Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom from New York City! We are rapidly approaching the Passover/Easter season, and I pray that this will be a great time of spiritual enrichment for you and your family!
During this time of year, I am often asked if I still celebrate the Jewish holidays now that I am a follower of Jesus. Since I grew up in a fairly traditional Jewish home in New York City, this is a deeply personal question for me and for many Jewish believers in Jesus.
The answer is an unequivocal yes! Zhava and I continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals as fulfilled in Yeshua (Jesus) the Jewish Messiah. But beneath the question of our continued commemoration of the feasts of Israel, there is another underlying issue. It is the question of whether a Jewish person who receives Jesus is still Jewish—and if so, whether this makes a Jewish believer different from a Gentile believer. I recently had a dialogue with a Jewish believer on this subject, and I would like to share some of the ideas I wrote to her in a letter. We must begin with Scripture, as this is the basis for the answers to all our spiritual questions.
Jewish Believers – A Special But Not Superior Heritage
In the first few verses of Romans chapter eleven, we read that Paul considers himself to be a Jewish believer in Jesus. In verse five, we see that he recognizes that he is not alone, as there are other Jewish people who believe in Jesus as well. Paul identifies this minority as a remnant. In chapter nine, verse six, Paul says, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”
In this instance, Paul is not speaking about Gentiles becoming Jews, but rather contrasting Jews by way of nationality with Jews born Jewish and born again by believing in Jesus. It does not mean that Jews who do not believe in Jesus are not Jews, or that Gentiles who do believe in Jesus are Jews. He simply means the same thing he says in Romans 11—that there is a remnant of Jewish people within Israel who follow Jesus. In other words, Jewish people who have received Jesus have the blessing of being Jewish on the inside (spiritually) through knowing the Lord, as well as nationally by being identified through the covenant that God made with Abraham.
Essentially, Messianic Jews are part of two entities established by God in the Bible—Israel and the Church. This is a great privilege. Messianic Jews are born Jewish and are part of the Jewish people, and that does not change when we receive Jesus as our Messiah. On the other hand, because we have received Jesus, we are also part of the Church, which is made up of people who love the Lord and is built upon the chief cornerstone, Jesus the Messiah.
In order for the Church to be the Church, there must be both Jews and Gentiles in the same Body. The Church is described as a mystery in Ephesians chapter five, and part of that mystery is that Jews and Gentiles are part of the same spiritual community, receiving the gift of life from the same Savior and sharing in the common life of the Holy Spirit.
So as Messianic Jews we are part of the Jewish people—and therefore part of the remnant—and also part of the Church, which makes us one with our Gentile brothers and sisters. How we keep all this in balance throughout our lives is a great question!
I believe that the ground is even at the foot of the Cross! In all of the passages in Scripture (such as Galatians 3:28) where we see Jews and Gentiles declared as one, we also learn that true spiritual unity is an even stronger and a more powerful testimony in light of our God-ordained diversity. If we handle our diversity with elitism or arrogance, then that is sin. But if we seek to live as the people God made us to be, we will find how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133).
Passover – A Future Feast Celebrated in the Present
Will I be celebrating Passover this year? Of course—because as a believer in Jesus, the festivals are more meaningful to me than ever before!
It is during the Feast of Unleavened Bread that I am reminded of the Lord’s sinless nature. I will be reminded of His purity and innocence all week, as my family and I will eat matza and avoid leavened bread for seven days.
The Passover Seder itself will be magnificent, especially as we lift the shank bone on the Seder plate and remember Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And as we eat the Bread of Affliction, a symbol of Messiah’s suffering, and drink the third cup—the Cup of Redemption—we will remember His words to His disciples: “Drink… For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:27-28).
As I share this special moment with my family and loved ones, I will remember that the Passover is also a time for the stranger to draw near to the presence of the Lord. I will remember, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the beloved Gentiles to whom God had called him, that although they were once far off, they have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). My Gentile brothers and sisters in the Lord have been brought into the household of faith to share in the same promises of Messiah in which I rejoice. I look ahead to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which is the fulfillment of all earthly symbols. One day, all of reality—including you and me—will be transformed in the final restoration of all things.
The Passover also reminds us of one more important truth: that redemption is incomplete without the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people who are waiting for Him also understand this—and it is our task to show them that Jesus is the One for whom they have been waiting all along.
Thank you for your prayers and giving that have enabled many Jewish people to find the Lord! Be sure to pray for our Passover outreaches this month!
In the Messiah,
President of Chosen People Ministry