with His symbolism across both the Old and New Testaments.

    Here are a couple of links explaining things: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/First_Fruits/first_fruits.html
    And
    http://www.levitt.com/essays/first-fruits

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  3. I’m sorry they believe Christians worship Ishtar or the sun god. It doesn’t matter to me when we celebrate it…although I love the Springtime. I went to a sunrise service at Bill’s church and we sat outside, … my very favorite place to connect with God. Outside from man-made structures and immersed in God’s creation! We gathered on the grass and Bill and another lead a couple of worship songs. We also had some time of silence just to experience the presence of God.It was a beautiful reflective experience. Bill spoke a bit and ended it with communion. Total resurrection-centered morning. I don’t think the Lord is unhappy that we have made Easter/Resurrection Sunday a holiday. I can do without the bunny and eggs, but it’s fun to dye eggs and have an egg hunt with the kids.

    I’m wondering if you will be celebration communion (or whatever it would be called) during the Sedar. Jesus instructed his followers that night to remember Him through the bread and wine. I remember celebrating Passover meal combining it with communion at the Methodist Church we attended in Florida. I will be very interested to hear just how the resurrection will be celebrated in a couple of weeks.

    I’ll have to re-read your post because you mention other websites to check out. Maybe I’ll find some answers there.

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  4. Sounds like you had a great Easter celebration. I definitely see some things the church does well and some things the Messianics do well. I really think we are meant to be the church – together.

    Communion is actually built into the Seiter, so I have no doubt that we will be doing that. If you’ve never been to a Seiter, it’s well worth the time! It’s really quite fascinating!

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