I can understand why some Jewish leaders are concerned about Christians adopting (usurping?) the Passover seder and replacing its original Jewish meanings with Christian meanings. With nearly 2000 years of Christian anti-semitism in our shared history, this can easily be interpreted as yet another encroachment and attempt at conquest and assimilation.
But I wonder if something more helpful - for both Christians and Jews - could come from Christian engagement with Passover. Perhaps instead of importing Christian meanings into a Jewish holiday, Christians can important Jewish meanings into Christian faith, thus reframing our understanding of Jesus and the gospel. (This is one theme of my book “A New Kind of Christianity.”) Many of us are increasingly convinced that it’s a mistake for Christians to see Jesus as a Christian - especially in the modern sense of the word: he was a Jew, as were all the first disciples.
When we Christians reframe and rediscover our faith in light of its Jewish roots (rather than interpreting it in the alien categories of Greek philosophy and Roman politics of the second through fifth centuries), I think our faith is enriched - and we are confronted more deeply by the ugly and violent aspects of “Christian history.”
For example, the word “salvation” in the context of the Passover does not mean “atoning for original sin so the soul can go to heaven instead of hell after death.” No, the word “salvation” means “liberation from slavery and oppression.” So to speak of Jesus as Savior suddenly has less to do with one’s destination after death (as Rob Bell affirms in “Love Wins,” and as I also explored in my “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy) and more to do with one’s participation in and pursuit of God’s justice, reconciliation, and peace in this world, with Jesus - justice for all, reconciliation with all, and peace among all.
That’s quite an improvement over usurpation, encroachment, conquest, and assimilation. So instead of Christians telling Jews what the Passover really means, I propose that we Christians reverse roles and take the role of listeners for a while, learning with our Jewish neighbors forgotten or suppressed meanings that will challenge us all towards repentance and faith, love and good work.
Brian D. Mclaren