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Children at Passover
The question came up recently about children being involved and participating in the Passover service in one’s home, so I thought we could address it. What follows is what we do at Passover, which we normally keep to 2-3 families in our home; keeping it intimate and family-like.
One’s children were definitely expected to be present at the Passover in the time of Moses. Let’s read some scriptures and then I will cover what WE do in our home on Passover. In the scripture below, focus on verses 26-28:
Exodus 12:21-28 -- Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. 23 For YHVH will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, YHVH will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.
24 And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. 25 It will come to pass when you come to the land which YHVH will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service.
26 And it shall be, when your CHILDREN say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' 27 that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of YHVH, 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. 28 Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as YHVH had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”
So children were obviously present, and still are present in the Jewish Pesach (Passover). There’s more in Exodus 13:7-10 and then again in verses 11-16, about redeeming the firstborn, going back to the Passover.
Exodus 13:7-10 “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. 8 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what YHVH did for me when I came up from Egypt.' 9 It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that YHVH's law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand YHVH has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.”
So it’s clear that children were present at the Exodus 12 Passover and beyond. In the Jewish celebrations of Pesach (Passover), children are also present. Jews take to heart the scripture – it’s a Mitzvah or law to them -- to be sure to explain to the children present what is going on. But keep in mind that Jews keep 2 Seders on what they call “the first 2 days of Passover”. In many sabbath-keeping Christian groups, children are not present and I think that is unfortunate and let me explain why in a minute. If you aren’t planning on your children being in the service, I hope you’ll reconsider after reading all of this article.
The Jewish Passover is more like what many of us would call the “night to be much observed”, at the end of Passover day and beginning the first day of Unleavened Bread -- where we have a big meal celebration of the freedom we now have after Christ’s death frees us from Satan’s grasp.
In a nutshell, we try to do what Jesus did, regardless of calendar issues. He kept his Passover meal plus the footwashing and bread/wine service the EVE of Passover day, then died on Passover day at 3 pm and was put into the tomb just before sundown, still Passover day. The next day, starting at sundown, was a “high day” (John 19:31-32) – not a regular sabbath but a holyday sabbath, one of the annual “feasts of the LORD” (Leviticus 23:1-2), where God calls them “MY feasts”.
But I want to stay on topic – children at Passover.
Our own practice is to personally always welcome well-behaved children to be present, as scripture says, as long as they have been prepared ahead of time to be respectful, quiet, observant and obedient. So at our Passover services, our grandchildren and any other children of other participants are welcome and present – and just quietly watch. Maybe 1-2 older teens can sit among them to be sure they aren’t talking and are respectful during the service. Rowdy and untrained children should be left at home with a babysitter.
Why do we welcome children? Because as I’ve shown, children were present at the original Passover. And I want them to feel included in this deeply spiritual, meaningful, and solemn service. One of my most cherished photos in my old photo album is a picture that shows me at age 6 with my brother and sisters watching our mom during a Passover bread/wine service. So I hope this is going to be something our children also realize is part of their practice as they grow older too. We keep the bread and wine and footwashing on the eve of Passover day, then have a meal the following night, after sundown.
We personally do not keep an official Seder, as some of it is unscriptural and is wrapped in traditions that come out of Babylon (like the egg) and can tend to become too much of a ritual and focused on Judaism, which I won’t do. It also seems to take forever to go through! I’m familiar with the Haggadah and Seder. Jews often don’t even eat a lamb anymore but chicken instead! Plus in the New Covenant – we copy what Yeshua did. He added the footwashing service and focused on the bread and wine, which pointed to him.
But let me hasten to add, that in the New Covenant, our answers to the children’s questions will include the story of the deliverance from Egypt of course – but then we need to pivot, and turn our focus to point to what the lambs depicted: the sacrifice of our Savior, Yeshua.
Yeshua made clear – Passover needs to be focused on HIM, the intent of all those lambs. In Yeshua’s last Passover supper with his disciples, he is never once recorded as talking about coming out of Egypt, the 10 plagues, etc. – but said this, and this is what we need to teach our children too: the OBJECT LESSON of the Passover Lamb dinner was the bread and body of our Lord Jesus Christ and the cup of wine, picturing his shed blood for us. Life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).
Luke 22:17-20 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of ME.”
20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
Notice how Passover is primarily in remembrance of the Messiah—and not in remembrance of coming out of Egypt. Once the POINT of the service is here (and that is Messiah!), we do not emphasize the “shadow” of the service as much now that we’re in the new covenant. I want children to know and learn about Yeshua too. I want them to see how we grownups love him and our heavenly Father. We are so thankful to be delivered from the enslavement of sin and Satan’s world.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of ME." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of ME."
So be sure to teach the children that Passover is really about Messiah and his sacrifice, even more then it is about those lambs sacrificed in Exodus 12, as they POINTED TO our Messiah and the liberty he gives us by his life’s blood shed for us as the Lamb of God.
I’m sometimes asked if children can wash feet and take part in the bread and wine service. I know some of you allow them to participate in the footwashing.
In our service and our home, we absolutely love having children watch the footwashing and the bread and wine service, but they do not partake of any of that portion. We explain the footwashing as the humble act of serving one another AND to remember, as we wash someone’s feet, that Yeshua already has washed them (John 13:12-17). We’re just acknowledging that fact and it’s saying to the one we’re serving as we wash his/her feet, that we see him or her as washed by Christ. It is saying that “we’re not going to see you in any way but washed by Christ, and so you’re cleansed, my brother/sister.” All that in in context of course, of serving one another as well.
Whether you wish children, especially older children perhaps, to participate in footwashing is your call decision. We reserve all that to baptized members.
Partaking of the bread and wine of Christ is so deep, so special, so spiritual, and one we must be prepared for, so that we are ready to take it in a worthy manner, as Paul says.
So no, we absolutely do not risk this with children not old enough or mature enough to understand. We are severely warned by Paul not to take Passover unworthily, and so let’s let the children grow up more, come to repentance and baptism as adults –and then by all means at that point let them partake of the bread and the wine.
1 Corinthians 11:27-31 “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
Don’t put that burden on yourself as the parent, and don’t put that burden on your children. Let them watch – but no more than that, is my advice. At least that seems to be the clear direction of scripture for me and my household.
And I personally see no example of children participating in footwashing or partaking of the new covenant very deep symbols of the bread and wine. So at our Passover services, children are welcome to politely and quietly observe, without talking or playing, while baptized adults wash feet and partake of the bread and wine of the body of Christ. Of course the presiding host or minister should be explaining all aspects of footwashing, and the bread and wine – so the children hear all that as well.
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I love this article. You have made me know that we should allow children to be at the Passover. We had been taught wrongly that children are not allowed to be in the room during Passover. Thanks a lot for opening my eyes to this truth.