Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Defense of Easter

Ok, I know I said that I would be MIA for a while, but I've seen and heard things pertaining to Easter over the past few days that were really hurtful to me. They mainly come from some Messianic acquaintances that I have, and the story goes something like this: Why do you celebrate Easter? Easter was made up by a man who hated Jews. Jesus was a Jew who celebrated Passover. If you celebrate Easter and not Passover you hate the Jews and you hate Jesus. That's an oversimplification, and not all people who hold to celebrating Passover over Easter would go nearly that far, but some do. So, I guess this is my response to those who wonder why most Christians celebrate Easter and not Passover.

I see and hear more and more about this, particularly around Christmas and Easter. Why do you celebrate those holidays and not the traditional Jewish feasts? Jesus celebrated Passover, are you better than Jesus? Why do you celebrate Easter and not Passover? Did you know that Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays? These questions, and this whole attitude really mystifies and saddens me, and I have very simple answers for all of these questions. My main response is this: Because I am not a Jew, and no, I don't think I'm better than them, or better than my savior.

I heard a messianic rabbi preach once, and he said something that really stuck with me. He was explaining how strange he finds it that the church considers itself to be the new Israel. It’s not. Not even metaphorically. To be considered a part of Israel one must establish a lineage not just from Abraham and Isaac, but also, and most importantly, from Jacob. It’s a very literal requirement and one that I, and most people I know do not meet. Now, I respect the Jews immensely. I know that they are God’s chosen people, and I believe that they were meant to lead the new Church (which obviously didn't happen since the church is now mostly Gentile), but all that being said, I’m still not a Jew.

Paul dealt a lot with this issue. How Jewish was the church meant to be? And I believe, from studying his writings, that we were given a lot of leeway in that regard. True Christianity is not instantiated in a particular culture, which is a good thing. Our faith is trans-cultural, and the worst mistake we can make is to try and tie it definitively to human practices. Now, I realize that celebrations like Passover and the other Jewish feasts came from God and not from man, but I believe that there is Biblical precedent for Gentile believers to have freedom, not only to not celebrate these feasts, but to create celebrations of their own. One example comes from Circumcision. The Jews were commanded to be circumcised, but when they began making that a requirement for conversion, Paul repudiated them, and even called them preachers of a false Gospel. This is a big deal. He’s clearly stating that true faith is not found in any practice, and he even encourages Greek believers to remain uncircumcised (all of this is extrapolated particularly from 1 Corinthians 7: 17-21, although there are many more instances of this opinion  even dating back to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15). Similarly, feast days and holidays are not required to be kept. Celebrations like that are for man. They help us to remember and celebrate the important things in our lives.

This brings me to my final point. Celebrations are both an outpouring and an expression of particular culture. The Jewish feasts are for the Jews. They hold special significance and meaning for this particular people that I could never begin to fully understand and participate in. Passover, for example, does contain many typological references to Christ and His ministry, but even if I were to intellectually comprehend this I would not be as fully able to appreciate it as a Jew would. My people weren't led out of captivity, my people aren't God’s chosen ones. My people were poor Mexican farmers and European peasants. But do you know what I can relate to, what I can comprehend on both a deeply intellectual, spiritual, and emotion level? The holiday of Easter. It is an expression of my culture, it is for people like me, one who was called out of a mass of a lost lonely people, who had no claim to salvation, but was offered Grace anyways. So, I fully support our Messianic brothers and sisters who celebrate Passover. I think they should, and would be wrong not to. But I also ask that they would express the same tolerance and understanding to the Gentile Church. It’s not that we think we’re better than Jesus, that we don’t want to celebrate the things he celebrated. It comes from a humble acknowledgement that we are not part of God’s chosen nation, and we do not want to trivialize their celebrations by participating in things that have no historical or cultural connection to us. That being said, we have right as human beings to celebrate and commemorate the saving work of Christ in a way that allows us to rejoice in the fact that we were ‘grafted on’, as it were, to the Olive Tree of Faith.

*Just a note to say that I'm not against Gentile Christians partaking in the Passover celebration, if they do it in good faith. This is more about why I celebrate Easter over Passover, because I personally have a tendency to break things I'm not familiar with into little intellectual puzzles, which would not be fair to the celebration itself. I also think most Christians would be the same way. They could understand it, but not appreciate it. Also, I added some Biblical references in, because those are a good thing to have in a post where you make a case for a certain Biblical interpretation right? Also... I added a picture, because pictures make everything more interesting. 

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