The Clash of Holy Days

We’re about to hit the holy trifecta! Of course, I say that tongue-in-cheek, meaning no disrespect to the most meaningful holy days of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Each historically holds to a different calendar (lunar for Jews and Muslims, Gregorian for most Christians) to mark holidays, and there are different ways of marking days. Thus, holy days of the three do not normally coincide. This year is an exception!

For Jews, Passover commences at sundown on Friday, April 15 and ends at sunset on Friday, April 22 (Saturday, April 23 for those in the diaspora). We just finished a 3-part series entitled God’s Appointed Time (part 1, part 2, part 3) to discover how God ordained the first day and the first month of the year to contain Passover, how Passover set the first clock for humanity, and the “newness” God intended for this time of year.

Jews view Passover as their most revered holy day, as it commemorates God delivering the Jewish people from Egyptian captivity in Moses’ day. During Passover week, Jews will also commemorate the Feast of Unleavened Bread (God granting them provision as they began their wilderness journey) and the Feast of First Fruits (a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for His abundance).

Needless to say, Passover is of huge significance to Jews. (More about Passover from a Jewish perspective.)

For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan commenced on April 2 and will run through May 1. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is marked by dusk-to-dawn fasting. Not only does fasting include abstinence of food, but also things such as smoking, swearing, insulting, lying or fighting. Muslims are instructed to pray every night and do as many good deeds as possible. It is deemed a season of “cleansing the soul.”

Islam is a religion of works, so the attempt by practicing Muslims is to build up enough good deeds to warrant favor from God. Ironically, particularly in and around Israel, Ramadan is typically a very violent month. Israel’s military and police forces will remain on high alert throughout the month, and terror attacks in and around Jerusalem are being thwarted almost every day.

Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday (Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, beginning Passion Week) tomorrow (April 10), Good Friday on April 15 (commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins), and Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter) on April 17. According to God’s Word, Jesus was the fulfillment of traditional Jewish holy day of Passover (Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jesus was bruised, pierced and stripped for our transgressions), and the Feast of First Fruits (Jesus was the first to arise from the grave, making way for resurrection to eternal life for those who repent and put their faith in Jesus as our First Fruit).

Logic would assume this to be a time of peace as each focuses on the mercy of their God. After all, Abraham is our common thread. However, all is not logical in our world! Throughout history, descendants of Abraham’s son, Ishmael, has been at odds with descendants of the promised son of Abraham, Isaac. That conflict remains obvious today as Ramadan often becomes a month of violence.

As if there is not enough chaos in our world, Ramadan has begun and tensions run high in Israel. Now is a great time to pray for Israel, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. May the One True God, the God of Peace, make Himself known. May peace reign in the hearts and minds of all people in Israel, and may the light of Jesus Christ shine unexpectedly into the hearts and minds of those seeking peace.

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