As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes.
Easter Egg Hunts
As discussed in previous blogs, the commemoration of the Lord’s death on what the Church has come to call “Good Friday“, originated with, and is very closely tied to the Feast of Israel known as Passover. The “Last Supper” — the meal that Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated on the night He was betrayed should more accurately be called “The Last Seder“, as that is what it was.
The Passover meal, known as the Seder, commemorates God’s deliverance of the Jewish people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt, and the sparing of the first born sons by applying the blood of a slain Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the doors of our houses. This is the same meal in which Jesus took the cup (which symbolized the blood of the lamb) and said “This is the New Covenant established in my blood”. You can read more about this in our previous article.
At the celebration of the Passover Seder, there is a custom in which the middle piece of unleavened bread (called matzoh) is taken from a special cloth bag which holds 3 separate matzot (plural of matzah) and is broken, wrapped in a piece of white linen, buried somewhere below table height by the eldest man at the Seder and later searched for by all the children present, until it is found. The finder then brings it to the leader of the Seder (the eldest man) and it is ‘redeemed‘ for a price — literally “bought back”. The parallels of this custom to Yeshua (Jesus) being separated from God, broken for us, wrapped in white linen, buried and resurrected, is most interesting.
While the Church at Rome abandoned the commemoration of the Lord’s death in association with the Passover around the Council of Nicaea (see a previous blog about Church father. Polycarp), the custom of children searching for “Easter eggs“, somehow found its way in.
As you can probably understand, for us as Messianic Jews, the children searching for the broken, white linen-wrapped middle matzah has significance; whereas searching for chocolate “Easter eggs” has none.
Counting of days tied to the first Sunday of Passover
The counting of the 40 days of “Lent” before “Easter” (which was originally commemorated by the Early Church as Passover); is done from “Ash Wednesday” until “Easter Sunday” / Pachal Sunday, originated in 339 CE, with Saint Athanasius.
God did command the Jewish people concerning the “counting of days” in relationship to the commemoration of Passover — but not beginning prior to Passover, but following it.
God commanded the Jews to count 50 days from the “day after the Sabbath of Passover” to arrive at the date of Pentecost (Shavuot, in Hebrew — from “weeks”). When that counting begins and why will be developed in an upcoming article.
The counting the days between Passover and Pentecost (Shavuot), called the “counting of the Omer” as God has called us to has significance, because it originated with His command. The timing of this “counting of days” has very important significance to the Church, and will be outlined in an upcoming article.
We find it puzzling — sad even, that customs such as the counting days before “Easter” and children searching for chocolate eggs have found their way into Christian expression, while throughout history the Church has deliberately distanced itself from anything Jewish.
As we have said many times in previous blogs, we do not believe that Gentile Christians are in any way required to keep the commands of God given to the Jewish people in the Law, including feasts such as Passover and Pentecost — but we wonder two things;
(1) Why would the Church chose to commemorate the day Jesus gathered with His disciples for His last meal on a day other than the one God chose for?
(2) Why would the Church have “Christian Pentecost” fall on a day other than the one God chose?
…then it occurred to us, that perhaps many Gentile Christians don’t even realize that in the 4th Century, the Church at Rome changed the dates of both Passover (“Easter”) and Pentecost?
More on the timing of these two significant days in upcoming blogs.