Passover Celebration in our Family

A Family Celebration Based on Matthew 26:17-30

To celebrate the purpose of Passion Week, our family has a traditional experiential time to understand the connection between the Exodus and the Christ Event. I share it with you so that you might incorporate it into your family traditions:

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. (Matthew 26:17-19)

Toward mid afternoon on the Thursday of Passover, one
lamb per household would be brought to the temple court where the priests sacrificed them. The priests took the blood and passed it in basins along a line till it was poured out at the foot of the altar. As opposed to our 24-hour clock, In the Hebrew culture, the next day did not begin at midnight, but after sunset. So, once the sun went down, it became “Friday.” The household would gather in a home to eat the Passover lamb.

Thursday during the day: Searching for and Dumping the Leaven

According to Leviticus 23:6 and Numbers 28:17, Jews were forbidden to use yeast in their bread for seven days during and after Passover. Exodus 12:18 says that yeast should be removed from the house on Thursday. So, at noon of Thursday, all the leaven (the yeast) in the house was taken out.

This was to remind the Israelites that when they hastily departed from Egypt, they could not wait to
bake leavened bread so they carried dough and kneading-troughs with them, baking as they wandered. The prohibition on leaven was also used as a teaching device: fermentation implied disintegration and corruption, and to the Hebrew anything in a decayed state suggested uncleanness. Rabbinical writers often used leaven as a symbol of evil and of humanity's corruption. Just as the leaven works its way through a whole loaf of bread, so our sin works its way through the entire family of God.

So, to echo the Hebrew tradition, my wife and I hide yeast packets all over the house (much like an Easter Egg Hunt), for the kids to find. They search the house high and low, seeking to find any yeast that may have been hidden in the
household. As they search, we remind the children that yeast is what decays the bread, and sin is what decays our family - individually and corporately. We tell them that we must find all the yeast and dump it outside the house, showing our desire to dump all sin outside of the family of God.

When they have found all the yeast packets, we go outside and open them and dump them in our front yard. "Lord, we dump this out as a symbol of our desire to dump sin from our family."

Preparing the Meal: Lamb and Bitter Herbs

The children help us prepare the lamb and the bitter herbs for dinner. We do not eat lunch on Thursday because we want to fast and grow hungry while the smell of the lamb cooks in the oven.

We start by preparing the rack of lamb. We follow this recipe from allrecipes.com:


  • 1 (7 bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Move oven rack to the center position.
  2. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.
  3. Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy oven proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Brush rack of lamb with the mustard. Roll in the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring.
  4. Arrange the rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you want. With a meat thermometer, take a reading in the center of the meat after 10 to 12 minutes and remove the meat, or let it cook longer, to your taste. Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes, loosely covered, before carving between the ribs.


Allow internal temperature to be 5 to 10 degrees less than you like because the meat will continue to cook while it sits. Bloody rare: 115 to 125 degrees F Rare: 125 to 130 degrees F Medium rare: 130 to 140 degrees F Medium: 140 to 150 degrees F

I also came up with my own recipe for "Greens and Bitter Herbs":


  • One bunch of Kale
  • One bunch of Arugula
  • One bunch of Dandelion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1tablespoon olive oil

  • Slowly simmer all ingredients together in a pan until wilted.

The First Cup of Wine and the Bitter Herbs

To start out the feast, the head of the Hebrew household would pray, giving

thanks for the feast day (the Passover Kiddush) and for the wine (I suggest you purchase a good Cabernet or Merlot!), praying over the first of four cups to be drunk throughout the meal. A preliminary course of greens and bitter herbs was followed by the Passover haggadah--in which a boy would ask the meaning of all this, and the head of the household would explain how the symbols pertain to the Exodus.

So, what we do is begin with eating the Greens and Bitter Herbs, and one of my children (they take turns each year), will ask me, "Why do we eat this meal?" And I will explain:

The Passover is the celebration of God “passing over” the Israelites when they were in Egypt. The story is found in Exodus 11 and 12, which tells how Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, and how, as a final blow against the evil of the Egyptians, God threatened to kill every firstborn in Egypt, but wou

ld spare the Israelites of the same terrible curse:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.
(Exodus 12:12-14)

After explaining this, the Hebrew family would sing the first part (perhaps just Psalm 113) of the Hallel (Palms 113-119). We read Psalm 113 together as a family.

2. The Second Cup (Matthew 26:20-25)

Then a second cup of wine is drank, to introduce the main course—the Passover Lamb. We recline on the floor to share in the lamb (or, if you are a vegetarian, try a specially-seasoned veggie-burger!) and some Peta bread to dip into the Bitter Herbs or a bowl of seasoned olive oil.

It was at this juncture that Matthew 26:20-25 occurred, so we read this passage.
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
Jesus replied,
“The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered,
“Yes, it is you.”

The NIV is misleading: it gives the impression that a particular "one" is in view, when in fact most, if not all, those present would have dipped into the same bowl as Jesus, given the eating styles of the day. Jesus' point is that the betrayer is a friend, someone close, someone sharing the common dish, thus heightening the enormity of the betrayal.

The Third Cup (Matthew 26:26-29)
This was followed by a third cup, known as the “cup of blessing,” accompanied by another prayer of thanksgiving. As a family, we continue to read about the Last Supper in Matthew (Matthew 26:26-29):

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus again gives thanks, praying something like, "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine." Jesus “gave thanks,” the Greek word is eucharistesas which has given us the word "Eucharist." Some Protestants have avoided the term because of its associations with the traditional Roman Catholic mass, but the term itself is surely not objectionable. W

e are to “give thanks” as well! So, as a family, we take turns praying short, one-sentence prayers thanking God for his creation, provision, and deliverance.

At this juncture, we must make the connection very clear for everyone. Jesus understood the violent and sacrificial death he is about to undergo as the ratification of the covenant he is inaugurating with his people. He is using the same language that was used when Moses ratified the covenant of Sinai by the shedding of blood in Exodus 24:3-8.

When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’S words and laws, they responded with one v

oice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
(Exodus 24:3-8)

Therefore, what Jesus was saying is this: What we have here is a new exodus! In the Old Testament, God saved the people from the evil of Pharaoh and created a deep, lasting relationship with them by creating a covenant relationship with them, giving them the Law that spelled out the stipulations of this covenant relationship between the people and God. Moses received that Law written on Stone Tablets and in the Book of the Covenant. Moses ratified the covenant with the blood of the animals at that sacrifice. And then he says, in verse 8, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Now, at this Passover Meal commemorating that event of the Exodus, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, tells them that the bread is his body, and the wine is the blood of the New Covenant. He says, echoing those words from Exodus,
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

The greatest event in the Older Testament is the Exodus. And Easter is the fulfillment of that Exodus event! Christ delivers (yes, Jesus SAVES!) his people from their bondage to sin through his death. Again, we have a “Covenant” between man and God. Again, it is ratified with blood. But this time it is the “New” Covenant. In fact some of our ancient manuscripts actually has that word there—“This is my blood of the new covenant…” and in Luke’s account of this event, Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This is what the Prophet Jeremiah spoke of—

31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
___“when I will make a new covenant
_____with the house of Israel
_____and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
___I made with their forefathers
_____when I took them by the hand
_____to lead them out of Egypt,
___because they broke my covenant,
_____though I was a husband to them,”
_______declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.
___“I will put my law in their minds
_____and write it on their hearts.
___I will be their God,
_____and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
___or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
___because they will all know me,
___from the least of them to the greatest,”
______declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
___and will remember their sins no more.”

_______(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Therefore, we are to see the Exodus as a "type" of a new and greater deliverance! It is a foreshadowing of the spiritual reality of what the whole Bible points to!

The New Exodus.jpg (45629 bytes)The incredible deliverance of the Exodus was commemorated each year with the Passover Feast. The Passover celebrates how God saved the people and led them to the Promised Land in which they can dwell with God in covenant relationship.

The Last Supper, eaten on Passover, and the Lord’s Supper, that we do in remembrance of this event, celebrates that God saves us from sin and is leading us on the exodus to the Promised Land in which we can dwell with God in covenant relationship. Only our experience is grander and more powerful—for we have the Law written on our hearts.

Therefore, this Third Cup, called the “Cup of Blessing” in the Hebrew tradition, truly is the greatest blessing of all! It is the blessing of eternal life!

4. The Fourth Cup

After this, it was customary to sing the rest of the Hallel (Psalms 114-18) and then drink a fourth cup of wine.

And that is basically what we read in Matthew 26:30.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)

We finish our time as a family singing whatever our favorite worship song is for that year!

Have a blessed Easter!!


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