When I get asked the same question three times in one week, I start praying seriously about it because that just doesn’t happen unless the question is vitally important. All three times, it sounded almost verbatim like this and came from the same concern – a desire to love one’s neighbor and not be a stumbling block:
“Sister, we know some new believers but (he isn’t circumcised/they aren’t keeping all the commandments yet/they are still going to church on Sunday and keeping Christmas and Easter) and they want to keep Passover with us. I am afraid that if we don’t let them, it will destroy our witness and they will feel left out. I am not sure what to do.”
It’s a question that many people struggle with and indeed I used to be one of them. Let’s start out with scripture and see what it says about keeping the Passover:
Ex 12:47-49 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourns among you.
Clearly here, it says that only the circumcised shall eat of the Passover – and so that answers question #1. Righteous Cornelius and his family could not eat of the Passover, even though they were baptized by the Holy Spirit – but they could keep the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot, and Sukkot. And there must be a good reason why this one memorial (not a Feast, and not a High Sabbath) was forbidden to all uncircumcised because it is a commandment and the Word cannot be broken. But does it amount to persecution? Is it unfair? Does anyone have the right to feel “put out” that they cannot participate? Let’s first talk about circumcision and what it does and does not mean.
(1) Circumcision makes you a Jew.
No, circumcision gives you native-born status in the Land – the ability to have a Land grant inheritance among the children of Israel. Becoming a landowner (even if just in promise as currently we can make no legal claim in the Land that the current Nation would recognize), obligates one 100% to the laws of the Land (no different than becoming a citizen of the United States obligates one to keep all the the laws of the United States) because in taking on circumcision you are not only fully committing to the Kingship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, YHVH, and bowing down to the authority of Yeshua, His only begotten Son and appointed Heir to the Kingdoms of the Earth, but you are agreeing to live according to the Constitution of His Kingdom – the Torah. Anything short of full commitment does not rise to the level of being native-born. Just as not being native-born in the US means you cannot be President, not being native-born in the Kingdom of God means you cannot keep Passover and I will explain why later.
(2) The Law is sin, death and a burden – so becoming circumcised amounts to a rejection of Messiah.
No, the Law is life and coming into Covenant with God and refusing to keep His laws – that is death. It’s really quite simple and no different than becoming a full citizen of any country on earth. You take that citizenship oath and you go from Green card holder (sojourner) to citizen and there is no more wiggle room for not keeping all the laws – no more time to learn how to be a citizen because you have fully committed yourself. God simply added another level because in the US there is nothing a foreigner can ever do to become native-born. So the system of YHVH is far more equitable than the United States government, go figure…
The memorial of Passover is a celebration of being completely and utterly delivered: removed from the sin and slavery of Egypt, citizens under a new King with righteous and just laws, and inheritors of the Land of that King. The Passover is the memorial of a complete deliverance, not a partial one, and if we are still only sojourners then our deliverance is incomplete because we have yet to absolutely and fully commit to being part of the Land. We are saved, yes, but there is still more to be had. When uncircumcised, we can refrain from transgressing the Law of the Land, we can have a new King, but we are still only eligible to be inheritors within the Kingdoms of the Earth.
Passover is for the believer who desires the Land, and who desires to be as one born there. Passover is exclusive – it is not a right but a privilege. You totally give up all of your allegiance to king, law and land in order to grab on to something better and eternal – the King of kings, the perfect Law of liberty and the Promised Land. Passover isn’t simply about salvation – it is about complete and utter deliverance from not only death but the kingdoms of men as well, it is a total change of allegiance – not a partial change (which answers the next two questions that I was asked). As the first Passover was the beginning of a journey into holiness, so is salvation simply the beginning of that same journey. Everyone in Egypt – Israelite and mixed multitude – had the opportunity to participate in that first Passover as a sign of faith, but the memorial of it is for those who made the full commitment. That’s why law-keeping before salvation is not a requirement, but afterwards one is expected to walk in increasing levels of holiness as the Law is learned. It is about transitioning from old allegiances to a new one.
And that total change of allegiance is why it is forbidden to those who are not yet native-born. It is not to be seen as a slap in the face, but as a recognition that the person is still learning to become a citizen. It is no more an insult than to deny a green-card holder political office – ask them and they understand because until they become a citizen, they are still bound to their old countries and free to return at any time. They are in transition and are not yet able to master all our laws – it is the same for new believers who are not expected to have a perfect understanding of the Constitutional laws of God’s Kingdom. As Paul clearly said:
Gal 5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
This wasn’t a warning telling them to never be circumcised. but an admonition of the serious nature of full Kingdom commitment before rushing under the knife because once they are circumcised, the community and the King will hold them to a higher standard than they would the sojourner. But isn’t that what we are all striving for? Coming into higher and higher standards of holiness as we mature? Who wants to remain babies forever? The Kingdom needs adults and I do find it interesting that Abraham was only given the command to circumcise after he had been walking with YHVH for 24 years. It is not a commitment to be taken lightly, as Paul warned. Circumcision for social acceptance (the entire theme of Galatians, which I will cover extensively in my new book coming out soon) is a mistake – being circumcised just because you don’t want to be denied the Passover is a mistake, but becoming circumcised because you have become mature enough to understand the level of dedication and commitment required to fully walk as a subject of the King, under His perfect Law, and as an inheritor to the Covenants of Promise to Abraham (the great name, offspring and Land promised in Gen 12, 15 and 17) – that is no mistake at all.
That’s putting all of your eggs in YHVH’s basket. That is what we are called to aspire to – not what we are called to get right on day one. We learn little by little to purge our lives of that old leaven, our old ways, and take on that unleavened loaf of purity – and that’s why the Feast of Unleavened Bread can be kept by anyone who sojourns with the children of Israel. Shavuot, the giving of the Law and the giving of the Spirit, can be kept by any sojourner because the Law and the Seal of the Covenant are not determined by genealogy, and Sukkot can be kept by anyone, because the coming of Messiah is not only for the native born. But the Passover, that is special, and you know – it represents the most incredibly special thing on earth:
The foreigner isn’t relegated to always being a foreigner but can become a native-born. The adopted can become native-born. The pagan can become native-born. All they have to do is leave that life behind, completely, and embrace the life that belongs, by inheritance, to the native-born.
I ask you – was there ever a more merciful and equitable law in the history of all the earth?
And so if someone wants to be offended, then they are missing the point entirely because the exclusivity of Passover isn’t about what is being denied them, but about what is being offered to them – native-born status – and it’s theirs if they want it. And that’s the real question everyone should be asking – it isn’t “Is it the right of any believer to keep Passover?,” but instead “Is it the right of every believer to become native-born?”
And though the answer to the first is most certainly no, the answer to the second is a resounding yes. So the people who want to observe Passover have to make a choice as to which Kingdom they want to live in, and to which Kingdom are they fully 100% committed. Passover is a commanded perk, not a casual right.