Our First Family Passover
If you look on the store shelves starting the day after all the hearts go on sale, you’ll find an array of candy-coated chocolate eggs and sugar-doused marshmallows. Our corner of the world is inundated with green plastic grass and multi-colored shells ready to be filled and hidden for children everywhere. After all, isn’t that what Easter is all about? But what if there’s more?
One year, I was reading and studying the Passover story in the Bible and it just hit me in a new way. Things just clicked like never before, and it left me wanting to not forget what I had learned. I knew I would if I didn't make an effort (you know, life, homeschooling, 4 kids, work, etc.,) those incredible spiritual truths just may not make the cut on what is forefront in my mind. But I really wanted what I learned to stick! And I had to make sure I was doing what I could so that my children could also encounter these truths.
So I did something different that year. I actually decided to somewhat forego Easter and focus instead on Passover and Resurrection Day. I wondered if our children would miss out if there weren't any baskets or candy or pictures with a (creepy) bunny suit. I didn't think they would necessarily be missing out, at least not if I did it well, regardless I was up for the challenge. I'm sharing what I did that one year and share whether we still do this or not.
If you’ve read the story of Exodus, you likely already know the basics of Passover and what it’s about. In a nutshell, Passover is a time to remember the first salvation of God’s people. Their firstborn children were spared from the tenth and final plague when the angel of God passed over those homes with the lamb’s blood spread over the doorpost but destroyed all other firstborn in the land…both humans and animals. It was the night a royal son died because of Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let God’s people go. It was the night the Hebrews were finally set free from slavery to the Egyptians.
As a believer, Passover holds a secondary meaning. Shifting my mindset from Easter to Passover wasn't a huge stretch as both celebrations happen around the same time of year and both can honor the sacrifice of Jesus (I will also refer to him as Yeshua, His Hebrew name). Messiah Yeshua Jesus is the final, unblemished, Passover lamb whose blood forever releases me from the penalty for all of my failures. Covering me like the blood over the doorpost, His blood sets me free from slavery just like the Hebrews were set free several thousand years ago.
So now hopefully it's obvious how special of a story this is, I want to share how I went about celebrating Passover and kept it fun for the whole family. And maybe surprisingly…I still had an egg, but it was in plain sight on the Passover seder plate instead of hidden in the front yard landscaping. More on the seder later.
- Got creative with decorations. Do you like to create a festive table for the holidays? I do. I decided to create a scene from Exodus. In my scene, I enjoyed using colored silks, burlap, and little toy figurines to create water, dry land, and some Israelites crossing in the middle. Tiny brick people can become a sizable crowd! Another thing I thought of was to use a 3-inch red ribbon tacked over the top and sides of our front door as a visual reminder of the blood that both protects and frees us forever. It’s also a great way to start conversations about salvation with neighbors and friends who walk by or enter our home. We desire to pass the story on to our children, but because Yeshua Jesus has invited everyone, we also have a commission to share that story with all those we encounter.
- Remove the hametz (leaven) from our home. Think of this as spring cleaning that gets the whole family excited and involved. The children especially loved the final pass through the kitchen looking for any stray crumbs that needed to be swept away. This was a great time to talk with them about sin. Galatians 5:9 reminds us “It takes only a little hametz to leaven the whole batch of dough” when making bread. Likewise, a little sin in our lives can quickly spiral out of our control and allow the enemy to gain a foothold that prevents us from being our best selves before God. For some added fun, I was sure to sprinkle a few crumbs on the counter for them to “find” and sweep away into the garbage.
- Passover seder meal. For thousands of years, God’s people kept His Word (Torah, the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and history alive through oral tradition that was passed down from generation to generation. The Passover Seder is no different. It was designed to both remind the older generation and to teach the younger generation about the deliverance of God’s people from slavery. It was also the same meal Yeshua Jesus ate on the night of His betrayal and subsequent arrest. There are many ways to make it fun even for the youngest of children so that it doesn’t feel like another lecture or other “boring” tale that goes over their heads. It’s all about involving them in the story. I had my kids shout out each of the ten plagues and read along with the responses in the Haggadah (Messianic Haggadah can be found here.) I created a Seder Meal, which is basically a plate of symbolic food that has deeper meaning. The Haggadah link goes way more into detail of the meal, but some common elements are a lamb shank bone, an egg, and horseradish. Other commonly included components are bitter herbs dipped in salt water, some thing sweet (commonly sweet charoset, recipe to follow), and parsley. Matzah (unleavened bread) is also really important. This goes back to the original passover story where the Israelites fled Egypt so quickly they didn't have time to let their bread rise. God specifically instructed them to eat matzah during this Biblical feast to remember that time and His deliverance. It is also what Yeshua Jesus ate during His last supper with His disciples, since they were celebrating Passover together, and they would have been following the instruction from God to eat only unleavened bread/matzah. When it came time for us to partake of the Seder Meal, I encouraged my family to try everything…the bitter herbs dipped in salt water as well as the sweet charoset. I learned it was also helpful to involve them in the preparations beforehand. My older children helped chop apples and walnuts while my younger children helped measure ingredients and stir them in.
Here is a simple recipe for charoset:
- 2 apples, finely chopped
- 6 dates, finely chopped
- 6 walnuts, finely chopped
- ¼ c raisins, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- Matzo meal as needed to thicken it (it is supposed to represent mortar)
Combine all ingredients (you can also opt to use a food processor) adding enough matzo meal to hold the mixture together like a paste.
- Skipped the Easter eggs and hid the afikomen (Hebrew for “that which comes after”). During the Passover seder, the middle piece of matzah is traditionally broken in half and one of those halves is hidden in a special cloth or linen pouch. This pouch is then hidden somewhere in the home…usually buried beneath something. The children are released near the end of the seder to search for the afikomen and once it is found, the final part of the meal can be completed. Jewish children have loved this tradition for many years, but we can also see so much imagery of Yeshua Jesus as well. Yeshua is the matzah (bread) of life whose body was broken for us, wrapped in linen, and buried in a tomb. The afikomen is the last thing we eat during the seder and was likely the last thing Yeshua ate before He was arrested that night in the garden. As the children found the pouch and removed the matzah, we reminded them and ourselves that Yeshua did not remain buried or wrapped in linens. He is alive!
What I Learned
I learned that celebrating Passover did not mean completely forgetting about the resurrection that Easter is supposed to focus on. Like so many of the Hebraic traditions and festivals, it 1) served to remind us of God’s provision and deliverance in the past, 2) pointed us to Yeshua Jesus, our Messiah, and 3) prepared us for “that which comes after” as we readied ourselves, our family, and our world for His return. We enjoyed fully embracing this time with our family and friends and we continue to celebrate the Passover and Resurrection Day season in this way. Chag Pesach Sameach! (Happy Passover Festival!)
Contributed by Amber Whiteaker
Amber can be contacted at email@example.com