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Jews for Jesus’ Passover program offers Jewish symbolism insights

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–It’s a familiar verse to Lord’s Supper services in churches across the nation:

“Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).

But many Christians do not understand the symbols Jesus used to communicate the message of his pending death and resurrection. Jews for Jesus is seeking to change that through its “Christ in the Passover” programs, which are scheduled in various Baptist churches across the country. Jews begin this year’s eight-day Passover observance April 20.

“We bring this program into churches to help us bridge understanding between the Jewish Passover feast, the Last Supper, and help Christians see how our beliefs are so rooted in Jewish traditions,” said Susan Pearlman of the Jews for Jesus organization based in San Francisco.

“When you understand some of the original traditions, you can hear his words with a lot more meaning,” Pearlman said.

She offered this example: “In Passover, the specific piece of unleavened bread Jesus took and broke is called the bread of affliction. And when Jesus said, ‘… this cup is poured out for you,’ he took the third cup in the Passover — the one taken immediately after supper — called the cup of redemption. His disciples knew that; he was signaling his act of redeeming mankind to come.

“All these things add real meaning as to how Jesus took these symbols that God had prepared thousands of years earlier so that he could give them their fuller meaning in his death and resurrection,” she explained.

Those symbolic meanings impressed Roger Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Villa Ridge, Mo., which hosted a Christ in the Passover program April 2.

“A lot of people don’t connect the New Testament and Old Testament, and this program showed pretty clear pictures of Christ in the Old Testament,” Johnson said. “It created more interest in studying the Old Testament.”

Rick Hedger, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Neosho, Mo., said the Christ in the Passover service April 9 drew a crowd about one-third larger than normal.

“The church just sat spellbound for about an hour as Efraim Goldstein went through his presentation,” Hedger said. “It was easy for me to offer an invitation because he really emphasized the third cup of the Passover — the cup of redemption.”

This kind of deeper understanding — along with evangelism — are the main goals of Jews for Jesus, Pearlman said.

“This is a time when Christians can feel comfortable inviting their Jewish friends to the program,” she said. “Our program is to present Jesus — Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and we show this with a very visual demonstration.”

Though the Christ in the Passover program for churches lasts about 45 minutes, Pearlman said a traditional Passover meal in an Orthodox Jewish home takes about four hours.

Hedger said he recommends the Christ in the Passover program for other churches.

“I have no problem inviting Jews for Jesus back in the future,” he said. “I recommend it just for the experience of having it because most Christians only know about the Passover from the Book of Exodus and never have read the Haggadah (the book used in the ceremony).

“I’ve always wanted to see the Passover meal in practice, and this was our first time to have them come. It fulfilled a dream of mine.”

Jews for Jesus conducts the Christ in the Passover program year-round. They also do a demonstration in the fall for the Feast of the Tabernacle. More information can be obtained by phoning (415) 864-2600 or at their website, www.jewsforjesus.org.

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  • Stacey Hamby