Celebrations of two of the world's major religions are about to share the same weekend. This year, Passover, the Jewish holiday of rebirth into freedom, begins on the evening of Good Friday, April 6, the Christian observance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, followed by his resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 8.
Today in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated near the Paschal full moon. However, because the date of Easter is calculated on a solar calendar, and Passover is calculated on a lunar calendar, it is a rare occurrence for them to coincide exactly as they do this weekend.
"Easter is linked to the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament," said Pastor Rob Finberg of Grace Church in Pukalani. "The connection is the Last Supper."
Rob Finberg became the pastor of Grace Church in Pukalani in 1988. Pastor Finberg and his delightful family, wife Nora (inset) and sons Ethan (left), 15, and Ariel, 17, invite all to worship with them. Ethan and Ariel are also involved in ministry as youth leaders at Grace Church and are members of a band called “More Than a Theory.”
"According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death and resurrection," he said.
Although Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and faithfully kept the Passover, it is still unusual to find people who observe and celebrate the two faiths together.
"Growing up Jewish meant that you weren't a Christian," said Pastor Finberg. "I never knew anything about Jesus or the New Testament. However, one day a Christian friend said to me, 'Jesus loves you,' while challenging me to read the new scripture."
"I read the Gospel of John as a skeptic; a cynic," Pastor Finberg said.
Shocked to find that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, he began to question all he ever believed. "As questions formulated in my mind, the next verse answered them," he said. "By this time, I began to lose my basis for resistance."
Jesus became the fulfillment of faith for Pastor Finberg. He eventually felt a call to the ministry, and in 1988, became Pastor of Grace Church in Pukalani.
"Grace Church believes that God's truth is relevant in every facet of life and in all relationships," he said.
"Our service is geared to focus on the pattern of Jesus' life as it has been apparent in the Hebrew Scriptures," he said.
On Friday evenings, Pastor Finberg celebrates the Jewish Shabbat service, which includes traditional Jewish heritage. "It is wonderful and holy to wind down the week on Friday night, light candles and recite prayers," said Pastor Finberg.
Then on Sunday at Grace Church, the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated.
"God's love doesn't change," he said. "Numerous Jewish and Christian folks have taken great interest in joining our Friday evening Shabbat service. It has grown over the years from two families to a generous attendance."
In November 2011, Pastor Finberg welcomed world-renowned concert pianist Sam Rotman to Grace Church. "It was very special being with Pastor Finberg, since we were both raised Jewish and have come to know the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ," said Rotman, a graduate of the Julliard School of Music in New York City.
Rotman has received awards in his field in the form of grants, scholarships and prizes, and has won piano competitions in both the U.S. and Europe. His usual performing style includes explaining each piece to the audience with a knowledgeable and engaging narrative about the composer.
"However, what makes him so unique is that he also offers testimony about his conversion to Christianity," said Pastor Finberg. "And," he said, "Rotman's knowledge of scripture, especially his training in the Old and New Testaments, brings immense richness to his concerts."
As in Pastor Finberg's experience, Rotman was approached about his religious beliefs by Christian friends while attending Julliard.
"I, as an Orthodox Jew, had never read a word of the New Testament," Rotman said. "I also admitted to having pre-conceived ideas about Jesus. Determined to find out for myself who Jesus was, I read and re-read the New Testament, comparing it with Old Testament passages."
Learning that Jesus came to bring salvation and forgiveness was an important message for Rotman because for many years, he had been feeling that he was not as moral on the inside as he appeared to be on the outside.
"I began praying to Jesus," he said.
"While studying and praying, I somehow knew that God heard and answered my prayers," Rotman said. "I became 'a new creation in Christ, with the old passing away and all things becoming new,' just as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17. God cleansed my heart."
"Coming to know Jesus Christ the Messiah is the greatest event that ever happened to me," said Rotman. Both he and Pastor Finberg use their unique opportunities in life to share their faith with others and to be a light in the community and the world.
For more information on Grace Church, go to Grace Church.com.
To read Sam Rotman's full testimony, go to SamRotman.com.