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Observing the Passover Memorial

Updated: Feb 14



In these modern times, there is a wide range of opinions and interpretations of Passover. Whether it should be observed or, has Passover been done away with?  Why is Passover necessary? When should it be observed? How should it be observed? Where should it be observed? 

 

There has been a debate for over 1900 years about whether Passover was still relevant; it's known as the Quartodeciman controversy.

 

The Quartodeciman controversy arose because Believers in the Assemblies of Jerusalem and Asia Minor observed Passover on the 14th of the first month (Abib), no matter the day of the week on which it occurred, while the churches in and around Rome practiced celebrating Easter always on the Sunday following the first Full Moon that followed the vernal equinox. They called it "the day of the resurrection of our Saviour". The difference was turned into an ecclesiastical controversy when the practice of keeping the biblical Passover was condemned by synods of bishops led by Anicetus, the bishop of Rome disputing the practice, followed by Polycarp (69-155 AD) - the student of the Apostle Yochanan.

 

We see that Passover is first mentioned as an observance in scripture and its background is explained with the last few plagues, just as Yisrael is about to be delivered from slavery. 

The 8th Plague of hail shows us the timing of Passover:

Exo 9:31-32  And the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud.  (32)  But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they were late crops.”

This is early in the growing season in Yisrael occurring between Late Feb to early April according to the Roman calendar, but we see that Yahweh identifies one of the primary signs in the Land when, and by which we can determine the beginning of the year.

In chapter 12 we see Abib identified as the beginning of the year, and Mosheh explains to the people what is about to happen over the next few days. 

Exo 12:3  “Speak to all the congregation of Yisra’ěl, saying, ‘On the tenth day of this new moon each one of them is to take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.”

Mosheh then goes on to explain some further instructions.   

 

Exo 12:5-11  ‘Let the lamb be a perfect one, a year old male. Take it from the sheep or from the goats.  (6)  ‘And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same new moon. Then all the assembly of the congregation of Yisra’ěl shall slay it between the evenings.  (7)  ‘And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.  (8)  ‘And they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire – with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.  (9)  ‘Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire, its head with its legs and its inward parts.  (10)  ‘And do not leave of it until morning, and what remains of it until morning you are to burn with fire.  (11)  ‘And this is how you eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Pěsach of יהוה. “

So we see here that Lamb is killed and the blood of the Lamb protects the inhabitants of the house from physical death. 

Exo 12:13-14  ‘And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and let the plague not come on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Mitsrayim.  (14)  ‘And this day shall become to you a remembrance. And you shall celebrate it as a festival to יהוה throughout your generations – celebrate it as a festival, an everlasting law.”

Yisrael was completely unaware of what Yahweh was illustrating here that would happen in the future. All they knew was that in order to be protected from death, they needed to apply the blood of the lamb to their doorposts and stay inside while the death angel passed over. 

Yochanan the Immerser understood the what the Passover was always pointing to. When he identified Yahshua to the crowds that came to him, he pointed this out.

Joh 1:29  On the next day Yochanan saw יהושע coming toward him, and said, “See, the Lamb of Elohim who takes away the sin of the world!” 

 

Yochanan used this metaphor to illustrate a very important idea. He could have used many other titles or references to Yahshua from the Tanak. e.g. Prince of Peace, Son of Elohim, etc. but he used this visual about a Lamb to illustrate what the Passover Lamb was pointing to the work that Yahshua Messiah would do at Passover.

Rom 3:21-26  “But now, apart from the Torah, a righteousness of Elohim has been revealed, being witnessed by the Torah and the Prophets,  (22)  and the righteousness of Elohim is through belief in יהושע Messiah to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference,  (23)  for all have sinned and fall short of the esteem of Elohim,  (24)  being declared right, without paying, by His favour through the redemption which is in Messiah יהושע,  (25)  whom Elohim set forth as an atonement, through belief in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His tolerance Elohim had passed over the sins that had taken place before,  (26)  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He is righteous and declares righteous the one who has belief in יהושע.”

Eph 1:7  “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, according to the riches of His favour.”

So we see that the Passover Lamb was a symbol and it was always pointing to the Work that Yahshua Messiah would do: saving us, and redeeming us from eternal death – and not just the physical death that ancient Yisrael was expecting to avoid.   

The lamb itself, or the blood of the lamb, or eating of the lamb was never able to accomplish what Yahshua would later do on His last Passover before He was crucified.

Heb 10:4  “For it is impossible for blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

 

Let's go back to the original Passover instructions and see if we can gain some understanding about Passover.

We read in Exodus 12:3 that the lamb was to be selected on the 10th day of Abib. Notice that Yisra’el selects Yahshua as the Passover lamb

Joh 12:12-13  On the next day a great crowd who had come to the festival, when they heard that יהושע was coming to Yerushalayim,  (13)  took the branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and were crying out, “Hoshia-na! Psa_118:25 Blessed is He who is coming in the Name of יהוה,a Psa_118:26 the Sovereign of Yisra’ěl!”

 

 Some claim that we must observe Passover exactly according to these instructions because Yahweh does not change.  Is that what the scriptures says?  It's true that Yahweh's character doesn't change or that His purpose doesn't change, but does He sometimes change the instructions about how we do something?

Here's a change about Passover.

Deu 16:5-7  “You are not allowed to slaughter the Pěsach within any of your gates which יהוה your Elohim gives you,  (6)  but at the place where יהוה your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell, (now at the tabernacle and, later at the temple), there you slaughter the Pěsach in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at the appointed time you came out of Mitsrayim. (7) “And you shall roast and eat it in the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.

So previously, the Lamb was to be killed at each household, now that the Levitical priesthood was in place - the Lamb was to be killed at the tabernacle by the priests.

Some teach that the Passover observance now is incomplete at best, or blasphemous at worst, if lamb isn't on the menu of a meal as a part of the observance.  Let's take a look at that premise.

Is killing the lamb or eating the lamb the redeeming action?  If you insist that eating the lamb is required, have you raised the lamb yourself? Did you separate it on the 10th day? Are you sure that the lamb was without blemish?  Did you roast the lamb, with its head and entrails intact, or did you buy chops or a leg of lamb at the grocery store? 

The point is, that the lamb was a symbol; a shadow of what was to come.

It was always pointing to what Yahshua would do on Passover in 31 AD.

We don't say that the lamb wasn't important, but that it symbolized what was important. That it was a place holder until Yahshua revealed the true meaning. 

Did Yahshua and the 12 have a meal as part of their Passover observance? Of course they did.  Yahshua hadn't yet revealed what He was going to do yet.  They were required, as all believers were, to bring a lamb to the temple to be killed and kept the Passover in Jerusalem with that lamb. Luke records how Yahshua identifies himself as the Passover Lamb when during the observance when he says: 

Luk 22:7-8  And the Day of Unleavened Bread came when the Pěsach had to be slaughtered.  (referring to the 14th of Abib) (8) And He sent Kěpha and Yoḥanan, saying, “Go and prepare the Pěsach for us to eat.”

Luk 22:15-19  And He said to them, “With desire I have desired to eat this Pěsach with you before My suffering,  (16)  for I say to you, I shall certainly not eat of it again until it is filled in the reign of Elohim.”  (17)  And taking the cup, giving thanks, He said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves,  (18)  for I say to you, I shall certainly not drink of the fruit of the vine until the reign of Elohim comes.”  (19)  And taking bread, giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.” 

People did not understand what Yahshua was talking about. He had spoken about this earlier teaching at Capernaum and some of his followers couldn’t accept what He said and left.

Joh 6:52-56  The Yehuḏim, therefore, were striving with one another, saying, “How is this One able to give us His flesh to eat?”  (53)  יהושע therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Aḏam and drink His blood, you possess no life in yourselves.  (54)  “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood possesses everlasting life, and I shall raise him up in the last day.  (55)  “For My flesh is truly food, and My blood is truly drink.  (56)  “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood stays in Me, and I in him.

Joh 6:64-66  “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For יהושע knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would deliver Him up.  (65)  And He said, “Because of this I have said to you that no one is able to come to Me unless it has been given to him by My Father.”  (66)  From then on many of His taught ones withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

 

So Yahshua is revealing that the Passover lamb was always about Him and what His shed blood would do for us. When Yahshua is teaching His disciples about the meaning of the Passover, notice what he says:

Mat 26:26-29  And as they were eating, יהושע took bread, and having blessed, broke and gave it to the taught ones and said, “Take, eat, this is My body.”  - the unleavened bread was now the symbol of His body, not the animal, the lamb.

 (27)  And taking the cup, and giving thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  (28)  “For this is My blood, that of the renewed covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (29)  “But I say to you, I shall certainly not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on till that day when I drink it anew with you in the reign of My Father.” His blood was shed for our sins.

Notice what Yahshua does not say: Have a helping of this lamb.

He institutes different symbols; unleavened bread and pure grape juice, to represent His sacrifice on the stake – why? For the forgiveness of sins. A lamb could never do that. Yahshua knew that the lamb, like the temple were shadows of what was to come, and in a few years the temple would be taken away. It would no longer be possible to keep Deut 16:6 and kill the Passover lambs at the temple. Just like all of the animal sacrifices that were always pointing to the redeeming work Yahshua would do, the Passover lamb was a placeholder and no longer necessary, now that the true Passover Lamb was killed for us.

Sha'ul confirms this in the context of Passover and Chag Matzot.

1Co 5:7-8  “Therefore cleanse out the old leaven, so that you are a new lump, as you are unleavened. For also Messiah our Pěsach was slaughtered for us. (8) So then let us celebrate the festival, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Heb 9:8-10  the Set-apart Spirit signifying this, that the way into the Most Set-apart Place was not yet made manifest while the first Tent has a standing,  (9)  which was a parable for the present time in which both gifts and slaughters are offered which are unable to perfect the one serving, as to his conscience,  (10)  only as to foods and drinks, and different washings, and fleshly regulations imposed until a time of setting matters straight.

The lamb had filled it's purpose of pointing to the redeeming work of Yahshua Messiah. 

Also notice in the text, not much is said about the meal. Usually when we get together for meals, there is talking and laughter, but this meal was different. When Yisra'el kept the first passover they were told to stay in their houses until morning, because the death angel was going through the land killing the first born of Egyptians, they could hear the despair, it was a very solemn night.

Exo 11:6  ‘And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Mitsrayim, such as has never been or ever shall be again. 

Yahshua points out that the Passover is a memorial of His death, it's a solemn observance that we do every year in remembrance of Yahshua's death. A meal takes away from that solemnity as Sha'ul points out in

1Co 11:19-26  “For there have to be factions even among you, so that the approved ones might be revealed among you.  (20)  So when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Master’s supper.  (21)  For, when you eat, each one takes his own supper first, and one is hungry and another is drunk.  (22)  Have you not houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the assembly of Elohim and shame those who have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise!  (23)  For I received from the Master that which I also delivered to you: that the Master יהושע in the night in which He was delivered up took bread,  (24)  and having given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  (25)  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the renewed covenant in My blood. As often as you drink it, do this in remembrance of Me.”  (26)  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Master until He comes.” Clearly, we are to eat at home first before the solemn observance of Yahshua’s death.

What about other aspects of the Passover observance? When do we keep it?  Ex 12:6 on the 14th day of Abib. How do we know when to begin the year?  It's important that we start the year correctly as Yahweh shows us the signs in the Land.  Ex 9:31 tells us about barley being Abib.

Exo 12:43-49  And יהוה said to Mosheh and Aharon, “This is the law of the Pěsach: No son of a stranger is to eat of it,  (44)  but any servant a man has bought for silver, when you have circumcised him, then let him eat of it.  (45)  “A sojourner and a hired servant does not eat of it.  (46)  “It is eaten in one house, you are not to take any of the flesh outside the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.  (47)  “All the congregation of Yisra’ěl are to perform it.  (48)  “And when a stranger sojourns with you and shall perform the Pěsaḥ to יהוה, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and perform it, and he shall be as a native of the land. But let no uncircumcised eat of it.  (49)  “There is one Torah for the native-born and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

So, how is the requirement for circumcision applied today?

1Co 7:18-20  Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.  (19)  The circumcision is naught, and the uncircumcision is naught, but the guarding of the commands of Elohim does matter!.  (20)  Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

Circumcision was always about the heart

Deu 10:16-17  “And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and harden your neck no more. (17)  “For יהוה your Elohim is Elohim of mighty ones and Master of masters, the great Ěl, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.

Rom 2:28-29  For he is not a Yehudi who is so outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  (29)  But a Yehudi is he who is so inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in Spirit, not literally, whose praise is not from men but from Elohim.

Col 2:6-12  Therefore, as you accepted Messiah יהושע the Master, walk in Him,  (7)  having been rooted and built up in Him, and established in the belief, as you were taught, overflowing in it with thanksgiving. (8) See to it that no one makes a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary matters of the world, and not according to Messiah. (9)  Because in Him dwells all the completeness of Elohim-ness bodily,  (10)  and you have been made complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and authority.  (11)  In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah,  (12)  having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through the belief in the working of Elohim, who raised Him from the dead.

Rom 6:3-4  Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Messiah יהושע were immersed into His death?  (4)  We were therefore buried with Him through immersion into death, that as Messiah was raised from the dead by the esteem of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life.

So, we see that the Passover is for believers who have been immersed in Yahshua's Name. It is not a public celebration, but rather a very solemn observance of the anniversary of Yahshua's death. Similar to a funeral service, if you will.

It is so important to Yahweh that we keep Passover, that Yahweh gave us another opportunity to keep it in the second month, if we were unable do so due to sickness or some other emergency in the first month. 

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