Easter and Passover
By Dianne D. McDonnell
Easter is the time when most Christians think about the events of the Crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Few realize that the colored eggs, new clothes and sunrise services actually predate the time of Christ and were originally done by Babylonians honoring a fertility goddess named Astarte and pronounced “Easter”. An egg was her symbol, as well as a symbol of fertility. The new clothes tied into the myth of the goddess going into the dark underworld and leaving behind an article of clothing at each of the guard gates in her quest to return her dead lover Tammuz to the land of the living. First came mourning and then a celebration when Astarte or Ishtar, the “queen of heaven” returned at sunrise in new clothes accompanying the resurrected Tammuz, the god of the sun. In Ezekiel 8:14-16 an angel shows Ezekiel, “…women weeping over the death of the god Tammuz”, and a “sunrise” service associated with pagan worship, and identifies this as abominations that anger God. Satan’s counterfeit of the death and resurrection of Jesus was enacted hundreds of years before the coming of our Savior, and these same pagan symbols are used every Spring just as they were then. God remembers when the pagans held their fertility feast called “Easter”--can God be pleased with the way most people mimic the same celebration, even to the new clothes, sunrise services, and hidden dyed eggs? God warns us not to copy the ways pagan people worshipped their Gods, and orders us “Learn not the way of the heathen,” Jeremiah 10:2 KJV.
Just how should we observe the resurrection of Jesus? Few Christians realize that the death and resurrection of Jesus came intentionally during the time called Passover and The Days of Unleavened Bread. Jesus knew ahead of time that he would die at Passover time! He told his disciples “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Matthew 26:2 NASU.
The first Passover is recorded in Exodus 12:1-21. God gave instructions for the children of Israel to kill a lamb and to paint the blood of that slain lamb on their doorposts. Later that evening the “death angel” passed over the dwellings with blood around the door and spared the first-born males within but killed the Egyptian firstborns. Thus the name Passover came from “to pass over, to spare”. God commanded that this was to be commemorated forever in Exodus 12:14. It was part of an even greater plan.
John the Baptist spoke prophetically of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” in John 1:29, “…John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” and he repeated the title “Lamb of God” again in verse 36.
The blood of Jesus was shed to spare the people of the world the death penalty due to them because of their sins, just as the blood of the Passover lamb spared the Israelites. During this time of year leavening (baking soda, yeast and baking powder) is removed from one’s home, along with all products containing leavening. Bread made without leavening is eaten for seven days. Paul associated removing leavening with removing sin from our lives and also linked Jesus with the Passover. Reading from Today’s English Version Bible we find Paul’s words in 1Cor. 5:7-8, “You must remove the old yeast of sin so that you will be entirely pure. Then you will be like a new batch of dough without any yeast, as indeed I know you actually are. For our Passover Festival is ready, now that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate our Passover, then, not with bread having the old yeast of sin and wickedness, but with the bread that has no yeast, the bread of purity and truth.” So we see that after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the early church DID observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread as a time of repentance and celebration, but with a new emphasis—Jesus as “our Passover lamb!”
Few understand that Jesus died on the day of “preparation” for a “high day”. A “high day” is an annual Sabbath. We find this in John 19:30-31, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), …”
This “high day” is an annual Sabbath that can fall on any day of the week. You will find in Leviticus 23:4-8 that the first day and the last day of the Days of Unleavened Bread are “high days” when no work is to be done, and there are special religious assemblies on these days. Jesus became “our Passover lamb” by dying just as the priests began killing the Passover lambs for the “high day” meal they would eat after sunset! They reckoned time differently and considered sunset as the end of one day and the start of the next day. The Jews had to be ceremonially “clean” to eat this meal as proven by John 18:28-29, “Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas' house to the governor's palace. The Jewish authorities did not go inside the palace, for they wanted to keep themselves ritually clean, in order to be able to eat the Passover meal.” They observed this meal the evening following the crucifixion, and it was the symbolic lamb meal remembering God sparing them from death! They celebrated it a day later than the Passover meal that Jesus ate, but the lamb they ate symbolized Jesus who had just died for them hours earlier!
Jesus had observed his own “Passover” the night before he died and said that the Passover meal would soon have its “full meaning”. We find this in Luke 22:15-20 TEV, “He said to them, ‘I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.’” Jesus did not abolish the Passover observance! He gave it its “full meaning” when he became our Passover Lamb! Before that time the Israelites had only known of the partial meaning of Passover! God had a deeper, fuller meaning in mind that included all mankind! All of us are spared the death penalty for sins and so Passover becomes a commemoration for ALL of us, not just for Israelites!
On that night Jesus referred to as Passover—the last night of his life-- he added new Passover symbols of wine and bread standing for his blood and broken body. Luke 22:17-20 “Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves. I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.’ In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, ‘This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.’”
As if to underscore the importance of this Festival, in the early years of the church God miraculously saved Peter’s life during the Days of Unleavened Bread. This miracle is described in Acts 12:3-11.
Have you ever wondered why there is no specific Biblical command to observe the resurrection of Jesus? It is because it occurred during the Days of Unleavened Bread which was ALREADY a commanded observance! Mary went to the tomb and discovered the resurrection of Jesus during the Days of Unleavened Bread—the same time period that she was eating unleavened bread that Jesus said symbolized his broken body! The entire seven day period is to be a time of reflecting on the sacrifice of Jesus and on his glorious resurrection! The first day and last day were designed to be times of honoring our Savior’s sacrifice and his resurrection! The blood on the doorposts and the entire exodus from Egypt ALL looked forward to the future sacrifice of the Messiah—Jesus, the Lamb of God, and our exodus from lives of sin! If Jesus died for you, and he did, and you CLAIM his sacrifice to erase your own sins, then the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are YOUR holy days given to you by God to remember what He gave up for you!
If you are just beginning to realize that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Savior of all mankind, then what better time to turn to him in full obedience? Pray a prayer of repentance—God really will hear it! Relying on the sacrifice of Jesus will usher your prayer into the very presence of God! With His love, His help, His power, it will at last be possible to clean up your life no matter how big a mess you have made of it! Throw your sins out of your life like baking soda out of your cabinet, not valuing them or clinging to them any longer. God’s gift to you for your repentance will be so incredible as to almost be unbelievable: Eternal Life after you are someday resurrected just as Jesus was! After repentance, next obey Him by honoring the days He has set aside for you to honor His Son. (See also Acts 2:38-41, 3:26; 5:29-32; John 3:16-18, and 1Cor. 15:49-54.)
If you decide to follow these Biblical instructions to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus just as God planned for you to do, then print out this article and mark your calendar so you can remember when each important day falls this year (2005). The anniversary of Jesus’ last meal comes the Friday evening of April 22. The next day, April 23 is the anniversary of the day he was crucified, and was called the “preparation” day for the “high day”. This “high day” comes Sunday, April 24 and is the day you should begin eating bread made without leavening and it is a day for assembling with others celebrating the Days of Unleavened Bread. In obeying God’s commands regarding that day, do no physical work. Prior to that day you should clear the leavening and leavened products out of your home—remember Paul shows us that it represents our sins. During the entire week you should plan to avoid leavened products (anything that has baking soda, yeast or baking powder in it), and eat unleavened bread that symbolizes the body of Jesus, broken for you. You may also eat other food—you don’t have to only eat bread. The concluding holy day falls on Saturday, April 30th this year. It too, is a day to rest from work and turn to God in a holy assembly. We will be observing a portion of these days here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the last day in a nearby location. Email us for more information. If you aren’t near this area, you may be able to locate a group to meet with to observe these Christian holy days by contacting the United Church of God at www.ucg.org or The Church of God, International at www.cgi.org or The Churches of God Outreach Ministries at www.cgom.org or Christian Educational Ministries at www.cemnetwork.com . The CEM website also has a calendar showing the dates of Passover in other years, www.cemnetwork.com/events/index.php#holy.
Ask God’s help in locating a place to observe these “high days”. But even if you must observe them in your own home, remember that God sees your obedience to Him in honoring the days He has set aside for us to remember the sacrifice and resurrection of his precious Son—our Messiah, our King, our Savior! How precious in His eyes is the sight of ones who love Jesus honoring and celebrating the days that God Himself loves!
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Pastor Dianne D. McDonnell, Freedom Ministry
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