9 Jewish Concepts to Help You Prep Your Easter Sermon
Are you a pastor or Christian speaker looking to integrate Jewish components into a message on Easter?
Here are nine nuggets we’ve prepared, so that you can bring even more depth to your teaching.
1. Palm Sunday: Jerusalem welcomes her King with shouts of praise
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday fulfilled Messianic prophecy (Psalm 118:26; Zeph 3:14-15; Zech 9:9-11) and foreshadowed his sacrificial death as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The 10th of Aviv (the first month in the Biblical calendar), Palm Sunday, was the very day on which Passover lambs would be carefully selected and brought into homes in Israel (Ex 12:2-3). (More on this topic: Lamb Selection Day)
“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. …and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” (Zechariah 9:9-11)
2. Jesus, the Pure and Spotless Lamb
The Jewish people carefully examined the Passover lambs to ensure that they were perfect and without blemish for sacrifice. Each household brought their lamb into the home for 4 days before slaughtering it on the 14th of Aviv at twilight (Ex 12:5-6). After entering Jerusalem, religious leaders tested Jesus for 4 days, yet found no fault in him (Matt 21-23; Mark 14:53-65).
The scrutiny culminated in the high priest’s question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replied with recognized Messianic references (Psalm 110; Daniel 7) saying, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (More on this Topic: Messiah, Our Passover)
“He had done no wickedness, nor was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9)
“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers; not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
3. The Passover Meal: The Context of the Lord’s Supper
For the people of Israel, the Passover Seder and each element of the meal celebrate and commemorate God’s great act of deliverance – the Exodus. Through the symbolism of each part of the Seder, participants in every generation are invited, even commanded (Ex 12:14), to reenact and engage with the story of redemption. (More on this Topic: The Passover Symbols and their Messianic Significance)
They do so to remember God’s faithfulness in miraculously rescuing and saving His people. Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion (Matt 26:17-30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7-23).
A vital element of fellowship and reflection in the Passover celebration is the meal shared among the household. This central institution of the feast expressed God’s covenant relationship with Israel evident through the experience of the first Passover (Ex 24:3-11).
The meal becomes the focal point of Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples. And it is the background, the foundation, and the context for one of the most central tenets of the Christian faith: The Lord’s Supper (Communion/Eucharist). (More on this Topic: The Context of Communion Matters & Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?)
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says:
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
4. The Unleavened Bread: A Picture of Purging Sin
In the days leading up to Passover, households throughout Israel meticulously search for leaven to remove it. During the 7 days of the feast, they eat unleavened bread instead (Ex 12:15, 19). In the New Testament, leaven is often a symbol of sin.
During supper, Yeshua took unleavened bread, gave thanks and broke it, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). In light of Messiah’s sinless body broken and offered as the Paschal lamb, Paul encourages believers to respond by celebrating the feast in sincerity and truth, purged from the leaven of sin.
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Interesting Facts about Matzah:
The very appearance of unleavened bread (matzah) today has coincidental similarities that point to Messiah; it is striped and pierced to ensure it does not rise and appears bruised due to rapid baking (Isa 53:5). The Passover tradition of the “afikomen” bears striking similarities to Yeshua.
Three pieces of unleavened bread are placed in a special 3-in-1 pouch called a “Matzah-tash”. The father takes the middle piece of matzah, breaks it in half, and returns one part to the pouch. The other part he wraps in linen and hides/buries. The children then search for the hidden afikomen and the one who finds it receives a prize.
5. The 4 Cups of Passover: Remembering God’s Promises
In Exodus 6:6-7, God declared specific promises that play a significant part of the Passover Seder:
“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:6-7)
Throughout the Passover meal, participants partake of four cups of wine. Each cup declares an aspect of God’s promised deliverance.
Four Cups of Wine at Passover:
- The Cup of Sanctification: God’s people are “brought out” from under their burdens and into freedom (Col 1:13-14).
- The Cup of Praise: This cup speaks of the “good news” of deliverance, which merits continual praise to God (Ex 15:2; Is 61:10).
- The Cup of Redemption: God redeems and takes back what is rightfully His (Jer 31:11; Luke 1:68).
- The Cup of Acceptance: God promises to accept His inheritance and assures they are no longer alienated from Him (Jer 30:22; Eph 1:6; Col 1:21).
When Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, He took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:25). In the order of the Seder, the third cup (Cup of Redemption) is taken after the meal. How fitting that the traditional third cup correlates so well with what Jesus originally did. He pointed to Himself as the Ultimate Redeemer. (More on this topic: The Mystery of the Passover Cup & Four Cups)
6. Passover and the New Covenant: From Slavery to Freedom
The core message of Passover is about freedom: looking back to remember how God powerfully delivered His people from bondage, oppression and fear. He set them free in order to bring them to Himself (Ex 19:4-6). The Passover emphasizes the full nature of God’s deliverance:
It looked back to the past and the deliverance from terrible bondage in Egypt. It gave present strength for the journey; people ate it ready for the road. And the Passover always had a future aspect, looking towards the Promised Land. All down the ages the Passover liturgy, or haggadah, has retained that future hope. ‘This year we eat it in the land of bondage: next year in the land of promise,’ they recited; and they kept a chair at the meal for Elijah, that great prophet who would return at the end of time to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Each of those strands would be taken up and fulfilled in the Last Supper Jesus was preparing to institute. It would look back on his mighty deliverance from the grip and doom of sin. It would give strength to pilgrims along the Christian way. And it would be a foretaste of the messianic banquet in heaven. (Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven)
The Blood and the New Covenant
The theme of blood is central to the Passover, emphasizing the substitutionary death of a lamb. It brought freedom and secured God’s covenant promise to deliver Abraham’s seed (Gen 15:13-14). After the Exodus, blood sacrifices ratified the Mosaic covenant at Sinai, through which God imparted identity to Israel (Ex 19-24).
The institution of the Lord’s Supper during the Passover meal celebrates the New Covenant ( Jer 31:31-34), written on the hearts of the people rather than on tablets of stone. Jesus presents His own blood as the seal or ratification of the New Covenant. He said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).
Salvation wrought through the New Covenant looks back to what He accomplished, gives grace for each day and has a future glory yet to be revealed (1 Cor 1:9-10). (More on this topic: Celebrating the Passover – the Power of the Blood & The Personal Connection in Passover)
7. Behold, the Lamb of God! Jesus was crucified while the Passover lambs were slaughtered
Passover lambs were to be slaughtered before nightfall on the 14th day of Aviv (Ex 12:5-6). It was the very day on which Yeshua was crucified (John 19:14-16). The blood of the Passover lamb, applied to the doorposts of each family’s home, was the sign that spared them from death (Ex 12:13).
The Passover was to be a memorial day for all generations, a personal identification with the Exodus and God’s miraculous deliverance from bondage and slavery (Ex 12:14, 24-27).
Jesus is understood to be the Passover Lamb, whose blood covers and atones for all who apply it by faith to the doorposts of their hearts. His perfect blood, offered once for all, secured eternal redemption and freedom from the bondage of sin and death. Ultimately, He ensured “passing over” judgment and restoring man to Himself (Lev 17:11; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 9:12-15). John the Baptist affirmed this when he said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). (More on this topic: The Messiah Would be the Passover Lamb & Jesus is
the Passover Lamb)
8. Resurrection Sunday: Messiah is Raised to Life on the Feast of First Fruits
The Torah pointed to the very day our Lord would rise from the dead! The Feast of First Fruits (“Bikkurim”) is celebrated, according to most traditions, on the “day after the Sabbath” following the Passover (Lev 23:9-15). On this day, the first sheaf was to be lifted up and waved before God. The first fruits offering not only preceded the harvest. But was the initial installment of the full harvest to come. The first fruits guaranteed that more crops were on the way.
On Sunday, the day after the Sabbath following the crucifixion, Jesus is raised from the dead (Matt 28:1). Yeshua’s resurrection was representative, the pledge and guarantee of the full har vest of resurrections like His. (More on this topic: The Torah Singles out Resurrection Sunday! & 1 Corinthians 15: The Resurrection of Jesus and our Resurrection)
But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
David Guzik wrote a Bible commentary on this passage:
If Jesus is the firstfruits of our resurrection, does that mean He was the first one raised from the dead? What about the widow’s son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44), among others? Each of these were resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected.
Each of them were raised in the same body they died in, and were raised from the dead to eventually die again. Resurrection isn’t just living again; it is living again in a new body based on our old body but perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.
9. Pentecost: The Spirit is Given on the Feast of Shavuot
The Feast of Weeks (“Shavuot”) falls exactly 7 weeks or 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits (Lev 23:15-22). After counting the days and waiting in anticipation since Passover, the Holy Spirit was miraculously poured out on Messianic believers.
They were from “every nation under heaven” who gathered in Jerusalem in accordance with God’s pilgrimage command (Ex 23:14-17, 34:21-34; Deut 16:16), an event now known as Pentecost (Acts 1:4, 2:5). (More on this topic: Waiting with Anticipation – Counting of the Omer)
On Shavuot, God fulfilled His promise to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, now written not on stone but on the “tablets” of our hearts (Jer 32:33; Ezek 36:26-27; Joel 2:28- 32). In contrast to Exodus, where 3000 died due to breaking the Law (Ex 32:28), with the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, 3000 were raised to new life (Acts 2:41), followed by many more.
- Family Passover Haggadah (liturgy for seder)
- Why are Passover and Easter Celebrated at Different Times?
- Who Separated Passover from Easter?
- Green, Michael. The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible Speaks Today. Edited by John R. W. Stott. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.6. Downers Grove: InverVarsity Press, 2000.
- Guzik, David https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-15/