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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"Messiah in the Passover" (edited by Darrell L Block and Mitch Glaser)

TITLE: Messiah in the Passover
AUTHOR: edited by Darrell L Block and Mitch Glaser
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2018, (384 pages).

The Passover was a significant event in the history of Israel. It was a demonstration of God's final straw for Pharaoh who refused to let the enslaved people of Israel go. It represented the night when the angel of death passed over any home their front doors painted with the blood of the lamb. It was a time where the firstborn of every Israeli slaved lived while the firstborn of every Egyptian family died. After this Passover, Israel was free to begin their journey to the promised land. Since then, the importance of the Passover had been written in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah where it remains one of the seven great festivals of the Jews. The Passover is about deliverance, freedom, community, hope, life, prophecy given, prophecy fulfilled, and much more. This book gives us more, especially about Christ the Messiah. The five parts of the book are as follows:
  1. Biblical and Theological Foundations of the Passover
  2. Passover and Church History
  3. Jewish Tradition and Passover
  4. Communicating the Gospel Through the Passover
  5. Celebrating Messiah in the Passover

With a team of 18 contributors associated with Chosen People Ministries, editors Darrell Block and Mitch Glaser help compile over 20 essays to emphasize the timeless relevance of the Passover. Robert Walter brings us back to the creation narrative to show us the prophecy of the Passover. Richard Flashman points out the story of the Passover in the Writings or Tanakh, aka Hebrew Bible, and how the Exodus narrative had influenced the lifestyle of the Jews throughout the Old Testament times. Gordon Law looks at the background of the Passover in the Prophets, especially Elijah who exemplifies what it means to trust God. Darrell Bock discusses the Passover in the gospel of Luke to understand how Jesus applied the Passover through three significant landmarks. Mitch Glaser talks about the gospel of John to show us unique information about Jesus's final week and how Jesus personifies the principles of the Passover. Brian Crawford goes into the Pauline epistles and relates them to the Passover Seder. Scott Nassau connects the Passover with traditional Jewish customs and reconstructs what the passover customs looked like in the first century. He observes that the tense interactions between Jewish and Gentile believers and how they struggled with the "Judaizing" of the Church on one hand, and the separation of Gentile beliefs on the other hand. A key Passover belief is freedom. Gregory Hagg goes deeper into the controversies about the Passover, centering on the Church relationship with Jewish communities. He laments on the plight of the Jewish people and how marginalized they were in history. At the same time, he urges Christians to make room and to actively engage Jews in spite of the past controversies and disagreements. Olivier Melnick in his essay and antisemitism, helps us to understand the history and origins of such behaviour. By understanding the background, we would be better able to build bridges rather than walls between Jews and Christians. More importantly, Christians would learn the dangers of misinterpretation of Scripture. Zhava Glaser and Daniel Nessim give us more insights into the Jewish practice of Passover.

Part Four is about how the Passover acts like a bridge to communicate the gospel. Michael Cohen shows us that just like how God saved and freed the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement, the atonement is how God through Jesus saved us from the enslavement of sin. The Yeshua in the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament. He outlines a four-stage understanding of Passover and atonement as broken relationship restored; adequate payment made; appropriate response by recipients; and renewed future. While Cohen looks at the overall aspects of the Passover, Larry Feldman zooms in on the Seder meal itself; from the dipping of the parsley, the breaking of the matzah (unleavened bread), the singing and the sharing, we see remarkable similarities of Jesus' sharing of the Last Supper. Richard Freeman's sermon on "Jesus, the Lamb of God" parallels the last week of Jesus life on earth with the story of the first Passover in Exodus 12; while David Sedaca's "The Third Cup" gives us a clear explanation of the Passover Meal and the Feast of Unleavened Bread before showing us that we don;t have to be physically present in the Egyptian or wilderness landscape far away to experience the power and significance of the Passover. These rituals are more than reminders. They are deeply personal as we take the third cup of redemption by Jesus and relates it to our salvation. Part Five of the book supplies us practical aspects on how to celebrate Passover and the good news of Jesus our Messiah in our homes. Cathy Wilson teaches us how prayer, reflection, hospitality, and more are ways in which we celebrate Passover. In a powerful outline of a brief order of Passover service, she urges us to celebrate the Jewish Passover Seder as New Testament believers. Rachel Goldstein-Davis shares with us some passover lessons that we could pass down to our children; to teach, to show, and to educate. Mitch Forman gives us passover foods and recipes that we could use to prepare meaningfully. It is a wonderful menu about a meal that ends with a meal. In summary, this book is a bridge to unite Jews and Gentiles to one God in Christ. So why should we read this book?

Three Thoughts
First, this book is very educational for non-Jews like me. Many of us have heard about Jesus being Jesus, that the salvation story came from the Jews, and how Jews are a chosen people of God, and Gentiles are grafted in. Beyond that, we have vague ideas about Jewish customs, especially the Passover. There are reasons why the Passover feast are celebrated, how each item in the Seder meal are made and given. We learn many different things from history to reality; from food in the wilderness in the past to a spread on our dinner table in the present. Christians generally have a simplified form via the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine in the Holy Communion. The Passover has a richer history that involves many more steps. As each step is done, the adults are reminded of what happened in the past and children are taught to remember the stories of their ancestors. This brings not only educational insights to all but spiritual meaning as well.

Second, the importance of building bridges cannot be underestimated. Since the early beginnings of Church, Christians have been viewed with suspicions by Jews. Many believers who were ethnically Jews were treated otherwise simply because they had embraced Christ. Even today, the suspicions remain in many parts of the world. If this is not taught and explained, the gap could only grow wider. The Chosen People Ministry which published this book has this conviction to help Jews and Christians alive to recognize the common heritage and how both sides could learn from each other. There are more similarities than differences. We know that Jesus himself celebrated the Passover; taught about it; and referred to it many times. Jesus himself was also a Jew! In Jesus alone, we find many common points.

Third, Christians would be able to appreciate more of the meaning and background of the Holy Communion. The appendices at the end of the book is a wonderful resource that Christians can refer to time and again. They can understand the various Jewish terms and usage of the canons; the Hebrew months; Passover observances throughout history; and a clear table that compares the Lord's Supper with the Passover both past and present. This alone is worth the price of the book and could be used in our own churches as well.

This book will be a wonderful resource for pastors in the celebration of the Last Supper; for preachers in the teaching and preaching ministry; and for conversations with both Jews and Christians.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Publications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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