The question, ‘why don’t Christians celebrate Passover’, has several different answers. Some Christians do not celebrate Passover because they feel that it is a Jewish holiday and not a biblical one. Some Christians believe that celebrating Passover would undermine the idea of Jesus being their Passover.
Some simply believe that Passover contradicts grace and is about returning to law-based righteousness.
In this blog, we will talk about what Passover is and its origins, why and when Christians stopped celebrating Passover, and if Christians can actually celebrate the holiday.
What is Passover?
Just like there are different answers to why Christians don’t celebrate Passover, there are different answers to what Passover is. However, these answers do not contradict each other, but rather build upon them.
Firstly, the original Passover was when God ‘passed over’ the righteous and obedient Israelites. These Israelites (then called ‘Hebrews’) were captured and enslaved by the Egyptian pharaoh. God sent Moses to the pharaoh to demand that the pharaoh release all these enslaved Israelites.
When the pharaoh refused to abide, God decided to send repeated plagues to Egypt. The first plague turned the Egyptian water into blood. The next one riddled the Egyptian land with frogs, and, later, with flies and lice.
After that, the Egyptians’ livestock was affected by pests. After that, the people were affected by boils, locusts, hails, and darkness – one after the other. The tenth and the final plague resulted in the death of every firstborn throughout Egypt, after which the pharaoh finally agreed to release the Israelites.
The night of the tenth plague is what is called the first Passover. To prepare for this plague, God instructed the Israelites to slaughter, cook, and eat a lamb, and line their doorframes with the blood of the lamb.
When the destroyer sent to kill off the Egyptian first-borns saw the blood present on the door, the destroyer would ‘pass over’ that particular house, and everyone inside that house would remain safe and unharmed. God gave these instructions to make sure that the Israelites would be able to flee the land on a moment’s notice.
The other kind of Passover is the feast that is prepared to commemorate this event, and that feast is what most people refer to when they talk about the Passover. The Jews, meanwhile, celebrate Passover to remember how Moses was able to liberate the Israelites from the clutches of the pharaoh.
Passover is celebrated from the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan until the 22nd day of the same month. Generally, this falls somewhere around March and April. For the year 2022, Passover will begin on the evening of 15th April, and conclude on the evening of the 23rd of April.
Did Jesus Celebrate Passover?
Being a Jew, Jesus did celebrate Passover. Joseph and Mary, being observant Jews, visited Jerusalem every year to abide by God’s instructions. Once Jesus became an adult, he continued visiting the Jerusalem and celebrating Passover.
Jesus took the holiday very seriously, and looked forward to celebrating it with his disciples every year. In fact, the well-known Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples was actually a Passover meal.
Why Did Christians Stop Celebrating Passover?
With time, the Church went from being majorly Jewish to majorly Gentile. The Gentiles were not very aware of Jewish traditions, and therefore, things that were not strictly associated with the Christian doctrine were often forgotten.
The Christians were no longer bound by the Old Testament and its laws, which also resulted in a lot of the associated customs fading away. Eventually, Easter became a more prevalent celebration than the Passover.
During the year AD 325, the Council of Nicaea decided that Jesus’ resurrection would be celebrated on Easter, and the day of the festival was also finalized. At this point, Easter somewhat officially replaced Passover.
During the Middle Ages, the growth in anti-Semitic sentiments further distanced the Roman Catholics from Jewish beliefs and customs. Later on, the Reformation theology heavily emphasized on salvation through grace and not through works – this theology further discouraged the celebration of Passover.
Today, though, an increasing number of Christians have started celebrating Passover, and taking an interest in the essence of the event for both Jews and Christians.
Should Christians Celebrate Passover?
Passover reminds Christians that their God is always faithful, and that He shall always provide. It also reminds us that God redeemed His people, just like He will continue to do until the end of time and beyond. These things are worth celebrating. However, the Passover redemption serves to remind Christians of another, bigger redemption: the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.
Also, like we mentioned, the Last Supper was actually a Passover meal. In other words, it was Passover when Jesus blessed the cup and distributed to its disciples. It was Passover when Jesus held the loaf of bread, likened it to his broken body, and then passed it around. And, it was Passover when Jesus indicated that the cup was “the new covenant in [His] blood”.
Today, Christians are not bound by the Old Testament laws, and the New Testament does not prohibit them from celebrating Passover.
Colossians 2:16:17, for example, says:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Our Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, the most important thing is the worship and remembrance of Christ – this worship and remembrance might seem slightly different for each Christian. So, whether you choose to celebrate Passover or not, it is important that you learn from it and remember how Jesus sacrificed as the Passover Lamb.