God's Festivals in Scripture and History. Volume I
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Passover in the New Testament

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GOD’S FESTIVALS IN SCRIPTURE AND HISTORY
VOLUME I: THE SPRING FESTIVALS

Chapter 4

THE OBSERVANCE OF PASSOVER TODAY

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University

The preceding survey of Passover in Scripture and history is intended to provide a basis for determining if the feast was meant to be an exclusive typological Jewish feast that terminated with the sacrifice of Christ, the antitypical Paschal Lamb, or whether its observance continues, though with new meaning and ritual, in Christian history. The conclusion of this survey is unambiguous: Passover is the feast of redemption that spans both the Old and New Testaments. Its observance continues in the Christian church with a new meaning and ritual established by Christ Himself at His last Paschal Supper.

Objectives of Chapter. This chapter has three objectives which divide it into three parts. First, we bring into focus the findings of our study by summarizing the six major supportive evidences for the continuity of Passover in the Christian church. Second, we address the question of the date of the observance of Passover today. Should Passover be observed at the first full moon after the Spring equinox (Nisan 14) in accordance with the Biblical date and apostolic tradition, or should it be observed on Easter-Sunday in accordance with the tradition championed by the Church of Rome? Third, we make some suggestions on how Passover could be observed today. My aim is not to provide a normative guide to a Christian celebration of Passover, but rather to propose ways in which we can make the celebration of Passover an authentic Christian experience.

PART I: THE CONTINUITY OF PASSOVER IN

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

A Prophetic Festival. A first indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian church is the prophetic nature of the festival which celebrates the past, present, and future deliverance of God’s people. We have found that Passover is a remarkable typological feast which celebrates the past fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant at the Exodus, and yet it points to the future fulfillment of the Messianic ingathering of all the nations. The deliverance from Egyptian bondage celebrated by the Jewish Passover was a type of the Messianic redemption from the bondage of sin which, in turn, is a promise of the final deliverance of the redeemed from all the nations of the earth.

We could say that Passover is commemorative, typical, and prophetic. It is commemorative of the historic deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. It is typical of the Messianic deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin. It is prophetic of the final deliverance of the great multitude of the redeemed out of all nations who "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Rev 15:3).

The prophetic nature of Passover is evident in the New Testament’s frequent allusions to the Exodus, the Paschal Lamb, the unleashing of the plagues, the song of Moses, and the marriage supper of the Lamb. These imageries show that the typology of Passover carries over from the Old to the New Testament because the meaning and function of the feast did not terminate with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb. On the contrary, by offering up Himself on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb at the very time when the Passover lambs were slaughtered, Christ gave a new realism to the feast. He made Passover commemorative, not merely of the Israelites’ deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, but primarily of mankind’s deliverance from the bondage of sin. Being a commemoration of the Lamb that was slain to "ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev 5:9), the Christian Passover has a prophetic function to nourish the hope and to strengthen the faith in the final deliverance of God’s people. The fact that the ultimate fulfillment of Passover still lies in the future, shows that Passover, like the Sabbath, still remains for the people of God.

A Sacrificial Festival. The second indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian Church is the sacrificial nature of the feast. Feasts like Passover which are linked to the sacrificial system have been viewed historically as ceremonial and typological, that is, of a temporary nature that came to an end when Christ, the Antitype, died on the Cross. This view is based on a one-sided interpretation of Scripture. Our study shows that the temporary or permanent nature of Old Testament feasts is determined not by the degree of their association with the sacrificial system, but by the extent to which their typology carries over with new meaning beyond the Cross.

Passover is a sacrificial feast that continues in the New Testament because Christians eat their Passover sacrifice as do the Jews. The difference is that Christians do not need to sacrifice a lamb to eat their Passover because "Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor 5:7). Instead, Christians partake of the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice, the bread and wine. In other words, in the Jewish Passover, the people ate the lamb which they had sacrificed; in the Christian Passover, believers, through the emblems of the bread and wine, partake of the Paschal Lamb that has already been sacrificed.

Christ’s sacrifice as our Paschal Lamb, however, does not render the celebration of Passover unnecessary. Christ Himself gave to the feast a new meaning and ritual. The new meaning is the commemoration of deliverance from the bondage of sin through Christ’s death and the proclamation of His future deliverance at His coming ("you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes" 1 Cor 11:26); and the new ritual consists of the two elements of the Passover meal, the bread and wine. Christ fulfilled the sacrificial typology of the Passover, not by terminating the observance of the feast, but by transforming it so that the festival could fittingly celebrate His redemption from sin.

The Paschal Nature of the Last Supper. A third indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian church is the paschal nature of the Last Supper. The Last Supper was not simply a farewell fellowship meal; it was a special Passover meal during which Jesus instituted a new Passover to commemorate His sacrificial death.

The synoptic Gospels consistently speak of the Last Supper as "the Passover." Jesus Himself declares: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15 ). The phrase "to eat the passover," which occurs again in Jesus’ instructions to His disciples (Mark 14:15; Matt 26:18; Luke 22:11), refers exclusively to the Passover meal, which was the essence of the celebration of the festival. We noted several positive indications both in the Synoptics and in the Gospel of John which show that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, even though it was unique in two major ways. First, it was celebrated a day earlier because Jesus knew that He would be sacrificed as the true Paschal Lamb on Passover day. Second, most likely it was celebrated without the paschal lamb because Jesus wanted to institute a new Passover meal to commemorate His redemption from sin. Instead of using the flesh and blood of a lamb, He used bread and wine, the new symbols of His own body and blood, soon to be offered "for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt 26:28). There was no need of a lamb because the Lamb of God was there in Person, giving Himself as food and offering for the sins of the world.

If Christ had chosen the flesh and blood of the Passover lamb to represent His atoning sacrifice, He would have perpetuated the sacrificial system which was designed to come to an end with His death on the Cross (Matt 27:51). By choosing the bread and wine (nonsacrificial elements of the Passover meal) as the emblems of His atoning death, Jesus detached the new Passover from the sacrificial system and transformed it into a fitting memorial of His redemption.

The continuity of Passover is clearly envisaged by Christ’s statement that He desired to eat Passover with His disciples before His death, "for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16, NIV). The statement "I will not eat it again" suggests that Christ expected people to be eating the Passover meal during His absence until the eschatological marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). Then He would partake of it again with the redeemed. The implication is clear. Christ viewed His Last Supper with His disciples to be a Passover meal whose observance would continue until His Return. The present observance of Passover aliments our hope and faith in the future Passover Supper that we will celebrate with Christ at the consummation of God’s kingdom.

The Ethical Implications of the Christian Passover. A fourth indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian Church is the ethical implications of the feast for the Christian life which presuppose its actual observance.

In the New Testament, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread have profound ethical implications for the Christian life-style. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul challenges the members to correct moral behavior by reminding them of the Feasts. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5:6-8).

This incidental reference to Christ as the Passover sacrifice is remarkable, because the church in Corinth was heavily Gentile. This suggests that the existential meaning of Passover was well known and accepted even among the Gentiles, presumably because they observed the feast. Its observance, however, did not consist in the removal of the old leaven from the homes and in the sacrifice of a lamb. Rather it was to be in the removing of the leaven of malice and evil from their lives, replacing them with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Celebrating Passover is not only a matter of celebrating the feast of redemption from the bondage of sin, but also of experiencing the deliverance of the Paschal Lamb from our sinful ways.

The Observance of Passover in the Apostolic Church. A fifth indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian Church is the continuity between Judaism and Christianity which presupposes its observance. This presupposition is supported by several indirect indications of the observance of Passover in the New Testament.

A prevailing assumption has been that the earliest converts who accepted Christ as their Messiah immediately perceived themselves as "the New Israel" with a New Moses, a New Faith, and a new liturgical calendar. To give expression to their new faith, the earliest Christians immediately felt the urgency to establish, among other things, new places of worship, namely, Christian churches, and new Holy Days, namely, Sunday, Easter-Sunday, and Christmas.

This conception of Christian origins is grossly inaccurate and misleading. The New Testament recognizes that Christ’s coming brought about a certain discontinuity by fulfilling Old Testament typological institutions, but this discontinuity is never interpreted in terms of abrogation of the Mosaic law, in general, or of Holy Days, in particular.

The "many thousands" of Jews who "believed" (Acts 21:20) as a result of the Messianic proclamation did not view their acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as their expected Messiah as representing a breaking away from their Jewish religion and a joining to a new religion–Christianity. They simply viewed themselves as believing Jews, still "zealous for the law" (Acts 21:20). The frequent references to the temple, the synagogue, the hour of prayer, the Sabbath, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost suggest that the religious life of the apostolic church was still regulated by the Jewish liturgical calendar.

Regarding Passover in the New Testament, we found only a few indirect indications of its observance, presumably because it was taken for granted. John frequently says: "The Passover of the Jews was at hand" (2:13; 6:4; 11:55). This presupposes that, to use Joachim Jeremias’s words, "He obviously distinguishes the Jewish Passover from the Christian."1

Another indirect indication of the Christian observance of Passover is Luke’s report that Paul and his travelling companions "sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread" (Acts 20:6). Paul postponed his departure from Philippi until after the Feast of Unleavened Bread presumably because he wanted to celebrate the Passover season with the church at Philippi. Ellen White and several scholars support this view.

That the Passover season still had special significance for Paul is also suggested by his exhortation to "celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5:8). Paul’s emphasis on the behavioral implication of the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread presupposes the actual observance of these feasts. Paul did not divorce himself from the religious festivals of Judaism, because he found in them profound meaning for the Christian life.

The meaning and ritual of the Christian Passover apparently were similar to those of the Lord’s Supper, the latter being an extension of the former. Undoubtedly, both constituted a proclamation of the "Lord’s death until he comes" (1 Cor 11:26). It is clear, however, that for Paul the memorial of Christ’s death is to be observed not only once a year at Passover, but "as often as" the Lord’s Supper is celebrated (1 Cor 11:26). The fundamental importance attached to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus made it imperative for the primitive church to celebrate the memorial of His death not only annually at Passover but periodically during the course of the year. Postapostolic documents indicate that the main difference between the two was that at Passover the Lord’s Supper was celebrated at dawn after an all-night vigil of fasting.

The Observance of Passover in the Postapostolic Church. A sixth indication of the continuity of Passover in the Christian church is its widespread observance in the immediate postapostolic period. Several documents of the second century clearly attest that Christians observed Passover in accordance with the apostolic tradition.

We have found that Christians celebrated Passover at the same time as Jewish Passover, beginning at sundown on Nisan 14 and continuing their vigil until the next morning. For this reason, they are called "Quartodecimans," the Latin for "fourteeners." They did not eat the Passover lamb but fasted in memory of Jesus’ death and, possibly, in reparation for the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. They read and expanded the Passover story in Exodus 12, applying it to the suffering and death of Jesus. They engaged in prayers and singing until dawn, when they broke their fast with the Lord’s Supper, commemorating Jesus’ expiatory suffering and death.

A clear indication of the importance of Passover in the religious life of the early Church is the controversy which flared up in the second century over the date for celebrating Passover. We noted that this major controversy in the latter half of the second century threatened to split Christian churches.

The two protagonists of the controversy were Bishop Victor of Rome (A. D. 189-199) and Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus. Bishop Victor championed the observance of Passover on the Sunday following the date of the Jewish Passover (Easter-Sunday). He tried to enforce the adoption of this date on the Christian church at large.

Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus and the leaders of the Asian churches strongly advocated the traditional Passover date of Nisan 14, transmitted to them by the Apostles Philip and John. They refused to be frightened into submission by the threats of Victor of Rome and eventually were excommunicated by the Roman bishop.

Our study suggests that two significant factors contributed to the abandonment of the Biblical Passover date of Nisan 14 and to the adoption of Easter-Sunday, namely, anti-Judaism and paganism. Anti-Judaism influenced the abandonment of the traditional date of Passover (Nisan 14) in order for Christians to distance themselves from the Jews. Paganism influenced the adoption of pagan cosmic speculations and myths to make Easter-Sunday attractive to Christians coming from a pagan background.

Anti-Judaism reached a high point when Emperor Hadrian ruthlessly crushed the Barkokeba revolt (A. D. 135), rebuilt a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins of Jerusalem, and promulgated the most repressive anti-Judaic legislation prohibiting the practice of Judaism, in general, and Jewish festivals, in particular. Jews and Jewish-Christians were expelled from Jerusalem, and only Gentile Christians were allowed to settle in the city.

The new Gentile Christians who settled in Jerusalem after A. D. 135 apparently differed from the Jewish-Christians not only ethnically but also theologically. According to the Palestinian historian Epiphanius (ca A. D. 315-403), they stirred up the Passover controversy by adopting and promoting Easter-Sunday. This action was apparently motivated by a desire to show separation and differentiation from the Jewish religion that at that time was considered illegal.

The change from the primitive observance of Passover to that of Easter-Sunday was not merely a change of dates; it was also a change of meaning and experience. Essentially it was a change from the celebration of the drama of redemption through Biblical symbols to the celebration of death and resurrection through a host of pagan symbols and myths which, as we have seen, became part of the Easter celebration.

Passover, like other Biblical institutions, was corrupted first by philosophical speculations and then by barbarian superstitions. The Fathers, most of whom were imbued with Greek philosophies, tried to explain the meaning of Easter on the basis of philosophical speculations about springtime, the Spring equinox, numerical symbolism, and the conflict between light and darkness. Later, when hordes of barbarians entered the church, they added to the Easter celebration such superstitious practices as carnival, Lent, the blessing of the fire with the lighting of candles, the Easter bunny, and Easter eggs.

The Reformers tried to rid the church of all the pagan superstitions which had become part of the popular piety by doing away with a host of saints’ days and Marian feasts instituted by the Catholic church. They tolerated only Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas. The Puritans went a step further and swept away all religious holy days, including Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. They retained only Sunday. It is regrettable that the Reformers and the Puritans were so preoccupied with cleansing the church from superstitious observance of the multitude of holy days which occasioned pagan revelry that they ignored the need to restore those Biblical holy days which help Christian conceptualize and experience the reality of salvation.

Conclusion. Passover is the feast of redemption that lives on both in Judaism and Christianity. It began as a commemoration of the historic deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. It became a type of the Messianic deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin. It still serves as a prophetic reassurance of the future fulfillment of the Messianic ingathering of all the nations to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:9).

PART II: THE DATE FOR THE OBSERVANCE

OF PASSOVER TODAY

Having established the continuity of Passover in the Christian Church, we now address the question of the time and manner of its observance today. Regarding the date of Passover, we already have noted that two different dating methods developed in early Christianity. The first, known as Quartodeciman, consisted in celebrating Passover at the same time as the Jews, namely, from the evening of Nisan 14 to the dawn of the 15th. This date usually corresponded with the first full moon after the Spring equinox. The Quartodeciman practice is traced back to the apostolic church. The focus of the Quartodeciman Passover was the commemoration of redemption through the suffering and death of Christ.

The second method, known as Easter-Sunday, consisted in observing Passover on the Sunday following the Jewish Passover. This dating method apparently was introduced by Gentile Christians in the early part of the second century, when the Hadrianic anti-Judaic legislation prohibited the practice of the Jewish religion. The focus of the Easter-Sunday celebration was primarily the resurrection of Christ.

Which of the two dating methods should Christians follow today? Should Passover be observed today at the first full moon after the Spring equinox, irrespective of the day of the week, or on the Sunday following the full moon? To answer this question, it is important to understand how the Jewish lunar calendar affected the determination of Passover, both for Jews andChristians.

The Jewish Lunar Calendar. Christians wishing to observe Passover today in accordance to the Biblical date of Nisan 14 may be surprised to discover that the date may fall in March one year and in April another. The reason is that, contrary to the Sabbath that recurs every seven days irrespective of any astronomical cycles, the date of Passover (Nisan 14) is based on two factors: the full moon and the Spring equinox. The first full moon after the Spring equinox of March 21 corresponds to Nisan 14, but since the appearance of the full moon varies from year to year, the date of Passover is movable.

The problem was even more complex in Bible times because the Jews followed a lunar year consisting of twelve months, each of which began with a new moon. Since the moon completes its orbit around the earth in about twenty-nine-and-a-half days, Jewish months varied from twenty-nine to thirty days alternatively, in order to compensate for the half-day. The twelve months of the Jewish year made up 354 days, eleven-and-a-quarter days short of a solar year. Had this discrepancy not been rectified in some way, the feasts and seasons constantly would be sliding with reference to the solar year. If in one year Nisan 14 coincided with March 1, the following year coincided with March 12, and so on.

To remedy this problem, every two or three years an additional month was added to the last month (Adar) and was designated Veadar. This new month was intercalated when it was evident that the month of Nisan would terminate before the Spring season, that is, before the barley needed for the ceremonial oblation of the first fruits was in ear.

The problem with this Jewish lunar calendar was that the intercalation of months was based, not on strict astronomical observations and calculations but upon the good pleasure of the rabbinical authorities. The Jews were not good astronomers. The Talmud preserves a remarkable letter written by Rabbi Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher, to the Jews in Babylon and Media: "We herewith inform you that we, in conjunction with our colleagues, have deemed it necessary to add thirty days to the year, since the doves [to be offered in sacrifice] are still too tender, and the lambs [for the Passover] too young, and the time of Abib [the barley harvest] has not arrived."2

This arbitrary determination by rabbinical authorities on when to intercalate a month and when to begin the month Nisan (dependent on an official spotting of the new moon) created considerable uncertainty on the date of the Passover from year to year. It is not surprising that in Christ’s time different sectarian calendars were used to determine the dates of the feasts.3 The normative calendar of the Temple, which most Jews followed, was published from year to year.

Quartodeciman Dating of the Passover. Most of the earliest Christians were Jewish converts accustomed to the Jewish calendar. Consequently they observed Passover at the same time as the Jews, irrespective of the day of the week. Like the Jews, they began their celebration of Passover on the evening of Nisan 14 and continued until the early morning of the 15th. But, unlike the Jews, who spent their Passover night "feasting" on their Paschal meal of the roasted lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and other ceremonial foods, the Christians fasted during the night until dawn when the fast was broken with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

The question of the Passover date arose when the Christian church became separated from the Jewish synagogues and the influence of rabbinical authorities that determined the dates of the feasts. Some Christians sought to determine the Passover date of Nisan 14 according to their own solar Julian calendar. Sozomen, a fifth-century historian, notes that the Montanists (a popular charismatic movement of the latter half of the second century) of Asia Minor set the date of Passover on April 6, which for them was the 14th day of Artemisios, their first month of Spring.4 By this method they identified the 14th day of their first Spring month with Nisan 14. Of course, by this arrangement they disregarded the lunar cycle. Nisan 14 was the day of the full moon, but Artemisios 14 only rarely coincided with the full moon.

By the third century, another attempt was made to equate Nisan 14 in the year of Christ’s passion with March 25, the accepted date of the Spring equinox. Epiphanius reports that some Quartodeciman Christians in Asia Minor took March 25 to be the true date of Christ’s death. Consequently, they always celebrated Passover on that date. This date seems to have enjoyed some popularity, since it is mentioned in other documents and is challenged by Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria.5

The attempts to identify Nisan 14 with either March 25 or April 6 of the solar Julian calendar reflect the concern of those Christians who wanted to respect the Biblical date and typology of the Passover, while at the same time simplifying the method for determining the Passover date by making Nisan 14 a fixed date in their solar calendar. By doing so, however, they disregarded the fact that Nisan 14 is not a fixed date but a movable date that coincides with the first full moom after the Spring equinox. This explains why the attempts to fix the date for Passover have never succeeded.

A common concern of all the Quartodeciman Christians was to respect the Biblical date and typology of Passover reflected in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) crucified on Nisan 14, the very time when the paschal lambs were sacrificed at the Temple (John 18:28). For these Christians, it was important to celebrate Passover on Nisan 14 when Jesus was crucified, because for them Passover was primarily the commemoration of Christ’s death, which occurred in accordance with the time and typology of the feast.

Sunday Dating of the Passover. The attitude of the Gentile Christians toward the Biblical date and typology of Passover was much different. We already have noted that Gentile Christians lacked familiarity with Scripture and appreciation for Biblical institutions such as Passover. Their excessive fascination with Greek philosophical speculations contributed to the sundering of Christianity from its historical Jewish roots.

This process was encouraged also by the repressive policies adopted by Roman emperors against the Jewish people and religion. These policies influenced Gentile Christians to distance themselves from the Jews by changing the Sabbath to Sunday and Passover to the Sunday following the Jewish Passover (which became known as Easter-Sunday).

At first, Gentile Christians depended on the Jewish date of the Passover to determine their own Easter-Sunday date, because apart from that Jewish date they could not know which was the first month. Thus, they waited for the Jews to determinate the date of the Passover; then they fixed their date for the Sunday following the Jewish date.

In time, such a dependence on the Jews was considered humiliating, especially when Gentile Christians were trying to differentiate themselves from the Jews. Thus, the bishops of Rome and Alexandria developed their own computations for the date of Easter based on the Spring equinox and the day of the full moon. Easter, therefore, was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring equinox (after March 21).

The Council of Nicea (A. D. 325) put an end to all the controversy over the date of Easter by decreeing that all Christians should follow the Church of Rome by observing Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. To ensure that Easter would not be celebrated at the same time of the Jewish Passover, the council decreed that if the Jewish Passover fell on a Sunday, then Easter was to be celebrated the following Sunday.

The anti-Judaic motivation for the repudiation of the Jewish reckoning of the Passover and the adoption of Easter-Sunday instead is clearly expressed in Emperor Constantine’s Nicene letter quoted above. The Emperor urged Christians to adopt the Easter-Sunday dating, in order to " have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd."6 In spite of the attempt of the Council of Nicea to divorce Christianity from Judaism, the fact remains the Easter still retains a connection to the Jewish date of the Passover, namely, the first full moon after the Spring equinox. In other words, the date for Easter, like the Jewish Passover, is still governed by the movable lunar phases rather than by a fixed date.

The abandonment of the Biblical dating of the Passover in favor of Easter-Sunday dating affected the meaning and manner of observance of Passover. The primitive Christian Passover was a one-day celebration of the drama of redemption which focused primarily on the sacrifice of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb. It respected the time and the typology of the Jewish Passover.

Easter-Sunday became a week-long celebration which culminated with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Its theological meaning was largely derived from philosophical speculations about springtime, the Spring equinox, numerical symbolism, and the conflict between light, and darkness. Some of its rituals such as carnival, Lent, Easter bunny, Easter eggs, blessing of the fire and lighting of the candles, were derived from pagan myths and fertility cults, all of which are foreign to the Biblical meaning of Passover.

Passover on Easter-Sunday? The foregoing survey of the Quartodeciman and Easter-Sunday dating of the Passover raises a question for Christians wishing to observe Passover today. Should Passover be observed on Easter-Sunday, when most of the Christian world celebrates Christ’s Resurrection? Or should Passover be observed on Nisan 14, at the first full moon after the Spring equinox (March 21), irrespective of the day of the week on which it occurs?

The Easter-Sunday tradition is attractive for two major reasons. First, it does not disrupt the work schedule, because it places the celebration of the feast on Sunday when most people are free from work. The observance of Passover on the first full moon after the Spring equinox can be disruptive to the work schedule of most people, because the day of the week and date of the month changes from year to year.

For example, in 1996 Passover falls on Wednesday, April 3. This means that Christians wanting to observe Passover in 1996 have to ask permission of their employers to have Wednesday off. Such permission may not be granted easily, especially if several workers in the same company ask for the same day off to celebrate Passover in the middle of the work week. For small companies, this disruption can even cause interruption of their production.

The second advantage of the Easter-Sunday date is the possibility it offers to commemorate Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on the actual days of the week on which these events occurred. In fact, this was a factor that influenced Gentile Christians to change the Passover date from Nisan 14 to the following Sunday. Such a change made it possible for them, not only to distance themselves from the Jews, but also to commemorate Christ’s death on Good Friday, His burial on Holy Saturday, and His resurrection on Easter-Sunday.

Some readers who believe that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday afternoon and that He was resurrected on Saturday afternoon will undoubtedly question my acceptance of the traditional chronology of the Friday crucifixion/Sunday resurrection. I am fully aware of their doctrinal position and have examined it at great length in my book The Time of the Crucifixion and Resuurection, written largely as a result of a dialogue with the Church of God (Seventh Day), one of several seventh-day Sabbathkeeping churches that believes in the Wednesday crucifixion/Saturday afternoon resurrection. My research shows that the cumulative witness of the Gospels and of history supports the traditional chronology of the Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection of Christ.

Problems with Passover on Easter-Sunday. Despite its popular acceptance and the advantages mentioned above, the date of Easter-Sunday fails to meet the criteria for a Biblical observance of Passover today for three major reasons.

First, the date of Easter-Sunday is not the date of the Biblical Passover. As we have seen, it was a date adopted in order to " have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd."7 To observe Passover at Easter-Sunday would be like observing the Sabbath on Sunday. In both instances, what Christians observe on Sunday and Easter-Sunday is not the Biblical Sabbath or Passover, but an ecclesiastical institution which lacks Biblical authority, meaning, and experience. In From Sabbath to Sunday, I have investigated the interplay of political, social, pagan, and religious factors that contributed to the abandonment of the Sabbath and Passover and to the adoption of Sunday and Easter-Sunday. To observe Passover at Easter-Sunday would mean to sanction and perpetrate the anti-Judaic and pagan motivations that prompted the change of these dates in the first place.

Second, to celebrate Passover at Easter-Sunday would destroy "the mystical connection,"8 that is, the historical and typological unity that exists between Jewish and Christian Passover. Christ instituted the new Passover in His blood within the context of the Jewish Passover. He was sacrificed as our Paschal Lamb at the very time when the Jews sacrificed their Passover lambs at the Temple. This means that the Christian Passover is inextricably linked to the Jewish Passover both in time and typology. If God planned for Christ to fulfill the Passover types "not only as to the event, but as to the time,"9 then it is incumbent upon us as Christians to celebrate the feast of our redemption in accordance with God’s plan.

Third, to celebrate Passover at Easter-Sunday would mean to commemorate primarily Christ’s resurrection rather than His death. This was the difference in the early Church between the Quartodeciman and Easter-Sunday traditions. The former "laid greater emphasis on the redemptive death of Christ," while the latter "stressed more the resurrection and exaltation of Christ."10

The focal point of Passover is the commemoration of "Christ’s death until he comes" (1 Cor 11:26) through the emblems of his broken body and shed blood. Of course, the resurrection is part of the drama of redemption. In fact, the resurrection of Christ is the touchstone of the Christian faith. Christianity stands or falls with the reality of Christ’s resurrection from death. The apostle Paul states unambiguously that "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and your faith is vain" (1 Cor 15:14). Yet, neither Paul nor any other apostle ever suggests that Christ’s resurrection should be celebrated liturgically on a weekly Sunday or annual Easter-Sunday. In the New Testament, Christ’s resurrection is celebrated, not litugically by a special day of worship, but existentially by living victoriously through the power of the risen Christ (Rom 6:1-5).

Nowhere does the New Testament command or suggest that Christ’s resurrection should be commemorated on a weekly Sunday or annual Easter-Sunday. In fact, in the New Testament, Sunday is never called "Day of the Resurrection," but consistently "first day of the week" (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19). If Jesus had wanted the day of His resurrection to be commemorated weekly or annually, He would have instructed His disciples to do so.

Biblical institutions such as the Sabbath, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and foot-washing, all trace their origin to a divine act marking their official establishment. The ideal time for an official institution of a memorial day of Christ’s resurrection would have been the very day the event occurred. If Christ wanted the day of His resurrection to be memorialized, presumably He would have told the women or the disciples when He appeared to them. He could have used words similar to those He uttered at the Passover Supper when He instituted a memorial of His death (Luke 22:15), namely, "I have earnestly desired to celebrate this day of my resurrection with you before I go to the Father." Instead, He told the women, "Go tell my brethren to go to Galilee" (Matt 28:10). Later to His disciples He said, "Go . . . make disciples, teach, baptize" (Matt 28:19-20). All the utterances of the risen Lord presuppose that He regarded the day of His resurrection a regular working day, rather than a special commemorative day of His resurrection.

Passover on the Full Moon. To respect the Biblical date, typology, and meaning of Passover, one must observe the feast in accordance with the Biblical date of Nisan 14, which corresponds to the first full moon after the Spring equinox. To determine the Passover date in our solar calendar is relatively easy, because most calendars indicate the various phases of the moon during the course of the month. One simply has to look at the calendar for the first full moon after the Spring equinox of March 21.

Observing Passover by the full moon certainly is not as practical as observing it by a fixed date. As we noted earlier, the date of Passover varies from year to year, both as to the day of the week and that of the month. This variation entails some inconvenience in the work schedule of most people. On the other hand, being an annual celebration, the inconvenience is experienced only once a year. Most people take some days off work during the course of the year to attend special events, meetings, or family celebrations. To take time out once a year to celebrate the festival of our redemption would show in a tangible way our appreciation for God’s gracious provision for our salvation.

If we observe Passover in accordance with the Biblical date of Nisan 14, we commemorate God’s redemption at the time when type met antitype. For centuries, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross as the Paschal Lamb who takes away the sin of the world had been foreshadowed by the slaying of the Passover lamb on the 14th day of the first month. Christ as the antitypical Lamb died on the Cross the very day and time of day that God ordained the Passover lamb to be slain. He also came forth from the dead the same day of the month that the first fruits had been waved for centuries. The date ordained by God for the celebration of these festivals was prophetic of the time when type would meet its antitype.

In her delightful book Celebrate the Feasts of the Old Testament in Your Own Home or Church, Martha Zimmerman writes, "God sacrificed the Lamb on the altar of the Cross. Those wooden beams became the doorpost of the world’s home. God promises to pass over us with His judgment of death as we are willing to stand under its protection. This is what we remember and celebrate at Passover (Ex 12:13)."11

By respecting the Biblical Passover date, we are able to retain the typological integrity and prophetic continuity of the feast. The deliverance from the bondage of sin at the Cross is typologically rooted in God’s deliverance of the Israelites from physical slavery in Egypt. To respect the typological integrity and connection of the two events, one must observe Passover on the day when both the physical and spiritual deliverances occurred.

The redemptive work of Christ typified by Passover extends prophetically down through the ages until the final deliverance of God’s people (Rev 7:14), who "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Rev 15:3). The first deliverance from Egypt, which marked the institution of Passover, foreshadowed the final deliverance of God’s people, "who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9). Passover is truly the feast of redemption, the day to remember God’s past and future deliverance of His people.

PART III: THE MANNER OF THE OBSERVANCE

OF PASSOVER

It is very difficult to describe how the Christian Passover should be observed today. In fact, the New Testament gives us no specific information on how Passover was celebrated during apostolic times. We are told that Paul kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread at Philippi (Acts 20:6), but we are not informed how he celebrated the Passover season with the believers. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul mentions the behavioral implications of the celebration of Passover, but he says nothing about its actual observance.

This gap is filled by the accounts of the Quartodeciman Christians, for the sources do inform us that they observed Passover according to the apostolic tradition. But even in these accounts we do not find a Passover Seder, that is, the order and ritual of the Passover service. In view of the limited information available on the actual observance of Passover in primitive Christianity, I do not attempt to propose a standard order of service for the Passover celebration today. Instead, I limit myself, first, to summarizing what we know about the observance of Passover in the early church, and, second, to suggesting a tentative guide to a Christian observance of Passover that reflects the teachings of the Scripture and the example of the early church.

Christian Passover Similar to Jewish Passover. The two earliest documents mentioning the observance of Passover are The Epistle of the Apostles (about A. D. 150) and Melito’s Paschal Homily (A. D. 165). These sources clearly indicate that in many ways, Christians observed Passover as did the Jews. They observed it at the same time, on the night of Nisan 15th, and by the date rather than the day. They read the same Exodus story, used the same metaphors, and observed the same fast.

At first, some Christians celebrated Passover not only at the same time but also in the same manner–by eating the paschal lamb in a solemn feast.12 Most Christians, however, objected to eating the lamb. They believed that Christ was their Paschal Lamb and, consequently, no longer was there any need for them to sacrifice and eat the lamb. Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis (about A. D. 170), refutes those who ate the paschal lamb at the same time and manner as the Jews, saying: "The 14th of Nisan is the true Passover of the Lord, the great Sacrifice; instead of the lamb we have the Son of God."13 This view prevailed and eventually led to the abandonment of the Jewish paschal feast and to the adoption of fasting instead. "Unfortunately," as Joachim Jeremias observes, "we do not know exactly when the festival was radically reconstructed, and the paschal vigil replaced the Passover meal."14

Essentially, the Christian Passover consisted of a night vigil during which Christians commemorated the suffering and death of Christ by fasting, praying, singing, reading appropriate Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, and listening to the exposition and application of the Scripture readings. The vigil extended until early morning (cockcrow), when the fast was broken with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, followed by a fellowship (agape) meal.

Expectation of Christ’s Return. The paschal vigil was designed to prepare the community to receive the soon-coming Lord. While the Jews were awaiting the coming of the Messiah on Passover night, the Christians were expecting the Return of Christ. "The expectation of the parousia [Return of Christ]," writes Jeremias, "lay at the heart of the primitive Christian festival, and this soon came to have a profound effect on its course."15 The expectation of Christ’s Return on Passover night was influenced not merely by the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, but primarily by Christ’s pledge: "for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16, NIV). The two focal points of the Christian Passover were the passion and the parousia, that is, the commemoration of Christ’s death and the expectation of His Return.

Jeremias points out that the paschal vigil shows "how strongly the expectation of the parousia controlled the life of the Church in the earliest period."16 Apparently, Christians felt that the best way for them to be waiting and watching on Passover night for the Return of their Lord was by fasting, rather than by feasting. They were reminded of the words of Jesus that "the days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day" (Mark 2:20). They fasted also on behalf of the Jews who might repent for causing Christ’s death. Epiphanius, for example, writes: "When they [the Jews] feast, we should mourn for them with fasting, because in that feast they fastened Christ on the Cross."17

Christ the Paschal Lamb. There were some fundamental differences between the Jewish and Christian Passover. Christians did not sacrifice a lamb, and they did not commemorate the deliverance from Egypt under Moses. These events had received a new meaning. Melito reveals this in his Paschal Homily: "For led as lamb and slaughtered as a sheep, he [Jesus] ransomed us from the ruin of the world as from the land of Egypt, and freed us from slavery of the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls with his own spirit and the members of our bodies with his own blood. . . . This is he who rescued us from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, from death to life, from oppression to an eternal Kingdom and made us a new priesthood and a chosen people. He is the true Passover."18

A striking parallelism exists between this passage and a similar one in the Mishnah: "In every generation a man must regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt. . . . He [the Lord] brought us from bondage to freedom, from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to a great light, and from servitude to redemption."19 The background of both passages is the Passover ritual. Both the Church and the Synagogue found in the Exodus deliverance a promise of redemption to be celebrated in the present.

In the Christian celebration of Passover, the lamb played a most important role, because the lamb was Jesus. As Van Goudoever points out, "The lamb was not a type of Jesus, but Jesus was indeed the lamb. The Christians therefore did not sacrifice the lamb, because their Passover lamb was already slaughtered. This was a part of the theology of Paul. In his letter to the Corinthians he writes, ‘Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival’ (1 Cor 5:7). In John’s Gospel, Jesus is also conceived of as the lamb for the Passover. Therefore ‘no bone of him shall be broken’ (John 19:36). It is possible that the Passover celebrated by Paul and John contained these new elements."20

The Lord’s Supper and the Agape. The paschal vigil terminated in the early morning (cockcrow, about 3:00 a. m.) with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which was followed by a fellowship meal, known as agape (love feast). The Epistle of the Apostles (about A. D. 150) specifically mentions that Christians terminated their vigil with the Lord’s Supper and the agape: "And when ye have accomplished the memorial which is made for me, and the agape. . . ."21 In this text, the Lord’s Supper is called "the memorial," obviously because it is a commemoration of Christ’s death.

The Lord’s Supper was celebrated not only at Passover but periodically throughout the year because of the fundamental importance attached to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Unfortunately, we do not know how frequently the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the Apostolic Church. We observed earlier that Paul is very specific regarding the meaning and manner of observance of the Lord’s Supper, but very vague regarding the time of its observance. Four times he repeats the expression "when you assemble . . ." (1 Cor 11: 18, 20, 33, 34) and once "as often as" (1 Cor 11:26). Both phrases suggest no specific time was set for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper during the course of the year.

At Passover, the Lord’s Supper assumed a greater importance, because it was celebrated in the context of the actual anniversary of Christ’s death. During the year, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated as part of a religious service; at Passover it was the most important part of the celebration. The preceding all-night vigil heightened the importance of the Lord’s Supper, which functioned as the climax of the Passover celebration.

The commemoration of Christ’s death at Passover entails more than a remembrance of the historical events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. By partaking of the emblems of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, we appropriate the benefits of Christ’s death as a death suffered for us. This simple yet dramatic ritual enables believers not only to conceptualize but also to internalize and appropriate the reality of Christ’s vicarious death.

At the Lord’s Table, believers enter into a special fellowship with the exalted Lord. Paul describes it as "a participation in the blood . . . [and] body of Christ" (1 Cor 10:16). The bond of fellowship and unity in the body of Christ celebrated formally through the Lord’s Supper found informal expression in the ensuing agape feast. We are not told why the agape feast came after, rather than before, the Lord’s Supper. We may surmise that one major reason was to protect the most sacred institution of the Church from the kind of abuses that occurred at Corinth.

Separating the Lord’s Supper from Agape. Christ instituted the Holy Communion in the context of a Passover Supper. At first, Christians followed Christ’s example by celebrating the Lord’s Supper in the context of an evening fellowship meal. Unfortunately, this practice led to abuses which Paul had to address in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:20-22). Some Christians were more interested in eating and drinking than in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. They began eating before all the other members had arrived and failed to share their food with the less privileged. Such abuses desecrated the Lord’s Supper.

To remedy this problem, the regular Lord’s Supper eventually was detached from an evening supper meal and moved to the morning church services. We do not know when this separation took place. Presumably, it occurred before the end of the first century because Pliny, the Governor of Bithynia, states in a letter he wrote to the Emperor Trajan in A. D. 112 that Christians had given up their evening religious meal after the publication of the imperial edict which prohibited evening fraternal meals.22 Earlier we mentioned this imperial legislation in conjunction with Paul’s indefinite time references to the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, this legislation caused Christians first to stagger the time and place of their evening Lord’s Supper, and later to transfer it to the morning services altogether.

By the middle of the second century, we have the explicit testimony of Justin Martyr that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated at the conclusion of the morning church service: "When our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgiving, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons."23

While the regular Lord’s Supper became separated from the agape meal on account of abuses and of the imperial legislation prohibiting evening fellowship meals, the special annual Passover Lord’s Supper remained associated with the agape meal, which, however, was eaten after the Lord’s Supper. With this arrangement, the social fellowship meal would not detract from the Holy Communion. In fact, the love-feast offered a practical opportunity to express and experience gratitude for the sacrificial love of Christ just commemorated through the emblems of His broken body and shed blood. The fellowship meal remained associated with the Paschal Lord’s Supper, presumably because the essence of Passover is a sacred commemorative meal. By partaking of a fellowship meal in conjunction with the Holy Communion, it was possible to retain a vital aspect of the traditional Passover meal.

Christian or Jewish Passover? The preceding description of the early Christian observance of Passover provides a basis for reflecting on how Passover should be celebrated today. While early Christian traditions are not always a safe guide for determining religious practices today because the mystery of iniquity was already at work in apostolic times (2 Thess 2:7), they do provide us with valuable insight on how Biblical teachings and practices such as Passover were understood and observed within different Christian communities. To be true to our Christian heritage, we need to be guided by the teachings of Scripture and by the witness of those Christians who have sought to be true to the teachings of the Word of God.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to ignore the past witness of faithful Christians when defining Christian beliefs and practices. A case in point is the several books published in recent years on how Christians can celebrate Old Testament feasts, such as Passover.24 The authors are to be commended for their efforts to make the annual feasts of Israel meaningful and spiritually enriching to Christian today. The problem I see in the books I have read is their lack of sensitivity to the witness of the New Testament and of the primitive church. Much of what is presented is largely based on Jewish traditional observance of the feasts. These books seem to aim to teach Christians how to celebrate Passover and the other feasts according to Jewish tradition rather than an authentic Christian perspective. Some minor Christian variations are suggested, but no attempt is made to understand how the early Christians understood and observed Passover.

For example, in her creative book Celebrate the Feasts of the Old Testament in Your Home or Church, Martha Zimmerman lists nine items needed for a Christian Passover meal. These include a pair of candles, an order of service (haggadah) for all participants, a large plate containing a hard-boiled egg, roasted lamb-bone, a small bowl of salt water, greens such as parsley and celery, bitter herbs such as horseradish, and charoseth, "a special nut, apple, wine or grape juice mixture."25 Other items needed are a plate with unleavened bread (matzoth), wine, a common cup for the family to pass and to share the wine, the cup of Elijah, a pillow for father’s chair, a bowl of water, a towel for handwashing, and a special dinner for the whole family.26

The items mentioned in this list are essentially those used by the Jews in the celebration of their Passover meal. In fact, the meaning given to each item relates primarily to the Egyptian experience of the Israelites. For example, the charoseth "is a mixture of coarsely chopped fruits and spices which resembles, in color, the clay or mortar that the Israelites made in Egypt."27 Similarly, "The hard-boiled egg represents the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. The salt water symbolizes the tears of the Hebrew slaves under Egypt’s bondage."28

While the author is to be commended for educating Christians on the rich ritual and symbols of the Jewish Passover, she ignores two facts when she tries to make the same elements the core of the Christian Passover. First, Christ selected only two elements from the Jewish Passover, the unleavened bread and the wine, to institute the paschal meal commemorative of His atoning death. Second, for Christians, Passover is the celebration of the deliverance, not from the physical bondage of Egyptian oppression, but from the spiritual bondage of sin. The latter is celebrated through the emblems of the Lord’s Supper, not through all the ingredients of the Jewish Passover meal. Surprisingly, Martha Zimmerman and others who claim to provide a guide to the celebration of the Christian Passover omit altogether any reference to the Lord’s Supper. Yet, as we have seen, the Lord’s Supper was the climax of the early Christian celebration of Passover.

Elements of a Christian Passover. At this juncture I make no attempt to provide a normative guide to a Christian celebration of Passover. I must confess I have never celebrated an annual Passover in my life. I have grown up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in which there is no annual Passover celebration, only a quarterly Holy Communion service. Prior to this research, I had not understood the continuity and relevance of Old Testament feasts, such as Passover, for our Christian life today.

Lacking the practical experience of celebrating Passover, I only venture some suggestions derived from the above study of Passover in Biblical and early Christian history. My concern is not to spell out details as to how Passover should be celebrated today. Rather, I prefer to propose ways in which we can make a celebration of Passover authentically Christian.

Reflecting on the Lamb. Preparation is indispensable for a meaningful and successful celebration of a Holy Day. This is true of the weekly Sabbath as well as of annual festivals. Preparation also should be an essential component of the Passover celebration. By preparing our minds and our homes for the arrival of Passover night, we predispose ourselves to receive the blessings mediated to us through the feast.

The Jews began their preparation for Passover on the 10th day of the month by selecting an unblemished, year-old male lamb, which they kept in their homes for four days before sacrificing him for the redemption of all the family members (Ex 12:3-6). Keeping a perfect, white, woolly lamb for four days in their home gave the Israelites the opportunity to become attached to him and to love him before offering him as a sacrifice for the redemption of their family members.

As Christians, we do not need to select a real lamb, because Christ is our Paschal Lamb who already has been sacrificed for our redemption (1 Cor 5:7-8). Yet it might be helpful to place a little stuffed, fuzzy lamb on the table where the family gathers for meals. This could serve as the centerpiece of the table and of the conversation for a few days before Passover. The presence of the stuffed lamb may encourage us to reflect and talk about the meaning of the forthcoming Passover. We could read together Exodus 12:1-6 and talk about some of the spiritual object lessons of the story.

For example, each Israelite needed to take a lamb (Ex 12:3) and to eat it (Ex 12:8), because salvation is an individual acceptance of the grace provided by God. God’s plan was that all households experience salvation. Thus He prescribed a lamb for each family. By believing in Christ, we become members of the household of faith (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19). Salvation for a household is available to all who believe in Christ (Acts 15:15, 31; 18:8).

The chosen lamb was to be "without blemish" (Ex 12:5), because Jesus "offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14), to purify us and to present us "without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing" (Jude 1:24). The lamb was "a male a year old" (Ex 12:5) because Jesus, the Son of God, died for our redemption in the fullness of His manhood. The lamb was to dwell with the family members (Ex 12:6) because Jesus wants to dwell in our homes. The lamb was loved before it was sacrificed, just as Jesus was loved by some before He was sacrificed.

The blood of the lamb was placed on the two doorposts and lintel of the house (Ex 12:7) as a guarantee of divine protection. This can remind us that we have been redeemed "not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet 1:18-19). "It was not enough that the paschal lamb be slain," writes Ellen White; "its blood must be sprinkled upon the doorposts; so the merits of Christ’s blood must be applied to the soul. We must believe, not only that He died for the world, but that He died for us individually. We must appropriate to ourselves the virtue of the atoning sacrifice."29 Reflections such as these upon the meaning of the Passover lamb can predispose us for the celebration of the festival by reminding us that Christ is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Cleaning the Home.  Another important aspect of the preparation for the Passover celebration is cleaning the home. As we clean our home weekly to welcome the Lord of the Sabbath as the invisible guest of honor, so it would be well to springclean our home annually before Passover to welcome our Savior, the Paschal Lamb, who has been sacrificed for our redemption. A clean home and a neat outward appearance challenges us to purify our hearts and mind as we prepare to commemorate Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Cleaning the home is still an important part of the Jewish preparation for the celebration of Passover. Ceil and Moishe Rosen write: "The Jewish housewife tackles her spring cleaning with holy zeal! This is because Passover comes in the spring, in the month of Nisan, also called Abib. She is preparing to obey the command in Exodus 12:19: ‘Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses.’ Do the walls need paint, carpet need shampooing, cupboards need rearranging? Wait until before Passover! The straw broom of ancient days has given way to the vacuum cleaner; and instead of the city dump, we have garbage disposals. The means are different, but the end result is still the same."30

Spring cleaning our Christian homes also can be inspired by the approach of Passover. The thought that we are cleaning our homes to make them ready to celebrate the feast of our redemption can give a religious purpose and zeal to what otherwise would be an ordinary chore.

Cleaning a Jewish home also involves the removal of all food articles that have gone through the leavening process. This means that every scrap of bread, cookies, yeast, baking powder and other leavening agents must go. On the night before Passover (Nisan 13), after the house is hospital clean, there is the ceremonial search for leaven, called Bedikat Chametz.

During the search, the head of the house takes with him a child, along with a candle, a wooden spoon, a feather, and a piece of linen cloth. They search together for the piece of leavened bread that the housewife has intentionally placed in a visible spot. Once they find the leaven (bread), the father sets the candle down by the leaven and sweeps it into the wooden spoon with a feather. Then, without touching the leaven, he wraps together the spoon, feather, and bread in the linen cloth, pronouncing the ancient formula: "Now I have rid my house of leaven." The next morning (Nisan 14), he joins other Jewish men at a designated place for a ritual bonfire where they toss their bundles of leaven and return home to complete the preparation for Passover.

As Christians, we are not bound to observe the ritual of the Jewish ceremonial removal of the leaven, but we can learn some valuable spiritual object lessons. The removal of leaven from the home and the burning of it outside the home reminds us of Christ who destroyed sin "outside the camp" (Heb 13:11, 13) to make freedom from sin possible for those who believe in Him. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn is the need to prepare for Passover by cleaning not only our homes, but also our hearts.

Commenting on the removal of leaven from the Jewish homes before Passover, Ellen White says, "In like manner the leaven of sin must be put away from all who would receive life and nourishment from Christ. So Paul writes to the Corinthian church, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump. . . . For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:7, 8)."31

This spiritual preparation applies not only to the annual Passover but also to the periodical Lord’s Supper celebration. Paul admonishes believers to "examine" themselves before partaking of the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice, because "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27-28).

It used to be customary to encourage church members to prepare for the Lord’s Supper during the preceding week by reconciling differences and confessing known sins. Unfortunately, this spiritual preparation is largely neglected today. Sometimes members go to church without even knowing that they will be participating in the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, chances are that even the sermon preceding the Holy Communion fails to prepare the participants to receive the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice, because it deals with a subject totally unrelated to the occasion. The result is that members go through the ritual without experiencing the reassurance of forgiveness and cleansing they need.

If preparation is needed for the periodic Lord’s Supper, it is needed even more for the annual Paschal Supper which celebrates the actual anniversary of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The preparation for this event should involve not only the external cleaning of our dwellings but also the internal purification of our souls. Passover challenges us in a special way to "cleanse out the old leaven . . . of malice and evil," so that we can celebrate the festival "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5:6-8).

In practical terms, we can "cleanse out the old leaven . . . of malice and evil" in the days preceding Passover by searching our hearts to see if we cherish evil thoughts or deeds that need to be confessed and cleansed before our special encounter with our Savior. The approaching of Passover affords us an opportunity to seek in a special way the enabling grace God to deliver us from besetting sins so that we can truly celebrate Passover as the feast of our deliverance from sin.

A Night Vigil. The external and internal preparation sets the stage for the actual celebration of Passover which, in the Biblical and early Christian traditions, consisted of a night vigil to remember redemption. The instruction in the Old Testament is clear: "Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come" (Ex 12:42, NIV). In the New Testament, we have the example of Jesus who instituted the memorial of His death in the evening and then retreated with the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he urged them to "watch and pray" while He poured out His soul to the Father (Mark 14:32-38).

Both the Jews and the early Christians celebrated their redemption at Passover as a night vigil. The vigil consisted of a fast followed by the paschal meal. The Jewish fast was rather modest, beginning at the time of the sacrifice of the lamb at the Temple in the early afternoon and extending to nightfall when it was broken with the eating of the Passover.32 The Christian fast lasted longer, extending past the midnight conclusion of the Jewish festivities until cockcrow (3. a. m.) when it was broken with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, followed by an agape feast. Apparently, the fasting was inspired by the words of Jesus: "The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day" (Mark 2:20).

How should we as Christians today spend the Passover night vigil? Let us consider first of all the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal, which were the most important ritual of the vigil. Should we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal in the evening to begin the Passover vigil or at dawn to close it? No hard and fast rule can be laid down because both practices can be defended with valid arguments. We briefly consider each option.

Evening Lord’s Supper and Agape Meal. The first option is to begin the Passover vigil with an evening celebration of the Lord’s Supper and an agape meal. This option respects the Biblical Passover legislation, which is reflected in the Jewish practice of spending the Passover night eating a ceremonial meal designed to commemorate the divine deliverance from Egypt. To a large extent, Jesus followed the Passover ritual of His times, though He transformed it by choosing only two elements of the meal, the bread and wine, to institute the new Paschal Supper to commemorate the new covenant in His blood.

We have learned that some of the early Christians followed the Jewish tradition by eating their Passover at the same time and in same manner as the Jews. The majority of Christians, however, abandoned the evening paschal meal, because they felt that in good conscience they could not commemorate Christ’s death while sharing in the festivities of the Jews who caused Christ’s death. Thus, they transferred the Lord’s Supper and the fellowship meal to the early hours of the morning, since by then the Jews had finished their feasting.

The reasons for transferring the Lord’s Supper and the fellowship meal from the evening to the early hours of the morning are not as compelling today as they were in the early church. First, there is no need today for Christians to distance themselves from the Passover festivities of the Jews. We can no longer blame the Jews for causing the death of Christ, because we recognize that as sinners all are ultimately responsible for His death. Second, an evening Lord’s Supper celebration followed or preceded by a decorous love feast, can only enhance the commemoration of Christ’s death.

This means it would be appropriate for Christians today to begin their Passover vigil with an evening celebration of the Lord’s Supper, followed by an agape meal. One must remember that in the Old Testament, the essence of the Passover feast is a sacred commemorative meal partaken of within the home. Small families invited neighbors or relatives for the special Passover meal (Ex 12:4). By partaking of an agape meal in conjunction with the Paschal Supper, one could retain a vital aspect of the sacred commemorative meal.

The idea of having a love feast after the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is derived from the order followed by the early Christians. Apparently, experience taught them that a risk was involved in having a love feast prior to the Lord’s Supper. It could lead to the kind of abuses Paul addressed in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:20-22). To minimize the risk, they decided to have the love feast after the sacred celebration of the Holy Communion. We can learn from the experience of the early Christians by following the same order. One merit of this arrangement is that the love feast can serve as an opportunity to express gratitude for the sacrificial love of Christ just commemorated through the emblems of His broken body and shed blood.

Early Morning Lord’s Supper and Agape Meal. The second option is to conclude the Passover vigil at dawn with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal. This practice was followed by early Christians. They viewed the paschal vigil as a time to commemorate Christ’s death and to await His Return. While the Jews were awaiting the coming of the Messiah on Passover night, the Christians were expecting the Return of Christ. They felt that the best way to be waiting and watching for His appearance was by fasting rather than by feasting. They spent the night praying, singing, reading Scriptures, and listening to an exposition of Biblical passages and exhortations. They concluded their vigil at dawn with the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal, apparently because dawn was associated with the parousia (Return of Christ).

The practice of postponing the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal until dawn has some merit, since these meals provide a fitting conclusion to the Passover vigil. The religious exercises of the preceding hours could prepare believers for a fuller appreciation of the memorial of Christ’s death and of the ensuing love feast. The fellowship meal can serve as a fitting conclusion to a night spent together celebrating the passion (death) and parousia (coming) of the Lord.

From a practical perspective, however, this format could prove less than ideal; by dawn most people are half-asleep (if not fully) and thus not in the best mental and physical conditions to participate meaningfully in the Lord’s Supper and agape meal. This is especially true when young children or older people are present. The experience of Peter, James, and John, who fell asleep during the Passover night vigil (Mark 14:37, 40), is not unusual. To prevent the Passover vigil from becoming a "slumber feast," it may be advisable to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal in the evening rather than at dawn. Furthermore, it may be advisable to limit the length of the paschal vigil, perhaps until midnight, in consideration of those who find it difficult to stay awake all the night. God is not delighted by the sight of sleeping saints.

A Family Celebration.. The proposal to begin the Passover vigil with an evening celebration of the Lord’s Supper and an agape meal poses some interesting questions. Should the Lord’s Supper and the agape meal be celebrated privately at home or publicly at church? If at home, can the head of the household legitimately preside over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper? What Scriptures, songs, prayers, and devotional thoughts are most appropriate for the paschal vigil?

Some may be surprised to learn that among the seven annual feasts described in Leviticus 23, Passover is the only one that does not require a "holy convocation." The reason is simple. Passover began and largely remained a family celebration at which the father acted as the priest of the home. Even when the sacrifice of the paschal lamb was transferred from the home to the Temple, the lamb was still slain by the head of the household. The eating of the Passover, with all its commemorative ritual, was still done in private homes. Of all the sacrifices, only the Passover lamb could be slain at the Temple by the head of the household; priests were responsible for the slaying of all other sacrifices.

The lesson here can hardly be missed. Ellen White points out, "The father was to act as the priest of the household. . . . This is a symbol of the work to be done in every family. Parents are to gather their children into the home and to present Christ before them as their Passover. The father is to dedicate every inmate of his home to God, and to do a work that is represented by the feast of the Passover. It is perilous to leave this solemn duty in the hands of others."33

At a time when many parents neglect the religious education of their children, Passover reminds us that God still wants fathers to be the spiritual priests of their families. Of course, this is a daily responsibility. At Passover, however, in Old Testament times, the father acted in an official priestly role by sacrificing the lamb, sprinkling his blood on the lintel and doorposts of his house, and leading out in the Passover seder, that is, in the ritual commemorating the deliverance from Egypt. Fathers today are still the spiritual priests of their homes. They no longer need to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts of their houses to protect their families, but they still need to present Christ before their family members as their Passover.

In Bible times, families were large, often including the members of the extended family of grandchildren and relatives. Today families are smaller, often consisting of a single parent–in most cases the mother–and children. In such instances, several families can join together for the Passover celebration, as Moses instructed the Israelites to do under similar circumstances (Ex 12:4). Passover can offer a unique opportunity for smaller Christian families to join together in one home to celebrate the feast of redemption. Children who have no father figure in their home will benefit on Passover night by becoming part of an extended family in which a father leads out in a unique religious service.

Some may prefer their Passover celebration to be at their church rather than at home. They may feel that it is well for the church as a whole to come together for the celebration. This releases fathers from their responsibility of leading out in the service at home. Historically, the trend has been to transfer religious services from private "home churches" to public church buildings where Christians became spectators rather than participants. Of course, it is not wrong for the whole congregation to celebrate Passover together at the church. Where a church consists of only few families, this may be the best plan. Generally, however, it would be well to respect the Biblical tradition by keeping Passover as a family celebration. Even in a church setting, it would be well for family members to be seated together at the same table so that the head of the household can still lead out in some aspects of the service.

The Paschal Supper. When planning a Passover celebration at home or at church, one must keep in mind that its aim is to commemorate our redemption through the suffering and death of Jesus. This means that the selection of songs, Scripture readings and exposition, devotional comments, explanation of the emblems, and prayers should all focus on the Good News of Christ’s redeeming love, manifested in His willingness to suffer and die to redeem us from the power and punishment of sin.

To accomplish this objective, I propose an order of Passover service that can be adapted or changed according to personal preferences or circumstances. As the family or families gather on Passover evening, the head of the home or the pastor (if the celebration takes place in the church) should welcome all the participants to the celebration of Passover by reminding them of the significance of the feast. Here is a suggestion of how to introduce Passover.

"Welcome to our Passover celebration. We have gathered together tonight as a family (or as an extended family) to celebrate the feast of our redemption. This feast began over 34 centuries ago as a celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and became the commemoration of Christ’s deliverance of all believers from the bondage of sin. The purpose of the Passover feast is twofold. On the one hand, it is designed to help us internalize and experience the reality of redemption accomplished through the sacrifice of Christ, our Paschal Lamb. Tonight we shall appropriate the reality of Christ’s redemption by partaking of the emblems of His broken body and shed blood and by experiencing the spiritual cleansing typified by the footwashing ceremony.

"On the other hand, Passover offers us tonight an opportunity to express our thankfulness and gratitude to God for His redemption. We shall do this by singing, praying, reading, and meditating about Christ’s suffering and death for us. The love feast that follows the Holy Communion will offer us an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord for His marvelous provision of salvation."

Introductory remarks such as these are important because they set the stage for the Passover celebration by reminding each participant of the significance of the occasion. At this point, the leader can proceed by outlining the order of service. The following is a suggested order of service for a Passover celebration that can be adapted or changed according to personal preferences.

PASSOVER SERVICE

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:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
The Old Rugged Cross
Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
At the Cross, at the Cross, Where I First Saw the Light
Amazing Grace

4. Paschal Readings and Reflections. A selection of passages from the Old and New Testaments should focus on redemption. These passages can be read by different family members 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 receiv- ing 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 vicari- ous 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."34

* "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. To- night we are here to watch, that is, to appreciate and appropri- ate 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 con- cern 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."35

* 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 despera- tion. Creation was finished with the Sabbath rest of God and redemption was finished with the Sabbath rest of the Savior in the tomb.

5. Paschal Thanksgiving Prayers and Testimonies. 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 testimo- nies of how different members of the family (or congregation) have experienced divine deliverance from sin.

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 Jewish Ritual. The Jewish Passover meal begins with the consecration (kiddush) of the first cup of wine, which is followed by the ceremonial washing of the hands. A pitcher of water, a basin, and a towel are brought to the table for the head of the house to wash and dry his hands. This imitates the priests who washed before entering the Holy Place.

* The Christian Ritual. Jesus used this occasion to institute the foot-washing service (John 13:12-15), which contains an invitation and a promise. The invitation is to "examine" ourselves (1 Cor 11:27) and cleanse our hearts before we receive the emblems of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The promise is that 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 to- gether in the foot-washing service, they can experience mutual reconciliation and cleansing.

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 for the Holy Communion and the Love Feast. The table can be set with both the bread and wine of the Holy Communion and the agape meal,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). At the Holy Commun- ion salvation is not only taught, but caught by eating it. This is a dramatic way to help us internalize and appropriate the reality of Christ’s vicarious death.

* 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 unleav- ened 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).

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."36 The closing prayer could be an appeal to renew our behavioral and eschatological commit- ment.

* 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."

9. 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.

The Agape Meal. Following the Paschal Supper, the early Christians partook of a fellowship meal known as agape, that is, love feast. We, too, can follow this arrangement since the love feast provides an opportunity to express our gratitude for the sacrificial love of Christ commemorated through the emblems of His broken body and shed blood.

Since Passover is the Spring festival, celebrated with the unleavened bread from the first wheat of the new harvest, it seems fitting that the love feast should consist especially of natural produce such as fruits, nuts, salad, vegetables, unleavened bread, cheese, and, possibly, soup; but this is only a suggestion. What is important to keep in mind is that the primary purpose of the love feast is not the eating and drinking, but the expressing of gratitude to the Lord by partaking with thankful hearts of the produce of the earth. A simple meal made up mostly of natural produce can more effectively remind us of the thanksgiving purpose of our fellowship.

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.

Conclusion. Our survey of Passover in Scripture and history has found compelling indications of the continuity of its observance in the Christian church, even though a new meaning and ritual were established by Christ Himself at His last Passover Supper. Christ clearly envisaged the continuity of Passover when he said, "For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16, NIV). The statement suggests that Christ expected His followers to continue eating of the Passover during His absence until its eschatological fulfillment at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9), when He would partake of it again with the redeemed. The fact that the ultimate fulfillment of Passover still lies in the future shows that Passover, like the Sabbath, remains for the people of God. Its observance can aliments our hope and strengthen our faith in the future Passover Supper that we will celebrate with Christ at the consummation of God’s kingdom.

NOTES ON CHAPTER 4

1. Joachim Jeremias, "Pasha," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed., Gerhard Friedrich, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1968), vol. 5, p. 901.

2. As quoted by Heinrich Kellner, Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from Their Origin to the Present Day (London, 1908), pp. 49-50. See also E. J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World (London, 1968), p. 26.

3. For a discussion on the sectarian calendars at the time of Christ, see J. Van Goudoever, Biblical Calendars (Leiden, 1961), pp. 71-123.

4. Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 8, 18. For an analysis of this text and of the April 6 Passover dating, see August Strobel, Ursprung und Geschichte des früchristlichen Osterkalenders (Berlin, 1977), p. 373; Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (New York, 1986), pp. 7-12.

5. The date of March 25 appears in Hyppolitus’ table for the computation of Passover. See "Pâques," Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed., Fernand Cabrol and Henri Leclerq, (Paris, 1950), vol. 6, pp. 2423-2426; Chronicon Paschale ad exemplar Vaticanum recensuit Ludovicus Dindorfus, I (Bonn, 1832), p. 13; Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos 8, 18. The challenge of Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria to the March 25 dating of the Passover are mentioned in the Chronicon Paschale, pp. 13-14.

6. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3, 18-19, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan 1979), second series, vol. 1, p. 525. Emphasis supplied.

7. Ibid.

8. Heinrich Kellner (note 2), p. 57.

9. Ellen G.White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, California, 1954), p. 399.

10. Adolf Adam, trans., Matthew J. O’Connell, The Liturgical Year: Its History and Its Meaning after the Reform of the Liturgy (New York, 1981), p. 59.

11. Martha Zimmerman, Celebrate the Feasts of the Old Testament in Your Own Home or Church (Minneapolis, 1981), p. 56.

12. See Chronicon Paschale, Patrologia Graeca 92, 79D; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 72:1. For a discussion of these and other documents, see Joachim Jeremias (note 1), p. 902, note 49; also Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness (Rome, 1980), pp. 243-244, 307.

13. Chronicon Paschale, Patrologia Graeca 92, 82.

14. Joachim Jeremias (note 1), p. 902.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., p. 903.

17. Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses 70, 11, Patrologia Graeca 42, 359-360. See also Didascalia Apostolorum 10, 2; Apostolic Constitutions 5, 13, 3.

18. Campbell Bonner, trans., Melito of Sardis, the Homily on the Passion, With Some Fragments of Ezekiel, Studies and Documents 12 (Philadelphia, 1940), pp. 67-68.

19. Pesachim 10, 5, Mishnah, trans. Danby ( ), p. 151.

20. J. Van Goudoever (note 3), p. 156.

21. The Epistle of the Apostles 15, The Apocrypha of the New Testament, trans. M. R. James (Oxford, 1924), p. 489.

22. Epistles of Pliny 10, 34. The text is quoted in full and examined at length in F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (Grand Rapids, 1958), p. 169-172.

23. Justin Martyr, The First Apology 67, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed., Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, 1973), vol. 1, p. 186.

24. See, for example, Bruce J. Lieske, A Guide to the Celebration of a Christian Passover (St. Louis, 1980); idem, Passover Haggadah for Christians (St. Louis, 1981); Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times (Baltimore, 1993); Edward Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippenburg, Pensylvania, 1994); Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Christ in the Passover (Chicago, 1978); Mitch and Zhava Glaser, The Fall Feasts of Israel (Chicago, 1987); Martha Zimmerman, Celebrate the Feasts of the Old Testament in Your Home or Church (Minneapolis, 1981).

25. Martha Zimmerman (note 10), p. 60.

26. Ibid., pp. 60-61.

27. Ibid., p. 66.

28. Ibid.

29. Ellen G. White, The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, California, 1958), p. 277.

30. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Christ in the Passover. Why Is This Night Different? (Chicago, 1978), p. 65.

31. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (note 29), p. 278.

32. Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 99b.

33. Ellen G. White, "Is the Blood on the Lintel?" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (May 21, 1895), p. 2.

34. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, California, 1940), p. 25.

35. Ibid., p. 738.

36. Herbert W. Armstrong, God’s Festivals and Holy Days (Pasadena, 1992), p. 7.


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