Seven-Feasts of Israel:
4. The Passover Feast of Israel
The Jewish celebration of Passover is one of the oldest celebrations in the history of humanity. Passover commemorates an event that took place over 3500-years ago in the land of Egypt. Passover is a prophetic picture of the death of the Messiah, who would come to redeem humanity.
What is Passover?
The Passover is a milestone in Israel’s history. Before Israel was a nation, they were the family of Jacob. God had taken Abraham from Babylon the city of Ur to Moriah (Jerusalem). In the land of Moriah, He promised to bless the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God renamed Jacob Israel, and as an old man Jacob’s family of seventy settled in Egypt. There in Egypt, his family grew from seventy souls to over 1-million over 400-years. Israel became slaves to the Egyptians and they cried out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for deliverance. Passover is the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian captivity.
Through Moses God delivers judgment on the land of Egypt in the form of 10 plagues. The tenth plague is the death of the “First Born” in the land of Egypt, including animals, Egyptians and Hebrews. The only escape from this death is the “blood of a lamb”. In Exodus 12, God through Moses instructs Israel what they need to do, and how they are to remember this event for generations to come.
1 Now the LORD spoke to
Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “This month
shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of
the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel,
saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb,
according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4
And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor
next to his house take it according to the number of the persons;
according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take
it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep
it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of
the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they
shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts
and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they
shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread
and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat
it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its
legs and its entrails. 10 You shall let none of it remain until
morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.
11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your
sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in
haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.
God outlined the steps Israel was to take, Exodus 12 instructs them to:
· Make the month of Nisan their first month of the year
· Take a male lamb 1-year old without blemish
· The lamb was to be selected on the 10th of the month and be kept until the 14th of Nisan
· On the twilight of the 14th the lambs were to be “publically” killed by the whole assembly
· Each family was to take the blood of “their” lamb and apply it to the door posts and lintel.
· The family was to roast the whole lamb over the fire
· They were to let no flesh remain until morning, burning what remains
· The people to wear their belts and sandals with staff in hand, eating in haste
As the families of Israel provided a lamb for their Passover, God Himself would provide a lamb for the family of God. Each of these steps would foreshadow the picture of the Messiah who would God’s Passover Lamb.
When does Passover Occur?
Passover is the first feast of the Jewish year and the foundation of all other feasts. It begins on the twilight of 14th day of Nisan (March/April). Passover is followed by the seven day feast of unleavened bread. The feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread are celebrated together because they are so closely linked. Before the Babylonian captivity the month of Nisan was known as Abib (Exod. 13:4, 34:18), Israel later adapted the Babylonian names for the months.
How was Passover celebrated?
God instituted the feast of Passover as everlasting celebration for generations to come, the meal was to commemorate the “Passover” of death on the land of Egypt. The foods were to help Israel remember and prepare for an even greater “Passover”, when God would sacrifice His “Lamb” for humanities redemption. Three foods were essential to the Passover celebration, roasted lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
Each of these foods represented an aspect of the celebration of redemption. The innocent lamb died for those in the house, he was roasted as picture of the judgment he took in place of those in the house. Unleavened bread pictured the purity of the sacrifice; Israel was to search and burn the leaven in the house, ridding themselves of sin. The bitter herbs pictured the suffering of the innocent lamb who died in place of those in the house. The lamb, unleavened bread and herbs were to be eaten together (Numbers 9:11, Exodus12:8).
Over the years the celebration of Passover became more specific with a programmed “Seder” celebrated by a family. The Hebrew word Seder means “order”, the order of events emerged after the Babylonian captivity. When Jesus practiced Passover with His disciples, Passover was performed with the prescribed order of His day.
The Seder developed over the years as the nation celebrated from the first year to this very day. In the first year in the wilderness Israel celebrated Passover (Numbers 9:1-14). Joshua and Israel celebrated it when they entered the Promised Land (Josh. 5:10-12). Kings Hezekiah (2 Chr. 30) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:21-22) celebrated Passover. The returning Jews celebrated Passover when they came back from Babylon (Ezra 6:19-20). Jesus also celebrated Passover with His disciples, and His life became the living reality of the event as demonstrated in the Gospels.
The Modern Observation of Passover
The modern Passover celebration begins with the cleaning of the house from leavened bread. From top to bottom the house is inspected, pockets are turned inside and out to rid the dwelling of leaven. Pots, pans dishes are cleaned and flatware is replaced with the finest Passover, china, silver and crystal.
The Haggadah (Heb. The Telling) is a book through which the family will relive the events of the Passover 3500-years ago in the land of Egypt. The story unfolds through prayer, songs, and narrative readings from the book.
The leader sits at the head of the table, with the youngest to the right and to the left a place setting made for the prophet Elijah or a guest of honor. The mother then recites a prayer as she lights the candles, she covers her eyes and says;
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord Our God, King of the Universe, Who has set us apart by His Word, and in whose Name we light the festival lights.”
The celebration revolves around four cups of wine that are poured by the father pours. Jesus would have poured the wine at the Seder he held with his disciples in the upper room.
Jesus and Passover
In the first Passover the lamb was chosen from the flock on the 10th of Nissan and was to remain with the household until the 14th when it was killed. Jesus on the 9th of Nisan came to Bethany where he was being prepared for Passover.
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead,[a] whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. John 12:1-3
Since Passover is celebrated on the 14th, six days before is the 9th. The next day Jesus enters Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan.
12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’[d]
The King of Israel!”
14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
15 “ Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:12-15
Jesus as the “Lamb” of God was being set aside from the flock to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. For five days he was to remain in Jerusalem, from the 10th to the 14th where he would be killed at twilight fulfilling the picture of the Passover lamb in Exodus. During those five days, Jesus would celebrate Passover with His disciples in the upper room. He was also be examined by the religious leaders and tested before he was sacrificed. (Matthew 21:23-27)
The First Cup
To begin the service the father pours out the first cup of wine and asks everyone to rise from the table. Raising his cup he recites the prayer of sanctification, The Kiddush, to set apart this day to the Lord.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Who has chosen us for Thy service from among the nations… Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who hast kept us in life, Who hast preserved us, and hast enabled us to reach this season.
Jesus would have led the Seder in the upper room as he celebrated Passover with his disciples.
7 Then came the Day of
Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent
Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may
The Washing of the Hands
The second ceremony of the modern Seder is the washing of the hands, a family member brings water, bowl and towel to each person at the table to wash their hands before they eat. Jesus in a similar act after supper, showed Himself as a servant and washed the disciples feet and wiped them with a towel. The Messiah was a servant of humanity.
4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:4-5
The Green Vegetable
After the hands are washed the karpas, green vegetable, is dipped in the salt water and eaten. The saltwater reminds people of the tears of suffering suffered by Israel in the land of Egypt.
The Middle Matzah
On the table is a bag with three loaves of Matzah in three compartments. The middle loaves is removed and broken in half. The broken half is then removed and hidden in the house. Later in the ceremony the children have the task of finding the hidden bread.
The Four Questions
After the Matzah is broken and hidden, the youngest child to the right of the head of the table will fulfill the role of Exodus 12:26, “And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?'.
Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night, only unleavened bread? On all other nights, we all eat herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs? On all other nights, we do not dip even once, but on this night, we dip twice? On all other nights, we eat sitting or reclining, but on this night, we east reclining?
When Jesus performed the Passover with the disciples, John was the youngest and would have been to the right of Jesus (John 13:23). He would have been the one asking the questions about the Passover.
The Second Cup
In response to the four questions, a second cup of wine is poured. The story of Passover is retold, starting from Abraham being called from Ur (Genesis 12). The story continues with the stories of Patriarch and the promises. How Joseph was sold by his brothers, and the nation became slaves in the land of Egypt. How Moses was chosen by God to deliver the nation and how God gave them the Law at Mt. Sinai.
For the story of each plague, some wine is poured. The Seder tray and its various foods are woven into the story of Passover.
The first half of the praise psalms, known as Hallel (Ps. 113-118) is recited before the second cup of wine is consumed. According to the Talmud, these songs were recited by the Levites as the lambs were killed.
The Dipping of Matzah
Before the meal, the hands are washed a second time. The top Matzah and the remaining half of the middle Matzah are broken into pieces and handed out to everyone. Everyone at the table must eat some horseradish and haroset (apple, cinnamon and nut mixture) with their Matzah. The sweetness of Haroset reminds them of their sweet redemption, and the bitter horseradish reminds of their bitter slavery.
Hillel instructed Jews to eat as much horseradish with their Matzah to bring tears to their eyes, so they could feel what their forefathers felt.
Jesus was in the upper room and told John the one who would betray him was the one who he handed his dipped “Matzah”.
22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. John 13:25-27
The traditional Jewish dinner would have been roasted Lamb or Goat as prescribed in the Passover. In modern times, the Jewish dinner is more varied and includes Gefilte fish, Matzah ball soup, chicken, potato Kugel and other delicious foods. Since the fall of the Temple in A.D. 70, lambs can no longer be sacrificed so the menu became more open.
When the meal is over the hidden Matzah, from middle loaf, is sought out by the children. The child who finds this bread will receive a reward. Rabbinic law requires everybody at the table eat a portion of the bread to remind them of the Passover Lamb.
The Third Cup
Now the third cup of the Passover, known as the Cup of Redemption follow in the ceremony. Jesus choose this cup to be reminder of His redemptive work on the Cross. He broke bread to remember his broken body and wine for the blood he would shed.
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:17-20
After the third cup the child is sent to the front door to welcome the prophet Elijah. The hope is Elijah would be at the door to announce the coming of the Messiah after drinking his cup of wine. God promises to send the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the
Elijah is a precursor to the Second Coming, when Jesus returns in Glory and power. He is seen appearing on the mountain with Moses to Jesus, James and John (Matthew 17:3). John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah. In Revelation 11, one of the two witnesses will be Elijah who will be a witness to the Messiah in Israel before the Second Coming. The Third Cup prepares Israel for his coming.
The Fourth Cup
The fourth is the Cup of Acceptance or Praise. It was this cup Jesus said He would not drink until He drank it with His disciples in the Kingdom of God.
27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not 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." Matthew 26:27-28
At the conclusion of the Seder a closing hymn was sung from the Hallel, second half from Psalms 115-118. Jesus would have sung these hymn at the close of His Seder with the disciples. Judas had left earlier to betray Jesus, he would lead the armed men to where Jesus would be.
30When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'[c] 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Matthew 26:30-31
Earlier Jesus warned Jerusalem, he would not return until they acknowledged Him as Messiah. Jesus quotes from Psalm 118. This is the same verse sung at the close of the Passover Seder.
22 The stone the builders rejected
37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23:37-39