Shalom and a happy Seder to you all and a happy Easter to you all.
This year, our Jewish brothers and sisters are celebrating Passover in isolation due to recent events concerning the worldwide pandemic, Covid-19. This is the same festival Jesus celebrated, on the night of his arrest, when he ate the Last Supper with his disciples.
This meal serves as the basis for the Christian ritual of communion or Eucharist to the present day. Jesus broke bread, blessed it, gave thanks and drank a cup of wine (but not THE cup of wine).
But what did He do at the end of the meal, the last part of the last supper?
What happened at the end of the Last Supper?
The Gospels tell us “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26).
The word hymn is a translation of the Hebrew word Hallel (הַלֵּל), a reference to the psalms of praise (113-118), which are sung on Passover eve as part of the Seder feast.
Jesus must have been fond of these psalms whose central message is deliverance.
The word Hallel means “praise” in Hebrew. It is one of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible. It is also the root of the word Halleluia (הַלָּלוּיָהּ), which means “Praise unto God” as well as the name of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew, Tehilim (תְּהִלִּים). It is precisely the book of Tehilim (Psalms 118:25-26) that is being quoted on Palm Sunday when the crowds proclaimed “Hosanna… Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9).
I mention all this because of course, Seder, or Passover is celebrated at the same time as the Christian feast of Easter since our calendar and the Jewish calendar are both based upon the same event, the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.
Many Messianic Jews, that is Jews who have converted to Christianity and many Christians in the Eastern Orthodox faith believe that our western calendar of events if slightly out.
They assert that the Passover feast in that year that Jesus died, which was a special year, held its Passover on Monday of the week allowing for two days of preparation and two days for the Year of Jubilee celebratory Passover which only happened once every 50 years. (Leviticus 25:1–4, 8–10,)
This being the case, they say, Jesus was arrested on Monday evening after 6pm because in Jewish time scale the day begins at 6am and ends at 6pm. He had left the Passover feast with His disciples and gone to the Mount of Olives to pray. Jesus then was taken before the Sanhedrin and then before the Governor, Pilate in the early hours of Tuesday morning, tried, scourged and beaten and then at 9am, the third hour, He was nailed to the cross.
He hung there until the ninth hour (3pm) and then VOLUNTARILY gave up His Spirit, the final human act of our great redeemer. Since according to Jewish rules He had to be buried by sundown His body was removed from the cross and given to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (remember him from John:3,3) and He was hastily buried in the tomb.
Again to observe all Jewish law He had to be in the tomb for three days, 72 hours, in order to be declared legally dead (see the parallel with the death of Lazarus), So He goes into the tomb on Tuesday before the night falls. He is in the tomb, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then, at or before dawn on the Sabbath, Saturday, He rises from the dead and is seen and witnessed and the rest you know.
So how are the dates different? Well the answer probably lies in a bad translation and a complete misunderstanding by the Gentile writers who knew nothing about Jewish festivals and rites. They translated Mark 16:2 as,” Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” In fact many believe that the early translators misread day for Sabbath. This would then read, “Very early in the morning, on the first Sabbath of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” The first Sabbath of course marked the beginning of the 50 days of Pentecost. This thinking puts a whole different element on History but causes us no real confusion since the act and the fact are one and the same.
What is important to us, as Christians and as Messianic Jews is the word Halleluiah הַלָּלוּיָהּ. Jesus and His disciples ended the Seder with Praises to God and we enter our Easter celebration with Praises to God, however you do this best, given the current circumstances.
Praise God with all your being. Praise Him in songs and celebrations.
Psalm 148 sums it all up for us:
Praise the Lord.]
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, 6 and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, 8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, 9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, 11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, 12 young men and women, old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendour is above the earth and the heavens. 14 And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.
May God stir your hearts to praise and songs of thanksgiving as we celebrate Seder in our hearts and Easter with our hearts and minds and thanking God for His great gift to us of forgiveness of our sins, true redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our belief brings us faith and our faith takes us into the future not unknown because we who believe and trust know what is in store for us and we embrace it with total assurance.
God bless you.