If there is one area where Christians and Jews miss each other today it is the fact that we have a different understanding of our holidays. As an example, Christians have Good Friday, while Jews have Passover. However separate their meaning is to each faith, these two holidays are very closely related. The Jews celebrate the Passover deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Christians celebrate the deliverance from sin through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. What each group commemorates actually happened on the same Hebrew calendar date. In reality they actually are the same event, as they have the same meaning….deliverance from bondage. That said, most Christians and Jews still live in totally different worlds. Christians joyously affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ is Israel’s Messiah and deliverer, while most Jews today are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah.
If you look at your calendar this month, you will find that September 23 is another Jewish holiday that most Christians have missed. It is the holiday of Yom Kippur, set on the Hebrew calendar day of Tishri 10. Yom Kippur is seen by the Jewish people as the most holy day of their year. All over the world they celebrate this holiday outlined in Leviticus 16 that gave their Nation a wonderful way to find grace and favor with the Lord. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and made an offering of atonement for sins of the Nation to maintain God’s covenant with them.
Similarly, as Christians, we realize that our Lord went into the Holy of Holies for us through His death on the Cross, so we could freely enter as well. That glorious truth is clearly spoken of in our Lord’s Passion Narrative in Matthew 27:51, where immediately following Jesus’ death, “at that moment, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The Cross fulfilled the spiritual meaning of Yom Kippur for our lives, allowing us access to the presence of the Lord forever.
Every year, as Yom Kippur draws near, every Jew examines themselves about their relationship to the Lord. These days of examination are referred to as the “Days of Awe.” Jews realize the weight or awe that such an examination requires. It is serious spiritual business because it deals with their ultimate spiritual destiny after this life. They realize that there are only two possibilities for every Jew. They will either be found worthy of continuing their relationship with the Lord or they will not. Such thoughts are profound, sobering, serious and full of awe to contemplate.
As we look at the Christian world today, there seems to be little such serious reflection regarding our spiritual condition before the Lord. People rarely examine themselves in the modern Church world. For many, such thinking sometimes seems too serious and heavy, if not altogether wrong. They think the Church can be many things to many people, but certainly not a place of awe as we look at our hearts and lives before an awesome and amazing God.
When there is no real awe about the Lord, the Church can become shallow and mechanical. A faith that is not profoundly serious is not really any faith at all. Just going through some liturgical motions won’t change us or anyone around us. It surely is not what the Lord is looking for in our lives. This seems to be the faith we are seeing all around us today, a “faith” the Apostle Paul describes in II Timothy 3:5 as, “a form of godliness, but denying its’ power.”
While Yom Kippur may be a lost holiday to most Christians, its’ Biblical meaning should not be lost. We need to carefully examine ourselves and make sure we are truly Christians. We need to make sure that our sins have truly been forgiven through the Cross. We need to make sure that we have found the real Lord Jesus that entered the Holy of Holies for us during His Passion on Passover. We need to live a life full of joy, wonder and awe about the centrality and meaning of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ each day. May it be so to the glory of God.