Jesus Celebrated Passover

For years, I always thought that Easter and Passover were two completely separate holidays.  Easter was what my family and all my friends celebrated because we believed in Jesus.  Passover was a Jewish holiday that had something to do with matza and lots of wine.  Over the past few years, though, I came to see how deeply related the two holidays are and how celebrating Passover in addition to Easter can add a depth and richness to my own faith that I never imagined possible.
After all, Jesus Himself celebrated Passover.  The Last Supper He shared with the disciples before being betrayed and arrested in the garden was the traditional Seder meal, and as they walked to the Garden of Gethsemene, Scripture tells us they were singing the Hallel, which is part of the Seder.  Most of us have a very westernized, Christian view of what the last supper looked like.
Paintings like this one, by Leonardo DaVinci, portray not only a bunch of guys who don’t look Middle Eastern at all, but a meal of fish and raised bread, neither of which would have been on the Passover table.  But the reality is that Jesus and His closest friends were participating in a centuries-old tradition; one that not only celebrated the past, but foreshadowed what He was about to do.
So what is Passover?
It’s a holiday set aside to remember when God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt {remember Moses and Pharoah?} and led them to the Promised Land where they became a free nation.  After sending nine plagues that didn’t change the Pharoah’s mind, He did one last thing.  All of the firstborn males, both human and animal, in Egypt died.  In order to protect the firstborn of their families, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would see it and pass over their home.  They made a hurried meal, which meant the bread didn’t have time to rise, and ate it standing up because they were ready to flee as soon as God told them to go.  It was a foreshadowing of when Jesus, the firstborn of God and the perfect Lamb, would be sacrificed {at Passover} to set the people free once again, this time from slavery to sin and death.
How is it celebrated?
Many Jews cleanse their homes of all leaven prior to the first night of the celebration.  For seven days, they eat only unleavened things.  They hold Seder meals the first two nights, which this year falls on Friday and Saturday.  As Christians, it can be incredibly meaningful for us to celebrate a Seder meal as well.
What’s the Seder?
Central to the Seder meal is the Seder plate which contains symbolic elements:
Shank Bone: the Passover lamb
Bitter Herbs: The bitterness of slavery
Charoset {apples, wine, cinnamon}: Mortar used by the slaves in Egypt
Parsley in Salt Water: The tears of the slaves
Egg: festival sacrifice/mourning

Rather than beginning with the main course, the event begins by reading through the traditional Hagaddah service {you can get free hagaddahs from Maxwell House!} which takes you through the story of the exodus, has you partake of some of the symbolic elements, and includes several cups of wine/grape juice.  Then, you eat the main meal, which is followed by a little more reading and some traditional songs.  Typically, the Seder meal includes matza ball soup {yum!} and gefilte fish {yuck!} along with whatever other food is served.

How does Passover point to Jesus?

* The Exodus story itself foreshadows a new Exodus to come, the redemption of God’s people from our slavery to sin through the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb.
* Jesus entered Jerusalem on Sunday {Palm Sunday} which was the same day the Passover lambs were led into the city to be examined for a few days before being sacrificed.  The words the crowd shouted as they waved the palms come from the Hallel, a traditional Passover song, which speaks of the Messiah to come.
* What we know as communion originated at that last Passover meal Jesus celebrated with His followers.  The bread He broke and spoke of as His body was matzah and the wine was one of the four cups of the Seder.  Jesus took old symbols and gave them new meaning as He introduced the new covenant.

* Right before the main course of the meal, you eat something called a ‘Hillel sandwich,’ which is a combination of matzah, charoset, and horseradish {ick}.  Many scholars believe that this is what Jesus gave to Judas when He said that the one who would betray Him was the one to whom He would give the bread He had dipped {presumably in the charoset}.

* During the Seder meal, there is something called the afikomen.  Three pieces of matzah are stacked on a plate.  The top and bottom pieces are passed around and eaten, but the middle one is broken in half, wrapped in a cloth and hidden.  After the meal, the children present search for the hidden matzah, the afikomen, and bring it back to the table where it is eaten as the final “dessert,” the last thing that can be eaten that evening.  Rabbis have different explanations for why there are three pieces but none that are universally accepted.  Of course, to us it can surely symbolize the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The middle piece is wrapped in linen and hidden away, just as Jesus was in the tomb, then brought back, just as Jesus was, and given to the people.  The word “afikomen” itself has several possible meanings: “that which comes last,” “He who is coming,” or “He came.”  Rabbinic tradition also has no explanation for why the middle matzah is broken, while to Christians, it clearly symbolizes the broken body of the Savior.

*After the afikomen has been found {and redeemed for a piece of silver}, the service moves on to reciting the Hallel, a collection of Psalms of praise.  Part of this text includes saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” and, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  Scripture tells us that Jesus and the disciples were singing the Hallel on the way from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemene.

If you are a believer in Jesus, let me encourage you not to just dismiss Passover as someone else’s holiday, but to investigate and enjoy all the ways it can point you to Him.  It’s also a fun celebration and a good way to remember God’s faithfulness throughout history; to our ancestors then and to us today.  Plus, if you’re lucky, you might get some flourless chocolate cake!
For Passover craft ideas see these tutorials:

Star of David Placecards/Pins

If you have any other questions about why we celebrate Passover or how to do it in your own home, please feel free to email me and I’d love to share more.

Happy Crafting!

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  1. Thanks for sharing this detailed post. I am also Christian, but once attended a passover dinner which was demonstrated by a professor of Religion and found it so interesting.

    Our family has celebrated Chanukah for years, without the prayers, of course. I love the miracle of the the 8 days of light. I have pinned this post and hope to expand my Jewish celebrations next year.

    Christians share so much with Jewish tradition. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I agree that most of us Christians tend to gloss over the fact that Jesus was Jewish and Passover and other Jewish traditions and holidays would have been a big part of his life on Earth. Very well written!

  3. So awesome that you shared this! As a believer I did not grow up celebrating Passover in the manner you blogged about today, but as an adult my husband and I have discussed incorporating some of the traditions in our home. I am forever thankful for the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. Ready to celebrate in the morning!

  4. I’m so glad I found your pin! I’ve been wanting to start celebrating pass over but didn’t know how to incorporate it into my Christian teachings. Thanks for the ideas!

  5. I’m so glad I found your pin! I’ve been wanting to start celebrating pass over but didn’t know how to incorporate it into my Christian teachings. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. I love taking part in the celebrations Jesus would have done…so much meaning in the meal…I also love the children’s version which makes it easier for the little guys to understand…Nice post… 🙂

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