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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Easter History - part I

I am curious about people who say Easter is pagan. I wonder how they came to their conclusions. What started them on this road? What study did they do? What information did they consider and what did they leave out? Did they genuinely try to understand the matter before they reached a conclusion?

I can tell you what led me there back when I was much younger. My situation is rather unique, however. I'm not interested in telling about me. I want to know about how other people got there.

Some people are so militantly against Easter that I wonder if they thoughtfully considered the matter at all. Goodness knows that fairly well describes me while I was a true Armstrong believer. I only wanted to find what I already believed. I was thoroughly biased. I wanted to hate Easter. I didn't understand it, I never really liked it, and I was told a lot about it so I thought I understood it. I did not.

As it turns out, a lot of people observe Easter. So, I figure I’d better find out all I can about it if I’m going to condemn people as unsaved pagans for keeping it. But what happens when you find out something you have so much invested in is not true? Well, read on and find out.

This will be part one of a two-part study into Easter. In this part, we will investigate the details of Passover and Jesus’ death. Most of this will be about Passover and timing. We definitely will compare and contrast what Herbert Armstrong taught, therefore what the Church of God groups continue to teach, seeing as this entire blog is about those sorts of things, with what the Jews do and what the Bible actually says. We need to look at this first because in part two we will investigate how these things tie in to Easter.


WHAT IS EASTER ANYWAY?

Easter is the day on which most Christians celebrate the death and resurrection, but mostly the resurrection, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Easter is the culmination of two different times: the Holy Week, which commemorates the events of the week in which Jesus was crucified, and the season of Lent, where people fast and pray for a period of time, usually 40 days, until Easter day.

Easter day, also called Resurrection Sunday, is considered by most to be the New Covenant Passover because of how it originated in a remembrance of the Last Supper, which was (so it seems to us here anyway) a Passover Seder. There is some debate whether the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. Most say yes, and not just based on when it was but also based on hints of symbolism found in the Gospels.

The earliest Christians, including the Apostles themselves, remembered the Last Supper annually. We go into this in far greater depth in the Easter FAQ. Some observed it every year on the 14th of Nissan according to the Hebrew calendar, and some observed it every year on the first Sunday after the 14th of Nissan. The earliest name given to the remembrance was Pascha, that is, Passover. That name is still used in most countries. Only Germanic languages call it something different. When the early church discussed this day, they used the same word as they did for Passover. In Latin, that is Pascha. When Christianity came to Germany, they did what Germans do and renamed it after the month in which it fell.

In the old Catholic traditions, the traditions that spread through Europe, Easter is more than just a day, it is a season (in old English the word for season is “tide”; eg. “Easter tide”) that continues 50 days until Pentecost. This is a continuation from the ancient Israelites. Pentecost has always been inseparably linked to Passover.


WHAT IS PASSOVER?

To find the origins of Easter, we need to look first at the Jewish Passover.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were foretold to be in captivity in Egypt 400 years. No, they didn’t build the pyramids in Giza. That’s all legends and Hollywood. When that time was up, God worked ten miraculous plagues to convince the Egyptians to let the Israelites go. We can read in Exodus about the very first Passover, where the Israelites were spared by God from the 10th Plague on Egypt. The Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb or a kid goat then put its blood on their doorways. God would see the blood then skip that house, sparing it from the plague.

This from a Judaism 101 article on “Pesach: Passover”:

“The name ‘Pesach’ (PAY-sahch, with a ‘ch’ as in the Scottish ‘loch’) comes from the Hebrew root Pei-Samekh-Cheit , meaning to pass through, to pass over, to exempt or to spare. It refers to the fact that G-d ‘passed over’ the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. ‘Pesach’ is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday.”
-Judaism 101, Pesach

It should be obvious to Christians that the lamb and its blood represented the body and blood of Jesus, who is our Passover Lamb (I COR. 5: 7).

The sacrifice had to be roasted in fire, whole, and eaten with bitter herbs which symbolize the bitter oppression of slavery. The bread for the meal had to be unleavened, to symbolize the haste of the event. The Israelites had to eat in haste because they were leaving Egypt that very night.
Israel was commanded to repeat this meal every year at a specific time in honor of that event, so they would always remember it was God who saved them. This meal is now called the Seder. This is the meal Jesus, as a Jew in the Old Covenant period, was eating on the night He was betrayed.
Passover, as we can see in Leviticus 23: 5, is a single day that leads into a seven-day festival. Passover begins on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan/Abib.


PASSOVER TRADITIONS

Everyone should know this blog is dedicated to an inspection of the doctrines and practices of Herbert W Armstrong and the Church of God groups that descend from his theology. We call this movement “Armstrongism” for lack of a better term.

In Armstrongism, Passover has been separated into its own isolated day, solitary as an oyster, contained solely within the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, with a ceremonial meal of unleavened bread and wine at the start, and another observance called "Night to be Much Observed" at the end which carries over well into the 15th. Then comes a seven-day celebration called “Days of Unleavened Bread”, which we often abbreviate as “DOUB”. The DOUB has a holy day at the start and a holy day at the finish, where no work may be done. During the DOUB, no leavening may be eaten at all. It isn't just that no leavened bread may be eaten. No leavening may exist in your home at all. Not even crumbs. People start days ahead of time, vacuuming out their cars and toasters (and yet still managing to miss places every year).

That's not exactly how the Jews do things.

Jews call the whole thing “Passover” or “Matzot” after the unleavened matzo bread. Passover starts on the 14th, but the Seder is at the end and goes well into the 15th. The Seder is eaten with unleavened bread because the original was, and because it flows straight into the annual holy day that starts the period where no leavening may be present. It is on the day of Passover, on the 14th, when the Jews put away leavening from their houses. The Seder is not just a simple matzo and wine, but a highly stylized meal with various items and rituals, each conveying its own particular meaning to the event.

Up until the time when the second temple was destroyed, there was another day in there called the Day/Feast of Firstfruits. The wording of Leviticus 23: 9-14 puts it on the morning after the Sabbath during the Passover week. The Pharisees, as they seem to do, thought about it and concluded the Sabbath referred to is not a weekly Sabbath but the annual Sabbath at the start of the Feast, regardless of the weekday. It was on that Day of Firstfruits when the Wave Sheaf was cut and offered. It was the year's first harvest. This act tied Passover to the ripening barley harvest. Oddly, Firstfruits is practically ignored in Armstrongism. Some even teach Pentecost is the Feast of Firstfruits.

Armstrongism does focus quite a bit on Jesus during the Passover meal, but then this focus drops off precipitously. You may think this odd, but both the Judaism and Armstrongism remember the first Passover and the Exodus at the Passover meal. Why would Herbert Armstrong teach that, you ask? Because he believed a certain 18th century conspiracy theory called British-Israelism (aka Anglo-Israelism), which says the ten northern tribes of Israel migrated north into Europe after they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and certain European nations are modern Israelites without knowing it. It was considered a great proof of Herbert Armstrong’s authority and key to understanding prophecy. Archaeology, liknguistics, and DNA have proven this theory false, and it is falling out of favor in Armstrongism recently. But the Passover traditions are solidified.

The point of this section is to compare and contrast the practices of Armstrongism and Judaism to demonstrate they are not the same. I thought this was important for two reasons. First, when I was an Armstrongist, I did not understand these differences. Turns out they get important as the discussion goes on. Second, so readers would understand Herbert Armstrong did not just copy Judaism. They have similarities but are not interchangeable. If you are here reading but are not from an Armstrongist background, you might want to know this.


TIMING OF PASSOVER

If there is a debate over whether the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, it pales in comparison to the debate on when the Seder should be eaten. The law is clear that it should be on the 14th day of the month of Nissan, but the law says “at evening”. Understand that in Hebrew tradition, days begin at sundown. That detail right there is the crux of the entire Passover debate. When is evening? If the days end and start at sundown, each day has two possible evenings. Well, which was it, the first or the second?

Some people are adamant that it must be the first evening, at the very beginning of the day. The Jews do not see it that way. At least since the second temple period, the Pharisees have interpreted the law as referring to the second evening, at the very end of the day. Which is right? That’s what the debate is all about! Both sides have their evidence.

I am not going to try to solve that debate today. I have an opinion which I will not state directly but if you are clever, you will recognize it. That really is outside the scope of this article (this article is about Easter, not Passover). I just want to point out the fact that there is an unsettled debate and give a few points from each side to illustrate something.

(LEV. 23: 4-8) 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. 5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.

Verse 5 says the Passover is on the 14th day of the first month - which is the month of Nissan/Abib. Armstrongism stops here, focuses on the word twilight / evening, and concludes the Passover meal is eaten at the very start of the 14th. If you ask a Jew when the Passover Seder is, they will say the Passover starts on the 14th, but the Seder meal is early on the 15th, not early on the 14th. The Seder meal would have been eaten well into the 15th. Why? Because the Jews have a different definition of evening.


DID THE JEWS GET THE TIMING RIGHT?

I will not give a definite yes or no answer here. I only want to briefly explain why the Jews do what they do. I mean, aside from the fact it’s their language, history, religion, scriptures, and culture, and they feel they should be the ones to set the tone.

The Passover lamb was chosen late on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan/Abib (EXO. 12: 3). The lamb is tested for blemishes and declared spotless (EXO. 12: 6), just as Jesus was questioned by the leaders of the Jews and declared without fault by Pilot (LUK. 23 4). Then, lambs were killed on the 14th (EXO. 12: 6).

Some people treat it as if you can go back to the very first command to Israel in Egypt and focus on those directions as if they were the only directions on the subject, and all the directions anyone would ever need. That is not so! The entire viewpoint rests on one underlying premise: the law does not change. But is that really the case? Did the law of Passover change at any point? Let's investigate that briefly.

In Exodus 12, the Israelites were killing, cooking, and eating the Passover at home. How else could they mark the doorposts and lintels? They were home. Now, fast forward in time to when Israel is a nation in the wilderness, anticipating a time when they are millions settled in cities across their own land. We come to Deuteronomy 16, where we read:

(DEO. 16: 5-7) "5 You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, 6 but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents."

Anyone from an Armstrongist background will know that phrase "where the Lord God will choose". That is for another post.
The part that interests us today is the obvious change in the Passover instructions regarding where Israel could kill and roast the lamb. No longer could they do that at home. Now, it was to be done outside the camp, which anticipates the day when it would be done in Jerusalem. This is a change in the law. What's more, it's one with a definite effect on when to eat the Seder.

If millions needed to go to Jerusalem for the Passover, as the law required, where each would have their lamb killed and roasted by the priests, as the law required, there is absolutely no way that many people with that many lambs could eat it at the start of the day. Perhaps that was possible in Exodus 12, but it certainly isn't the case in Deuteronomy 16. Josephus tells is this happened between the ninth hour and the eleventh (3PM to 5 PM). Some estimates say it took much longer than that. At any rate, it took hours just to kill the lambs. That isn’t including roasting them and preparing the rest of the Seder. That is why the law changed. An unchanging, inflexible law is an untenable premise.

Perhaps people look at the Jews today and think the Seder they eat at home isn’t so bad and there is no reason why that can’t be done quickly at the very start of the 14th. That misses the point entirely. The Jews today didn’t just recently settle in directly from the Exodus. Jewish customs today descend from the second temple period. There was nothing easy about killing and roasting a million lambs at the Temple. That absolutely cannot be done quickly. And that cannot just be ignored when considering what is done today.

It is grossly oversimplistic to claim Jews are just following some manmade tradition. They eat it when they do because they know their history and the nuances of their own language a lot better than some group of Sabbatarians in the United States fumbling through the Strong's Concordance trying to figure out what the word evening means.

Now we must ask, what of the Jews outside of Judea? There were Jews outside of Judea, called the Diaspora, which means "dispersion" because they were scattered. History shows they changed the timing of Passover. Why? Because they had to.

The Jews in the Diaspora keep an eight-day Passover. They added a day. But this is no change from careless flippancy. This is a change made from necessity and careful consideration. This is not how things were originally, and everyone admits that. The story behind it is quite interesting. Have you ever watched or read Lord of the Rings? Remember the part where Gondor calls for aid and they light the bonfires across the mountain tops to signal the call? That is the same way Passover was announced. Clever as that system was, you can imagine that wasn't effective when you live farther away than those signal fires reached. They were also prone to being messed with, especially by them pesky Samaritans. When the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, the system was abandoned. Now how do you know what day it is?

Maybe it would help you to see the gravity of this if you are reminded of how the calendar worked at the Temple in Israel. Two male witnesses in Jerusalem would go out and observe the moon. If they both agreed they saw the new moon, the Sanhedrin would confirm this. Next, the Sanhedrin would figure out how long the previous month was. Then they would send the signal of the new month. This was not calendar-based. To be a Jew in the Diaspora was to be practically cut off from the calendar. They weren’t authorized to do their own calendar observations. They couldn’t plan but a few weeks in advance. They had to do something. The answer is quite simple – keep an additional day just to be safe.
That is one day in advance, by the way. For example, Diaspora Jews would be eating a Seder at the same time Jesus did.

I hope we can sympathize with the Diaspora Jews for adding a day just to make sure that at some point they would be observing at the right time. The extra day is insurance so to speak. It wasn’t just Passover, either. This same thing went for other holy days. The practice continues to this very day.

There is no law for this situation. No guidance from Moses. God predicted the scattering from the start, but the law was silent. Seems to me as if God was saying, look, once the scattering happens, you’re on your own. It isn’t that there was a slack opinion, and everyone just did what was right in their own eyes. They seriously tried their best! There was no law but there was a precedent: Passover was always flexible. Fun fact: Numbers 9: 9-13 has a second Passover, in case something happened to prevent people from observing it the first time around. Do you see how the law is actually quite flexible after all? Why, it’s almost as if the law was made for man, not man for the law.


DID HERBERT ARMSTRONG GET THE TIMING RIGHT?

And what of those who say the Jews got it wrong? How do they tally up? I have heard so very many and complicated explanations in Armstrongism for why the Jews do not keep their own celebrations correctly. "Jews follow the traditions of men rather than God," is written in official church publications. (For more on that, see our article “My Opinions Are God’s Opinions”.) As we saw earlier, the reality is not so simple.

Armstrongists argue this timing strenuously, as they do with all calendar issues. But this “14th/15th controversy” is particularly potent and divisive among them. Few things cause church splits like a calendar controversy. Some go off on multi-part sermons with vivid scenarios and deep studies into the “real” meaning of the Hebrew word “evenings” and et cetera (I sat through my share of those from Ron Weinland). I don't fault anyone for trying to solve what is obviously a puzzle, but Armstrong’s solution is not without its own issues.

I’ve made a handy little chart to highlight some of the differences.

Jesus' timeline of events:

Nissan 13

Nissan 13/14

Nissan 14

Nissan 14/15

Day Night Day Night
Prepare upper
room.
                             
Last Supper and arrest.
Jews start
de-leavening.
Trial, crucifixion, burial.
Slaughter lambs
Finish de-leavening.
Jews eat Seder.

Armstrongism's view of events:

Nissan 13
Thursday

Nissan 13/14
Thu/Fri

Nissan 14
Friday

Nissan 14/15
Fri/Sat

Day Night Day Night
Jews should be
de-leavening.
                           
Last Supper and arrest.
Jews should be killing
lambs and eating
Seder.
Trial, crucifixion, burial.
Slaughter lambs
Jews not required to
do anything.
Night to be Much
Observed.
Start of Unleavened
Bread.

Church of God splinter groups observe Passover one day sooner than the Jews, at the beginning of the 14th - or in other words, immediately after the 13th of Nisan becomes the 14th. Look at any Holy Day calendar from any Church of God splinter group and compare that timing of Passover to any Jewish website. See the difference?

Right now, someone out there is saying, "When Jesus ate the Last Supper on the 14th, He was restoring the correct timing of Passover, which had erred over the years. We should be obeying God rather than man!" Based on what proof? Did Jesus say that is what He was doing? No. Is that mentioned earlier in His ministry? No. That wasn't His first Passover, you know. Do the Apostles clarify that later? No. Does anyone anywhere in the New Testament say that? No. So, this is just an opinion, an assumption, based on a heavy dose of black or white thinking and striving over the words evening and twilight.

Did we not just read in Exodus 12 how the lambs were selected on the 10th and killed on the 14th? When we look closely at Exodus 12, verse 6 says 'twilight' in English, which is translated from the Hebrew word haarbayim. The -yim suffix indicates the word is plural. More specifically, it is dual. That's dual, as in two evenings. Being dual, it is transliterated as "between the evenings" or “between the two evenings”.
Now, find a solid definition of that phrase and you'll have solved one of the greatest debates there is. Do you know why it’s debated? Because there is no clear definition. So, the Pharisees took it upon themselves to define it. Ever since then, people have been complaining.

Well, well. It’s not as simple as “evening is at the start of the day” after all. People tend to grossly oversimplify the issue by saying things like, "Genesis 1: 13 says 'and the evening and the morning were the third day' so evening comes before morning." Can you see how that doesn't even begin to answer what "between the two evenings" means?

Let's assume for a moment that Herbert Armstrong was on to something and evening is correctly defined as a period after the very start of the day. Let's take that definition and apply it to Exodus 12: 18 so we can see something.

(EXO. 12: 18) "In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening."

I will translate that into Armstrong for you. "From early on the Passover, to early on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, you will eat unleavened bread."

This is problematic for Armstrong for four reasons at least.
First, in their view, the seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread starts on the day after Passover, not on Passover. The First Day of Unleavened Bread is the 15th. Here, the time for unleavened bread starts on the 14th. With their commitment to evening being at the start of a day, this cannot mean the end of the 14th. Ask yourself this question - if Passover is truly a separate thing from the Days of Unleavened Bread, then why observe the Passover without leaven when it simply isn’t time yet? Either the 14th is time for unleavened bread, or the Seder should be on the 15th.
Second, in their view, Passover is separate from the feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover, being separate, doesn’t count as a day for eating unleavened bread. It’s Passover plus seven days of unleavened bread. Here it is eight days.
Third, the time for eating unleavened bread ends early on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. Why would that be? Why not end at the end of that day?
Fourth, given that definition of evening, why would you start the period of unleavened bread after the start of a day rather than immediately at the very start of the day? In other words, why at evening specifically and not at sunset?
My point here is everybody who strives for a rigid, inflexible, either/or, one size fits all definition of evening has issues in this debate. Since the Armstrong interpretation does that, it has issues too. They thought they solved the issue, only to create others.

In fact, here is another issue.
If Jesus ate the Seder on the “correct” time and the Jews did not, then that would also mean that Jesus died a day after the “correct” slaughtering of the Passover lambs. The symbolism of Jesus being our Passover Lamb is wrecked! The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

The unavoidable fact is Jesus ate the Lord’s Supper on the 14th, one day before his fellow countrymen. That’s the fact. What’s the explanation? For me, the simplest and least destructive explanation is He did it because He had to, not because He was correcting the timing. He wanted to eat it, He couldn't eat it if He was dead, so He ate it a day early, as was His right, and it did technically fit the law. This afforded His crucifixion to be at the time of the lambs were being slaughtered thus preserving the symbolism of Him being our Passover lamb.

Think of it this way - by the greatness of God, the order of events of the crucifixion week worked in the only way possible to perfectly satisfy Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, plus the timing of the Jews, satisfying the law and preserving the symbolism. God was equal to the challenge. Why, it’s almost as if it was prearranged this way. Praise the Lord


WHAT ABOUT THE NIGHT TO BE MUCH OBSERVED?

I briefly mentioned this earlier. You might have missed it. It bears more investigation.

In the middle of a chapter dedicated entirely to Passover, somehow Herbert Armstrong found another event entirely. Armstrong cited Exodus 12: 42 and created another special observance called the “Night to Be Much Observed” (aka. Night to be Much Remembered) at the beginning of the15th of Nissan. After the 14th ends at sundown and the 15th has begun, when the Jews are eating the Passover Seder, Armstrongists are eating another meal entirely. Yes, two meals, one an evening after the other.

Originally, the Night to be Much Observed was called the Night to be Much Remembered. That was changed in the 1990s. Why the two names? Because it's made up! When the preferred Bible translation changed, the name changed. Perhaps, soon it will be "Night of Solemn Observance" [NKJV] or even "Night of Vigil" [CSB].

Let's think about the timing in Exodus 12.
The ancient Israelites slaughtered the lambs, marked their doorposts at dusk, ate the Passover after dark, and were kicked out of Egypt that same night (EXO. 12: 31-39). The next evening, they were at Succoth. There wasn't time for another ritual meal. There wasn’t reason for another ritual meal. There wasn’t symbolism for another ritual meal. What about Succoth deserved much remembering?

The Bible is not always in strict chronological order. Just because Exo. 12: 42 appears in the text after the story about the day Israel left Egypt doesn’t mean the night to be observed comes chronologically after Israel left Egypt. Exodus 12: 40-42 is an inset. It refers back to the Passover again, since the entire chapter is about the Passover. The next verses have clearly returned to the Passover. Armstrong simply missed the boat on this one.

The Night to be Much Observed is the kind of anomaly that happens when you have your equation wrong. It's a glitch indicating an error in the system. The error is that Exodus 12: 42 is speaking about the Passover night being a night of vigil to be much remembered. Correct that improper reading, and the glitch goes away.

We cannot agree with Armstrong’s view of timing. There is only one meal, the Seder, not two. There is no separate Night to be Much Observed, only Passover. Are the Jews just “following a man”? Maybe they are and maybe they aren't. But there's plenty of that accusation to go around. These same Church of God splinters rely on the authority one man, Herbert Armstrong, for the Night to be Much Observed. Then they turn right around and rely on the authority of the 'worldly' Jews to declare the correct timing of the months, weekly Sabbaths, and other annual holy days. So, the Jews are wrong (when they contradict Herbert Armstrong) and the Jews are right (when they agree with Herbert Armstrong). How convenient!

For more, see our article "Should Christians Celebrate the 'Night to be Much Observed'?"


PASCHA VS PASSOVER?

Jesus ate the Last Supper as a Passover Seder. (I already admitted this is debated. I said what I said.)
(LUK. 22: 8) And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”

The Last Supper was a Seder. Christians observe the Last Supper. But does this mean Christians should be observing Passover just like the Jews? Should our meal be a Seder and our thoughts be on the Exodus?
The Passover is a very specific event with very specific rituals and imagery for a very specific people during a very specific time. Just look at this regulation regarding the Passover:

(EXO. 12: 43-49) 43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. 44 But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. 45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. 46 In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.

If we are concerned about the Old Covenant law, then Gentiles are forbidden from participating in Passover, unless they are circumcised and become Proselytes. That's the law. Gentiles are excluded!

“The law! The law! Just not THAT law.” Oh, how very many times I have heard, “The law is eternal,” and, “Not one jot or one tittle!” Yet, the law is not being kept, is it? Certainly not! “God gave us His holy days!” Did He? Looks to me like the law says God gave the Jews holy days. If you are a Gentile keeping Passover, then you are breaking the law. Undeterred, they insist, “Jesus didn’t change the law!” Anyone who thinks He didn't must put that lamb down and stop keeping Passover.
Wait, what? You didn’t have a lamb? You only had matzo and wine? What law are you observing exactly??

In the New Covenant, we know that Gentiles most certainly are allowed to take part in the Lord's Supper. We also know circumcision and the law of Moses are not requirements for participation (ACT 15: 1-29). For this and many other reasons, we know the Old Covenant law is not a factor in the New Covenant.

Jesus a Jew in the Old Covenant period, so He ate the Passover because at that time and in that place those things applied to Him. The Gospels might be in the New Testament, but almost every word in them pictures the Old Covenant period. Then He died, ending the Old Covenant. But even as He ate, He instituted a new event with new rituals and new imagery for a New Covenant for all people for all time.

Jesus emphasized the bread and the wine, which are not the main part of the Passover Seder. He became our lamb. He said that the bread was His flesh, and the wine His blood. This certainly is not part of Seder. Then there was the concentration on service, illustrated by the foot washing. There is no precedent for that in Seder. And then there is the New Covenant. That’s absolutely not pictured in the Seder.

Finally, we have these words:

(LUK. 22: 19) …do this in remembrance of Me.

Not in remembrance of Moses, nor of slavery in Egypt, nor the 10th plague, nor of the Exodus, nor the law, nor in the night to be much remembered, but in remembrance of Him (I COR. 11: 24-26). That makes the biggest difference of all. There is no mention of the Exodus from Egypt, but an exodus from slavery to sin and slavery to death. There is no mention of a Red Sea crossing, but a baptism into the community of Life.

For all the people who demand that what we are to do is to continue in the Old Covenant observance of Passover, this is simply not accurate. Jesus fulfilled the law (MAT. 3: 15; 5: 17; LUK. 22: 44). He has made the Old obsolete (HEB. 8: 13); behold all things are new (II COR. 5: 17)! All of these things point to Him (COL. 2: 17). This is the New Covenant. A New Covenant in His blood.

(MAT. 26: 28) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
(MAR. 14: 24) And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
(LUK. 22: 20) Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

So, what do we see here? The Last Supper was a Seder, and we have a remembrance of the Last Supper, but our remembrance is not a Passover Seder. The name is the same, but everything else is changed. The New Covenant Pascha is not a continuation of the Old Covenant Passover.


CONCLUSION

In part one, we have seen that the Jews do observe Passover on the 15th of Nisan, but Jesus made the decision to eat the Last Supper a day earlier, on the 14th. We have seen the issue isn’t nearly so simple as, “Evenings are at the start of the day.” We have seen how Passover was somewhat flexible, not utterly rigid. We have seen how Passover laws changed slightly over time. We have seen that the New Covenant Pascha is not the same thing as the Old Covenant Passover. And we have seen Herbert Armstrong’s view of the timing of these things is not representative of the whole picture and causes its own issues.

Passover is not a wholly separate event from the Days of Unleavened Bread. They blend together. The Night to Be Much Remembered/Observed is not a separate day from Passover. It is the Passover. And the Days of Unleavened Bread are not wholly separate from Pentecost. Pentecost depends on the Day of Firstfruits with its wave sheaf offering. It all flows together beautifully.

The history of Easter depends on the history of Passover.
The timing of Passover starts with the sundown which ends the 13th and begins the 14th of Nisan. This is when the Jews began to remove the leaven from their homes. This is the night of the original Passover. This is the night on which Jesus ate the Last Supper and was arrested. Night comes and Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. He spends the night in trials and in jail. Mark goes out of his way to tell us this was a Friday. At about the time of the daily sacrifice, 9 AM, Jesus was scourged. Then He was declared blameless by Pilot – just like a Passover lamb - and sent to die. He was hung on the cross around noon. After noon was the slaughter of the Passover lambs. Josephus tells us that was from about 3 PM to 5 PM. During that very procedure, our Lord died to fulfill the symbolism and He became our Passover Lamb. No doubt the priests were still slaughtering lambs when the earthquake hit and the veil was torn in two. The lambs were being roasted with bitter herbs while Jesus’ body was being prepared with oils and spices to go into the tomb by certain woman of Galilee, along with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. All of this happened “between the two evenings”. He was laid into the tomb before sundown. Sundown is roughly 6 PM, so at this point He was already dead for about three hours. As sundown came, the 15th of Nisan began, and the Jews began to eat the Seder. Now it was the first day of Unleavened Bread, an annual holy day and a weekly Sabbath both, and everyone rested from their regular work while Jesus’ body rested in the tomb. After sundown, the women of Galilee prepared more spices and the Pharisees went to Pilate to ask for a guard to be placed at the tomb. On Sunday, the first day of the week, with inclusive counting this is the third day from His death, our Lord was found risen from the tomb, the First of the Firstfruits. In the morning, before it was light, the ladies left home with their spices to visit the tomb, only to find it empty. Shortly thereafter, He fulfilled the symbolism of the Wave Sheaf offering which was performed on the Day of Firstfruits. He fulfilled it according to the day after the weekly Sabbath, which the Sadducees followed, and the day after the annual Sabbath, as the Pharisees followed.

Only a Friday-Sunday crucifixion scenario can do this. Only in a Friday-Sunday crucifixion scenario do all of these things line up together. No other timing scenario can complete all of this so perfectly. For all its confusion and all its debates and all its changes over time, God played the Passover timeline like a harp.

(I COR. 11: 23-26) 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

In Part II of this series, we will talk more about Easter.