ELYRIA — A table set with matzo bread, grape juice standing in as wine, parsley, horseradish and an apple and nut mixture allowed students at Open Door Christian School to participate Wednesday afternoon in a fast-paced Passover Seder, a ritual meal recounting God’s freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.
Some may wonder why a group of Christians would partake in something so universal to the Jewish heritage, but a quick Bible lesson would answer that question and more. The origins of Passover are detailed in Exodus, which is part of Christian scripture.
While the Exodus story is central to Jewish identity, it is also part of Christianity.
As such, the much sought-after Passover leader who visited Elyria for the event was a perfect layman for the job — a Chicago-based Jewish Christian writer and speaker who travels the country walking Christians through the Passover experience.
“There are members of the Christian community who are culturally Jewish, like me, and this tradition is very important to us,” said Justin Kron. “It lets us express who we are as Jewish Christians and helps our Christian brothers and sisters understand the Jewish roots of their faith.”
It is estimated that 250,000 Jewish Christians live in the U.S. and it is among the fastest-growing Jewish religious movements, according to the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute. However, many in the Jewish community still see it as a distorted interpretation of Judaism, which as a fundamental belief does not see Jesus as the son of God.
Kron said it took him years to realize that the Old Testament description of who the Messiah would be and the New Testament interpretation of Jesus were too similar to denounce.
For first-time participants in Passover Seder, it’s hard to imagine what to expect. Christians understand communion and its symbolism to Jesus Christ, but as Kron so elegantly put it with a touch of humor, Passover Seder speaks to so many of those same principles — much to the surprise of students — all Christians should have a Passover Seder.
“It really shows what Jesus went through with the matzo bread. I never would have thought of that,” said 13-year-old Noah Eck, a seventh-grader.
In front of him sat a plate of unleavened matzo bread baked with dark scorches, lines and holes to denote the bruised and battered body of Jesus.
“This is certainly something different, but teaching our students something different is what we aim to do here,” said Andrea Mindling, wife of Open Door Church Senior Pastor Jim Mindling and the church’s director of connections. “Jesus was a Jew and that is something we forget. This is a great way of connecting those two heritages.”
Kron said anti-Semitic views in the Christian faith run deep. But a little education goes a long way in dispelling ignorance.
“Maybe if they knew, they would be more open to the Jewish roots of their faith,” said the husband and father of three.
Senior Macie Ludwig, 18, said being a part of the Passover Seder was a great way of growing her faith.
“I didn’t feel weird or like something we shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “It was a great way of bringing it all together.”