10 Apr 2021

Passover & Pascha/Easter: Festivals of Divine Grace

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Christian hope, Easter, Jewish Backgrounds, Lord's Supper, Worship
Jews in Jerusalem for Passover

Festivals in Israel, and even in the early church, had several functions. They gathered God’s People to worship. Worship is intended to be communal. The festivals taught the people the “word of God.” You see no one in Israel, or the first 1400 years of the church for that matter, owned personal copies of the Bible. No one went home “from church” to read the Bible prior to Gutenberg. This is a significant fact.

Festivals like the Sabbath, Trumpets, Unleavened Bread … and “Pascha/Easter” served the practical function of teaching God’s People the STORY, that is the WORD of God. In fact through the Festivals of Worship the historical word became the Living Word as God’s people dramatically reenacted the Story of Redemption. Suddenly the flight from Egypt was not something you heard read to you, it was something you participated in dramatically. Those who complain about “drama” in worship have limited historical understandings of what “worship” was like in Israel, and for centuries among Christians. Drama preached the Word. Unleavened bread/Passover, for example, in one dramatic “production” preaches the Story of the book of Exodus.

Unleavened Bread/Passover celebrates the astonishing steadfast love (hesed) and grace of Yahweh for a group of slaves deemed so worthless that the state sanctioned the murder of their infant boys. The feast/festival proclaims the care, mercy and involvement of Yahweh for the “least of these.” The festival culminates in the Passover which proclaims the greatest act of grace in the history of the world until the incarnation of Jesus. It is the story of the Gospel of the Exodus.

God saves.

We get saved.

God redeems.

We do not redeem ourselves.

No Jew shares in these festivals because they are worthy. They participate because they were invited by grace.

Unleavened bread/Passover is mentioned frequently in our written Scriptures. We read of it in Exodus 12.15-20; Leviticus 23.6-8; Deuteronomy 16.3-16; 2 Chronicles 30.23-27; Ezra 6.21-22; etc, etc.

The festival was important in the development of Jesus. Luke tells us his family traveled to Jerusalem annually for the festival (Lk 2.41). John depicts Jesus walking to Jerusalem regularly for the festival.

The apostle James was martyred by Herod during the festival of Unleavened Bread (Acts 12.3). The apostle Paul celebrated Unleavened Bread/Passover with his fellow Jewish disciples (Acts 20.5-6). Paul even told the Corinthian church to “celebrate the festival” (1 Cor 5.8) though scholars argue about what this means.

But most importantly, Unleavened Bread/Passover became the occasion for the Messiah’s New Exodus through his death, burial and resurrection.

The festival is eight days long. Christians have called this week “holy week” since at least the third century AD. It is “holy” in that the events of the greatest moment of redemption in the Hebrew Bible took place AND the the greatest moments of redemption in the history of the world took place. This week changed cosmic history.

During the festival the Hallel Psalms (Pss 113-118) are sung (Mt 26.30) and the Song of Songs is read out loud on the Sabbath during the Passover.

As we head through this week that remembers such momentous events I encourage you to read the following:

1) Story of the Exodus (Exodus 1-15)
2) Psalms 113-118
3) Song of Songs
4) Matthew 21-25

Passover – Pascha – Easter – God cares for the powerless and the aliens. That is why God delivered Israel. God loves the powerless and the aliens. That is why Jesus celebrated the Passover and became the Lamb of God.

One Response to “Passover & Pascha/Easter: Festivals of Divine Grace”

  1. Gary Huff Says:

    Very informative, as all your articles are. I attended a Pascha service at an Orthodox Church. I really felt like I was back in the NT times. Talk about worshipping in Spirit and Truth. Surely this was closer to ancient Christian worship than our COC assemblies.

    I talked for an hour with an Orthodox Church priest who had been raised in the COC. I thought he had forgotten more about having a relationship with Jesus than I ever knew. Almost he persuaded me to be a Christian (Orthodox), lol.

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