Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, ... Deuteronomy 16:1
Passover is first of seven feasts. It falls in March or April, in the Jewish month of Nisan.
Leviticus 23 says in v5 -8, The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.'
When the feasts were instituted Nisan was the first month, Chodesh Nisan, (Exodus 12 c1-2). This is still the start of the religious calendar. The civil new year is celebrated in the Autumn. (Rosh Hashannah)
Passover is a family celebration, at home, involving children and using not just Visual Aids but taste experiences See - Ex 12 v 1-16 and 27 - Lev23v4&9 - Dt 16v1-8
On the 10th of Nisan a lamb was brought into home - Ex 12 v3&6 - John 1 v11
On the Eve of Pessach, Chametz ( leaven / yeast ) items were to be searched out and burned. Nowadays Father and the children hunt house with candles. (Mother will have placed bits around to be found).
Chametz is a picture of sin and vanity of life in Egypt .
On the 14th of Nisan, at twilight, the Lamb was to be slaughtered and prepared. It was to be roasted whole over the fire (no bones broken) Ex12v46 - Num9v12 ( See John 19 v33 for a reference to Jesus)
Jesus kept Passover Matt 26 v 17-30 - Luke 22 v7-20 - John 13 . Jesus said, "I will not partake again until......." Luke22 vl5&16
(See the excellent video by Neil Cohen for amazing teaching on Passover (Books and other resources) )
The seder begins at sundown and is conducted from the Haggadah (The Telling) The following comes largely from a Messianic Haggadah, which draws out the significance of various items to Yeshua ( Jesus ), which most Jews have not comprehended.
Click here for a Downloadable Haggadah suitable for Christians wishing to celebrate Passover as those who have been grafted into Israel.
The Seder plate is the centrepiece of the table. It has five (or six) dishes around a bowl of salt water. Each dish holds an item of significance which we will come to later.
The leader ( Father in a family seder) leads us through the feast, with others taking part. We drink four times during the meal. There is an extra cup which will be mentioned later.
First, a woman, mother in a family Seder, covers her head, lights the candles (usually two) and says the blessing.
"Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheynu, Melech ha Olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvah tov vitsavanu l'hadlich ner shel shabbat"
"Blessed art thou o Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has set us apart by his word, and in whose name we light these festival lights."
We bless the first cup ( The cup of sanctification) and all drink
"Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheynu, Melech ha Olam, borey pri hagafen"
'Blessed art thou o Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.'
(Jesus referred to the cup; Luke 22 v17&18 )
We wash our hands ( Jesus washed disciples feet John 13 v5-17 )
We eat some parsley (representing life) dipped in salt water (representing tears)
"On all other nights we eat bread or Matzah - on this night why do we eat only Matzah?"
"On all other nights we eat all kind of vegetables -on this night why do we eat only bitter herbs?"
"On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once - on this night why do we dip twice?"
"On all other nights we eat our meals sitting or reclining - on this night why do we eat reclining?"
Three Matzot are wrapped for Passover ( Think about why three wrapped together )
The leader takes the middle Matzah, breaks it in half. One half is wrapped in a white cloth. (Jesus was wrapped in burial cloths)
This half is called Afikomen (the coming one). He tells children to hide their eyes and hides the Afikomen. The Afikomen will return to end our Passover Seder
Blessing for Matzah "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheynu, Melech ha Olam, hamotzi lechem min ha aretz"' Blessed art thou o Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth " All share some.
Jesus broke this bread, gave thanks, and added "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22 v19
Today, Matzah is pierced and is marked with stripes. See Isaiah 53v5 and Zechariah 12 v10 for prophecies concerning Messiah's suffering. The Authorised Version translation says, "by his stripes we are healed" , meaning the wounds from the scourging Yeshua received before crucifixion.
It seems strange that the Jews breaking the Matzah do not see the connection, but scripture says these things have been hidden from them for the present (see Rom 10-11). Pray for the coming day when, like the disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24 v30-31) Messiah will be revealed to them in the breaking of bread.
(typically Horseradish )
This is a reminder of how, sweet as our lives are today, the Egyptians made life bitter for the children of Israel. ( Ex 1 v12-14 )
Scoop some Marror on to matzah, and eat, allowing the bitter taste to cause us to shed tears.
Charoset is a reminder of clay used to make bricks. It is a mixture of fruit, nuts and sweet wine.
Put some Marror on matzah, but also put some sweet Charoset (a reminder that even bitter circumstances can be sweetened by the hope we have in GOD.) (Mk14v18-20)
The first Passover was celebrated by people enslaved. They were instructed to eat in haste, ready to leave. We may recline and enjoy at leisure.
Many Jewish families will recline to the left in their chairs while eating, or the four cups may be drunk while leaning the left elbow on the table
The leader and other readers then tell the story of Passover.
When we get to the plagues, we fill our cups a second time. The second cup is "the cup of rejoicing". As each plague is recounted we dip a finger in and allow a drop to fall, reducing the fullness of our cup of joy. This cup is not drunk at this stage.
The shankbone of a lamb Represents the lamb whose blood marked the houses of the children of Israel Ex12v3,v5-8&v11-13 Since the Temple in Jerusalem no longer stands, lamb is not eaten at Passover, Hence the bone.
The roasted egg is regarded as a symbol of mourning (for destruction of second temple) It is also considered to denote eternal life since the shape has no beginning or end. Some consider it to be a reminder of the burnt offerings in Temple worship.
After this, when the Afikomen has been found by the children, a reward may be given by the head of the table. (The Messiah, who was hidden, will be found by the Jews - Jeremiah 29:13)
This could be used to explain the idea of a ransom.
We finish the meal by sharing the Afikomen.
This is the cup of redemption and it is drunk warm to remind us of the blood of the Passover lamb.
This is the cup ( the cup after supper ) that Jesus gave to his disciples (Luke 22 v19 )
The extra cup at the table is for Elijah.
The children are sent to open the door to welcome him to our Seder.
Remember Elijah did not die, but was taken up to heaven.
Elijah is expected to come before Messiah.
"Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of YHVH. (Malachi 4 v5-6 [ Mal'akhi 3 23-24 in Complete Jewish Bible ]
See also Luke 1 v17 - Matt 11 v14 )
(Father may, at this time, drink Elijah's wine and tease the children that they must have missed seeing Elijah)
Hallel means "Praise" and is Psalms 113 to 118; or we could use Psalm 136.
Where most English translations of Mark 14 v 26 say, "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" they actually sang the Hallel.
This suggests to the author, that Jesus' special Seder did not include the fourth cup, but adjourned to Gethsemane where Jesus wrestled in prayer about the cup of suffering he was about to drink.
This is the cup of praise. It is drunk while joining in responsive praise for various ways in which GOD has blessed us.
" Lashanah haba'ah bi Yerushalayim" "'Next Year in Jerusalem"
After 70AD (70CE) it was impossible for the Jews to celebrate in Jerusalem and that was their great desire.
In 1967 Israel recaptured Jerusalem and since then it has been possible for the Jews to celebrate there, signifying that the "Times of the Gentiles" are drawing to a close.
Jesus spoke of the signs of the End of the Age, including saying , "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." Luke21v24
But in Hebrew that is, Tam ve’nishlam - These are the first two words of the Hebrew phrase, "Tam ve’nishlam Shevach La’el Boreh Olam", which means, "It is completed and fulfilled, blessed be God, the Creator of the world." The acronym for this phrase, is written at the end of sacred Jewish writings such as books of the Bible. These words were also used in the marketplace, indicating that a deal or transaction had been completed. Thus Jesus declared that he had completed and fulfilled everything God had purposed for salvation, since the creation of the world.
There is an ancient Jewish proverb that Passover would be an ideal time for Messiah to come: "in this night we were delivered; in this night we will be delivered
On the day after the Shabbat which falls during the time of unleavened bread, Firstfruits is celebrated. It is similar to the firstfruits celebration of Sha vu Ot , except that it is in celebration of the Barley harvest, while Sha vu Ot is for the wheat harvest.
Thus Firstfruits was the day on which our saviour was found to be risen from the dead ! ( see 1 Corinthians 15 where Jesus is called "the first fruits of them that sleep")
How much more appropriate it would be to celebrate Firstfruits rather than Easter.
The holiday name, Easter is derived from a pagan spring / fertility deity who appears variously as Eostre, the Saxon goddess of dawn with a hare's head, Ishtar from Ninevah, introduced into Britain with the Druids, Astarte the queen of heaven from Babylon whose worship involved sexual depravity! See Dates in the Christian Calendar
Incidentally, the Pessach was celebrated a month late by the new king, Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29 and 30. Notice how a spiritual revival is much more important than ritual correctness! Notice too how the people "sang praises until they were filled with joy" (29 v30 CJB), not that they praised because they felt joyful! We may not always feel joyful - feelings are very unreliable.
The lectionary reading for Pessach, in addition to the Torah and Haftarah readings is the Song of Songs - Shir hashirim. Rabbinic tradition interprets the book as a love song, where the “beloved” is taken to mean God and “the bride” to mean the congregation of Israel. This tradition made the Song of Songs especially appropriate to Passover, because it marked, as it were, the beginning of the courtship of Israel and God before, metaphorically speaking, they became finally wedded at Mount Sinai by Israel’s acceptance of the Torah.
Another reason given for the reading of this book on Pessach is that it is a song of the spring.
See also Holy Week for the probable timescale of the events by which Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
Passover centres around a lamb which was slaughtered so that its its blood could deliver God's people from the tenth plague ( Death of the firstborn ) which was about to fall on the unbelieving nation of Egypt. The blood of the lamb was its life. The biblical principle has always been that a life must be forfeit for sin, but God allowed a substitute life to be taken. Jesus' life was taken once and for all as a substitute in payment for our sin, and we will be passed over for judgment. For the significance of Jesus' entry to Jerusalem (Luke 19 v35-38) see Hoshannah Rabbah in the Feast of Tabernacles
Those who trusted and applied the blood escaped from the land of their slavery and became a "called out" people, special to GOD. (The nation of Israel) Likewise those who trust in the blood of Jesus escape from their slavery to sin and join God's "called out" people. The Greek for "called out" is the origin of our word Church.
Note Jesus' reference to the blood of the new covenant Matthew 26 v27-28,
"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin"This harks back to Exodus 24 v8,
"Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."
It has been pointed out that the fields between Jerusalem and Bethlehem ( The Shepherd's Fields ) were used for rearing the lambs for Passover, making it highly probable that the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus were responsible for Passover lambs.
Click here for a detailed calendar of events, the week Jesus died and rose again. Holy Week
Jesus was raised from the Dead - " The first fruits of them that sleep." (1 Cor 15 v20 & 23 )
We die with Jesus and are born again to newness of life. We leave our old life and set out on a pilgrimage to our final home.
We put off the old things (leaven ) of sin and the vanity of the world.
We put on the new nature.
These three steps together are generally referred to as conversion.
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The rituals of the Passover seder and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are designed to inspire curiosity. The children at the table, observing the unusual rites and foods, are supposed to be inspired to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The purpose of Passover is to transmit faith to the next generation, to the Jew first, but equally also to the Gentile.
But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. (Exodus 12:48)
The Torah clearly states that no uncircumcised person may eat of the Passover. What is more, it says that if a stranger (i.e., a Gentile) wants to celebrate the Passover, he has to be circumcised first. So how can a Gentile keep a Passover seder? Are Gentiles excluded?
When we speak of Passover, we generally mean the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread. In the Torah, the term Passover (pesach, פםח) applies only to the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and its consumption. Exodus 12:48 prohibits an uncircumcised person from making a Passover sacrifice and eating a Passover lamb. The New American Standard version makes it sound like an uncircumcised person is prohibited from celebrating Passover in general, but the Hebrew makes it clear that such a person is only prohibited from sacrificing the lamb. This law applies to both Jews and Gentiles:
The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exodus 12:49)An uncircumcised Jew and an uncircumcised Gentile are both forbidden from sacrificing or eating a Passover lamb. The Torah does not forbid them from keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, though. The law leaves them free to participate in the seder meal and keep the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
In the days of the apostles, the Gentile believers were free to remain uncircumcised, but if they wanted to make a Passover sacrifice, they would have been required to first undergo circumcision and conversion. For most Gentile believers, this was a non-issue. They lived far from Jerusalem. Neither they nor the Jewish community around them had access to the Temple or sacrifices. Therefore, they kept the Passover, the seder and the seven days of Unleavened Bread like the rest of Diaspora Judaism—without a lamb. The only thing prohibited for them was the sacrificial lamb itself.
This opinion may be derived from rabbinic sources as well. According to the Talmud in b.Pesachim 96a, an uncircumcised non-Jew is allowed to keep the seder and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Only regarding the actual lamb sacrifice is he banned.
In today’s world, the entire question is moot. Without a Temple, there can be no such thing as a real Passover lamb sacrifice. (That is why lamb is no longer served at the Passover seder meal.)
This means that uncircumcised believers, whether they are Jewish or Gentile, are welcome at the seder table. They should partake of the matzah, the bitter herbs, the four cups and the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread with a glad heart. We can all share in and rejoice in our common Passover Lamb, Yeshua.
With thanks to FirstFruits of Zion