Why don’t Christians observe Passover?

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Christian Living
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The Church today observe Christian holidays such as Good Friday, Easter and Christmas but almost totally ignore God’s feasts we are specifically commanded by God to observe.

Now before you start thinking that I’m some sort of legalist, let me say that I’m not here to judge Church traditions. Nor am I going to discuss the pagan origins of Easter. I have no problem with those who want to celebrate Christmas and Easter to commemorate Jesus’ birth and resurrection. But what do lighted trees and Santa Claus have to do with Jesus’ birth? What do bunnies and egg hunts have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?

I’m in no way suggesting a legalistic approach to the Old Testament feasts. But they are, at least according to my understanding, commandments of God. All of the Holy Days are prescribed as part of God’s TORAH right along with the Ten Commandments. They require an active participation even though there is no longer a Tabernacle or Temple.

Many Christians today believe that God’s feasts are only for Jews. And besides, it would be nearly impossible for anyone in modern times to observe the holy days as biblically commanded without the Israelite theocracy. But when the Hebrews left Egypt a mixed multitude (Non-Jews) left with them. (Exodus 12:38) This is probably why God told Moses, “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must do so in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for the alien and the native-born.” (Num.9:14)

When Christ was celebrating the Passover with His disciples, and instituting the emblems with their new meaning, He said to “…do this is in remembrance of me”. The New Testament Church celebrated this “remembrance Passover” also: “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.

Therefore let us keep the Festival, (Passover) not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (1Cor 5:7-8) [Emphasis mine]

These people were aware that the Passover was to look back in remembrance of what He (Jesus) had done for them. What Holy Days did Jesus, His disciples, and the first century Christians actually keep? Why don’t the modern churches celebrate these Holy Days that God commanded in the Bible? Was the Passover abolished because Christ died for us, or was it commanded to be observed as a memorial of His death?

As I said before, I have no problem with traditional Christian holidays but have you ever questioned why the Church substituted Easter for God’s appointed Holy Day? Did God approve of this change? What do the symbols of Passover mean, and why isn’t it possible to observe the biblical Passover as well as Easter?

The Bible and secular history both record that the early Christian Church did not celebrate Easter. More than twenty years after Christ’s resurrection, the Apostle Paul wrote to both Jewish and Gentile converts urging them to properly keep God’s Passover. Further, true believers continued to keep the Passover for another 270 years until an unconverted Roman emperor ordered believers to keep Easter or suffer the loss of their property.

Are you willing to prayerfully examine the facts with an open mind? God instructs believers to search the scriptures and prove all things (Acts 17:11; I Thessalonians 5:21). Can you put past personal prejudice aside and accept the challenge to search out the truth, proving it for yourself?

Passover lost and found and lost and found and…

Over time, Israel let the Passover slip into disuse. They adopted the pagan practices of sun worship again, going so far as to offer their children in the fire, believing their offering would purify the family. Finally, God sent the ten-tribe House of Israel into captivity for their abominations. Their more obedient Jewish brothers in the south were spared for a hundred or so years, but in time they too, fell prey to the same seductive pagan practices. The Passover was again lost.

In time, King Hezekiah was born. This great man restored the worship of the true God. As a part of his reformation movement, he commanded Judah to once again keep God’s sacred Passover:

Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: “Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the LORD, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. (II Chron. 29:1-5)

Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. (II Chron. 30:1)

So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan that they should come to keep the Passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. (II Chron. 30:5)

Hezekiah instituted many reforms, but after his death, God’s people again yielded to pagan influence slipped back into idolatrous worship, losing sight of Gods Holy Days. After this, many decades passed before a priest chanced upon God’s Word, and gave a copy to the new leader, King Josiah. The king studied God’s law and was moved to deep repentance. His immediate response was to restore the Passover.

The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem.  (II Kings 23:3, 22-23)

Whenever God’s people returned to true worship, they observed the Passover, rejoicing in the truth they had found. But the pattern of apostasy continued and eventually the Jews lost sight of God’s law again, falling away a final time. God then allowed Babylon to take them into captivity. After seventy years, the Jewish people were finally released from their captivity in Babylon. Led by Ezra and Nehemiah, they returned to their land where they once again revived the observance of the Passover. There the people of Judah awaited the coming of their Messiah.

Jesus Kept Passover

Jesus kept the Passover every year even as a young child. Luke records:

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.  (Luke 2:40-42)

Since Jesus always kept the Passover, he taught His disciples to keep it also. In fact, the last meal Jesus ate was on Passover. Jesus told His disciples to prepare for this annual observance that final evening: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” (Luke 22:7-8)

The Apostle Paul Kept Passover

For those who think that observing Passover is only under Old Testament law, you may want to rethink that. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Paul was not addressing whether the Gentile Church should keep the Passover Feast. Paul was teaching them the WAY they were to keep the celebration. The fact that they were to keep the Holy Days was a foregone conclusion. Later in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul explained more about how to properly keep God’s Passover. The Corinthian Church had been confronted with a number of heresies, and Paul corrected them regarding the proper relationship of men and women. He then discussed the importance of hair length, and finally explained that the Christian Passover was not to be celebrated as an ordinary meal. Paul wrote: When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat… (I Corinthians 11:20)  Some were hungry, others were eating large meals, and a few were actually drinking too much. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that he was teaching them what Christ had taught him as he wrote the following instructions:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread… (I Corinthians 11:23) Notice that the Passover Paul spoke of was not a monthly Sunday morning observance as some celebrate today. Instead, it was an evening Seder in remembrance of the night that Christ was betrayed. And that night was the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. It was God’s Holy Passover. That evening Christ changed the symbols from eating a lamb to the eating of bread and drinking a small amount of wine. Therefore, Paul taught that Jesus took bread: and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:24-25).  Paul reminded Christians that Christ said “do this” twice that night. Therefore, Christians are to do THIS and NOT something else! It is a command not from the Old Testament, but from Christ! Jesus observed Passover, as did the Apostle Paul. And from what I read we are to observe Passover as well. Jesus and the apostles kept it as God commanded, and Paul taught the Gentiles to practice this observance once a year.

The early Church continued to observe Passover

God’s Church has always celebrated the Passover observance as Jesus directed. After Christ was crucified and resurrected, the entire Church continued this practice. In fact, Passover and the corresponding Days of Unleavened Bread were always an important part of the early Christian’s every day thoughts and lives. Notice how the inspired author of the book of Acts records the time of year in scripture by referring to the days of the Passover celebration:

When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Acts 12: 3)

Luke, himself a Gentile, would not record time in terms of the Passover unless this day was paramount in both Christian thinking and practice. Illustrating this, in the next verse there is another reference to Passover. The translators of the King James Version of the Bible mistranslated this however. They put the word “Easter” into the text where it did not belong. The verse reads:

When he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:4)

The Jewish people never kept Easter. Further, this holiday was never an official part of the Church until corruption entered after 300 A.D. Consequently, the word “Easter” would never have been a part of Luke’s vocabulary, and it has no legitimate place in this verse. The original inspired Greek is “pasha,” and it should have been translated “Passover.” Many margins today show the correct wording, and most modern translations render the word as “Passover.” The NIV Bible conveys the meaning of the word as follows:

. . . Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. (Acts 12:4) Paul and his assistants kept the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Notice how Luke refers to Paul’s travels:

But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. (Acts 20:6) The early Church observed Passover, and all scholars acknowledge this truth. Illustrating this, the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition states:

There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed. (P.828) Historians realize that the early Church faithfully kept the Passover for three centuries. The original teachings of Christ and the apostles were eventually lost and along with it God’s sacred Passover. It was much like the apostasy of ancient Israel.

How did Easter replace Passover?

During the first three centuries after Christ began His Church, the observance of God’s Passover slowly dwindled until it was all but extinguished. In time, God’s feast was eventually replaced by a different form of worship. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible Explains:

“The development of the (modern) church calendar was a remarkably slow process in Christianity, and equally striking is the fact that so little of the Jewish year originally found a place in Christians celebrations. Where we should have expected a Christian transformation of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth, Chanukah, Purim, etc., we find only the retention of the paschal festival (in the keeping of Easter). This is due to the fact the church year was largely the creation of the Gentile church, and the background of such notable days as Christmas, (and) Epiphany, etc. is pagan, not Jewish.”

Understanding how today’s Christian holidays came to replace the original Church celebrations is of great value in determining how we should worship God today. The change from Passover to Easter did not occur from a command of God. It did not evolve over time based on a biblical principle or scripture. Instead, this radical change in Christian worship followed the same pattern of apostasy as ancient Israel. Many decades after Christ built the Church, new leaders looked upon the old ways as outdated, and too “Jewish.” Desiring to appeal to the masses, they took it upon themselves to modify the church in order to bring it into their modern age and culture.

I think it’s interesting that if you trace the Church’s traditions and holidays back to their origins it will almost always lead to paganism. When you trace Judaism back to its origins it will always lead you to God.

  1. Charlie says:

    Nice blog Jonah ……. Thanks for sharing your insite ……

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