empty tomb

An Easter Musing: Why I Consider the Church as “Them” and not “Me”

Something to ponder. If Jesus died on Passover and rose again a few days later (depending on your timetable), then why are most people celebrating his resurrection a whole month before Passover this year (and various other years as well)? Respectful responses are welcome. No witch hunting.

-Query from Facebook

No, this wasn’t directed at me. It was a general question tossed out into social media by a Facebook “friend” (I put that in quotes because we’ve never met face-to-face).

It’s an interesting question, but I must admit, it wasn’t the catalyst for today’s “morning meditation.” Easter was.

More specifically, my massive and total disconnect from Easter was the catalyst. For Easter, or perhaps more accurately expressed, for “Resurrection Day” three years ago, I crafted this little missive about my emotional disconnect from the event, even as I was attending Easter…uh, Resurrection Day services in a little, local Baptist church.

There were certain things I liked about the service. There were certain things I learned. But I wasn’t just gushing with joy like everyone else around me because “he is risen”.

Add to that, the memory of how my wife looked at me when I was walking out the door to go to Resurrection Day services, how crushed and betrayed she seemed, as if she found out I was cheating on her. I know I’ll never attend another Easter service in my life.

My regular readers are aware that my wife is Jewish and not a believer. More specifically, her viewpoint of Jesus, Paul, and Easter is what she learned from the local Chabad Rabbi. She would never stop me from expressing my faith in whatever way I choose, but I know it bothers her, at least on certain occasions…

…like Easter.

he-is-risenShe sometimes surprises me, though. She said that although she wouldn’t take me to Israel with a Jewish group, she does want me to go with a more appropriate (for me) Messianic group. I once had a passion to do that, but a lot of things dried up for me, including my sense of community.

I’ve been thinking about Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s essay “The Jewish People are Us — not them” which you can find published here and which I reviewed a few years back.

Rabbi Dauermann was emphasizing that a Jewish faith in Yeshua shouldn’t result in Jewish “messianists” considering the wider Jewish community as “them” or as “the other,” the way most Christians consider “unbelieving” Jews. From his perspective (as I understand it), Jewish devotion to Rav Yeshua is very Jewish and should, if anything, result in Jewish Yeshua-disciples being drawn closer to larger Jewish community because, after all, Moshiach is the first-born of Israel’s dead, living proof that the New Covenant promise of the resurrection to Israel will indeed come to pass.

What’s more Jewish than that (and I know I’ll take “heck” from one or two Jewish critics of my blog for that question)?

But what about those of us, we non-Jewish “Christians” who stand on the Jewish foundation of the Bible, who feel a greater connection to Passover and Sukkot (Festival of Booths) than Christmas and Easter? What about those non-Jewish believers who feel more comfortable calling ourselves “Messianic Gentiles” or Talmidei Yeshua than Christians?

While Rabbi Dauermann may feel a lot closer to Jewish community than the Christian Church (and I agree, he should), does a “Messianic” perspective for a Gentile believer draw us closer to the Church or push us further away?

I admit, after this particular church experience and the consequences that resulted from my public disagreement with that church’s head Pastor, I realized I have no place in the Church. The ekklesia, yes. The Church, no.

Simply put, because Rabbi Dauermann is Jewish, he identifies with larger Jewish community, even those who are not disciples of Rav Yeshua (which just baffles the daylights out of most Christians I’ve spoken to about it). I have a Jewish wife, so I’ve seen that dynamic in action first hand, and any thought of my denying her or forbidding her to associate with Jews (not that I would, of course), is totally revolting to me, absolute anathema.

quitting churchBut to reverse the equation somewhat, being a Gentile disciple of Jesus does not automatically make me think of the Church as “us” or even “me”. In fact, on Easter, I feel more apart from “Church” than ever.

Going back to the previously mentioned Facebook commentary on Easter, there have been some interesting responses. There are others like me out there who also experience the disconnect from this Christian holiday, even those who remain in the Church. Some recognize Easter as a deliberate attempt by the early “Church Fathers” to co-opt the Passover/Resurrection event for Gentiles, divorcing it from its Jewish origins and context.

Others launched into “paganoia,” often a consequence of some Hebrew Roots teachings, saying that Easter was a deliberate attempt to introduce paganism, particularly worship of “Ishtar.”

I don’t think I’d take it that far.

But I am disturbed by one thing. The resurrection of Rav Yeshua is living proof that the New Covenant promises of God to Israel (Ezekiel 37:11-14) will indeed occur, and Yeshua is the “first fruits from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Why don’t I feel connected to that?

Well I do, sort of, but it happens more on Passover and during the week of Unleavened Bread than it does at Easter, whether I’m in a church or not.

I know there are Hebrew Roots and Messianic Gentiles out there, those in their churches and elsewhere, who still have an emotional connection to Easter. These people were probably raised in a Christian setting by their Christian families or otherwise, spent enough time in a church to forge that visceral linkage.

I didn’t, not when my parents took me to church as a child, nor when I returned to Christian community as an adult.

Today being Easter punctuates for me that I consider normative Christianity as “them, not me.” I can’t say “us” because I don’t have an alternative “us” to relate to, at least not in an actual, physical form of community.

But that’s OK. Worshiping alone is OK, even though, in an absolute sense, we are never alone.

One of these things is not like the othersI’ve said before that I’ve given up the identity crisis that has seized so many non-Jews who are either in Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots community. As Popeye famously quipped, “I yam what I yam,” even if it doesn’t have a widely recognized name or label.

For those of you who are indeed emotionally and theologically attached and even thrilled by Easter or Resurrection Day, may you use your worship to strengthen your devotion to Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and all he brings to us.

For those of you who are like me, any day is a good day to bring honor to our Rav and glory to the God of Israel. May the day come when we all merit the resurrection from the dead, and the life in the world to come.

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17 thoughts on “An Easter Musing: Why I Consider the Church as “Them” and not “Me””

  1. Yeshua’s resurrection occurred on the Feast of First Fruits, so I can’t get too charged up over a feast on the wrong day, much less one dedicated to Astoreth, even if it has been relabeled as ‘Resurrection Day’. Two Christian friends hit me with ‘Happy Resurrection Day” so far today…I thanked them, since, as you say, any day is a good day to remember Yeshua’s resurrection. But Easter means nothing to me…and never really did.

    I recall dying Easter Eggs, and the following hunts for them in the garden as a child, and then See’s Candy Egg’s when my mother decided that chocolate Easter Eggs were more fun. But it was never a religious thing for my family…they avoided anything churchly like the plague. But the memories are pleasant. Still, much as I like See’s Candy, I will wait until my birthday in May as usual to indulge, and thus be simply buying expensive candy rather than participating in something I consider rather idolatrous.

    Instead, I have stocked up on Matza, and ordered a kosher lamb roast for Passover, and will happily use my Messianic Seder…by myself, as usual, since no one around me is Jewish, Messianic, or even likes lamb!
    And I am very glad that no one invited me over for Easter dinner today to share their nice roast ham, as these days even the idea makes me faintly sick…strange how one can shed old preferences by concentrating on new ones.

    And as one of the Tamidei Yeshua, I will concentrate on Yeshua being our Passover as much as I will watch the 3 hour movie of ‘Moses’, and get through another long Sabbath day, trying to feel as if I am somehow connected to the crucial history of a people I don’t belong to except in Yeshua. Still, for Yeshua’s sake, I will also watch the 6 1/2 hour Jesus of Nazareth Mini-Series and remember not just the beginning of a new nation at Sinai, but my grafting in to that nation in a spiritual manner.

    I will also pray that Yeshua will come soon, that there may be peace in Israel, and all the world, and that we Believers will then also say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

  2. I’ve been thinking about what I said recently as to Christians at a minimum holding off “Easter” celebrations until after Passover (as the eastern church does and as it often falls for the western church as well). Actually, that is problematic as well. What happens then is Easter — with yeasted pastry and so forth — is in the midst of the days of unleavened bread [not to mention that churchy people never think in terms of how to do without leaven]. Of course, that means there is very definitely a separation between peoples for logistic reasons, if nothing else, at that point in time — time and time again.

    So… I’m thinking outside all the boxes… what if Christians decided to always have Easter or resurrection day memorials on the second Sunday after Purim? The idea would be to not step on Purim (and hopefully, as we also discussed briefly, introduce some recognition of Purim at Purim within Christian circles) and not step on Passover. We’d have to think of a “nicer” way to say that I guess. I can’t think of a way right now. But it’s not as if anything like the idea is going to happen anyway. For the same reason momentum keeps them in their habits, and they don’t think through what they do, they have no motivation to think through and commit to a better or different way.

    My concern is not purely about holidays specifically… but is also simply a matter of not being able to well offer basic hospitality, with any level of respect, to Jewish people at a key time each year. It’s a key time of year to both groups regardless of how imperfect or absentmindedly anyone is doing anything (customarily) for their religion. If at least the staging was put together in such a way that Christians were not set up to be offended by hearing [not that Jews have a tendency to criticise the “heritage” of others] anything negative about their special leavened bread (and maybe hams and whatever) *during* their heightened party time, the sense of conflict could be more minimal.

    That overt conflict happens more from the “Roots” people (as differentiated in my mind from “roots” people) and (anti) paganism people I think. Still, I also think conventional Christians have more of a tendency to be “offended” over the slightest perceived slights or lack of conformity. They are as if anyone not doing what they do and saying the things they say are bad. Whereas it seems to me Jews [in the majority] tend more to observe Christians aren’t like them… so Jews, thus, the tendency goes, might as well not worry about it and just stick to people who are more like them in order to have acceptance and a sense of home or community. I might not be saying this clearly enough, but it’s a significant subtlety of perspective leaning… more positively and constructively than exclusionarily or triumphaly.

    Historically, anyone thinking of something like my idea wouldn’t happen. A reason is that:

    Yeshua had observed Passover on the fourteenth of Nisan because that is its Biblical date. He observed all the Levitical holy days on the days when God had decreed and designed them to be observed. The ambassadors of the Lord and his first-century followers did much the same.

    “At first the Christian Passover was celebrated at the same time as the
    Jewish, this simultaneous observance was preserving the Jewish ritual in the Christian festival, and strengthening the bonds between Christianity and Judaism. The date must be changed. In some quarters {Christians} attempted to restrict the celebration to a single day, 14 Nisan; elsewhere – and this became the prevailing custom – she {who became the Church} made Holy Week the week in which fell 14 Nisan (the day when the Jewish feast began), and removed the festival, which had already changed its character, to the Sunday following Holy Week. In all these cases there was dependance on the Jewish calendar, a ‘humiliating subjection’ to the Synagogue which {was irksome to certain factions} {the factions that then became the Church}.

    “Besides changing their dates, the Church also gave to the Jewish festivals, which she adopted, a purpose different from that which they had for the Jews. [Thus] Sunday commemorates the resurrection of the Lord, the victory over the Jews.” 3 {*}

    {*} 3. Les Juifs dan l’empire romain I, Paris 1914, P.308ff, quoted in “A Note on the Quartodecimans,” C.W. Dugmore, Studia Patristica, Vol.IV, Berlin, 1961, P.412

    Sometime in the second century, some of the churches in the west, among the Gentiles, began to celebrate Passover/Easter so that their commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection would always take place on a Sunday regardless of the Biblical calendar. Towards the end of the second century, these western churches, led by the bishops of Rome, Caesarea, and Jerusalem (where there were no longer Jewish “bishops),” began to agitate for all the churches to keep the Passover on their fixed Sunday, rather than on the fourteenth of Nisan.

    They also were accustomed to using the Roman calendar, rather than the Biblical calendar. Eusebius says, “There was a considerable discussion raised about this time, in consequence of a difference of opinion respecting the observance of the paschal season. The churches of all Asia, guided by a remoter tradition, supposed that they ought to keep the fourteenth day of the moon for the festival of the Savior’s passover… ….4 {*}

    {*} 4. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, op. cit., Bk. 5, Ch. 23, P.207

    — Daniel Gruber

  3. @Questor: I don’t disdain Christians who celebrate Easter. From their point of view, it is the appropriate time to rejoice in Rav Yeshua’s resurrection, just as Christmas is the appropriate or traditional occasion for celebrating his birth.

    I just don’t feel connected to Easter (or Christmas for that matter).

    I too remember coloring eggs as a child, but the memories arem’t particularly nostalgic for me.

    @Marleen: One of the problems in terms of the timing of Easter, Purim, and Passover is that the Hebrew calendar, being based on a lunar calendar, makes Purim and Passover “float” on different days/months each year, so organizing Easter to always be somewhere in-between would be a problem. That and the fact that the vast majority of Christians don’t consider Passover and Purim as particularly relevant to their faith in Jesus.

    I suppose there are some interfaith families that make both Christian and Jewish religious calendars work together, but for most of us, we choose one or the other, thus avoiding the problem.

  4. Thanks for posting, James. I’ve been out of the loop for a while now, but hoping to ease my way back in.

    This was the first year that I felt no connection to Easter. I haven’t celebrated for a few years now, but this was the first time I felt completely disconnected. My oldest son is in town, working with my second oldest on an escape room. He asked me if I was doing anything for Easter. The last couple of years some of the kids and I either went out for brunch or to my daughter’s house. This year, she is packing up her house to go on a two year mission’s trip, so there wasn’t a gathering.

    Instead, my son and I headed to Ikea. We had a great time, and I noticed a lot of kippas and tzit-tzit in the place. 🙂

    My cousin texted me ‘Happy Easter’. I gave her a call, just to say hi and wish her the same. She jokingly said, “I didn’t know if I should wish my Jewish cousin and Happy Easter.” At least we can both laugh about my walk, rather than have her so concerned that I abandoned Jesus.

    There were a lot of postings on Facebook, and I followed Darren’s question. More than anything, I can’t wait for Messiah to return and help us all get on the same page. The disparaging remarks can be so discouraging.

  5. …… As a final note on the Council of Nicea, Canon VII speaks of the Bishop of Aelia. “Aelia” is the name that the Roman Emperor Hadrian had given to Jerusalem after the end of the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

    “Canon VII: Since custom and ancient tradition require that the bishop of Aelia be held in veneration, let him have the next degree of honor to the metropolitan [the bishop of Caesarea], without prejudice to the appropriate authority of the latter.” 15 Jerusalem had her name taken away, and she was placed in subjection to the church that had embraced Origen {the Caesarean church, contrary to believers elsewhere at the time of Origen}. Constantine and Eusebius institutionalized many serious errors. They made changes that were to plunge the Church and the world into a literal thousand years of darkness. They laid a different foundation than Yeshua and his ambassadors had laid. A new era in the history of those who claimed to be his followers had begun.

    “Eusebius tells the story in The Last Days of Constantine. ‘All these edifices the emperor consecrated with the desire of perpetuating the memory of the Apostles of our Saviour before all men. He had, however, another object in erecting this building (i.e., the Church of the Apostles at Constantinople): an object at first unknown, but which afterwards became evident to all. He had, in fact, made a choice of this spot in the prospect of his own death, anticipating with extraordinary fervour of faith that his body would share {…} with the Apostles themselves, and that he should thus even after death become the subject, with them, of the devotions which should be performed to their honour in this place, and for this reason he bade men assemble for worship there at the altar which he placed in the midst. He accordingly caused twelve coffins to be set up…. 16
    ……
    15. ibid., P. 56, following the ecclesiastical history.
    16. J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius, P. 395, quoted in The Search for the Twelve
    Apostles, William Steuart McBirnie, Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL., 1977, P. 19

    I added the boldface.

  6. @James: One of the problems in terms of the timing of Easter, Purim, and Passover is that the Hebrew calendar, being based on a lunar calendar, makes Purim and Passover “float” {…} so….

    Like I said, “…it’s not as if anything like the idea is going to happen anyway.” And part of the reason, as I tried to point out, is that…

    …. In all these cases there was dependance on the Jewish calendar, a ‘humiliating subjection’ to the Synagogue which {was irksome to certain factions} {the factions that then became the Church}.

    If people could get over the feeling of ‘humiliating subjection’ so called, wouldn’t it be easy to go two actually weeks (or, two Sundays, to be more precise) out from Purim? Weeks aren’t really tied to either the Roman or the Hebrew/Jewish/Synogogue calendar.

    But, as I acknowledged, none is actually interested in any sort of solution (the idea I shared or any other).

    And I suppose Christians aren’t supposed to know the moon exists either (and maybe are rather to hide from it).

  7. That is except when they tell their children to look for the bunny… on the moon, that is. I don’t care about the bunny and egg and chocolate stuff one way or another, but only then might they think moon.

  8. The point remains and is still being ignored that Yeshua’s resurrection was on the Feast of First Fruits, as he is the first fruit of the New Covenant that was cut in his blood even as he was the Lamb of G-d sacrificing himself.

    The Feast of FIrst Fruits is always the Sunday following Passover, yet it was this fact that the Church divorced herself from when they disposed of any relationship to the Moedim of G-d. That divorce of the Greco-Romans from Nazarene Judaism is what is causing all our inability to fellowship with Christians who are not Talmidei Yeshua.

    Certainly Christians can celebrate the Resurrection any way they choose…it is celebrated, and that is what counts. I merely detest the ignorance that is walked in, taught and accepted by so many Christians that I have to abjure their churches in order to remain sane.

  9. @Questor, that’s where we come in. Most are walking in ignorance. When they discover the truth, as we did, they start on a path that leads them to celebrating Adonai’s Moedim.

    I agree, I have to stay out of the church to keep from being angry, but that does not prevent me from fellowshipping with believers on a personal level. Invite them to a Sabbath meal, to Passover, to Sukkot. Let’s show them the joy of the Festivals.

  10. The disconnect between the Christian and Jewish religious calendars is going to continue until Messiah returns and straightens us all out.

  11. I agree with you, James, that the “disconnect… is going to continue…”

    I like your attitude, Ro, of displaying the “joy of the Festivals.”

    I’m glad, Questor, that you brought up Firstfruits. I wasn’t going to bring it up explicitly. It seems to me Firstfruits is on the Sunday after Passover (a Sunday within the days of unleavened bread). But I’ve seen that there is disagreement about this; I haven’t been able to make sense of the disagreement. But Firstfruits is part of why (in a different thread topic, I remember not which one, but recently) I had said church people could at the very least wait until after Passover. But, on second thought, there’s no real point in pushing for that because then there’s the issue of all the hot cross buns and/or other breads with which they will never part. But they could just do their own thing earlier. But of course, they’re just going to do their own thing anyway, keep on keepin’ on.

  12. Questor, it was the “Meaning of Purim and Easter” thread.

    That might be an easy place for church people to start. One doesn’t “have to” do a whole carnival atmosphere or anything close to what synagogues do to read the story of Esther on Purim. A risk, however, would be that churches would read it as if it’s about them…

    …you know, now. “You walked into a party… you’re so vain, you’re so vain, you’re so vain, baby, you’re so vain. I’ll say it again.”

  13. The confusion about Firstfruits derives from the interpretation of the Torah’s use of the phrase ‘on the morrow after the sabbath’ for the festival. The Pharisees interpreted that to mean the day after the holiday Sabbath that is the first day of Unleavened Bread; for them the 16th of Nissan is Firstfruits always. Others (IIRC, referred to as Boethusians in the Mishnah) interpreted the Torah to mean the day after the weekly Sabbath that falls during Unleavened Bread, which will always be a Sunday.

  14. Thanks, Steve. I’ve also heard of Firstfruits being later — not either of the two options you explained. That’s the one that doesn’t jive.

  15. ~ jibe (seem to me to be in any understandable accord consistent with what I’ve seen in scripture) [didn’t mean to say or type in that it… doesn’t… speak well with hipsters or in an urban setting]

  16. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/First_Fruits/first_fruits.html

    This came up with a search. One thing I would point out is that this site says “the feast of firstfruits” can be confusing terminology to use for this point in time. I don’t read at this linked site, although I have heard of Zola Levitt decades ago and seen him on television a time or two. One thing I would differ from as to what is said on the linked page is that I don’t think the firstfruit or early offering had to be at the exact same time that Yeshua rose. While it does matter that he died in the afternoon of Passover, at a given time, firstfruit isn’t that precise. For instance, the actual plant matter that is waved grew up and was plucked before it was waved. So, I lean toward the Passover being on Wednesday and exit from the tomb at twilight Saturday.

    As you can see, the discussion is pertaining to thoughts along the lines of the two options or points of view Steve presented. I still don’t know why I’ve seen “Firstfruits” observed later than either (but close to Passover). I saw it happening once, maybe a convenience.

    The term is also used for Shavuot.

  17. To be clear, the postulated Passover on Thursday (at the link) was mainly a theory. We don’t know what day of the week it was. I tend to think it was Wednesday, so the last meal was Tuesday night.

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