by Tuvya Zaretsky
When the hour [for the Passover] had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
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.”
Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:14-20, NKJV)
Passover is the original festival for spiritual hospitality. Just think about. It is the first annual festival that God asked the Jewish people to celebrate. It commemorates their national redemption from slavery. The observance takes place at home, around a festive meal with family and friends. It doesn’t require an elaborate liturgy, although tradition has added many wonderful customs.
The main point of the evening is to retell Israel’s Exodus story. They remember the goodness of God toward His covenant people and His power to set them free from enslavement.
Passover is celebrated around the world in modern times by religious and secular Jews alike. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home where we never missed a Passover. It was just too important to our heritage. Now, a Jewish follower of Jesus, a Messianic Jew, my family and I still do Passover with the same joyous anticipation that accompanies our American Thanksgiving.
It is the perfect occasion for biblical reflection. And conversation of a spiritual nature is natural. I mean think about: we can celebrate Passover today because God saved our ancestors out of Egypt. If He didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be here!
To my thinking, Jesus framed Passover in its ultimate depiction. When the festival began, Jesus lifted the first cup of the night with His disciples and said, “I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” He settled His destiny as the Passover sacrifice. At that, His last Passover supper, Jesus asked them to remember that God the Father accomplished redemption through the death of His Son.
He offered to them the unleavened bread, the Passover matzah, as a future connection with his body. It would forever be associated with His sacrifice for sin. He associated the cup after supper, likely the redemption or Redeemer cup, with His blood, poured out—like that of the lambs in Egypt—for the purpose of salvation.
Could you do Passover as an occasion for extending spiritual hospitality? Why not? The Hebrew term for setting a Passover meal is seder, literally “order”. Jewish families often abbreviate Passover liturgy and focus on the meal. You will want to focus on the meaning in the Passover story, taking care to recall how God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. And, since you are a Christian, it is a perfect occasion to read New Testament passages describing the plan of God, fulfilled in the Messiah Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Traditional food items on the table can help you tell the story of Passover. Everyone around the table can eat them together with a long or short explanation of their meaning. I include a couple of resources at the end of this blog post that can help you plan and celebrate a messianic Passover celebration, which includes the story of Jesus.
While Old Testament themes of redemption and sacrificed Passover lamb describe redemption from slavery and freedom from tyranny under foreign rulers, there is a clear foreshadow of spiritual redemption from the guilt and shame of sin. Jesus’ last Passover supper has become the Lord’s Supper for church congregations as the celebration of communion. So there is no doubt about the value of Passover as a discipleship opportunity for your children and to pour your own spiritual blessing.
It can also be a perfect opportunity to extend the spirituality of your home life to those who might not yet know what that is. The good news of God, His power to redeem broken people, is exposed in the celebration of Passover. I want to encourage you to try to do this in your home!
Include people who are dear to you, especially the ones who are spiritually curious and cross culturally aware. And since more than half of all American Jewish people are now marrying Gentiles, look for Jewish-Gentile couples to include in your invitation list.
Lipson, Eric Peter. Passover Haggadah: a Messianic Celebration. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions.
Rosen, Moishe and Ceil. Christ in the Passover. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Wertheim, Janie-Sue. Messianic Family Haggadah. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions.
Tuvya Zaretsky is a Lausanne catalyst for Jewish evangelism, serves the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE), and is a Jewish-Gentile Couples ministry specialist with Jews for Jesus. He posts resources at www.JewishGentileCouples.com. He and his wife, Ellen, are the parents of four incredibly amazing Millennials.