Growing up in a Jewish Jesus-believing family can make a kid scrappy, especially if said kid inherited scrappy genes from one or both parents to begin with. So if Passover found me patiently munching a peanut butter and jelly on matzoh sandwich (which clings to the roof of one’s mouth like a two-year-old to her pacifier), you’ll understand if the patience was rather short lived. Sooner or later, some confused classmate had to ask why I was eating matzoh and I would reply, Because, like I told you before, I’m Jewish.”
“But,” the classmate would protest, “last week you said you were a Christian.”
“I am. I’m a Jewish Christian.”
“You can’t be both.”
“Yes I can.”
“No you can’t.”
“Yes I can.” Okay, so I always had to have the last word. Nobody was going to tell me I wasn’t Jewish when I had to sit and eat dry crumbly matzoh sandwiches for a week.
You want to know the funny part? When it came down to “You can’t be both, you have to choose,” no one ever said, “You’re not a Christian.” It was always, “You’re not Jewish.”
In fact, Jesus came first in our house, but not to the exclusion of our Jewishness. When we celebrated holidays like Pesach, we celebrated them with the understanding that our faith made us different from most other Jews. I knew that we belonged to the Jewish people whether they wanted us or not…but I also knew that we belonged to Jesus, and there was no question that He wanted us. He wanted us to belong to Him and He wanted us to await His coming with eagerness. Especially at Passover.
You see, toward the end of the Passover seder, it is traditional for the children to go to the door to see if Elijah has come. According to the prophet Malachi, Elijah will announce the arrival of the Messiah. Each year in Jewish homes around the world, Jewish children open the door, looking this way and that for a sign of the prophet. I remember my own anticipation and the suspense I felt as I opened the door. Would I be face to face with a craggy old silver-haired Elijah? Would the Messiah be right behind him—or would Elijah simply tell us that He was coming soon? I felt disappointed when all that greeted me was the chilly night air.
“But,” you say, “didn’t you know the Messiah had already come?” Yes, I knew. And I knew He was coming again. And then, when everyone could see my Messiah, never again would I have to argue that you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. Everyone would know.
That was then; this is now. And now is the time for us (Jews for Jesus, you, everyone who loves the Lord and loves Jewish people) to be Elijahs—whether or not we are craggy and/or silver-haired. Until the prophet arrives to let people know that the Messiah Jesus is real, and that He coming, that job falls to all of us. Passover is the Festival of Redemption. What better time to tell a friend about the risen Redeemer?
Pesach (pronounced pay-sock; if you want to be authentic, pronounce the “ch” as a combination of the letters k and h) is simply the Hebrew word for Passover. This year Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 10.
seder (pronounced say-dur) is the traditional ceremonial meal at Passover. What we now refer to as Jesus’ Last Supper was actually a Passover seder.