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Passover – will yours be a Solemn Joy or a Dirge?

As we come to Yahweh’s (the LORD’s) Passover this year, I want to ask each of you something. So many of the Passover services I’ve been a part of, especially with the Church of God (COG) groups, have been ultra- solemn services composed of the washing of feet and then the breaking of matzah and drinking a small vial of fermented red wine – with of course some prayers, the reading of John 13-17 and a hymn at the end. On the other hand, I realize many Messianic groups and Jewish believers have a distinctly different kind of Passover where there is the Seder feast and readings amidst fairly vocal and open rejoicing. 

I would suggest something in the middle. Most of the COG groups observe Passover the eve of the 14th of Abib as a memorial of the last night Jesus was with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. We do this “in remembrance of” Him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). They see it as a memorial (Exodus 12:14) of the death of the Lamb of God, so it is very solemn. It is also very clear that the last Passover, or some call it “the Last Supper” of Yeshua, was one night earlier than the mainstream Jews were going to keep Passover. So in the COG services, there typically is no meal, no Seder until the following night, the “Night to be Observed”, on the eve of the 15th of Abib. That’s when the COG groups are more festive, more joyous, recounting Exodus from Egypt. (However, don’t forget it is also the time that Messiah was taken down from the tree and buried.) So Passover is seen in COG groups as a very solemn evening.

Though we are remembering our Master’s death for us, we must also remember that He Himself instructed us to have peace and joy on this night and to love one another. It is clear that that during HIS last Passover that His disciples were all talking among each other. They were having a meal; many conclude it was in fact a Seder. In John 13 He teaches the new commandment after demonstrating the servitude of washing feet and how He cleanses us. In John 14 Yeshua joyfully teaches about going to prepare a place for us. He speaks of the indwelling of Father into our lives and we in Him. He ends that chapter with assuring us of His peace. Then in John 15 Yeshua is very upbeat about being a healthy branch on Him, the Vine, and how growth and fruit come into our lives. He reminds us of the life of abundant joy (John 15:11) and “that your joy may be full”. You can read the rest of His words through John 17. It’s all upbeat. It’s filled with peace and joy and assurances and faith. Hardly a funeral-type service at all! Knowing that we have victory over sin by His blood and have new life by His resurrection, surely when we take Passover this year, we can do so with what I call “solemn joy”.

Passover should not have the look and feel of a funeral. But frankly, that’s how it’s felt in too many cases. Isn’t it time to stop the feeling we’ve just gone to a funeral? It’s not that! Neither is it a time to be giddy or joking. But the old rules that people were to come in quietly and say nothing, just find their seats and be quietly reading the scriptures on Passover – where did that all start? Again, it is clear that Messiah Himself and His disciples were having quite an animated discussion at their Passover. I also doubt that they had just a tiny piece of matzah as we do today. Nor did they have just a tiny thimble full of wine in funny plastic or glass vials all set neatly in some tray that was passed around. I’m going to have a sermon soon about how the modern “Christian” church has absorbed so much paganism and customs of the world religions. Let’s rethink this year’s Passover. Certainly after we break the bread and drink the wine, we should rejoice knowing we have the victory in Yeshua! Our hymns at the end should be about our Yeshua, our SALVATION and the JOY that comes with that.

We should come home refreshed, quietly joyous for what HE has done for us. At our Passover, we will be solemnly joyful and I suggest you consider the same.

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