In a few days many of us will be observing the Passover. In this blog, I just want to encourage as many as possible, to have a Family Passover instead of the corporate Passover so many do. I’m glad we have more and more people keeping Passover, regardless of how or when you feel led to keep it. It beats the alternative (see my last blog).
What’s a “Family Passover”? Just as it sounds. Instead of going to a service led by one man doing a monologue with everyone else as silent spectators in a row-by-row service reminiscent of a funeral, let’s get back to doing it the way it is described throughout Scripture: in your homes, with your family and extended family. Don’t forget to invite the singles and widows and those without believing family members.
First of all, some reminders: the term “Passover” is specifically referring to the 14th day of the Hebrew first month when the lamb was killed. It later came to refer to the entire spring feast Days of Unleavened Bread, though the Passover lamb was killed on the 14th, and eaten later that evening. In Ezekiel 45:21 for example, we read -- “the Passover, a feast of seven days”.
Numbers 28:16-17 make it clear that the Passover is considered the 14th day, and the first holyday of Unleavened Bread is on the 15th. The day Christ our Passover died as the Passover Lamb of God (1 Cor. 5:7) was on the daytime portion of 14th of Abib at 3 pm (Mark 15:34-37). The daytime portion of the 14th was considered a preparation day for the High Day meal and holyday which began that night, the eve of the 15th to the end of the 15th of the Hebrew first month.
Again, the objective of this blog is to encourage you have a family-style Passover rather than go to a large group or corporate-church style Passover. The first official Passover in Exodus 12 was for families to select a perfect kid or lamb on the 10th, keep it to the 14th and then roast it and totally consume it in the evening. Nothing was to be left until morning. It was a family event. They didn’t go to the church building or the big rec hall rented by the church and have the Passover. No, they were home, with family. Of course all Israel was really one family grown large, but Yahweh’s instructions were to keep this very special time in smaller groups, within houses (read Exodus 12:1-11). True, once the temple was built, the nation came together to keep Passover in Jerusalem—but again, they had temple services, but the Passover meal and ceremonies were done with family units, in homes or tents. The men, women and children were often there, as we read even of Jesus’ family (Luke 2:41-44). Sometimes only the men could go.
Even in New Covenant times, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, are a family and we are to see each other as family. But even here, the early assemblies met in people’s homes according to many scriptures (such as Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19 among many). Now that many of us do not have families who believe in keeping the holydays and Passover, many of you can’t have families celebrating together. Some may be by themselves, or widowed, or single – or some may even be disallowed into some groups’ fellowship, as was the blind man in John 9. We who have families should be on the lookout for such people and welcome them to our home (assuming we know the people and the fruit of their lives). We can read how we are to celebrate these feasts with families and remember the orphans and strangers while we’re at it.
We can read that Yeshua’s family went as a family up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover (read Luke 2:41-44, and you see it was an extended family). Obviously, this is referring to the entire spring feast as is also alluded to in Ezek 45:21, as Luke 2 speaks of “when the days were over”. But my point is, the family stayed together for the Passover and observed it together.
I think when we have believing family members in the same general local area, we should strive to keep this Passover service together. So what does a New Covenant Passover service look like when kept by a family together? Well, when we read any of the passages about Passover in scripture, there was a meal, including at Yeshua’s last Passover. His Passover did not resemble the Passover of Exodus 12 in many ways, and neither did His Passover resemble what so many do today.
For example: In Exodus 12, they ate it while standing, with sandals on their feet, rod in hand, ready to leave quickly. In Yeshua’s last Passover they were reclining, relaxed, having very animated conversations -- and their sandals were off their feet (He washed their feet, remember).
Then Yeshua instituted the emblems of the New Covenant Passover – the footwashing, and the blessing/eating of the broken bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-30). The traditional blessing over the broken bread includes thanking Yahweh, King of Universe … and for providing us Bread from the earth. Without realizing it, could it be that Jews were including a prophecy of Yeshua’s resurrection from the earth, as the true bread of life? Many Church of God Passovers are formal services that have the footwashing and a formal recital of the scripture then the sharing of the broken bread and wine in a very formal and solemn service. In most of those meetings, there are no children and there is no discussion, conversation and certainly no meal. I just don’t see it that way in Scripture. We need to restore family-based Passovers among believers.
I know in Exodus 12, only males who were circumcised could participate (Ex. 12:43-49), whether native born or foreigner, one rule for all. But the whole family was involved. In the New Covenant, circumcision is now of the heart, and not of the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). Paul was emphatic that the uncircumcised did NOT need to be circumcised (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:2-3). We do understand that those eating the bread and wine and washing feet should be the spiritually circumcised; i.e., those who are baptized and have God’s Spirit, walking the new walk. But does that preclude children being present to observe what is going on? No.
So the family Passover I am teaching is that you get your family and extended family together, and start with a meal in your own home. Yeshua has already been sacrificed as s the Lamb of God, so I see no reason to have to eat lamb. Because there is no temple or priesthood to approve the lambs, even Jews do not eat lamb at Passover today. Just have a meal with joyous conversation as we explain to our children how the Lamb of God paid the penalty for our sins and shortcomings and what a joy it is to realize that. As you end dinner, it would be good to remind the children that the baptized adults now will do the footwashing and eat the broken matzah and drink of the cup of wine. Again, I don’t see this as a period of someone doing a monologue. Ex 12 and other passages show the children were asking questions and involved. They were present.
I believe in a special annual Passover service of breaking of bread and drinking of wine – preceded by a self-examination and then partaking – as the end of 1 Cor. 11 explains. Some believe this is done each Sabbath, at each “potluck”. But the Passover is a “memorial” of Christ’s Passover and death. Memorials are typically on an anniversary date, in this case, the 14th of Hebrew month Abib.
The host male could begin and lead the session, perhaps encouraging others to read pertinent passages of scripture as well and have brief discussions relevant to what is being read. Encourage discussion, rather than someone doing a monologue. In fact, why not let the older children read some of the scriptures too, and get them involved that way as well? In Exodus 12:24-27, we clearly read that children will be asking questions and we should be answering those questions, with them present. Certainly Jews do this in their Seder services with the questions asked by the children. In New Covenant times, I think only baptized and converted adults who have made the commitment required at baptism, should be eating the broken bread and drinking of the wine. But, the children are present. At the end, everyone sings some joyful hymns of deliverance together as we praise Yahweh for His Yeshua – which means Salvation. So we thank God for Yeshua, our Savior. It should be upbeat, joyful – and a family event if at all possible.