Sometimes, the celebrations of Passover and Easter coincide, but sometimes they can be weeks apart. Why is this? Jesus died at Passover, why does the Christian church mark His death and resurrection at a different time? How did they get separated?
Jewish calendar follows a lunisolar system (meaning they observe the moon phase and the time of the solar year), their day starts and ends in the evening. Jesus had the last supper meal with His disciples in the evening of the Passover day.
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
Matthew 26:17 (NIV)
On that night, Jesus was betrayed and crucified. Around 3pm on the Passover day, He died.
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
Matthew 27:45-46, 50 (NIV)
As a Christian, shouldn’t we be celebrating over Passover instead of Easter?
I found this excellent article of “Why Are Passover And Easter Celebrated At Different Times?” written by “One For Israel”, a Hebrew-speaking Bible College in Israel. It explains the difference between Easter and Passover. Please have a read if possible.
Below are a few highlights from this article:
- In the third century, relations between the Jewish community and the Christians had deteriorated significantly, and there was a lot of hostility in both directions. So the church leaders decided, at the Council of Nicea in AD325, to not have anything in common with the Jews, and to separate themselves from the company of the Jews. They would celebrate a separate festival on a Sunday after the first new moon after the Spring Equinox.
- The King James Version erroneously translates the word Pascha (from the Aramaic for Passover) to Easter in Acts 12:4, but that is the closest we get. The English word “Easter” comes from “Eostre” – a goddess associated with Spring, and was co-opted for the name of the new festival to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, which was decidedly NOT Passover.
- We are not judged for not celebrating the Passover, but we miss out on many treasures that God placed in his word for us to learn from.
I personally celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter weekend but I am grateful to be able to understand and remember the true meaning from the bible.
Special year of 2018!
What’s amazing about this year in 2018? The Jewish Passover begins this evening on March 30, which coincides with “Good Friday” in the Western calendar! What a rare occation! Therefore, no matter which calendar you celebrate, Jesus died on the cross for all of us tonight about 2000 years ago.
Happy Easter and Happy Passover to everyone!!