If you’re not reading this series in order, I’d recommend reading the prior article before reading on. For me and my house, we don’t see Messiah holding a Pesach “Seder” the night before his death. So we, like Yeshua, hold a separate meal the night before Pesach. That’s the night we really focus on Messiah’s ministry, his suffering, and his work on the cross. The next night, actually on Pesach itself, we have a second meal around which we focus on the Exodus story, honoring the night our people were originally freed from bondage. One point that I’ve made over and over again during this series is that the themes of Pesach did not change or end with the coming of Messiah. Like every other Old Testament principle, Messiah came to accentuate them, not dismiss them. The themes of The Last Supper and Pesach are really no different, but these two meals are so foundational to our lives that we take two nights to squeeze out all the goodness.
I’m going to spend the next several weeks detailing the meanings and heart-attitudes behind all of the elements of the Pesach meal, this post will cut to the chase and describe what the night looks like for we Schminkes in our home. The traditional Hebrew word used for this meal is a “seder” which simple means “in order”, alluding to the ritual aspect of Pesach that makes this night different than any other. Scripturally speaking, the word seder is only used once in all of scripture (and it’s in Job, not related to either Pesach or to the Exodus.) Also typical in Judaism is a “Haggadah”, which is a guidebook to keep things in order. We keep things simple, so other than our scriptures at the table, we don’t have a need for a second script.
Remember, as you read through our version, that the details of what YHWH expects on Pesach are extremely limited and very brief. The variety of traditions each family will bring to the table is part of the beauty and diversity of the body of Messiah. Of the few actual required elements, the most important one is faith—without which the rest of the night is spent in vain. Otherwise you may as well just have a ham and cheese sandwich and go to bed early.
As our ancestors have done for thousands of years, we spend the 14th day, prior to our meal, cleaning our cupboards of bread containing any leaven. Early in our walk we would over-do it (we over-did just about everything) and burned toothpaste, deodorant, and even gave away or threw out 5-gallon buckets of baking powder and/or soda. We finally realized that the command was not to have leavened BREAD in our home, and to eat only unleavened BREAD for the next week. The object-lesson being taught here is specific to the leavening process in bread—don’t be so hasty to pour your beer down the sink (at least not for this reason).
The table is set with no chairs, as we choose to eat the Pesach as if we are in a hurry to leave. This is no time to be comfy or to recline. To a large degree, this meal is transactional, it’s a business dinner. Like our “Last Supper”, we keep the Pesach menu consistent with Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean food. Typically we’ll decorate as well, but we try to keep things classy and appropriate for the night. This is a life-and-death kind event, so for me and my house we don’t go the children’s-party route with rubber frogs and all that. (We have in the past, but that’s not where we are now.) I think the serious message of this night shouldn’t be sanitized, even for children.
My wife and daughters would already have lamb marinating in something yummy, already prepared on spears for roasting over the fire. (If I was smart, I’d use this series as a vehicle to sell those herbs and spices.) I know of several families with farms who have chosen to slaughter their own lamb on this night. Personally, we don’t want to confuse ritual sacrifice and slaughtering meat for food. There is a command in Duet 16:5, “Do not sacrifice the Pesach within your gates”. After the original night in Egypt, YHWH took away our option for DIY sacrifices, so I’d avoid that potential misunderstanding and either buy or slaughter your lamb in advance. Again, Messiah is our Pesach–we are doing all of this to remember what has already been done. We don’t need to sacrifice animals again and again.
Just before the sun goes down, we put the lamb-ka-bobs on an open fire. While they cook, we go to the front door, and put a red scarf or red sheet over the doorway. It adds some impact to hammer nails into the wood to affix the banner. The nails both recall Messiah’s cross and also the idea nailing our ears to the doorpost to show our loyalty to a good master who offers us our freedom. We’ll pray and thank YHWH for shedding the Blood of the True Lamb, and for protecting our household from death through the death of Yeshua. We’ll close the door, and then not to go back outside at all until the sun rises the following morning. Like with Noah, inside is life, outside is death. Elijah already came in the form of John the Baptist, so there’s no need to let the heat out.
We will then all gather around the table. It is set with the pattered lamb, plus copious amounts of matzah. We have parsley set out, a bowl of salt water, and a good amount of ground horseradish. We have a really yummy recipe for charoset (a traditional Jewish sweet spread for the matzah). Also, olives, cheese, and cream-cheese stuffed dates. For the true purist, the only required elements listed in Exodus 12, are the lamb, the matzah, and some sort of bitter herb. Surprisingly, wine is not listed in Exodus as a requirement at Pesach, although it’s central to a traditional Jewish Seder ceremony. It is not uncommon for there to be four or more glasses per person at a traditional Seder.
As I mentioned before, we stand around the table at Pesach. As per the language in Exodus, we have our shoes on, our loins girded (as usual, thankfully) and at least I, as the father, will have a staff in my hand. As discussed at length in previous articles, timing is everything, so just when the sun is setting and the full moon is rising–its time to eat. Since we are a dressed for the mission, after a quick prayer we eat with vigor. For the firstborn around the table, this is the first food we’ve had since the prior night’s Last Supper. It’s not hard to get into the spirit.
In the past, I’ve tried to read Exodus 12 and other select Pesach verses while we ate, but the speed at which we devour this yummy lamb and trimmings put my share of lamb at risk. Last year, we played an audio bible version of the entire Exodus story. This way I could keep my remaining hand, as well as my mouth, free for eating. Dinner is all finger food, so it doesn’t take long at all until we are full. The joke at a traditional Jewish Passover Seder is “When do we eat?” because it’s not uncommon for it to take hours to make it through a Sedar Haggadah. On our Pesach, we are typically done eating in less than 15 minutes.
In Exodus 12:42 it says, “It was a night of watching by YHWH, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to YHWH by all of the people of Israel throughout their generations.” In this spirit, as well as a callback the request by Messiah for his disciples to stay awake past midnight, we too make a valiant attempt to stay up till the sunrises. On this night, the morning sun rises at the same exact time the full moon sets. The night of Pesach is the perfect center of a beautiful celestial chiasm. The children in particular love this aspect of the night—no bedtime. Sometimes we’ll sleep in shifts, but most often we’ll stay up and study scripture, play or write music, or if we have friends over it’s a neat time to just talk at length—using sleep deprivation to really get to know one another. There’s no better night of the year to hear everyone’s personal redemption stories.
There’s a command to ensure that any lamb not consumed before sunrise is burnt up in the fire. Since we’re up for 11 hours or so after dinner, this gives us plenty of time to continue to snack off of the leftovers that remain on the table. (I don’t think we’ve ever had any lamb remaining the following morning.)
At sunrise, whoever hasn’t slept yet gets a chance to crash. This is now the 15th of the month, and the threat of proverbial death has past. We are now in the High Sabbath of Matzah, a commanded day off from work. We have zero agenda other than to celebrate our newly remembered freedom, and to honor YHWH’s eternal faithfulness towards us. Weather permitting, which seems to have been the case for a nice 10-year streak, we’ll take a drive to a park or somewhere where we can stretch our legs. This was the morning, back in Egypt, where our people walked freely across the border and out of Pharaoh’s clutches. After being awake all night indoors, being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air carries with it that same spirit of liberation. We make sure to walk out of the same door where the symbol of the Blood of the Lamb still is nailed. That will stay affixed for seven days, until the last day of Unleavened Bread.
The preparations and investment that you and your family makes on this night will pay dividends in every possible way. You’ll be blessed by seeing yourself as part of an profound ancient story. The idea of being “one” with Messiah, as he is One with the Father, will become more and more tangible. When YHWH requires something from us, we only get rewarded in proportion to what we put in. Remember the parable of the talents? This night is not the night to bury what you’ve been given, or phone-in your faith. We’ve been grafted in to a cultivated olive tree, and this is the night when we thank the vine-dresser. If we kick-off this year’s cycle of Feasts properly, we can expect an outpouring of fruit in the fall. Draw near to Him. He will be faithful to finish the good work he has begun in you.
I hope this article has given you food for thought. Take what speaks to you, and leave the rest. Coming soon are deep-dives into doors, blood, lamb, matzah, bitter herbs, sleep, haste, congregations, plagues, mouths, fire, food, and the nature of ritual in general.