Easter – To Egypt and back to the future

"It was not until I came to a Jewish understanding of the Bible, however, that I realised the true meaning behind Easter," shares Gersham.

5 April 2023, is the start of the Jewish festival of Passover – a celebration which lasts eight days. Gersham* shares amazing insights into this festival that Jesus celebrated and gives us ways we can pray for those of Jewish faith during this time.  

Having not come to personal faith in Yeshua (Jesus) until my early 20’s, I had no background knowledge of the Bible. I have good memories of Christmas but had only a vague idea of the reason for it. Similarly, Easter was just a time for eggs and chocolate bunnies, and I have photos of a three-year-old me participating in an Easter egg hunt at the White House in Washington, D.C. 

It was not until I came to a Jewish understanding of the Bible, however, that I realised the true meaning behind Easter — a journey pointing back to the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt and from there, to the cross. Not being Jewish, I was a slow learner, but once I grasped the message of the Resurrection from a Hebrew perspective, it all made sense. 

Like all biblical Jewish feasts, there is a memorial aspect to the Passover Seder, recalling events from the past, and a prophetic aspect, pointing to the gospel message of the Messiah’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return.  As an OMer, living and labouring in Israel, this package of biblical truth has also become a vital tool for communicating God’s redemptive message to Jewish people, and all people. 

I recall, fondly, my first and subsequent Passover Seders, and see the observance of the well-ordered holiday the perfect workshop for learning about the promised Messiah. There are many elements of the feast which point back to the night the children of Israel were led out of Egypt by Moses, and also point forward to the cross, and the sacrificial work of the Messiah on our behalf. 

The bread of Passover is unleavened, recalling the haste with which the Hebrews departed from Pharaoh’s land, not having time for their dough to rise. Leaven is also used in the New Testament as a concept for sin (e.g. 1 Cor 5:7-8), and the matzah — the unleavened bread of Passover week — is an amazing picture of the sinlessness of the Messiah.  Furthermore, the matzah is striped and punctured, illustrating the punishment that Yeshua went through on our behalf. Even more amazing, during the beginning part of the meal, the middle piece of unleavened bread, from among three, is brought forth, presented, then broken, with half being wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden away until the end of the meal; a further picture of the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection. 

There is also the recalling of the death of the Passover lamb, for each household in Egypt, when its blood was applied to the doorposts of the house, to deter the Angel of Death. This is represented on the Seder table with the various elements of the Passover plate. All of this beautifully points forward, to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and the need to personally apply His sacrificial death to our own hearts. Even the motion of striking the doorposts, with the lamb’s blood, using hyssop, makes a horizontal strike followed by a vertical one, pointing to the cross of our Saviour. 

Next, according to the order of service of the Passover Seder, are the four cups, each in turn, with the third cup called the Cup of Redemption. It is believed that this is exactly the point in the Seder (which means order) when Yeshua, at the Last Supper, itself a Passover observance, took the cup and gave it new meaning, declaring, in Luke 22:20: “ . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (NIV). There are many other elements of the Passover observance that point to the work of the Messiah, even while recalling the events of the Exodus. 

So, what does all of this have to do with Easter? Everything! To understand the day of Resurrection through Jewish eyes is to see the fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Passover in the very one who was the first fruits from the dead — Yeshua. Many traditions have grown up around Easter over the centuries, but I have found richness in turning back the clock to the First Century, to understand the events of the Gospel accounts in their original, Jewish setting. 

In applying this to your Easter celebration, I would invite you to consider the following ways in which we can pray for Jewish people, in Israel and around the world. 

As Jewish people, religious and secular alike, observe the Passover on Wednesday evening, 5 April 2023, ask the Father to pull back the veil in the reading of the Scriptures (2 Cor 3:15-16). 

Likewise, intercede on behalf of the many Jewish people around the globe who have Christian friends with an understanding of the prophetic aspect of the Feasts, and that their friends might lovingly point them to the future aspects of the Passover, fulfilled in the Messiah, Yeshua. 

Pray also that God will reveal the significance of the elements of the Passover meal, not only their historical meaning in connection with the Exodus, but also their importance as shadows of the true things — to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (Rom 1:16b). 

My Easter journey began with a trip to Egypt, in the Scriptures, and in the order of the Passover meal, but quickly took me to the future, to the cross of our Saviour and to His empty tomb. 

My joy today is retelling this story, yearly, in the Land of Israel, with my Jewish wife and children, and seeking ways to make this truth available to all Israelis, and indeed Jewish people around the world. 

Gersham Naftali, and his wife Abigail*, live in Lower Galilee, and have been long-term national workers with OM in Israel for 20 years. Gersham’s role is primarily to equip and assist short-term outreach teams, from all over the world. The couple are also licensed tour guides, and Gersham has served on the field leadership team for almost 18 years. 

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