By Arlene Bridges Samuels, CBN—
Holy Week took on a new dimension for me on Palm Sunday night. My husband and I attended a Turner Classic Movies Fathom event on the big screen. The epic movie The Ten Commandments was shown as a tribute on its 65th anniversary. Stunning in every way, the movie had two scenes—the engraving of the Ten Commandments and the Red Sea parting—that were especially breathtaking. Seeing the nearly four-hour-long film took us back to the first Passover. One of the scenes showed Moses, brilliantly portrayed by Charlton Heston, at a simple meal in a quite simple dwelling. The tenth plague’s Angel of Death was sweeping over Egypt while the lifesaving lamb’s blood covered the Israelites’ doorposts. This symbolized the Perfect Lamb’s blood sacrificially shed on the tree approximately 1,000 years later outside Jerusalem.
Passover (March 27-April 4), Holy Week, and Easter are in full swing for both Jews and Christians worldwide. Watching The Ten Commandments reminded me that on too many occasions Passover—the Jewish Festival of Freedom—has taken place in dangerous circumstances during Holy Week over the centuries.
Examples of persecution far exceed the word count here. The 20th-century Holocaust stands alone in Jewish history, the genocide of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children. Yet a glimpse into the Middle Ages shows us how difficult that period was for Jews in dispersion. Christian Holy Week and Good Friday left their shattering marks in history—and eventually transgressed into the evildoings of the Nazi regime.
Biblical New Testament history, though, sets the stage for the facts about Christianity’s early development. Jesus, our Jewish Rabbi, recruited His Jewish disciples and commissioned them to go throughout the then-known world. They shared the Good News about His redeeming sacrificial love expressed on the cross, His resurrection leading to new life, and our eternal citizenship in Heaven.
Later, God transformed the life of the former murderer, Saul, and renamed him Paul. The apostle became the Jewish point person to share the Gospel with the Gentiles in his world travels and inspired, brilliant writing.
Then, in the fifth to the 15th centuries, non-Jews extensively established their churches and moved away from Jewish culture. Anti-Semitism began inching its way into their thinking and practices. The medieval era produced the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, positively revolutionizing society. Nevertheless, the injustices and persecution of Jewish communities in dispersion throughout Europe redoubled. Even their famous paintings often portrayed Jesus as “white,” neglecting His Middle Eastern Jewish ethnicity.
Some medieval churches rightly recognized the Jewish scribes who gave us God’s word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They enacted laws to protect their Jewish communities during Holy Week, but it meant that Jews were forced to stay inside—especially on Good Friday. Yet violence still seeped in on the local level among lay people, along with far too many pastors and priests—in violation of church rules.
It is easy to imagine that Christian Holy Weeks occurring near or on Passover weeks resulted in Passovers that were more muted and curtailed. Fear accompanied the freedom that Passovers celebrated. Although in various locales civil leaders occasionally set armed guards outside synagogues to protect worshipers, fear still tinged the atmosphere. Continue Reading….