Jews for Jesus are often confronted with the question, How do you observe Rosh Hashanah,” or “How do you observe Yom Kippur,” or “How do you observe the Sabbath?”
My answer shocks some people: We don’t observe these days and neither do any Jews. To “observe” or to keep a holiday, one must do exactly and precisely as God prescribes.
Today, no one observes the Law and the holidays. It would be impossible to do so, because we no longer have the means to comply with God’s required procedures. Nor do we enforce violations the way God required.
Think about law in general. Most countries and states have speed limits. Whereas the speed limit posted on a particular highway might be 70 miles per hour, many drivers push it to 75 mph. But when that state highway patrolman pulls you over, he is not interested in your interpretation. He doesn’t say, “Uh guys, let me ask you nicely, please don’t go so fast.” For the law to have any force, it must have a penalty.
Whereas the highway patrol cannot see everything precisely, the God of the universe is everywhere watching everything with exact precision all of the time. Some fight a traffic ticket and win because the policeman simply doesn’t show up. But God always “shows up.” And any infraction of His Law carries a penalty.
God did not give us the Ten Suggestions or Ten Guidelines. He gave us Ten Commandments. The difference is this: the commandment says, “Do it or else.” The Law requires precise compliance and it is not a law unless the penalty for violation is in effect.
Observing holidays is the same as observing the Law—there were specific commandments involved. We Jews for Jesus don’t observe holidays, nor do our fellow Jews who attempt to keep the Law. Most holidays required specific Temple sacrifices which are no longer possible. And to keep the Sabbath would have resulted in stoning the person who failed to observe it.
We can no more choose how to observe a holiday than we can choose what God does or does not command. We want choices, but God gives us a way. We want options, but He gives precise directions.
However, Jewish holidays are part of our tradition and family life. Therefore, we can celebrate them. Celebration is a choice.
One would expect those who do not know Christ to cling to the Law. The lost sheep wants to be ruled by some kind of order or law that works to his benefit: the order of the flock around him, the order of the water in the stream, the order of grass under his feet—even when he is not hungry.
God ordered those rules of care and deliverance for the sheep. But the rules by themselves were not adequate to bring the lost sheep into relationship with Him. The sheep still needed God’s shepherd. And so the Lamb of God came to be that good shepherd.
Some care for the rules more than the Ruler. The ruler of the universe has decreed that in Yeshua we measure up. He is precisely the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
I am not saying we should forget our Jewish heritage and ignore what God gave us. We simply need to remember the difference between observing the holidays and celebrating them.
Those of us who live in the grace of Yeshua can celebrate the Jewish holidays. We can appreciate and participate in traditions that commemorate the meaning of a holiday. We can rejoice in the Lord. We can thank God that Yeshua has fulfilled the Law, even to the point of taking the penalty for our failure to observe the Law.
Rejoice. Celebrate the holidays however it honors God. But know that Yeshua has observed and obeyed the Law and our order is in Him.