Hope Of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Wonderful New Truth About the Passover!
YEHOVAH God intends for His people to continue to grow in grace and knowledge. Here, proven so a child can understand, is wonderful new truth about one of the most important, crucial Christian observances of the entire year -- the feast of the Passover!
by HOIM Staff
A few years ago a friend told me he simply could not figure out the sequence of events of the Passover and Exodus of Israel from Egypt, which this ancient ceremony memorialized. I looked through the relevant Bible chapters, and I admitted that the common understanding of the Worldwide Church of God was confusing. I looked at the basic reasoning of Herbert W. Armstrong regarding the Passover, and read the Bible verses, and threw up my hands. It seemed hopelessly confused.
But as I studied the subject preparing for the Passover of 1988, YEHOVAH God opened my mind and the truth sprang out from the Scriptures with crystal clarity and swept away all the conflicts and confusion. I suddenly saw where Herbert Armstrong made his major error, and why he misunderstood the clear sequence of events.
According to the Worldwide Church of God, and Herbert Armstrong, the ancient Passover was observed at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan or Abib, as the evening began. The Passover lamb was selected on the tenth day of the month (Exo. 12:3), kept until the 14th day, and then killed "in the evening" (verse 6). That evening the Israelites stayed inside their homes, and about midnight the "death angel" passed over, slaying all the firstborn of the Egyptians (verse 29).
Herbert Armstrong explained that nobody left their residences all night, "until the morning" (verse 22). The next day, the daylight portion of the 14th, he asserted, the Israelites spent the entire day and "borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians" (verses 35-36).
According to Herbert Armstrong, this took all day long, and then, the following evening (on the 15th of Nisan), the children of Israel departed from Egypt at night. "It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord . . . this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations" (verse 42).
The Worldwide Church of God has interpreted this to mean that the Passover is to be observed at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, and on the l5th is an entirely different "night to be observed," apart from the Passover -- which they simply call "the night to be much observed."
However, I have now come to see that this interpretation is totally wrong, as a careful reading of the accounts in Exodus and related Scriptures clearly shows. Notice the wonderful new truth YEHOVAH God has revealed!
The True Sequence of Events
The question is, when was the Passover lamb to be killed -- at the evening which began the 14th of Nisan, or at the evening which ended the 14th of Nisan? For millennia, the Jews have always observed this ancient festival on the evening which ENDED the 14th of Nisan!
Now notice carefully!
The lamb was killed "in the evening," or "between the two evenings," according to the Hebrew -- that is, as the sun was setting. The people ate "the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs" (Exo. 12:8). The Israelites put the blood from the lamb upon their door posts (verse 7). YEHOVAH God said, ". . . and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (v. 13).
"And this day shall be unto you for a MEMORIAL; and ye shall keep it a FEAST to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever" (v. 14).
At this point, the narrative goes on to say, "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread . . . And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you . . . And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this self-same day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month AT EVEN, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses. . . . Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye EAT UNLEAVENED BREAD" (Exo. 12:18-20). Notice that eating the unleavened bread was to begin at the END of the l4th of Nisan, "AT EVEN." As we shall see, this was the same "evening" when the Passover was slain and eaten with "unleavened bread" (verse 8)!
That night the Israelites were to stay in bed till the morning (verse 22).
What happened? "And it came to pass, that at MIDNIGHT the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. . . And Pharaoh rose up IN THE NIGHT, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a GREAT CRY IN EGYPT; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
"And he called for Moses and Aaron BY NIGHT, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and GO, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, AND BE GONE; and bless me also" (Exo. 12:29-32).
Pharaoh said, in effect, "GET OUT OF HERE!" He wanted them gone immediately. He and his people were scared to death! Notice! This happened DURING THE NIGHT -- the early morning hours after midnight! Probably around 3 in the morning, while it was still "night"!
We read, "And the Egyptians were URGENT upon the people, that they might SEND them out of the land IN HASTE; for they said, We be all dead men" -- that is, "or we'll all die!" (v. 33).
This was an urgent, hasty, quick emotional response on the part of the Egyptians. They didn't want Israel to dilly dally or take their time. They wanted them gone IMMEDIATELY!
The Israelites obeyed. "And the people took their dough BEFORE IT WAS LEAVENED, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders" (verse 34).
"And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramses to Succoth ("Booths" or "Booth City"), about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. . . . And they baked UNLEAVENED CAKES of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because THEY WERE THRUST OUT OF EGYPT, and COULD NOT TARRY, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual" (vs. 37-39).
Now, according to Herbert Armstrong's interpretation, and the Worldwide Church of God, this Scripture does not make any sense, because they teach that the children of Israel TARRIED IN EGYPT FOR A WHOLE DAY -- ALL THE DAYLIGHT PORTION OF THE 14TH OF NISAN -- AND DID NOT LEAVE UNTIL THE FOLLOWING EVENING!!!
But if that were indeed true, then why do the Scriptures emphasize the URGENCY of the situation the very evening when Pharaoh and all his people got up in the early morning hours, and saw death all around them? Why do we read that the Egyptians were "urgent" upon the people, if they allowed them to loiter and delay their departure for over l2 whole hours? Why does it say that they sought to "send them out IN HASTE"? (v. 33). Why does the Biblical record say that the children of Israel "WERE THRUST OUT," if they instead remained all the following day?
What, pray tell, were they doing all that next day? We are told that they spent the entire day getting ready, even though they were already "ready" (see verse 11). And, we are told, they spent that entire day borrowing jewels and gold and silver ornaments from the Egyptians! But wait a minute! Just how long would it take to simply "borrow" a few silver and gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, and so forth? Certainly one or two hours would be sufficient time, at the very most! Besides, this "borrowing" began after the ninth plague -- and before the tenth plague. YEHOVAH God told Moses, "Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow [the Hebrew word for "borrow" here is shaal and means, "to inquire, to request, by extension to demand-- ask, beg, borrow, llay to charge, demand, desire"] of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. And the LORD gave the people FAVOR in the sight of the Egyptians" (Exo. 11:2-3).
Most of this "borrowing" occurred BEFORE the final plague! The 'borrowing" mentioned in Exodus 12:35 would have been the last minute "borrowing," as they were in the process of leaving Egypt, and the Egyptians were hasttening them along, encouraging them to remove -- by giving them even more jewels and silver and gold to encourage them to leave faster! This would not have taken long -- certainly not a WHOLE DAY!
The truth is so simple. The Passover was observed at the evening which ended the l4th of Nisan. That night the LORD smote the Egyptian firstborn throughout the land. That night, while it was still dark, all the Egyptians rose up made a "great cry," because of the devastation. Pharaoh immediately summoned Moses and Aaron, and told them to take their people and GET OUT of Egypt -- as quickly as possible! He and his people were absolutely terrified; they feared for their own lives. So they quickly gave the Israelites all the jewelry and ornaments they could find, to impel them to get out -- to leave -- to be on their way!
The very next morning, the Israelites were on their way, and during that day they journeyed from Ramses to Succoth. When did this journey occur? On the 14th? Or on the 15th of Nisan?
In Numbers 33:3 we read, "And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the FIFTEENTH DAY of the first month; on the morrow after the Passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians . . . And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth" ((Numb. 33:3-5).
This clear explanation of the events which occurred at that original Passover is the only one which makes sense and fits with all the evidence. Otherwise, we have a serious contradiction in the account. What would we do with all the verses illustrating the great urgency and haste which the Egyptians felt? And how could the Israelites have left Egypt with their bread still "unleavened" (Exo. 12:34 and 39), if they had spent one entire day sitting around "collecting jewels and gold"? It only requires an hour or two for yeast to begin working in bread down and to "leaven" it! Such an explanation simply does violence to common sense and the Scriptural record.
How, then, does this truth fit in with the Passover in the New Testament? Did Yeshua the Messiah change the time when the Passover is to be observed at the "last supper" he held with his disciples, the night before his crucifixion? Did he change the time of observance to twenty four hours in advance of the time it had been observed for the past 1,500 years?
New Testament Times
This means, of course, that the "night to be much observed," "that night of the Lord to be observed" (Exo. 12:42) refers explicitly TO THE PASSOVER NIGHT, at the end of the l4th of Nisan, and the events following. This great festival was, as the Jews properly understand, the true "Passover"!
It is not a separate festival or night, as the Worldwide Church of God would have us believe.
What, then, about the New Testament?
Notice! During his ministry, Yeshua the Messiah sent his disicples to prepare for them to celebrate the Passover. They found an upper room or guestchamber, and "made ready the passover" (Matt. 26:17-l9; Mark 14:12-16; Lk. 22:7-l3).
This night, Yeshua instituted a new ceremony -- a new ordinance. We read, "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it (or, drink all of ye of it); for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28).
The bread represents the body of the Messiah. As Yeshua said in John 6, "I am the bread of life. . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the BREAD that I will give is MY FLESH, which I give for the life of the world" (John 6:48-51). The word for "bread" in these verses is the Greek word artos and means regular raised or leavened bread -- a simple loaf of bread!
The flesh of Yeshua is symbolized by "bread." We are to "eat" his flesh, this spiritual "bread." We are to "partake" of the Messiah, and consume him, his essence, his truth. When we partake of Yeshua's flesh, therefore, it means we partake of HIS WORD -- HIS TRUTH. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
The cup of wine, which was divided up among the disciples, represented Christ's shed blood (Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:20). This cup of wine symbolized the death of Christ on the cross, where He gave up His life to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind, so that none need perish, but all may have an opportunity for eternal life! As John records, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him mighty be saved" John 3:16-17).
As the apostle Paul wrote, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:6, 8-10).
Yeshua the Messiah paid the penalty for all our sins. He covered them with his shed blood. Therefore, by this new symbolism of the bread and wine ceremony, we memorialize the death and penalty paid by our own true "Passover lamb" -- the Messiah himself! As Paul wrote, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (I Cor. 5:7).
Paul explained, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is new creature (or, creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us this ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:17-19).
Paul concludes, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (v. 21).
The Messiah became our "sin offering." He paid for our sins with his life on the tree! By his death and shed blood, we can be reconciled to YEHOVAH God, and have all our sins forgiven and erased from the memory of YEHOVAH God.
Do we fully appreciate what he did? Do we understand what he went through?
The Foot-Washing Ceremony
That very night, at the beginning of Nisan 14, supper being served, we read that Yeshua "riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poured water into a basin, and began to wash his disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John 13:4-5).
After he did this, for all of them, he asked them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:12-17).
This ceremony was given after Yeshua had heard the disciples arguing that evening over who among them should be accounted the greatest (Luke 22:23-24). Yeshua had responded by telling them a lesson in leadership -- YEHOVAH God's way. He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth" (Luke 22:25-27).
This attitude of serving every one, and humbling oneself to be the lowest servant, is illustrated in the foot-washing ceremony, which is part of the Passover symbols Yeshua brought. There is, however, far more significance attached to the foot-washing ceremony than we can cover here. For fascinating insights on this vitally important subject read our article Foot-Washing and YEHOVAH's Church!
As Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. . . . Let THIS MIND be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of NO REPUTATION ("emptied himself"), and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:3, 5-11).
Now, when was this new symbolism which Yeshua brought given? When was it that he met with his disciples, for a final meal, before his own death and crucifixion?
That Final Evening
After that final dinner, Yeshua gave his disciples final instruction before his departure. He told them they should "love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34-35).
He then told them he was leaving, but he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them forever (John 14:16-17, 26), to comfort them and to lead them into truth. He told them he would give them great spiritual power, because he and the Father would dwell in them (John 14:10-14).
Yeshua told them he is the true vine, and we are the branches. We must "abide" in him, and he in us, for us to bring forth much fruit -- otherwise, we are like severed branches, fit only to be burned up (John 15:1-15). He reminded them that he chose them -- they didn't choose him. Even so, he has chosen those of us who understand and grasp these words, in a personal sense and manner. His Word witnesses to us that he has also chosen us! (John 15:16).
In John 16, Yeshua gave his true followers a final warning-that the time would come when they would be "put out of the synagogues" or churches -- even once-true churches which would begin to apostacize and to go astray from the truth! (John 16:1-2). In fact, he warned, some of us would even be "killed" by those who think that they serve YEHOVAH God and are ridding the world of "scum."
Nevertheless, he said that he would send the Spirit of truth which "will guide you into ALL TRUTH" (John 16:13). How wonderful it is that YEHOVAH God is continually doing this, and continually revealing more and more new wonderful truth!
Yeshua then took his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane, where he loved to pray. He prayed that YEHOVAH God would keep them, and preserve them, and protect them (John 17:1-11). He prayed that we would be kept "from the evil" or the "evil one," Satan (verse 15). He asked YEHOVAH God to santify us, that is, separate us, "THROUGH THY TRUTH: THY WORD IS TRUTH" (v. 17). This is what separates us from those who are still in the world! It is the TRUTH that saves us; YEHOVAH God will only protect and deliver those who have His TRUTH! Do we understand this promise?
Too many, today, willingly embrace error. They allow others to do their thinking for them. They will follow the leaders of their Church, even into hell, rather than boldly "prove all things," and question doctrine or teaching.
But Yeshua prayed that the Father would keep His own through the "truth" -- and he pointed out that the Word of God is, by definition, "the truth."
Later on, after he finished praying, even great drops of blood (Luke 22:44), Judas Iscariot, the traitor, came with a band of officers to take Yeshua prisoner (John 18:1-12). He betrayed the Messiah with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48).
Yeshua was interrogated by the priests at night, and then turned over to Pilate for the death penalty (John 18; Luke 22-23; Matt. 26-27). Yeshua was scourged with a whip with metal or bits of bone tied into the ends of the lashes, like cat-o-nine tails, until his back looked like bloody hamburger or raw steak. He was beaten so badly, the prophet Isaiah foretold, that "his visage was marred more tha any man, and his form more than the sons of men" (Isa. 52:14).
Yeshua was then brought forth for the pronouncing of the sentence. Now notice this fact. John records this vital truth, which helps us to understand about the Passover sequence. Pilate brought Yeshua forth to the judgment seat, in the place called the Pavement (John 18:13).
"The PREPARATION of the Passover"
John records of this event, "And it was the PREPARATION OF THE PASSOVER, and about the sixth hour" -- about high noon! Notice! The Jews had NOT YET celebrated the Passover! They would not be keeping it until that very evening! Yet Yeshua and his disciples had observed a new ordinance the night before, with the bread and the wine!
Notice again! John does not say "the Jew's Passover," but simply "the Passover." How clear! The regular, normal Passover ceremony was to be observed the next evening, "between the evenings," toward the end of the l4th of Nisan. Therefore, the "dinner" and new ceremony, which Yeshua had instituted the night before, at the beginning of the preparation of the Passover, was only celebrated at that time because Yeshua was going to BE our Passover Lamb the following day, and he would not be able to eat the Passover with his disciples while in the grave! Therefore, that one night of his life, Yeshua and his disciples began celebrating the "Passover" festival with an introductory meal, one night early, at the beginning of Nisan 14.
"BEFORE The Feast of The Passover"
But we have even more proof! Notice John 13, verse 1 -- John wrote, "Now BEFORE THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER, when Jesus knew that his hour was come . . . And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him . . ." (John 13:1-2). Notice! This supper Yeshua had with his disciples, in which he gave them the new ordinances of the bread and wine and foot-washing, was "BEFORE THE PASSOVER!" This means it was not the regular Passover itself! That would not be celebrated until the following evening. It was, instead, the final meal or kiddush that the Messiah had with his disciples before his death on the following day! What could be clearer?
Interestingly, even today different Jewish groups often have several "Passover" type dinners during the Passover season, sometimes several nights in a row. These other "Passover dinners" are not the real Passover, which always had to be observed following the slaying of the Passover Lamb on the afternoon of Nisan 14 -- that is, during the evening of Nisan 15.
The Good News Bible makes this verse very plain. We read, "It was now the DAY BEFORE THE PASSOVER FESTIVAL" (John 13:1). How plain, then, that this NEW ordinance was not observed at the regular time of the Old Testament Passover! It was held the evening before -- at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, whereas the Passover fell on the evening that ended the 14th of Nisan!
Now, notice further what this means!
Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, was condemned to die, and was forced to carry his cross-piece up to Golgotha on the Mount of Olives (John 18:16-17), where he was crucified (v. 18). As he was led away, they compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross-piece (Luke 23:26). This was about the sixth hour (Luke 22:44), and darkness covered the earth until the ninth hour (see also Mr. 15:33).
In other words, from 9:00 AM till 3:00 PM Yeshua hung on the tree. From noon till 3:00 PM darkness covered the land. "And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst" (v. 45). About 3:00 PM, Yeshua "cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost (spirit)" (Mark 15:37).
The body of Yeshua was then taken down from the tree, and Joseph of Arimathea took it and buried it in his own newly hewn sepulchre (John 18:38-42). It was located nearby on the Mount of Olives.
Recent evidence shows that Yeshua was very likely crucified on a promontory of the Mount of Olives, due east of the Temple Mount. Only from that region could the soldiers have seen the veil of the Temple split from top to bottom, as the Scriptures show (Matt. 27:51). It was on that spot that the Jews traditionally sacrificed the red heifer as a sin offering for the entire priesthood and nation, "outside the camp" and the city (Heb.13:11-13). Just beneath that Mount so famous in Biblical history lies a graveyard, separating the mountain from the Temple Mount. A bridge historically led from the Mount of Olives to the Eastern Gate of the Temple, the most famous and most lavishly decorated gate. Since Yeshua was buried in the tomb of a rich man, very likely he was buried in that very graveyard beneath the Mount of Olives. It is no doubt the most famous graveyard of all history!
The Messiah Our True Passover
What, then, do we have?
Yeshua himself was crucified, and died, and was buried, late afternoon and early evening, just before the end of the 14th of Nisan. In fact, the Jews hurried to get the bodies of the three crucified individuals taken down off the tree, because the Sabbath evening was fast approaching (John 19:31), and they could do no work after the Sabbath began. Yeshua, therefore, was put in the tomb at the precise time that the Passover lamb of the Old Testament was slain -- "between the evenings." Thus his death and burial accurately fulfilled the Passover, to the precise time of death!
Now, if the Old Testament Passover was held at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, as the Worldwide Church of God has insisted, then the death of Yeshua was not at the same time as the Passover lamb was slain, but almost 24 hours earlier! If that were true, it could not be a perfect anti-type of the Passover Lamb, and then Yeshua would have died at the WRONG TIME, and could not be our Saviour!
But YEHOVAH God is not sloppy in the way He fulfills prophecy or types and antitypes. He is careful, and very orderly. "For God is not the author of confusion" (I Cor. 14:33). Everything He does is precisely on time, and perfectly calculated.
Who Should Celebrate the Passover?
Yeshua never intended to change the date or time of the observance of the Passover. Rather, he was merely showing us the NEW MEANING of the ancient symbols of the bread and wine kiddush ceremony! This ceremony is very similar to the Passover ceremony, in that it is done in commemoration of the death of the Messiah, eating the bread and drinking the wine. Write for our article, Have We Been Neglecting the Sacred Fellowship Meal?
The true Passover itself, however, must be observed at the established, "fixed" time that YEHOVAH God appointed for it -- every year at the beginning of Nisan 15. But how should it be observed? How can you observe it in your own home? And who should observe it?
Some claim that only baptized members of the Church of God should partake of the Passover. But is this really true?
Notice this very important point: When Yeshua observed the Passover with his disciples, throughout his ministry, he himself was the only converted, spirit-begotten individual among them! The disciples were not yet converted or begotten by YEHOVAH God (John 7:39). They did not become "Christians," in that sense, until after the resurrection of the Messiah, and the following Pentecost, when YEHOVAH God poured out His spirit upon them! This indicates that the Passover may be taken by a sincere seeker of the truth, one who appreciates its symbolism and meaning, and personally believes in Yeshua as the Messiah, even if they have not yet been baptized.
How do we know they had not yet received the holy spirit? In the book of Acts we read that Yeshua "had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but WAIT FOR THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the HOLY SPIRIT not many days hence. . . . But ye shall receive POWER, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:3-5, 8).
The apostles received the holy spirit that ensuing Pentecost (Acts 2:1-17). YEHOVAH God poured His spirit out upon them in a powerful, amazing fashion.
At the previous Passover, however, the apostles were not yet even truly begotten of YEHOVAH God's spirit. Thus they were not yet "Church members," in terms of today's terminology.
However, they had accepted the Messiah as their Saviour. They did believe on him. They were following him. They had given up everything, to follow him. Earlier, Peter had said to the Messiah, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive AN HUNDREDFOLD, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:27-29).
Also, at that original New Testament "pre-Passover dinner" that Yeshua held with his disciples, before his crucifixion, he gave them the symbols of the kiddush and explained their real, profound meaning to them, and they partook -- even though they were not yet converted or baptized, and had not yet received YEHOVAH God's holy spirit. Even so, then, unbaptized people who sincerely believe in Yeshua as the Messiah may partake of the symbols of the bread and wine, if they sincerely desire to do so.
Who, then, should partake of the Passover? In ancient Israel, the Passover was a FAMILY festival. Children were included, too. They were TAUGHT by their parents the tremendous meaning of the Passover, as they partook of it (see Exo. 12:23-27). The Passover is a family affair, for true believers. Having become a baptized, converted Christian, or being an adult, are not necessary requirements! Even Yeshua's own disciples were not yet spirit-begotten Christians when they partook of the Passover with the Messiah!
In other words, even children should participate, so they can be instructed in the full meaning of the Passover! All adult believers, whether or not they have been baptized as of yet, should also participate, so they can learn and experience the full significance of the Passover (see Dan. 10:12).
This means, of course, that even young children who are in the family should also partake of the Passover celebration -- including the wine and the unleavened bread. This is how they LEARN its meaning. The original Passover, observed in Egypt, was a whole FAMILY AFFAIR. The entire family of each family in Israel was to keep it (Exo. 12:3-4). Children were to be taught the meaning of the symbols and purpose of the Passover, each year, as they observed and participated in it (Exo. 12:25-27; 13:8-16).
How To Observe the Passover in Your Home
When the time comes for the Passover, at the ending of the 14th of Nisan or Abib, preparations for a festive meal should have been completed, and the menu for the evening meal should have been prepared. The meal need not include roast lamb (Exo. 12:8), since the Messiah has been sacrificed for us as our Lamb. However, it can include lamb, chicken, beef, with bitter herbs (which could include horse radish, as a symbol of the affliction in Egypt), other vegetables, as you desire, and unleavened bread (same verse).
The Passover service begins with the lighting of the candles, by the wife or one of the women present, quoting the Scripture which points out that the Messiah is the light of the world, and blessing YEHOVAH God for giving us "light." Normally three candles are used, as during the Sabbath day, but it would be all right to light seven candles, symbolizing the seven aspects of the spirit of YEHOVAH God, or the seven churches of YEHOVAH God depicted in the book of Revelation.
After this, it would be good to turn over to Matthew 26 and read verses 1-13. The story of the woman who poured a very precious ointment on Yeshua's head should be read, as Yeshua himself said, "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel is preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (verse 13). She had done this, Yeshua said, "for my burial" (verse 12).
At this point, the first of three "cups" of wine should be taken. The wine should be red wine, and may be diluted with 50% water. This is the Jewish custom. The first cup is called the "Cup of Sanctification." The host or leader should pray over the cup, calling to mind how YEHOVAH God set His people apart from the heathen in Egypt, and delivered them from destruction. This first cup was the cup of wine mentioned in Luke 22:17-18. It is taken before the main meal.
Next comes the foot-washing ceremony.
The Foot-Washing Ceremony
We read in the book of John, "And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him . . . He (Yeshua) ariseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded" (John 13:2-5).
The King James Version says, "supper being ended." However, the original Greek actually says, as the Englishman's Greek New Testament Interlinear shows, "And supper TAKING PLACE . . . he rises from the supper . . ."
Afterwards, Yeshua said to his disciples, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet" (verse 14). He explained, "For I have given you AN EXAMPLE, that ye should do as I have done to you" (v. 15).
At this point, then, the foot-washing service should take place. This new ordinance should be observed before the rest of the Passover ceremony, which follows. Yeshua wants us to humble ourselves, as he did, and become each other's servant. To follow him means to become a true servant of our brothers and mankind, even as he humbled himself to become our Servant, and even died for us!
We are to have the very mind and attitude of the Messiah (Phil. 2:3-5, 6-13). Even as he humbled himself, setting us an example, so we are to humble ourselves in willingness to serve one another, and to esteem others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). This shows our true commitment to the Messiah, and his way of life!
But this ceremony should not be confined only to the Passover -- once a year! See Foot-Washing and YEHOVAH's Church! for the intriguing details.
After the foot-washing service, the leader should read selected passages from the gospel accounts of Yeshua's last meal with his disciples, including the betrayal of Judas Iscariot (Matt. 26:21-25).
After this, the special Passover seder begins. On the seder plate ("seder" merely means "setting in order") should be some "bitter herbs" (parsley, horse-radish, lettuce, kale, or such like -- be sure to include some horse-radish), a shank-bone of a lamb (or small portion of lamb), a glass of salt water, and, we suggest, a small mixture of diced apples, honey, raisins, cinnamon, and dates, which traditionally symbolizes the "mortar" the children of Israel used to build the cities and pyramids of Pharaoh.
At this point the host recounts the story of the Exodus, reviewing Exodus 12 especially. If there are children present, then they should ask the four questions mentioned in the book of Exodus, which summarize the meaning of Passover. If no children are present, then an adult may ask them, or the host may recite them, and then the group reflect on the answers.
The Four Basic Passover Questions
1) Why is this night different from other nights? why do we eat the Passover leisurely, reclining? Answer: On this night YEHOVAH God delivered our ancestors from slavery (and symbolically, the Messiah delivered us from servitude to Satan).
2) Why do we eat bitter herbs? Answer: They remind us of the bitterness of slavery and bondage to Egypt (Pharaoh) and Satan (Satan's world).
3) Why do we eat the flat unleavened bread? Answer: It is flat bread, and our ancestors had no time to allow their bread to become leavened, when they were thrust out of Egypt. Unleavened bread is the "bread of affliction." It also symbolizes "sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:8). Leaven, at this time, symbolizes the "old leaven" of "malice and wickedness" -- the sins of Egypt (I Cor. 5:8).
4) Why do we eat the lamb (or why do we have the shank-bone of the lamb)? Answer: The story of the slaying of the lamb and sprinkling the blood of the lamb, so that the firstborn sons of Israel would be spared from the plague, would be recited or reflected upon; then the fact that Yeshua the Messiah is our "Passover lamb," sacrificed for the sins of the world (I Cor. 5:7-8, John 3:16, II Cor. 5:22, etc.).
Normally, the youngest person at the table would ask these questions. If no children are present, then these questions can simply be reviewed and answered by those present. If you are forced to kep the Passover alone, you cans review these matters yourself, as you partake of each of the items on the seder plate.
At this point, the table can be cleared, and the regular Passover feast (dinner) may be served. After dinner, the Passover seder resumes, with the new applications which the Messiah gave us to understand, and instructed us concerning, at the last dinner he held with his disciples.
The Conclusion of the Seder
At this point, the host can read the New Testament accounts of the "last supper," and the symbolism of the "bread and wine." Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:15-20, and I Corinthians 11:23-30. At this point, prayer should be made thanking YEHOVAH God for Yeshua, the "bread of life," who gave his body to be broken and beaten, and bruised for us, and who died for us. There should be three sheets of matzos, each wrapped in a napkin, symbolizing YEHOVAH God the Father, Yeshua the Messiah, and Israel (the Church, or spiritual Israel -- Gal. 6:16). The Jews call the middle matzos the "Afikomen," a mysterious Greek word which means "he comes." It is broken in half; one half is broken in pieces and distributed to each person; the other half is hidden in a napkin, a symbol of the Messiah's buried body. It is hidden by the host, and to be searched for by the children later, and redeemed by the host when they find it with a small present.
The next part of the Passover seder is the second cup of wine -- the "Cup of Redemption."
The host should read the relevant passages of Scripture dealing with the blood of the Messiah being shed for us, symbolized by the wine -- such as Isaiah 53, the accounts in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and I Corinthians. Prayer should be made, addressing the Father, and thanking Him for the sacrifice of His very own firstborn Son on our behalf, remembering the shed blood of the Messiah which paid the penalty of our sins.
In verse 27, Paul writes, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily [or, in an unworthy manner -- that is, in a wrong spirit and attitude, not truly surrendered to YEHOVAH God and following the Messiah, but in a rebellious spirit, or holding resentments and grudges against others], shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." In other words, since Yeshua died for our sins, and shed his blood for us, thus forgiving us of all our iniquities, we must also forgive those who have wronged us or sinned against us. If we don't, then the sacrifice of the Messiah cannot apply to us, and we would be eating and drinking "unworthily." We must be obedient to the Messiah, and yielded to him and his Word, if we are to partake of the Passover. And, we must forgive those who have sinned against us or hurt us (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35).
Paul goes on, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (condemnation, judgment) to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" -- that is, not properly aware of the price Yeshua paid for our own sins. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (I Cor. 11:29-30).
Does this mean that we should be terrified, and fearful of partaking of the Passover? Not at all. Paul goes on to explain, "But LET A MAN EXAMINE HIMSELF" -- that is, think about his attitudes, and his feelings, and pray for forgiveness and YEHOVAH's help to be forgiving -- "and so [after examining himself, and repenting of his sins and mistakes] LET HIM EAT of that bread, and DRINK of that cup" (verse 28).
Paul wasn't trying to discourage people from partaking of the Passover. No, but rather he wanted them to properly think about what they were doing, in a serious, sober-minded, sincere manner. We should never partake of the Passover in a light-hearted, frivolous, foolish manner.
Paul went on, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when e are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Cor. 11:3l-32).
After reading the Scriptures about partaking of the wine, as a symbol of the shed blood of Yeshua the Messiah, then one should again bow in prayer, and ask YEHOVAH's blessing on this part of the service, and that He would bless and guide everyone to partake of the Passover worthily, and make it a blessing to all present, and thank YEHOVAH God for the precious blood of His Passover Lamb who gave his all for us, that we might have eternal life. Of course, it goes without saying that we should pray from the heart, with earnestness and conviction, sincerity and fullness of gratitude.
After thus praying, each one should drink the small cup of wine -- a good Burgundy type of grape wine -- meditating and reflecting on its meaning. Each should drink the wine, thinking of the symbolic meaning it has, and the penalty Yeshua paid for us as he suffered on the tree, pouring out his life's blood for us. If you have small children present, again, since the Passover is a family affair, they, too, should participate in the symbols of bread and wine. However, their wine could be diluted half-and-half with water, or they could partake of grape juice instead of wine. Whichever way you choose to serve the children, it is urgent in YEHOVAH's sight that they be instructed in the truth about the Passover! As children, they are still under their parents' authority, and therefore should partake (unless of course they are already of the age of decision, typically 13-14, and choose not to do so, or if they are rebellious and disobedient and out of control -- then those matters must be settled and addressed first, or else they should not partake of the Passover).
"The Cup of Praise"
At this point, the host may if he wishes read selections from John's gospel, chapters 15-17, which is the final instructions Yeshua gives his disciples, and the final prayer Yeshua made, in the garden of Gethsemane, before his arrest and betrayal. In his final prayer, Yeshua prays for the Father to keep us, His children, safe from the evil one, Satan, and from the world (vs. 14-16), and that YEHOVAH God would keep us through His truth (v. 17).
After this, the missing "hidden" portion of the "Afikomen" is found, symbolizing the resurrection of the Messiah from the "hidden place" -- the grave -- and also symbolizing his return from that "other hidden place" -- Heaven!
At this point, the final part of the Passover -- the final and third cup of wine -- is served. This is the "cup of praise." It is also referred to as the "cup of judgment." It symbolizes the coming judgment of YEHOVAH God upon the world, and the return of Yeshua the Messiah who will judge the sheep and the goats, the saints and the sinners (Rev. 11:15-18; Matt. 24:30-31, etc.). After reviewing the appropriate texts, we should offer a final prayer, praising and thanking YEHOVAH God for the fullness of the meaning of Passover, and what it means to all of us, and then partake of this final third (the number of finality, decision, and completion) cup of wine.
We partake of this final small glass of wine, concluding the evening Passover service, with shouts of "TO THE KINGDOM," "MAY YESHUA MESSIAH COME SOON," "BLESSED BE THE LORD OUR GOD WHO GAVE US THE PASSOVER," "MAY WE CELEBRATE THE PASSOVER SOON WITH YESHUA OUR MESSIAH," or similar appropriate toasts.
Then we should rise up, praising and thanking YEHOVAH God and conclude with a final "toast" or drink of wine, together exclaiming, with the host leading -- the traditional toast of --
"NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!"
As you can see, a complete Passover meal, which the Jews call a "seder," can take several hours. It should be a joyous, festive affair, not a solemn, painful, quiet time of fearfulness and fright. We are to celebrate it with JOY and yet due solemnity, but not painful abstemiousness and gloominess, as so many Churches do it today!
After this, we should end the Passover service with a hymn, as the Messiah and the apostles did (Mark 14:26; Matt. 26:30). It would also be appropriate to sing various Passover-related songs throughout the evening, and to sing a selection of hymns and spiritual songs at this final point (not necessarily just one song!).
This would conclude the Passover dinner and ceremony. In this way, we will be observing Passover -- with the Passover meal and seder -- very much as Yeshua and his disciples did, and their families, about 1900 years ago!
Brethren, I wish you all a most happy and joyous Passover! May YEHOVAH God bless you, as you give yourselves to Him, and really obey Him, and follow His ways!
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