In my church in The Netherlands, we had a Jewish-Christian family. In the US, that’s probably not such a big deal, but it’s not all that common in The Netherlands. The mom and I connected at some point and she asked me why we as a youth ministry did so little with the Biblical Jewish feasts.
I’m pretty sure my expression must have reflected my first thoughts, something along the lines of ‘why on earth would we want to do that?’. I don’t know about you, but my first association with Jewish feasts wasn’t exactly happy enthusiasm. Not that I knew all that much about them, mind you. They all seemed so theoretical, Old Testament, for a different time and age.
Because she kept bringing it up, I started doing some research. It was around Christmas, so being the diligent planner that I was, I was starting my prep for Easter and I figured I could see of we could do something with the Passover feast.
Once I started reading about the Jewish feasts and the Passover in particular, a world opened up to me. There were so many beautiful traditions that had such a deep meaning for us as New Testament Christians! So many of what God had done through Jesus had been foreshadowed in these feasts.
My research on Passover led me to develop a complete handbook for a Seder meal that we used with my ministry a few times. Both students and leaders were powerfully impacted by sharing a Passover meal together and discovering how these traditions dating from the time of Moses pointed towards Christ.
After that, I dove into some of the other feasts, wanting to learn more. The next feast we celebrated in our ministry was Yom Kippur, the feast where the High Priest offered special offers to atone for the sins of the people. Again, we had an evening that impacted many and led them to rededicate their lives to Christ because of what He has done for us.
Later, I connected the Yom Kippur feast with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. These two feasts are only ten days apart and these days are known as the Days of Awe. New year is a new start, a new beginning, and what better way to start a new year than by confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness?
I’ve discovered so many deep layers and rich meanings in the Jewish Biblical feasts by celebrating these with my students. Of course we haven’t done this in a strict, traditional Jewish way—that wouldn’t make sense. But we’ve tried to use elements that capture the deeper meaning of these feasts, that point towards Christ. And by doing that we’ve found fresh ways to share the Gospel and how God’s plan has always been to bring atonement through Jesus.
I really encourage you to dig into these feasts and celebrate them with your students. It’s an experience that will bring your students and your leaders closer to God and teach them Biblical truths in a new way. If you don’t want to do all the work yourself, simply use the resources available on the DYM site: the Passover guide for celebrating a Seder meal together and the Days of Awe resource which offers a complete resource to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The latter is coming up fast (October 2nd), so check them out today!