The following is excerpted from Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi's book God's
Festivals in Scripture and History on Passover:
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 Gods
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.
The Observance of Passover Today. 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.
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 Lords Supper, followed
by a fellowship (agape) meal.
Passover Service. 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 Christs redeeming love, manifested in His willingness
to suffer and die to redeem us from the power and punishment of sin.
The following is a suggested order of service for a Passover celebration
that can be adapted or changed according to personal preferences. [In
outline form. See the above link for a full description.]
- Welcome to Passover.
- Paschal Opening Prayer.
- Paschal Hymns.
- Paschal Readings and Reflections.
- Paschal Thanksgiving Prayers and Testimonies.
- The Paschal Cleansing: John 13:3-20.
- The Paschal Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
- The Paschal Commitment.
- Paschal Closing Hymn.
- The Agape Meal.