Peter’s reflections on this day, which is holy to Christians, are deeply moving. They are, in fact, a Mere Christianity in fewer than four hundred words.
But of course the Christian meaning of this day cannot be the Jews’. What provokes reflection—at least for this Jew—is the overlapping of the Christian Holy Week with the Jewish Passover. Although it is a welcome relief to know that the “proximity” of the holidays no longer “routinely spark[s] violent anti-Jewish riots and pogroms,” as Diane Cole observed in the Wall Street Journal last week, there is more to the overlap than that. And not even the Christianizing Passover seders held in some churches, rightly characterized by a Methodist pastor quoted by Cole as “replac[ing] the Jewish celebration with a Christian one,” are reason enough to feel apprehensive about the overlap.
Old supersessionist habits die hard. And yet the truth is that much of Christendom has explicitly renounced and condemned its ancient yearning to replace Judaism. Inspired and guided by two monumentally great popes—John Paul II and Benedict XVI—the Church of Rome has officially repudiated anti-Judaism and sought to fashion a new relationship with the Jewish people founded (in John Paul’s words) upon “the great spiritual heritage common to Christians and Jews.”
And not just Rome. The Protestant churches, especially the Evangelical Protestant churches, are increasingly home to dispensationalism, a theology which teaches that God has not revoked his promises to Israel and indeed could not revoke them (“God is not man to be capricious, or mortal to change his mind” [Num 23.19]). For many Evangelical Christians—perhaps most—the “old” covenant remains in effect, now and for all time. Christianity does not supersede Judaism, but adds to it.
For this Jew at least, then, the coincidence of Passover and Holy Week is occasion to celebrate the abandonment of old claims, the discarding of old grievances, the growing closeness between Christians and Jews. The significance of the holidays may differ (Christians are reminded this week, in Peter’s words, that “there is truth and hope beyond this world,” while Jews celebrate, as Michael Medved put it in his article in COMMENTARY this month, not so much the “freedom from slavery” as the “freedom to serve God and to follow his law”), but the holidays embody a common spiritual heritage.
What might also be recognized at this season is that Christians and Jews are no longer enemies, but the intended victims of a new enemy who is common to both.