Easter or Passover? A tale of two calendars

If you ask a Christian about Jesus’ resurrection, he will probably say that happened on Easter. If you ask a Messianic Jewish believer the same question, he will mention the Passover. On the surface one may say it’s just a case of different names for the same event, but it is more than that. The picture we form in our mind of Easter is much different from that of Passover. Easter invokes images of Easter rabbits and egg hunts, while Passover brings to mind the death of Egypt’s first born and Pharaoh’s expulsion of Israel. How did we get from God’s deliverance and the resurrection to Easter bunnies? Does it even matter? I think it does.

When we ask “what day is it today?” we resort to the calendar. When we search for the date, we usually find out the date and month on the calendar. If a particular day is a national holiday, it may also be noted on the calendar, but that’s all our calendar tells us: A day, month, and if the day is a holiday. There are two religious dates on our calendar, Easter and Christmas. Both of these dates have drifted far away from their original meanings. Easter bunnies and Santa Claus are not the same as the resurrection and birth of Christ. Other than these dates, our calendar is bereft of any reference of God. We really don’t “bump into God” at all on our calendar. If we think of our calendar as an appointment book, God isn’t even on it.

On the other hand, the Jewish calendar is filled with divine reminders and appointments. For example, this is week six of counting the omer for 2014 (or 5774). Passover marks the birth of Israel as a nation and is also the beginning of counting the omer. This year counting the omer started on April 20 and will end on June 7. The forty-nine days of counting the omer are a time of cleansing and purification from the influences of Egypt before the Torah was given. Pentecost (Shavuot) will be on Sunday June 8, in which the people become married to God at Sinai. This is the month of Iyar, and it is an acronym that means “I am God your healer,” meaning our ultimate healing comes from God. Do you get any divine connection when you think of the month of May?

There is much more than this. Time would fail if I told of all the other divine encounters that populate the Jewish calendar such as Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, et al. Looking up a date on this calendar is much more than just finding a date. The divine significance of dates and months on this calendar is openly acknowledged and celebrated. On the other hand, many of the dates on our calendar are made up of days that pass with little or no fanfare. Here is a short list: National Dentist’s Day (March 6), Administrative Professionals Day (April 26), Pi Day (March 14), National Wear Red Day (February 7), and National Cupcake Day (February 24). We don’t see much of God on our calendar, do we? When we look up a date on our calendar, we look to see what day it is, when a holiday is coming up, what day a birthday or anniversary falls on, but nothing about God. It’s like God has been effaced from our calendar.

In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye the milkman attributes Jewish traditions as the way their community kept its balance through the years. Because of their traditions, everyone knew who they were, and what God expected of them. An important part of this is the Jewish calendar with its day to day reminders of who God is and what He has done for His people. This is an important part of our spiritual equipping and should not be neglected. Time is short; we would all be benefited by returning to a calendar that reminds about God, not Cupcakes, Easter bunnies and Santa Claus.

Iyar 27, 5774 (May 27, 2014)


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