Embracing the Christians who are embracing Passover

We have enjoyed decades of unqualified support from Christian friends of Israel who go to great lengths to be sensitive to us

Many non- Jews feel that Passover is also a Christian holiday. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Many non- Jews feel that Passover is also a Christian holiday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As Jews we know that Passover has eternal messages for the entire world, but now that so many Christians are embracing the holiday, many Jews are uneasy about it.
Jewish media has been abuzz over the trend of increasing numbers of Evangelical Christians who observe a Passover Seder, often infused with Christological interpretations. “Why are these Seders different from all other Seders? Because Jesus serves as paschal lamb” read a Times of Israel headline last week. “Evangelicals are falling in love with Passover – is there anything wrong with that?” asked a recent Forward article. Both outlets expressed queasiness at the religious appropriateness of non-Jews celebrating Passover.
Surely, it is suspicious that Christianity, which historically used the Passover/Easter season to attack Jews for the crime of deicide, is now embracing the message of matza. We are all familiar with the line in the Haggada, “in every generation they rise up against us”; perhaps Christian Seders are just the latest manifestation of Replacement Theology?
Unlike on Succot, where the Christian pilgrims who march down the streets of Jerusalem see themselves as foreigners participating in a Jewish holiday, many non- Jews feel that Passover is also a Christian holiday. They believe that since Passover was the backdrop for their religious development, it is theirs to infuse with their own symbolism and interpretations.
We’ve been following this sensitive issue closely on Breaking Israel News, a news site geared toward Christian Zionists. Our reporters have interviewed many non-Jews who host Seders throughout the American Bible Belt, trying to understand their motivations. As the publisher of Breaking Israel News and director of Israel365, an organization which serves as a bridge between Israel and Evangelical Christians around the world, I have a different perspective on this unusual trend.
To be sure, there are deceptive missionary groups like Jews for Jesus, who use Passover as a hook to snare ignorant Jews with a mixed message that you can celebrate the holiday both as a Jew and as a Christian. While we must oppose their harmful efforts, it is time to realize that, for the most part, the Christian Zionists of today are interested in faithful friendship with no proselytizing strings attached.
We have enjoyed decades of unqualified support from Christian friends of Israel who go to great lengths to be sensitive to us.
Therefore, I believe that while Passover emphasizes the significant distinctions between our two communities, we can still find common ground by focusing not on what divides us, but what unites us, even on this most sensitive of festivals.
This past week, I spoke about Passover with a number of Christian Zionist leaders who work tirelessly to defend Israel and support the Jewish People, and who all reject proselytizing Jews.
“I have had the opportunity to participate in many Seders in the homes of Israeli friends,” Reverend Rebecca Brimmer of Bridges for Peace told me, “and am always struck by Passover’s central message of freedom.
As a Christian, I appreciate the freedom of worship that I have here in Israel, the only place in the Middle East where I can pray anywhere without fear of being arrested or harassed.”
When I asked Reverend Robert Stearns of Eagles Wings Ministries about Passover, Stearns also emphasized our common heritage and pointed to the Book of Exodus. “The overarching theme of God’s deliverance from slavery in Exodus 12:17, ‘on this day I have brought you out of the land of Egypt,’ is one that is central to our faith understanding.”
Stearns went on to say, “As we look at the darkness and enslavement to evil in our world today, we take heart from the story of Passover. The God that delivered the Children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt is the same God that still can deliver His people, lead them, and watch over them in the Promised Land.”
Another Christian leader, Dean Bye of Return Ministries, which helps Jews make aliya, told me that he finds inspiration in the model of Moses. “Moses is an amazing inspiration for most Christians. He also discovered his own roots later in life, facing an identity crisis and running away. In time, Moses returned in strength, wisdom and humility with God’s plan of redemption.”
Bye continued, “I believe Christianity is presently in a wilderness of sorts and also going through its own identity crisis, learning a deep humility as Moses had to. The hope is we will emerge by cooperating with God and identifying with His wisdom, and our unique role in this more glorious exodus and redemption plan happening before everyone’s eyes.”
As Jews, we recall our treasured past and look forward to our glorious destiny each Passover. The return of our people from the four corners of the earth to the Land of Israel is no doubt a redemption of biblical proportions.
I believe that our remarkable future is even more secure in our generation with so many non-Jews embracing their Jewish roots with sensitivity and humility.
This modern-day Passover miracle is strengthened, not weakened, by Christians who are discovering the Jewish roots of their faith, and who are now standing with Israel based on our common ground.
The author is the director of Israel365, a newsletter that connects 150,000 people to Israel every day, and serves as publisher of Breaking Israel News. He is also editor of The Israel Bible, highlighting the significance of the Land and the People of Israel. He lives with his family in Ramat Beit Shemesh and can be reached at rabbituly@israel365.com.