Summary: This is the text of a Good Friday service worked into a series. It featured an on-stage enactment of a Passover Seder, "narrated" by the speaker of the message, explaining the significance of Passover in light of the gospel.
Introduction: (Scripture read - offstage)
…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.
Joke - Moses was sitting in the Egyptian ghettos. Things were terrible. Pharaoh wouldn't even speak to him. The rest of the Israelites were mad at him and making the overseers even more irritable than usual. He was about ready to give up.
Suddenly a booming voice spoke from above:
"You, Moses, listen to me! I have good news, and bad news."
Moses was staggered. The voice continued:
"You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel from bondage. If Pharaoh refuses to release your bonds, I will smite Egypt by changing the Nile River to blood."
"You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel to the Promised Land. If Pharaoh blocks your way, I will smite Egypt with a plague of Locust."
"You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel to freedom and safety. If Pharaoh's army pursues you, I will part the waters of the Red Sea to open your path to the Promised Land."
Moses was stunned. He stammered, "That's.... that's fantastic. I can't believe it! --- But what's the bad news?"
"You, Moses, must write the Environmental Impact Statement."
It’s a pivotal part of Israel’s history, where, 430 years to the day, they will leave Egypt and pursue the promise God long before made to Abraham. Pharaoh’s heart has become hard and cold. He has allowed his people to endure the first 9 plagues. It was time for the 10th plague.
Throughout Israel’s history, observing the Passover was one of the most important of all holidays. It was a kind of independence day celebration, recalling how God brought the nation out of slavery and into freedom. Everyone was to observe it every year. Over the centuries, several different traditions were developed. By the 1st century, there were many specific rituals every family would go through as they celebrated. Modern-day Jews still celebrate the Passover each year, and while its basic purpose hasn’t changed, the traditions continue to vary some.
Here tonight, we’re looking in on a re-creation of a 1st cent. Passover and some of the traditions that were probably observed during it.
On the 10th of Nisan, a 1 year old male sheep or goat was purchased. It would be taken care of by the family for the next few days, until it was sacrificed.
On the 13th of Nisan, the house is searched for anything leavened. Everything that’s found is eaten or given away. All of the regular dishes of the house are put away, and a special set, just for the Passover, is brought out.
On twilight of Thursday, the Passover Lamb is taken to the temple and slaughtered. The Passover sacrifice was the only sacrifice where the family participated in the slaying of the animal. The lamb was to be roasted without breaking any of its bones. All of it was to be eaten by morning, or the rest was to be burned. With the lamb prepared, it was time to celebrate the Passover.
Jewish women light 2 candles to begin every Sabbath and Jewish festival. The day begins at night - when the 3rd star can be seen in the evening sky. The candles are functional lights, to make sure that the family has light so they can eat, talk, and study. Many women light one candle for every member of their family. Everyone reclines around the table. The 1st Passover was eaten in a hurry, as if everyone was about to leave. But now, the Jews assumed the position of free people, reclining around the table.
There are 3 or 4 cups in the 1st century Passover meal, each with a different significance. The first is called the cup of Deliverance. A special wine, made by soaking raisins, would be poured into the cups along with hot water. The head of the house would then offer a blessing - to God, not to the cup, but to the God who provided it. This was called the Kiddush:
“You are blessed, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the vine, You are blessed, God, You hallow Israel and the festive seasons.” Everyone would drink, and then the cups would be refilled.
Jewish meals and festivals included various ceremonial washings. At this point in a 1st Cent. Passover, a ceremonial washing called the Rachtzah would have prepared everyone for the handling of food. You might recall how Jesus’ disciples were criticized for eating with what the Pharisees called “unwashed hands.” It makes me wonder if Jesus included hand washing the night He observed the Passover with the 12. He certainly washed feet, but it wasn’t just because His men had dirty feet. It was to teach a lesson in humility.