This year and for the third time this century, the Jewish celebration of Passover and the Christian holiday Good Friday fall on the same calendar day.
The two holidays previously coincided in 2012 and 2015.
Passover honors the ancient Hebrews’ painting of lamb’s blood above their doors, seeking God’s protection in Egypt and freedom from slavery.
Good Friday recognizes the day Jesus Christ was crucified.
The history behind the two days makes the simultaneous occurrence significant, religious leaders say.
"That Passover and Good Friday fall on the same day is of great importance," said Mark Saunders, senior pastor at Baylife Church in Brandon. "Passover is the yearly reminder of the grace God showed the Jews, who in faith marked their doorposts. Good Friday bears a similar message for Christians. God’s only son died on a cross as our sacrifice. To me, the parallels are obvious. God’s grace is shown sufficient in both remembrances."
Jesus himself celebrated Passover. The Last Supper, a centuries-old Passover Seder, emphasizes the role the holiday played in the days leading up to Christ’s death. In this way, Christianity and Judaism are undeniably connected.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom of Tampa Rabbi Joshua Hearshen offered this perspective.
"The Christian religion counts the Jewish religion as its roots, so it is no accident that these holidays coincide with each other," he said. "I like to think as we celebrate Passover about our neighbors celebrating their holiday as well, and how there is that diversity in cultures. We are celebrating in our unique ways the relationship we have with God."
However, for Passover to occur chronologically in line with Christian events, it would need to begin on Thursday, according to Jeff Olsen, pastor at Grace Community Church in Pasco. This will not occur for nearly four decades. But having the day overlapping offers a reminder for Christians, Olsen said.
"We are reminded that God’s unfolding plan of salvation goes back to the very beginning," he said. "The sacrifice of an animal in the garden of Eden to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, and the sacrifice of a lamb on Passover, both point to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross."
I agree with Rabbi Hearshen. The merging days remind me how closely my faith is linked to that of the Jewish community. Despite differing belief systems, we remained connected. We remain part of the same story.