QUESTION: At an ecumenical luncheon I heard the rabbi of a local synagogue condemn your group for misusing Jewish religious symbols and giving them a Christological meaning. He claimed that Jews for Jesus uses Jewish holidays and symbols to convey the illusion that you are still Jews when, in fact, you are Christians. He also said that you distort the meaning of what is Jewish and make it bait on a Christian fishhook to catch unwary Jews.” He was especially critical about the fact that you teach about Passover in the churches, giving it “false” Christian symbolism. As a friend of your ministry, how can I defend you against such accusations?
ANSWER: Regardless of what anyone says, we are Jews in that we are physically descended from Abraham. At the same time we are also Christians—those who believe in and follow Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. One classification does not cancel out the other, even though rabbis like to teach that Judaism and Christianity are mutually exclusive categories and hence are antithetical to one another.
As for the accusation that we “fraudulently use Jewish symbols and Jewish holidays,” we have a right to use Jewish symbols by virtue of our ancestry, and we have a right to celebrate Passover and other Jewish holidays and interpret them according to the teachings of Scripture. The accusation would only be valid if the New Testament were false.
When we bring our Christ in the Passover presentation to the churches we do not pervert the meaning of the Paschal lamb or any of the other Passover symbols. We merely tell what Jesus Himself taught His disciples at the Last Supper, which was a Passover celebration (See Matthew 26:18-30).
In Matthew 26:28 we read, “…as they were eating, Jesus took [unleavened] bread [matzoh], blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat: this is My body.’ Then He took the cup [the Passover wine regarded by many rabbis as a symbol of the blood of the Passover lamb], and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'”
As Jewish believers who have learned this symbolism from Scripture, we do not pervert the meaning of Passover. Rather we rejoice in discovering its true spiritual significance. From the very beginning, the entire Passover observance was filled with prophetic symbolism of the promised Messiah/Redeemer. The Passover lamb’s blood on the doorpost saved the Israelites from the scourge of the Death Angel and opened the path to freedom from Egyptian bondage. Centuries later John (Yochanon) the Baptist (a Jewish prophet and son of a devout Temple priest) pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The Messiah Yeshua came as God’s ultimate cleansing sacrifice. His blood is efficacious to save all people (not only Jews) from the slavery and penalty of sin and from the terrible punishment of the second death.
Our faith commitment to Messiah Yeshua as the Lamb of God in no way negates the meaning of the first Passover. Rather, it fulfills it. Our faith in God’s Messiah, the Lamb of God, does not make us non-Jews but Jews who try with all our hearts and souls to obey the entire teachings of Holy Scripture from Moses (the Pentateuch) to the book of Revelation.