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3/08/2009

Should Christians Keep the Rituals of Passover?


Some dispute the day selected for observing the Passover as a Christian. They ask are you observing the Exodus event or the New Testament event in your Passover schedule. Others challenge why a Christian would keep a ritual firmly part of another – although related - faith tradition?

Although rooted in Judaism, the religion of Jesus and his followers – Christians -are named for the very difference that sets them apart from their kin within Judaism. We honor, respect, and pray for all our cousins in Judaism that God bless and keep them. The faithful child of the Jewish faith has a special place in the heart of God. Christians, however, accept that Jesus is the Messiah so long promised and that he came to take away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and declared, “Look! the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Gospels note that Jesus died at the time of Passover, and they associate the Last Supper with the Passover meal itself.

Peter uses the language of Passover in 1 Pet 1:18f, when he says that we (Christians and those willing to accept Jesus) were redeemed ‘with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ Paul in 1 Cor 5:7, supports that when he writes that -‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.’


The O.T. Passover became an annual sacrifice. Christians believe that Christ’s sacrifice is once for all people who believe. Heb 7:27, ‘Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices repeatedly. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.’

These crucial theological differences meant that the Christian view and classic Judaism could not co-exist. So, like many other reforming, renewing, or revolutionary movements, these new Christians left the Jewish synagogue to form their own “house churches”.

Early Christians had the choice to remain a small splinter sub-group of Judaism (like the earlier Essenes) and this was debated hotly in a conference in Jerusalem. The Christians – through the witness of converts from the Gentiles, dreams by Peter, and the success of mission outreach to the far flung corners of the Roman Empire – agreed to expand their fellowship to the non-Jew. As the ministry of people such as Paul exploded among the Gentiles, as the new faith was threatened by false teachers, people trying to bring the converts back into Judaism, and other issues assaulted the growing Christians, inevitable changes continued.

So, should Christians continue the Jewish observance of the Passover? As a teaching tool, as a means of illustrating the stories of the scriptures, and as a means of encouraging reflection and worship the observance is appropriate for Christians.

As valuable as it is to remember the ancient story, to thank God for His miracles and grace, and to recognize the actions of Christ with his closest followers, it is even more crucial that we remember that as Christians it is the action of the Crux fixation and the Sabbath morning that bring meaning to the Christian faith. Christians are, more than anything else, Resurrection People.

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