Passover begins on Friday evening, and Mark Pinsky, the articulate former religion writer of the Orlando Sentinel, complained at The Huffington Post Monday night about "Ersatz Passover Seders: Jesus on the Menu." He was shocked, shocked that a Messianic Jewish congregation was inviting Jews in Central Florida to the traditional dinner, and having the gall to note "similarities between the seder and the Last Supper."
Pinsky called these Jewish Christian seders "bait and switch" because they explain how Jesus celebrated the holiday. Well, golly gee, imagine that. Pinsky, of course, knows that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and many churches memorialize that meal daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the tradition. It's called Communion.
Pinsky is perfectly within his rights to announce, "I won't be attending this or any other year's 'seder' held by Congregation Gesher Shalom Messianic synagogue." He's also right to conclude his column by saying, "When it comes to Judaism and Christianity, there is no splitting the differences-or papering them over." The differences between the two religions are profound.
And yet, Christians have as much claim to Passover as Jews do. Christians read the Passover story in Exodus-and I suspect a higher percentage of American evangelicals see that history as God's inspired and inerrant Word than American Jews do. Christians pray to the God who delivered his people from slavery millennia ago and now, every day, delivers individuals from spiritual slavery.
If Pinsky doesn't honor claim by belief but only goes by ancestry, then Christians can claim Passover on those grounds as well. I won't go into the numbers now, but given Christianity's Jewish beginning, plus conversions (some forced, some unforced) over the past 2,000 years, plus intermarriage, it's highly likely that more Christians than Jews alive today have Jewish ancestors.
The theological differences are profound, but Christians have solid reasons to claim spiritual sonship from Abraham, and many of us have ancestral reasons as well. So why not have dueling seders, some oriented to the Talmud and some to Christ? Let's allow individual believers decide which are closer to the faith of Abraham. And let's remember that we are brothers, not enemies.
For further reading: 10 Passovers ago, WORLD published a special issue on Judaism and Christianity, and those interested in learning more can dig into our archives to read it for free (for a limited time). Also, Wipf & Stock has just put out a new edition of Edith Schaeffer's excellent Christianity Is Jewish, first published in 1975.