The Passover Service in the Church of God
Please Provide or bring for Passover Service: Matzos, Kedeem Passover Wine or Grape juice, Towels and a basin.
First “Preparation Day” 13th of Nisan sunset the day before Passover.
Service will begin on the 14th of Nisan (dates are on the website) sunset. It will be eaten "that night" (Ex 12:8).
1. Welcome to Passover.
A few introductory remarks should explain the meaning and importance of celebrating Passover as the Feast of Redemption.
2. Paschal Opening Prayer.
The prayer should express gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate another Passover, when we can show anew our gratitude to Christ for His willingness to be sacrificed as the Paschal Lamb for our redemption.
3. Paschal Hymns.
A selection of hymns or choruses focusing on the suffering and death of Jesus. These hymns can be sung between Scripture readings. Some examples of suitable hymns are (click link below):
Christ our Passover
Come to the Feast
4. Paschal Readings and Reflections.
A selection of passages from the Old and New Testaments should focus on redemption. These passages can be read between hymns and can be followed by brief comments on some relevant points. A sample of appropriate readings and brief comments are:
Feasting for Freedom: Exodus 12:1-27. Some points to ponder:
* Passover was the beginning of months (v. 2). Likewise receiving Jesus is the beginning of a new life.
* The lamb was to be without blemish (v. 5). Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was without spot or blemish (1 Pet 1:18-20).
* A lamb for each house (vv. 3-4). Jesus offers salvation to every member of the family (Acts 16:15, 31; 18:3,8).
* The lamb must be eaten (vv. 8-10). We partake of the body and blood of Jesus through the emblems of the bread and wine (Mark 2:22-24) and by feeding on His words (John 6:63).
The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53. Some points to ponder:
* “Who has believed what we have heard?” (v. 1). The story of the Savior’s selfless love, humiliation, suffering, and vicarious death is truly unbelievable. It is the greatest Good News.
* “He had no form or comeliness” (v. 2). Christ did not attract people by the display of his supernatural glory but by the beauty of His righteous life.
* “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (v. 3). By taking our human nature Christ became sensitive to all our pains, sorrows and disappointments. What a comforting thought!
* “He was wounded for our transgressions” (v. 5). Nine times Isaiah emphasizes in verses 4-6 that Christ suffered and died for us. “Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.”
* “All we like sheep have gone astray” (v. 6). Our human condition without Christ is like that of lost sheep, lost without knowing it.
* “[He shall] make many to be accounted righteous” (v. 11). By His vicarious suffering and death, Christ is able to offer us His righteousness, which is the greatest human need.
Agony in Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36-46. Points to ponder:
* “My soul is very sorrowful” (v. 38). It is impossible for us to understand the intensity of our Savior’s anguish caused by His awareness that He was bearing the sins of the world.
* “Watch with me” (v. 38). This is Christ’s plea for human sympathy in His struggle with the powers of darkness. Tonight we are here to watch, that is, to appreciate and appropriate the Savior’s suffering and death for us.
* “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (v. 39). In His supreme agony, Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father. What a perfect example for us to follow!
* “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (v. 41). Instead of reproving His disciples for failing to support Him, He showed sympathy for their weaknesses and concern for their ability to endure the test which would come upon them.
Trial and Crucifixion: John 18:28-40; 19:1:30. Points to ponder:
* The composure of Jesus (18:19-38). Amidst the shouts and false accusation, Jesus retained His composure before the high priest and Pilate. He bore insult and mockery without retaliation.
* Christ’s concern for Pilate (18:34, 36, 37). Jesus took time to answer Pilate’s questions because He knew that Pilate desired to know the truth. But Pilate chose expediency rather than truth.
* The duplicity of Pilate (18:38-40; 19:4, 15,16). Repeatedly, Pilate acknowledged the innocence of Christ, and yet he handed Him over to be crucified. “Rather than lose his worldly power, he chose to sacrifice an innocent life.”35 We all face similar choices.
* The flogging of Jesus (19:1). Jesus, who was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude (Matt 9:36), was scourged to elicit sympathy from the multitude. What a contrast of attitudes!
* “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15). To destroy Christ, the Jews professed loyalty to the ruler they hated. “By choosing a heathen ruler, the Jewish nation had withdrawn from the theocracy.”
* Jesus’ concern for His mother (19:26-27). In His dying hour, Jesus remembered His mother and entrusted her to John, His loving disciple. Jesus gave us a perfect example of filial love.
* “It is finished” (19:30). It is a cry of satisfaction, not of desperation.
5. Paschal Thanksgiving Prayers and Testimonies & Offerings.
After reading and meditating about Christ’s vicarious suffering and death, it would be well to take time to express our gratitude to the Savior for His willingness to suffer and die for our redemption. This can be done through a season of prayer followed by personal testimonies of how different members of the family (or congregation) have experienced divine deliverance from sin.
Offerings then can be taken up, as God commands, "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee." (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).
6. The Paschal Cleansing: John 13:3-20.
Passover invites us to prepare ourselves to receive Christ, our Paschal Lamb, not only by spring-cleaning our homes but also by cleansing our hearts.
The Christian Ritual. Jesus used this occasion to institute the foot-washing service (John 13:12-15), to cleanse our hearts before we receive the emblems of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Just as the water washes our feet, so Christ washes away our sins as we accept the provision of His salvation. As family members participate together in the foot-washing service, they can experience mutual reconciliation and cleansing. Jesus commanded his church"... 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!...If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:12-15, 17).
7. The Paschal Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
After the cleansing of the foot-washing service, the family or families gather around the table to partake in the Passover Meal. The table can be set with both the unleavened bread and wine, so that the two meals can follow in smooth succession.
* Reflections on the Emblems.
In teaching us the truth of His salvation, Christ did not leave us to grapple with abstraction. He took two elements of the Passover meal, the unleavened bread and wine, to represent the sacrifice of Himself for our redemption. He told the disciples not just to look at the emblems of His sacrifice, but to eat them (1 Cor 11:24-25). No lamb is sacrificed or eaten because Christ is our Passover Lamb.
* Consecration of the Emblems.
The prayer of consecration of the emblems should express thanksgiving for Christ’s willingness to be sacrificed as our Paschal Lamb, and our willingness to accept His forgiveness and cleansing.
* Distribution of the Emblems.
Before partaking of the unleavened bread and wine, each participant should remember that through these emblems Christ is symbolically mediating to us the benefits of His atoning death (1 Cor 10:16) and is inviting us to fellowship with Him (Rev 3: 20).
As one eats and drinks the wine and the bread, one must afterwards "examine" oneself (1 Corinth 11:28). Let him or her meditate on his life and how he or she can improve it being closer to God.
8. The Paschal Commitment.
A fitting conclusion to the celebration of Passover is a commitment to live in the present the new way of life that Passover demands while awaiting for the future Paschal Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). The paschal commitment is typified by the eating of unleavened bread for seven days after Passover. As expressed by Herbert Armstrong in his booklet God’s Festivals and Holy Days, “Every spring the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread is a time when Christians symbolically renew their resolve to live in harmony with God’s way of life.” The closing prayer could be an appeal to renew our behavioral and eschatological commitment.
* The Behavioral Commitment.
Our behavioral commitment in the closing Passover prayer can be expressed as follows: “Thank you, Father, for granting us the opportunity on this Passover night to celebrate the cleansing from sin (old leaven) offered to us through the sacrifice of Christ, our Paschal Lamb, and to commit ourselves to live a new life, described in Thy Word as “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:6-8). May the unleavened bread we ate tonight and that we shall be eating for the next seven days, impress upon our minds the truth that You have called us to live a new life of sincerity and purity because we have cleansed and redeemed by the Paschal Lamb.”
* The Eschatological Commitment.
Jews still conclude their Passover with the following prayer: Holy One, who dwells in our hearts Restore the countless congregation. Speedily lead the children of Thy people Redeemed, to Zion in joyful song. Next year in Jerusalem.
Our Christian eschatological commitment can be expressed in the closing Passover prayer as follows: “Tonight we are reminded of the promise Christ made at the Last Supper that He will eat Passover again with the redeemed of all the ages when He comes to establish His kingdom. We look forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promise and we pray that this Blessed Hope may inspire each one of us to live upright and godly lives while we are awaiting His glorious appearing and invitation to participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
After the Passover ceremony, the church will sit and listen to a sermon by the minister. A half hour to an hour at most.
10. Paschal Closing Hymn.
Jesus concluded the Paschal Supper with His disciples by singing a hymn: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matt 26:30). An appropriate closing hymn can be: God be with you till we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you: God be with you till we meet again.
After the sermon. The church may fellowship together, eat and drink unleavened foods that people may bring and talk.
The conclusion of the celebration of Passover marks the beginning of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. While Passover typifies how God has delivered us from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of His Son, the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents how we accept God’s provision of salvation by living new lives of purity and sincerity. In a sense this Festival points to the heavenly ministry of Jesus, who is actively working in our behalf to cleanse us from the presence and power of sin (Heb 7:25). The Feast of Unleavened Bread assures us that God is still setting His people free from the bondage of sin, just as He freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.