Monthly Archives: March 2018

Jesus, the Passover Lamb

We are approaching the Passover
/Easter season, and I pray this will be a spiritually enriching time for you and your family. Hundreds of Jewish people—
both believers in Jesus and seekers—will be attending Chosen People Ministries’ Passover events around the globe. Please remember to pray for these outreaches, as many Jewish people will be introduced to the Lamb of God for the first time in a very “Jewish way!”

Your Mission to the Jewish 
People has produced two new books, which are now available. Both books cover similar material, but the longer book, Messiah in the Passover, goes into greater depth regarding Passover in the Bible, Jewish history, and even Church history. The Gospel in the Passover focuses on the way in which Jesus fulfills the festival.

Passover and the Gospel of John
My chapter in Messiah in the Passover focuses on the Gospel of John, and so, based on that wonderful Gospel, I will try to answer this question: “Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?” The following is a small portion of the chapter.
The Gospel of John is critical to understanding the Jewish story of Jesus. Many scholars argue that the Gospel of John was primarily written to Gentiles, perhaps because of its A.D. 90 date of authorship as well as for a variety of textual reasons. However, the Gospel of John really should be viewed through a Jewish lens. John himself was Jewish and one of the earliest disciples of Jesus. Traditionally, and without argument, he is thought to be the author of the Gospel that bears his name, the Epistles (First, Second and Third John), and the Book of Revelation. According to early Church tradition, John lived longer than any of the other apostles and died as an exile in the late first century on the island of Patmos.

John’s first-hand experience with Jesus gives him great insight into the details of Jesus’ life. He traveled with the Messiah, heard His sermons, and was perhaps the one who was described as “beloved.” He was present at the foot of the cross, unlike his peers, and was given the task of caring for Miriam (Mary), the mother of Yeshua (John 19:26-27).

He was present with Jesus at every Jewish festival the Savior celebrated. Perhaps this is why we learn some unique aspects of the last Passover supper of Jesus through John—especially from the teaching of the Savior during that meal, generally referred to as the Upper Room Discourse.

John mentions Passover quite often in his Gospel. In his very first mention of Jesus, John refers to Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We may assume that his hearers would have understood this comment in light of the Passover.

John describes three different Passovers observed by Jesus: John 2:13, 6:4, and the final Passover, the focus of this chapter, found in John 11:55, 12:1, and 13:1, with additional references in John 18:28 and 19:14. It should also be noted that Luke tells us that John was asked by Jesus to make preparations for this final Passover meal (Luke 22: 8-13).

The Foot Washing
We understand that the Seder observed by Jesus and His disciples would have been more primitive and not as well developed as what was described 200 years later in the Mishnaic tractate, Pesachim,1 or found in the modern Haggadah, the guide to our modern Passover Seder. However, some of the traditions recorded by John run parallel to our modern day Passover Seder and cause us to think that, in fact, Jesus observed a similar Passover to what we know today and what I was raised celebrating each year! As most of us know, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.

The washing of hands during the Passover Seder is foundational to foot washing. The modern Haggadah calls upon participants to wash their hands twice for the sake of establishing ritual purity. The first ritual hand washing is called, in Hebrew, Urchatz.2 In this instance, water is poured from a cup, once over each hand and recited without a blessing in preparation for taking the greens, either parsley or lettuce, which is part of the traditional Seder meal.

The second hand washing is called Rachtzah3 and it is done a little later in the Passover service just prior to eating the matzah (unleavened bread). This time, a blessing is said when pouring the water over the hands: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to wash our hands.”

These washing traditions harken back to those linked to ritual purity found in the Torah and in particular to various commandments associated with the priesthood and Temple offerings, especially the preparation of the priests for their duties.4 Again, our modern Passover Seder rituals developed over centuries and cannot be simply “read into” the Passover Seder of Jesus. In this instance, however, it appears that the washing of the disciples’ feet should be associated with the liturgy of the Last Supper (or Last Seder) rather than the common washing of feet when entering a house as a guest.

The strongest indication is that the disciples are already sitting at the table and engaged with dinner when the foot washing begins. 5 Jesus decided to use His washing the disciples’ feet rather than their hands to teach the disciples some early lessons about true humility, suggesting that true spirituality is not simply a matter of performing rituals correctly but a matter of the heart. The lessons in humility demonstrated and then taught through changing the hand washing into a foot washing is dramatic and powerful.

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

There are many rabbinic teachings found in the Mishnah and Talmud that emphasize the importance of humility.6 We find similar thoughts about humility in the words of Jesus Himself spoken during the Sermon on the Mount, especially as gleaned from the first three beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-5).

Reclining at the Table
Once again, we have good evidence that this meal is a Seder as Dr. Don Carson, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, suggests that the “reclining” posture of the disciples during the meal is another hint that the meal was a Passover Seder: “In short, the posture of Jesus and his men is a small indicator that they were, in fact, eating the Passover meal.” 7

The reclining posture of the disciples and Jesus indicates that the meal was a “special meal” and in this instance, because of the other elements mentioned and the date it took place, it may be seen as a Passover Seder.

The Sop and the Betrayal
Another key to understanding this meal as the Last Seder of Jesus comes when Jesus indicates to His disciples that Judas is going to betray Him. In response to Peter’s asking who the perpetrator will be, Jesus responds, ‘“That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.’ So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot” (John 13:26).

The dipping of the “morsel” likely refers to one of the various “dippings” that are part of the Seder. It could refer to the dipping of the greens (parsley or lettuce), the bitter herbs, or the charoset (the sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and honey used to symbolize the sweetness of redemption in the midst of the bitterness of slavery represented by the other dippings). We might not know which dipping Jesus is referring to exactly, but clearly this is an unusual action for a regular meal, but not for a Passover Seder.

There are many other reasons why we believe that the dinner recorded by John was an early version of a Passover Seder, but perhaps the above will suffice for now and give you a hunger to learn more about the Passover and the ways Jesus, the Lamb of God, fulfills the Feast.

Enjoy the rest of the newsletter and remember to pray for our staff serving in 17 countries around the globe as they present the Messiah through the Passover in churches, homes, and Messianic congregations and speaking one-on-one with Jewish people who need to know the Lord.

Thanks for your prayers for our ministry. Happy Passover and may the power of His resurrection give you strength to serve Him faithfully!

Your brother,

Mitch


1 The tractate of the Mishnah about Passover
2 Literally, washing or cleansing
3 Literally, To wash or bath
4 Leviticus 8:6, Leviticus 16:24-25
5 Craig S Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 906.
6 Ibid. 906–907.
7 Carson, D. A.. The Gospel According to John. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p. 473.

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Reaching the Most Unreached Within the Jewish Community

Dear friend,

Shalom in His grace. Thank you for your prayers and faithful support of Chosen People Ministries. Your generosity is deeply appreciated!

One of the passages of Scripture that I find to be moving and encouraging is found in Romans 10, where the Apostle Paul speaks of Jewish people who were faithful to God and to the law. Of course, Paul’s argument is that even though a person might try to keep God’s law, it is simply impossible to do so! He writes,

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)

The Jewish apostle to the Gentiles is explaining to his readers that, no matter how righteous or holy one looks on the outside, God looks at the heart, and, as Scripture teaches over and over again, the hearts and souls of men and women are tainted by sin and thereby unable to please God with human effort alone (Romans 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9). This is the glory of the Gospel: that God sent His only Son, in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus the Messiah died for us (Romans 5:8).

REACHING THE MOST UNREACHED WITHIN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

My heart especially goes out to a particular group of Jewish people who live in Brooklyn, the greater New York/New Jersey area, Jerusalem, and in many major Jewish population centers around the world. This group of people is commonly known as ultra-Orthodox and include those we usually refer to as “old-style Orthodox,” dressed in long black coats, with beards, long side curls, and women all wearing long skirts.

There is another name for this group of Jewish people. In Hebrew, they are called “Haredim.” In English, this means the trembling ones, as they are said to live lives trembling before God. The Hebrew word is drawn from Isaiah 66:2, where the prophet writes, “…to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

NUMBERS AND NEIGHBORHOODS

There are approximately 15 million Jewish people in the world today, and about 2 million of them may be classified as Haredim. This group of Jewish people resists contact with the outside world, dresses distinctively as mentioned above, maintains a strong community that is founded upon the very traditional Orthodox version of the Jewish faith, and has lots of children! The children do not go to regular schools but rather attend what is known as a Yeshiva, a Jewish parochial school. There are schools for boys and schools for girls, for younger and older children. Many current Haredim do not attend college. Instead, the men continue to study the Bible and Jewish literature through their mid-20s and then continue to seriously study even while working at their jobs.

As Paul wrote, they have a zeal for God, and this group of Jewish people clearly does have a zeal for God that is impressive. They are awaiting the coming of the Messiah who they believe will fulfill the prophecies found in the Old Testament, but they do not believe that the Messiah will be God, as Jewish people traditionally do not believe God is triune. Of course, Messianic Jews do believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and that God is three persons—co-eternal, co-essential, co-equal—but in truth, this is viewed as idolatry by the Haredim and by most traditional Jewish people. They believe the coming Messiah will bring the Jewish people back to God, restore the Temple, and fulfill all of the promises of Moses and the prophets in establishing His kingdom in the Holy Land with Jerusalem as the capital.

How is it possible for our hearts not to long for the salvation of the Haredim? They are my neighbors in Brooklyn and I pray for their salvation. There are very few Haredim who profess faith in Jesus, as those who do are usually treated as outcasts by their community and families. It is so difficult for a Jewish person from one of these communities to follow the Lord and to stand for Him in the midst of their community.

A TRAINING CONFERENCE DESIGNED TO REACH HAREDIM

We just finished a week long conference at our Feinberg Messianic Center located in the heart of one of the Orthodox Jewish areas of Brooklyn. This was the first conference on how to reach the Haredim that we know of since the Holocaust. I gave a lecture on what missions to the Jewish people have done in the past to reach these folks. My wife, Zhava, taught on the history of the ways in which the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement came into being and how so many of them ended up in Brooklyn!

We had sessions on what is currently being done to reach Haredim with the Gospel and had many discussions on the development of strategies and new tools for evangelism. We also walked the Hasidic areas of Brooklyn and had a time of prayer that was very meaningful. It was a great time and I believe that in the future we will do a lot more to reach the Haredim.

I was raised “Modern Orthodox.” so of course I went to synagogue and learned Hebrew and how to understand the Scriptures, etc. However, my family was very different from those who live the “Haredi” lifestyle. There is an excellent movie out now entitled, One of Us (you can look it up on YouTube), which describes the lives of those who have left the Haredi community. It will help you to understand and pray for this group of people as it tells the story of those who have left the community in order to live a more “normal” American way of life.

REACHING THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX

Again, I wish I could tell you that there were many Haredim who have come to know the Lord, but really, there are just a few. When they come to faith they often lose their families and jobs and are rejected by the community. Of course, the Haredi community does not understand the Gospel. They do not realize that Jesus and His first disciples were all Jewish. They think Jesus founded a new religion called “Christianity” that has persecuted the Jewish people throughout the centuries. They feel threatened by the “Christianity” they have heard about and know very little about the true Gospel and the real Messiah—Jesus!

Most Haredim have never heard the Gospel. I would be surprised to find out if any Haredim actually know Gentile Christians, as they remain in their community for life, work, education, and even for shopping, since they must have the highest level of kosher foods available.

OUR PLAN AND YOUR PARTNERSHIP

We are planning to do more outreach among the Haredim in 2018! We will be utilizing social media and more public types of advertising — in Yiddish— which is the language that most of them speak. I cannot describe in detail what we are planning because I know that many within the Jewish community read our letters. So, please pray that what we are planning in 2018 will be fruitful and well received.

I can tell you that the strategy will be focused in the New York area and that many who are part of our Brooklyn staff will be involved in implementing the strategy and follow-up with those showing interest in the Gospel.

Your prayers for ministries in Brooklyn, where there are almost 1 million Jewish people, are deeply appreciated. Perhaps as much as a third of these Jewish people would be classified as Haredim. God is blessing Chosen People Ministries on every front —in New York City, Israel, and in the 15 other countries where we minister to the Jewish community. We could not do this without you!

Your brother in the Messiah,

 

 

Dr. Mitch Glaser
President of Chosen People Ministries

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