In recent days my friend Pete Rambo and I have enjoyed a lively email exchange with a Jewish brother. By this time we have identified many of the key differences in our beliefs and the ways we perceive the world. I think it is safe to say we are confident enough in our relationship that we can ask some pointed questions without fear of alienating one another. The good thing is that we are all curious about what we believe, and we genuinely want to know how we each perceive the world. This has been eye-opening on all sides. I have learned that some of the things I thought I knew about Jews and Judaism were not quite right, just as our friend has learned that some of the things he thought he knew about Christians and Messianic believers were not quite right. This is the kind of dialogue that is essential if we are to come to an understanding of one another and begin to cooperate in bringing Messiah and building his kingdom.
What I share here is a response provided to our friend in answer to two questions. The first concerned our celebration of Passover (Pesach) – as in, why do non-Jews celebrate the Feast, and how do we do it? The second question involved our description of ourselves as something other than Christian. In other words, how is it that we believe in Yeshua, or Jesus, as Messiah, but do not consider ourselves Christians (or at least traditional Christians). In the interest of building mutual understanding, here are my answers to those questions.
This year we participated in a Passover seder with friends in Austin, TX, just as we have done for the last three years. All of our friends have come out of the traditional church, but all embrace Yeshua as Messiah and have a heart to learn and live the Torah as he taught it. This year we had ten people around the table, including our youngest daughter. Although she is 22 and about to graduate from the University of Texas, she was still the youngest person there, and it fell to her to ask the traditional questions.
We used a Messianic haggadah from Lion and Lamb Ministries. In years past we have produced a haggadah of our own, but it’s easier to take one from a source we appreciate and modify as we go along. That’s precisely what we did. Since none of us grew up Jewish, we do not know the traditional songs and sayings and prayers. However, we know enough to see where the traditions of Judaism mesh with what we have learned about Yeshua as our Messiah. That is why we are comfortable taking a traditional Jewish seder and inserting Messianic and Christian elements. For example, although we sang a chorus of “Dayeinu”, most of our songs were Christian hymns celebrating the death and resurrection of Yeshua as our Passover Lamb. We had the four cups of wine and we said the traditional prayers in Hebrew (since my wife and I have studied the most, we got to lead the prayers), but we did leave out a few things (such as horseradish – much to my chagrin since I like horseradish).
As expected, the debate between Jim Staley and Chris Rosebrough gave us two full hours of very lively and informative discussion on the question of whether Christians should keep the Sabbath. The link to the archived debate is now available from Passion for Truth Ministries here:
First of all, I compliment Jim Staley and Chris Rosebrough for their courage and candor throughout the debate. Both men prepared well and acquitted themselves as one would expect of brothers in Yeshua who disagree on a matter. The debate did get heated in points, reflecting the passion both men hold for the question of the Sabbath, but it never degenerated into a name-calling shouting match, such as we have become accustomed to seeing in political debates and cable news opinion pieces. That alone is reason to applaud the participants. As moderator, Joseph Farah had little to do but state the rules, keep the time, and wrap up the discussion at the end.
I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12 NKJV)
It would seem that God’s words through the prophet have direct application to us modern followers of Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach). Even though our God has recorded many great things both in His Law (Torah) given through Moses and in the Prophets, Christians tend to avoid those books of the Bible. Whether it is fear of “the Law” and potential legalism associated with observing it, or a perception that the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures, or Tanakh) does not carry the same weight as the New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures), there is a definite lack of understanding of the first two thirds of the Bible. This is a great tragedy, chiefly because it robs us of much blessing, including understanding of our identity as the seed of Abraham, spiritual depth, and fruitfulness in our walk of faith in Messiah.