Sometimes it’s hard for families to keep the Easter focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ when cultural icons of Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies, and colored eggs have sabotaged the holiday. It’s certainly no understatement to say that the Easter message has been hijacked in our culture. But we can take that message back by giving ourselves to intentional practices that put the emphasis back on the risen Christ. One of the ways to do this is to observe the Passover holiday.
Passover is one of seven holy days appointed by God in Leviticus 23. It takes a bit of study and research to understand the meaning behind all of God’s appointed feasts in scripture, but doing so can lead to fresh expressions of worship that honor God and nurture our children’s faith.
“Passover enables us to pause and observe His death in preparation for Easter Sunday. Good Friday and Easter—or Resurrection Sunday—is the crux of our Christian faith and heritage. However, over time this season has been downgraded in our culture to a ‘Happy Spring,’ ‘Easter Bunny,’ and candy-egg sort of event. While the church still emphasizes Easter (hopefully), Americans in general have lost sight of its true meaning. While these other practices may be harmless, they distract from the very reason for the Easter celebration, which is the bodily resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is time to recapture the wonder and rich tradition of this season, beginning with Passover, a purposeful meal around the dinner table.”
― Melanie Leach, Passover for Christians: Creating a NEW Easter Tradition
Passover (called Pesach in Hebrew) is one of the most important holidays in Judaism. It commemorates the escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The main themes highlighted in the Seder ritual feast are freedom, redemption and thankfulness. If you want to celebrate Passover as someone new to Jewish customs, start by preparing properly for the Passover celebration and following the right customs when you attend the Passover meal. You can also celebrate Passover in other ways with movies or books if you cannot attend the traditional meal.
Many regard Passover merely as a Jewish celebration. But it certainly has incredible theological significance for the Christian, and prophetic implications concerning Christ. Celebrating the Passover with a communal meal, called a Seder, can teach our families about the fulfillment of Scripture, as Christ became the Passover lamb.
5 Ways to Celebrate Passover
Bring your Passover celebration to life with these suggestions. Focus on the heart of the holiday rather than a specific ritual.
- Pause for Passover. Prior to Passover, research the history and symbolism of the holiday.
- Retell the story. A traditional Passover uses a Haggadah, a book of prayers and scripts that retells the Exodus from Egypt. Your family can read or retell the Passover story as described in Exodus 12:3-49.
- Serve the Passover meal. There are several cultural foods you may enjoy trying or you can build a feast around the three biblical elements of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread (here is a simplified Seder meal plan).
- Remember and give thanks. As you eat the meal, tell stories about the great things God has done for you and your family. Tell how and when you became a Christian and let others share their salvation experiences as well. Pause for a time of thanksgiving to God for His protection, love and care.
- Read and sing. Conclude the Seder (the meal or feast) with a traditional reading (poems and stories here) or singing some or all of Psalms 113-118 followed by Psalm 136.
Celebrating Passover can help your family learn about Christianity’s Hebrew roots, explain communion, and illustrate God’s redemptive story.
A History Lesson
Passover is the story of redemption. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they cried out to God for deliverance. Before Pharaoh granted them their freedom, God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians. (Read the first few chapters of Exodus to learn more about the story). The final plague led to what is called the Passover. God’s plan of salvation required each family to take an unblemished lamb (Exodus 12:5; cf. Leviticus 22:20-21), sacrifice it and paint their doorposts with its blood (Exodus 12:7-8). God also gave specific instructions as to how the Israelites were to eat the lamb, “with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand (Exodus 12:11; cf. Ephesians 6:14). In other words, they had to be ready to travel. When the Death Angel came in the evening and saw the blood, he would pass over that house. Any home without the blood of the lamb would have their firstborn son struck down that night (Exodus 12: 12-13). After that fateful night, God instructed the Israelites to observe the Passover Feast as a lasting memorial (Exodus 12:14).
“You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” Exodus 12:24–27
The blood saved them and set them free. God commanded His children to observe this ceremony every year to remember His salvation. But it was more than historical. It was prophetic.
The New Testament establishes a relationship between this prototypical Passover lamb and the consummate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7). The prophet John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and the apostle Peter links the lamb without defect (Exodus 12:5) with Christ, whom he calls a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus is qualified to be called One “without blemish” because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Revelation, John the apostle sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12). He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples at the Last Supper, transforming the Passover symbols into the Lord's Supper ceremony.
The Bible says believers have symbolically applied the sacrificial blood of Christ to their hearts and thus have escaped eternal death (Hebrews 9:12, 14). Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers (Romans 6:23).
As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2). As the first Passover was to be held in remembrance as an annual feast, so Christians are to memorialize the Lord’s death in communion until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Old Testament Passover lamb, although a reality in that time, was a mere foreshadowing of the better and final Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. Through His sinless life and sacrificial death, Jesus became the only One capable of giving people a way to escape death and a sure hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:20-21). Those who are covered by His blood are redeemed from eternal death and given everlasting life.
Biblical References to the Passover Feast
Passover in the Old Testament: Exodus 12; Numbers 9: 1-14; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16: 1-6; Joshua 5:10; 2 Kings 23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 30:1-5, 35:1-19; Ezra 6:19-22; Ezekiel 45:21-24.
Passover in the New Testament: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 2, 22; John 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19; Acts 12:4; 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Passover Symbols and Resources
- Jews drink four cups of wine at the Seder. The third cup is called the cup of redemption, the same cup of wine taken during Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples.
- The bread of the Last Supper is the Afikomen of Passover or the middle Matzah which is pulled out and broken in two. Half is wrapped in white linen and hidden. The children search for the unleavened bread in the white linen, and whoever finds it brings it back to be redeemed for a price. The other half of the bread is eaten, ending the meal.
- Learn how to prepare the Passover Seder Plate.
- The Passover Seder for Christians (online guide for implementing a Christian Seder)
- Passover in the Time of Jesus (By Daniel B. Wallace, Th.M., Ph.D.)
Parent and Kid Resources
- A Messianic Passover Seder for Families with Young Children
- Children’s Bible Lesson: The Passover
- 10 Kid-Friendly Crafts for Passover
- 8 Passover Activities to Do With Your Kids
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