Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, eds. Messiah in the Passover

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser, eds. Messiah in the Passover. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2018. 379 pp. Pb. $16.99   Link to Kregel

Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser have edited several recent books on the topic of Israel, including To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History (2008), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 (2012), The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel (2012), and Israel, the Church and the Middle East (2018), all published by Kregel. Messiah in the Passover collects essays from the staff of Chosen People Ministries, an evangelistic mission to Jews led by Glaser.

Messiah in the PassoverIn the introduction to the collection, Mitch Glaser asks “Why Study the Passover?” For a Jewish person, Passover is a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt. The feast celebrates the symbols of Sinai, Torah, and redemption. For a Christian, celebrating Passover is an opportunity to deepen one’s appreciation for the Jewishness of the Gospel. For Glaser, this “common experience” can better communicate the Gospel to Jewish friends (20).

The first set of essays gather the biblical foundations for Passover. Five essays survey portions of the canon which mention Passover: Passover in the Torah (Robert Walter), the Writings (Richard H. Flashman), the Prophets (Gordon Law), the Gospel of Luke (Darrell L. Bock), the Gospel of John (Mitch Glaser). The weakest of these chapters is the section on the prophets, simply because there are virtually no references in either the former or latter prophets to the Passover. Law could have included references to a “second Exodus” (Isaiah 40-55, for example) in this section, but instead he focuses his short chapter on the links between Elijah and the modern Seder. There are certainly links between Moses and Elijah, but many of these are post-biblical traditions. Both Bock and Glaser deal with the problem of the Last Supper as a Passover meal. Both weigh the evidence and conclude it was in fact a Passover meal, although there are several outstanding difficulties with the conclusion. The final essay in this section also argues the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Brian Crawford examines several passages in 1 Corinthians to conclude Paul used the Passover to deepen the Corinthian church’s experience of the Gospel (109). Communion is therefore passed on Passover tradition.

The second section of Messiah in the Passover collects three essays Passover in Church history. Scott P. Nassau deals with the Passover in the early church (“Passover, the Temple, and the Early Church”). Early church history is tangled with post A.D. 70 Jewish Christianity. Hagg includes the Ebionites and Nazarenes as examples of Christian (or better, semi-Christian) groups who continued to keep Passover well into the Christian era. Of special interest is Melito of Sardis, a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity and wrote Peri Pascha, “Concerning the Passover.” Although Melito created a Christian Haggadah, by the time of the council of Nicean there was a clear movement away from Passover in Christian practice. While Nassau only briefly mentions the Quaterodeciman debate, Gregory Hagg introduces the “Passover Controversies in Church History” with the Quaterodecimans. The name means “fourteen” and refers to Christians who chose to celebrate Easter on Passover (14 Nisan). Citing Ignatius’s letter to the Philippians, any Christian who celebrates Passover with the Jews “is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and his apostles” (132). By the time of Nicea, the Quaterodecimans were persecuted. While Hagg’s article begins to deal with Christian anti-Semitism (specifically blood libel), Olivier Melnick traces Christian attitudes toward Jewish people through the modern era.

The third unit of Messiah in the Passover is a pair of essays on Jewish Tradition and the Passover. First, Zhava Glaser collects references to the Passover in Rabbinic Writings (the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta). It is in this vast literature that many of traditions now part of a Passover Haggadah began to develop. But many of these practices are rooted in biblical texts. For example, the first mention of four cups of wine is in the Mishnah, but Glaser follows Baruch Bosker in arguing the cups drawn on biblical imagery in the Torah itself. After the loss of the Temple, the Passover Haggadah was transformed into a celebration of the sacrificed Lamb which looked forward to a future redemption of Israel (168). Second, Daniel Nessim discusses the fascinating tradition of the Afikoman at Passover. I first ran across the practice in Craig Evans’s Word Commentary on Mark 8:27-16:20 (p. 390; Evans cites Daube, who appears in Nessim’s essay). The word אפיקומן is from Greek ἀφικόμενος, “he who comes.” Nessim argues the word is an acronym for seven elements of the Passover meal (see the chart on page 172). What is intriguing about the practice is the possibility

In the fourth section of the book focuses on the communication of the Gospel through Passover. First, Michael Cohen discusses what the Passover says about atonement. This seems strange since atonement is not mentioned in connection to Passover in the Torah, but it is the backdrop to the New Covenant and the sacrificial lamb does foreshadow Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12). He then traces the theme of atonement through four stages represented by the Passover mean. Second, Larry Feldman offers several examples of the Gospel in the Passover Seder. He begins with the karpas, the dipping of the parsley into saltwater. The parsley is dipped twice into the sale water to remind participants of both the tears shed while in slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. More significant, the parsley is related to the hyssop used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb. He suggests viewing the Seder in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus reminds the Christian of the time when God will wipe away all tears (Rev 21:4) as well as the redemption we have in Jesus (Rom 6:22-23). The section includes two brief sermons, “Jesus, the Lamb of God” (Richard E. Freeman) and “The Third Cup” (David Secada).

Finally, the fifth section of Messiah in the Passover has four essays on celebrating Passover as a Christian. First, Cathy Wilson offers some practical advice on keeping Passover in a Christian home. She is clear that in the original Passover the shed blood of the lamb was central. The re-telling of the Passover story, the Christian ought to focus on Jesus as “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor 5:7). She narrates a Christian Haggadah similar to the “Messianic Family Haggadah” from Chosen People Ministries (Chapter 18). Although both follow the traditional order of service (seder), there are frequent references to New Testament when appropriate. Rachel Galilstein-Davis supplements this with “Passover Lessons for Your Children.” She begins with the observation that children are the most important part of a Passover celebration since the point of re-telling the Exodus is to re-inforce the story to the younger generation. She offers are new children’s lessons with crafts and other activities which highlight key aspects of Passover and teach a few Hebrew words along the way.  Finally, Mitch Forman offers a few comments on Passover foods and even shares some recipes (including gefilte fish and roast brisket).

The book includes nine appendices over twenty-three pages, a ten-page glossary of terms, nineteen pages of recommended reading and bibliography, and twenty-one pages of indices. Some of the appendices are valuable, for example “Passover Observances in Biblical History” and “Last Supper Sayings Compared,” of which are in charts. However, a list of the “Jewish and Protestant Canons of the Bible” and a map of the Exodus do not seem like a good use of space.

Conclusion. Glaser began Messiah in the Passover with an argument in favor of Christians celebrating Passover, or at least incorporating elements of Passover into their Christian worship. Christians ought to not simply be aware of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but to drink deeply in the waters of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, they will more fully understand how God has worked in the past, how he is working in the present and will work in the future. However, there is some risk when importing the practice of Passover back into Christian worship. As Glaser himself admits, we really do not have any idea how much Jesus’s practice looked like a modern Passover celebration (24). It is possible some (gentile) Christians can become overly attracted to modern Jewish practice to the point they misunderstand the Body of Christ in the present age.

This book is an excellent contribution to a Christian understanding of both ancient and modern Jewish celebration of Passover.


NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.


Be Holy! – 1 Peter 1:15-21

In his first chapter, Peter has described the salvation his readers experienced as unimaginably great. If the readers have such a great salvation as this, they ought to be holy (1:15-16). Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44: “You shall be holy because I am holy.” This section alludes to many texts and ideas drawn from the Old Testament. In fact, the more one is aware of the overall plot of the Old Testament, the clearer this passage is. Peter is assuming the “salvation history” of the Jewish people in these verses. He is not just quoting the Hebrew Bible; he is alluding to the whole plot of sin and redemption from Genesis through the Prophets.

Passover Lamb

The first reason Peter gives for this is that the believers have been “ransomed from their futile ways” (v.18). For a Jewish or Gentile reader, the “ransom” language Peter used would evoke the practice setting a slave free. The verb (λυτρόω) refers to paying a price to set a slave free. A price would be deposited at a temple, and the slave was then considered to be purchased by the god. For the Jewish reader, the idea of “ransom” is far more theologically rich. The Jewish people as a whole were redeemed out of their slavery in Egypt and therefore became the people of God in the Exodus.

Since Israel they broke the covenant and went into exile. The prophet (Isaiah especially) described the return from exile as a New Exodus. When Israel is called out of the nations they will once again be “redeemed” by their God. It is for this reason that the coming messianic age could be called the “redemption of Israel” (Luke 2:25 Simeon).

Peter makes a connection between the Passover Lamb and Jesus, who is the ultimate price to pay. The price paid was not with perishable things, gold or silver, but with a life. The sacrificial system from the Hebrew Bible required a life as a substitute for sin. When the first Passover happened, the blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts so that the family in the home would be saved from the final plague and redeemed out of Egypt. The people did not give gold or silver to a temple, but they gave up a precious life.

Isaiah 55:1 may be a parallel here since the people are called out of the exile to eat and drink with the Lord, food provided without money. That section ends with a reference to the Word of God “not returning void” as the new eschatological age dawns. The blood of Christ’s sacrifice is even more “precious” (τίμιος) than the Passover Lamb. This word is often used for precious stones, jewels, etc. Something that is precious is held in highest honor. Since the contrast is with gold and silver, the value of the blood of the sacrifice of the Messiah is as high as imaginable.

A “lamb without blemish or spot” is an allusion to the Passover Lamb. Any sacrificed animal is to be pure and spotless (the same idea appears in Heb 9:14). But the word (ἄμωμος) is often used for moral purity as well. Since the lamb of a sacrifice was offered to God, it was to be as perfect as possible. In fact, Peter’s description of the death of Jesus as a ransom may be drawn from the teaching of Jesus himself. In Mark 10:45 Jesus describes the giving up of his life as a “ransom for many.”

Peter therefore connects the salvation experience of the believer to the Passover (the salvation experience of the Hebrew Bible) and draws the same ethical implications that the Torah did. Since believers in Christ has been “bought with a price” they ought to live a holy life. Based on 1 Peter 1-2, what does this holiness “look like”?

Jesus’ Humility at the Last Supper

When Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he is preforming a parabolic act. As with parables, we need to understand the context in order to understand what Jesus was trying to teach through the washing of his disciples’ feet.

It is well-known that hospitality in the ancient world included foot-washing. Since virtually all travel was by foot, a visitor should be allowed to “refresh themselves” when they arrive by washing their feet. If the host had servants, the task of washing the guest’s feet fell to the lowliest servant. For a Jewish family, the task would be assigned to a Gentile slave (Köstenberger, John, 405). In this case, Jesus takes off his outer clothes and wraps himself in a long towel and does the job of the lowliest slave.

Since this is a Passover meal, it is likely that each of the disciples have washed their hands ceremonially before touching the food of the meal. My guess is that the feet would need to be washed since the are most likely to have come into contact with uncleanliness, the slave who washed the feet would therefore himself be unclean.

This is therefore a shocking act by a Jewish teacher prior to the Passover meal. Jesus’ humble service of his disciples is an illustration of how the disciples are to continue his work after the resurrection.

Said R. Joshua b. Levi, “All acts of labor that a slave performs for his master, a disciple of a sage performs for his master, except for removing his shoe.” b. Ketub. 96a (Neusner, b. Ketub. 11:1, I.2.A; 9:440)

Jesus is due the titles Teacher (Rabbi) and Lord. Even if we take the title Lord as equivalent to sir, both titles put Jesus well above the disciples socially. In a teacher-student relationship of the Second Temple Period, there was little a teacher could not ask his disciple to do for him. Yet Jesus reverses cultural expectations by doing an extremely humbling service for his disciples.

This is a pattern for the disciples to follow (v.15). The noun used here (ὑπόδειγμα) has the sense of a pattern, or model used for moral instruction. Jesus is saying this is an illustration of how you are to serve one another. This is not a pattern to be followed for worship, for example. Although there is nothing particularly wrong with practicing foot-washing in some Christian denominations, it is not an ordinance like the Lord’s Supper. To me this is analogous to saying the Lord’s Prayer. It is not particularly wrong, but misses Jesus point when he gave the prayer of an illustration of how to pray!

How do we serve as Jesus did? First, Jesus did not insist on his titles and honors. Ideally, Peter ought to have served Jesus, but Jesus radically reverses expectations and serves those who are socially lower than himself. If the Lord (and God) of the universe can get down on his hands and knees to wash the feet of those who owe him honor and loyalty, how ought we to serve?

Second, notice that he washes all the disciples’ feet, including Judas. He knew that Judas was the betrayer, yet he extended to him the same humble service that he gave the other “loyal” disciples. Jesus knew that Satan was about to enter Judas and he knew exactly what Judas was about to do, but he treated him in exactly the same way he did Peter or John.

That is remarkable to me. I have no problem humbly serving my family or my church family. But what about those who are outside the church? There are people who are outside of my normal circle who I do not serve, in fact, I sometimes treat them with contempt.

Jesus did not, he died for them as well.

John 6:1-14 – What is the Point of the Leftovers?

Looking at the huge crowd gathered to hear him, Jesus asks his disciple Philip where they could possibly find enough food to feed the large crowd. As happens often in John’s Gospel, Jesus knows exactly what he is about to do so this question is a test for the disciples (John 6:6). Marianne Meye Thompson acknowledges the verb used here can refer to a temptation or trap, but in this cases it is better “examine, try, prove” (John, 140).

Fish and BreadOnce again in the Gospel of John someone misunderstands Jesus’s question and fails to anticipate the miracle. Philip points out the impossibility of buying that much food: “Two hundred denarii” worth of food would not be enough! This is more than a half-year’s wages, so Philip’s point is “we don’t have that kind of money, Jesus.” He is thinking of literally feeding the crowd, Jesus is talking about spiritually feeding the crowd the “bread of life.”

Another disciple who is only mentioned in the Synoptic gospels, Andrew, finds a boy with a small lunch. Andrew probably did not think the food could be shared, he was pointing out the impossibility of finding enough food for the crowd. The fish were probably small pickled fish (not a sardine, but something similar). No one would carry a pair of rainbow trout in their satchel on the outside chance they were needed to feed a crowd!

Jesus takes this small amount of food, offers thanks, and then distributes the food to the crowd. The crowd sees that is a miracle and wonder what kind of prophet Jesus is. They have in a mind a tradition drawn from Deut 18:15-18 that another prophet like Moses will come into the world. Moses fed the Israelites manna in the wilderness, in a similar way Jesus gives bread to a new Israel in a new wilderness.

Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (ESV) “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

It is possible this miracle is an allusion to Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44). In 2 Kings the prophet Elisha feeds 150 men with a small amount of food. There are similarities, but the more important allusion is to the wilderness period of Israel’s history.

The food provides enough for all the crowd to eat until they are satisfied and still have twelve baskets left over. Consider these are poor people who are given free food and allowed to eat as much as they want. I think they probably overate and maybe stuffed a few leftovers in their pockets to take home to the family.

The point of the leftovers? “This is the ample provision of the Lord who declared, ‘My people will be filled with the bounty’ (Jeremiah 31:14)” (Carson, John, 271). Just as Jesus provided plentiful excellent wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12) and healed a man who was crippled for thirty-eight years (5:5-6), now Jesus provides enough food everyone is satisfied and there are plenty of leftovers. Like the wine at the wedding in Cana, Jesus is revealing for those who have ears to hear that he is the host of an eschatological banquet, like the manna in the wilderness God is providing new bread for his people. But as Jesus will say later in John 6 this “bread of life” is his own body which will be given for them (6:48-51).

John 6:1-14 – Feeding the 5000

The Feeding of the Five Thousand appears in all four Gospels.The details in John are in some ways more detailed. For example, the role of Andrew and Philip are unique to John, in the synoptic gospels the disciples who ask Jesus about the crowds are anonymous. The use of the disciples to react to Jesus is typical of John, as is the mention of the words and deeds of other disciples outside of Peter, James and John.

Fish and Bread, Feeding the 5000

That this event occurs at the time of the Passover is extremely important for understanding the point of the miracle. Passover celebrates the rescue of Israel out of Egypt. God sent plagues on the Egyptians and took his people out into the wilderness where he provided for them both food and water. What is more, the rescue from Egypt at Passover marks the beginning of Israel as a nation.

John wants to present Jesus as a “prophet like Moses” in this section. It was Moses who provided food to the people of Israel in the wilderness after the first Passover and then led the people through the waters of the Red Sea. In Exodus 16 God provides for the people of Israel with manna and quail.  Jesus provides food then walks on the water. There is even a parallel in the reaction of the crowds – the crowds  “murmur” in 6:41 in such a way that implies that they have not really understood the miracle.

When Jesus provided food for a large crowd of Jews in a wilderness location, consciously re-enacting the original Passover. Like celebrating the fourth of July in America, celebrating Passover evoked a nationalistic spirit even in Galilee. Perhaps because many in Galilee thought of themselves as “occupied” by the Romans, Passover could easily develop anti-Roman sentiment.

This miracle could be taken as the beginnings of a revolution. When he seats people in groups he is organizing the people into “tribes” just as Moses did. The crowds in fact misunderstand the sign in just this way and try to force Jesus to be a king. As D. A. Carson said, “In the light of v. 15, where the people try to make Jesus king by force, it is easy to think that, at least in John, the specification of five thousand men is a way of drawing attention to a potential guerrilla force of eager recruits willing and able to serve the right leader” (Carson, John, 270).

The crowd thinks that Jesus is the Prophet, a messianic figure, a second Moses who leads Israel into the wilderness and provides manna for them. Isaiah 40-55 makes us use of the original wilderness period to describe the return of Israel from Exile.  There seems to have been a general feeling among the people, perhaps especially in Galilee, that the exile was still going on because Israel’s king had not come nor has the whole nation been gathered back to the land.

This nationalism would have been especially strong during the Passover. Israel was remembering his origins. Families were re-enacting the inaugural Passover meal in their homes and talking about what God has done for them in the Exodus and journey to the land. It is very easy to see what the people thought, Jesus is like Moses, gathering a force in the wilderness which could be used to secure the land, in this he is a new Moses. But Jesus is also a new Joshua- the people of Galilee were willing to take up arms to liberate the nation.

After Jesus explains that his kingdom is not going to be an armed rebellion, the crowds begin to fall away and even Jesus’ own disciples begin to grumble about this “hard teaching” (6:60-66) .  The verb used in verse 61 (γογγύζω) is used for the complaints of the Israelites in the wilderness period (they were “murmuring”). Just like Israel in the past, present Israel is complaining, questioning whether Jesus is the true messiah or not.

The Twelve, however, remain faithful (6:67-69).  Peter is the disciples who responds that there is no one else to follow since Jesus has the words of life.  The inner circle is committed to following Jesus since there is no life (water, bread) anywhere else.  If that is true, Peter says, “What other teacher are we going to follow?” If Jesus is the teacher who has the truth, it is because he is also God incarnate – once again, who else are they going to follow?  They know the truth, they cannot now turn to any other teacher.

Indeed, what other teacher are we going to follow?