Passover is the oldest of Biblical festivals. It is a special time to recount and celebrate the deliverance of the Children of Israel from 430 years of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40). The purpose of the celebration is to retell the story of God’s faithfulness and redemption, and pass it on from one generation to the next.
Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) not only have the wonderful opportunity to recount the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt but also make parallel references to Jesus, the Passover Lamb of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-16, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
God established several Feasts, appointed times, to meet with His people throughout the year. These celebrations are not just Jewish festivals. All believers who call on the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, can celebrate these feasts.
“And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ That you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”—Exodus 12:24-28
All the Biblical Feasts serve as pictorial reminders of God’s covenants and promises with His people. They are moments to draw near to God out of love, not out of legalistic obligation; a time to reorient ourselves with God. By celebrating these feasts, all believers in Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah, have a unique opportunity to reconnect with the Jewish roots of our faith, encounter God through Hebraic lenses, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Passover: commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery and the exodus from Egypt
Mo-‘ed: “appointed time,” refers to the Jewish festivals God established in the Old Testament
Moadim: “appointed times,” plural form for “mo-‘ed”
Seder: “order,” refers to the order of the Passover celebration
Haggadah: “telling,” a guide of the order and prayers for the Passover Seder
Matzah: unleavened bread
Matzah tosh: the matzah cover, which has three layers for the matzah
Passover is an eternal Mo-‘ed. In the Bible, we find the concept of appointed times, which are special dates God scheduled to meet with His people.
Exodus 12:14 (TLV) This day is to be a memorial for you. You are to keep it as a feast to Adonai. Throughout your generations you are to keep it as an eternal ordinance.
Leviticus 23:4–5 (TLV) These are the appointed feasts [moadim] of Adonai, holy convocations which you are to proclaim in their appointed season [mo-‘ed]. During the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is Adonai’s Passover.
Jesus, The Passover Lamb
Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples and will one day celebrate it with us, the Church, all those who believe in him. Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He chose to give his life so that through his death the entire world may live.
Matthew 26:26-29 (TLV) Now while they were eating, Yeshua took matzah; and after He offered the bracha [blessing], He broke and gave to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And He took a cup; and after giving thanks, He gave to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the removal of sins. But I say to you, I will never drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Luke 22:14-16 (TLV) When the hour came, Yeshua reclined at table, and the emissaries with Him. And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God…”
1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (TLV) And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in memory of Me.” In the same way, He also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory of Me.”
Over the centuries, the traditional celebration of Passover has developed to include other elements. According to Exodus 12:8, the three essential elements to commemorate Passover are:
- Matzah (unleavened bread)
- Bitter herbs (horseradish)
- Lamb shank bone (NOTE: Ashkenazi Jews do not eat lamb at Passover because the animal cannot be sacrificed at the Temple, Deut. 16:6. The bone is used for the center plate which reminds of the lack of the sacrifice.)
Keeping Passover in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1: Gather the Passover Seder Elements
Step 2: Prepare a Special Meal
Step 3: Set the Seder Table
Step 4: Do The Seder
Step 1: Gather Elements
You’ll need the following elements, some per person (see the Resources section below for links on where to buy). All the elements below have special meaning. The Haggadah elaborates on their symbolism.
- Haggadah booklet/handout – one per person
- Set of Candlesticks
- 2 Candles (white)
- Box of Matzah
- Matzah Tosh or Napkin(s) – NOTE: must have 2 dividers as you’ll insert 3 matzah in between; see examples below. During the Seder, the leader will break the middle matzah in half; one half will be wrapped in a napkin and hidden for the children to find; the other half is placed back in the middle. Believers in Jesus see the 3 matzah as a picture of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The middle matzah represents Yeshua who was afflicted, bruised and buried, like the matzah, without leaven (sin).
- Juice Goblet – per person
- Grape Juice or wine – per person
- Seder Plate (or any plate)
- Lamb Shank Bone
- Maror – horseradish – per person
- Charoset – per person – apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon. NOTE: you can leave out the nuts in consideration of guests with nut allergies
- Parsley – per person
- Lettuce/Celery – per person
- Beytzah – roasted egg (hard boiled, brown) – per person
- Bowl of Salt Water – per person
- A special meal/dinner
- An afikoman bag – A Passover favorite for children includes finding the afikoman, where a large piece of matzah is hidden during the Seder. The tradition is for children to search for the afikoman and whoever finds it receives some kind of reward. Here’s an inspired idea for a home-made afikomen bag.
Lamb shank bone, Maror (horseradish), Beytzah (roasted egg), Lettuce/Celery, Charoset, Parsley, Bowl of saltwater
Matzah tosh/bag has two dividers to insert 3 pieces of matzah. Believers see the symbolism of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit represented. The middle matzah represents Jesus, the piece that’s broken in half during the Seder.
Step 2: Prepare a Special Dinner
Passover is a dinner, a special time to remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness. See the Passover Recipes section below for mouth-watering dinner ideas!
What You Can Serve
- Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Fish (with scales)
- Lamb (though not a traditional Ashkenazi meal, it is a Sephardic tradition)
- Most foods
What You Must Serve
- Bitter herbs (horseradish)
- Grape juice or wine
What Not to Serve
- No yeast (found in regular bread)
- No pork
- No shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, scallops, or octopus
Step 3: Set the Seder Table
For each guest, add the Passover elements as shown in the image below:
Step 4: Do the Seder
NOTE: Keep the food warm (the Haggadah portion will take approx. 40 min. or longer)
- Begin the Seder following the Haggadah reading – each person should have their own Haggadah booklet/handout
- Leader – leads the seder and reads the Leader portions
- Four readers – each reader will read different portions; the booklet will indicate “All” for sections where all guests read together
- Enjoy dinner!