This year, Passover begins at sunset March 25. While growing up, this meant nothing to me, but now it is a meaningful part of our lives. For the past several years we have celebrated Passover in our home with friends. I’m sure we do not do it perfectly, and every year we do it a little bit differently. There is no sense of obligation to keep it–God told the Jewish people it was to be celebrated yearly, forever, but we are not Jewish. However, Jesus celebrated Passover–the first Lord’s Supper was at a Passover meal, and we do want to be more like Jesus, and so we celebrate too–to remember.
I personally find this all fascinating. You can go out and look at the full moon on March 25 and know on that very night, God delivered the Jews from Egypt during the first Passover, and on that very night, 1500 years later, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples, was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane and crucified the next day. It gives weight to the night. We aren’t guessing when all this happened, we know, because God is the keeper of the clock, who knows the end from the beginning, and told us in His Word. Here is a short article from 2009 about the significance of Passover by Don Finto, our Pastor Emeritus.
There are many excellent resources to use in planning your own Passover Seder. Here is a link to a website by a Messianic rabbi, Derek Leman. It has some great resources. Derek’s also written a 6-week Bible Study called Feast: Finding your Place at the Table of Tradition. Derek takes each of the holidays found in the Old Testament, including Passover and walks through them all, in the Old and New Testament, how they were and are celebrated, other verses in the Bible to ponder and asks questions about why this is all relevant today:
“Remember that the Israelites, and the rest of us for that matter, have had a lifetime of learning how to be slaves. The Israelites saw 10 plagues, survived the plague of death, and then got frightened by a body of water and a chasing army of Pharaoh. Slavery is hard to shake, even when you are free. It’s almost as if we need regular reminders of God’s deliverance and our own freedom or we will forget who He is and who we are. That’s why we continue to celebrate Passover.” (Derek Lehman in Feast)
There are two other books I especially like. The first book is A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson. This book talks about all the Jewish holidays, scriptural references, how they were celebrated by the ancient Jews, the modern Jews and how we can celebrated them today as believers in Jesus. It explains the symbolism of the different parts of the meal, and also help you see how Jesus’s life and death mirror the passover ritual in the last week of His life. It is very interesting to read. She includes a haggadah, a little book to print out that you can use during the passover meal, recipes and crafts. Some of our children are pretty young, so I highlight the parts we do and skip some that seem to make it very long.
The other book is Celebrate! Stories of the Jewish Holidays by Gilda Berger. It is shorter but still includes recipes and crafts but does not include a haggadah. Here is a very simple plan our pastor of discipleship puts on our church blog. On the back is a very meaningful reading we use for the end of our Passover evening. After we eat, we go outside and look at the moon and read Passover…On This Night…On this Day…Today (included in the article by Don Finto and the plan from our church) by the light of the full moon–the same moon the children of Israel saw when they left Egypt and the same moon Jesus and His disciples saw as they walked to the Garden of Gethsemane after their Passover meal.
The more you get the children involved with the planning, decorating, and meal, the more they will enjoy it. If you read the Biblical account, God tells the Israelites to involve the children in the celebration–they were certainly present at the first passover and all others, as God tells them to have the children ask questions. Most children I know are naturals when it comes to asking questions–so I love that God used the inquisitive nature He gave them as part of the meal!
This does not have to be complicated or expensive. One year we bought a small piece of lamb to taste–it was very tasty but expensive. Usually we just eat brisket with a mashed potato casserole and some kind of green salad. If you can’t find a bone to put on the Seder plate, draw one on construction paper. If you don’t have or can’t afford a special Seder plate (I got one at Target on clearance after Passover last year!), use a plain plate, or let the kids make one. (Both Target.com and Amazon.com have extensive Passover lines of products this year. If you have Amazon Prime, you can still get what you want by next week in time for Passover!) Most kids enjoy the haroset–it’s apples, cinnamon, nuts, honey and sometimes raisins. Here’s the recipe we use. I use grape juice instead of the wine in the recipe. Matzoh crackers are inexpensive and easy to find–Kroger, Publix and Harris Teeter carried them last year. It’s not hard to find lots of recipes to use for the seder meal, including desserts, that keep the “Kosher for passover” tradition–Allrecipes.com, myrecipes.com, and other cooking web sites have entire sections of Passover recipes and menus. Have fun finding some recipes to try. Don’t forget the matzoh ball soup! I usually get a mix from the store for the matzoh balls and make my own broth. My kids love it!
Make this as simple or complicated as you wish, but I urge you to try a Passover seder, or find one in your community. Many Messianic Jewish congregations sponsor family seders and are delighted for you to join them. Or check out one of these books, read the simple plan from our church, and try it with your family and friends and remember what God did both for the Jews 3500 years ago, and all of us 2000 years ago.