Passover for Believers in Yeshua

(Updated for 2024)

Passover (Pesach) is observed on the evening of 14 Aviv, the fourteenth day of the first Biblical month. For the Gregorian year 2024, Passover is on the evening of Monday, April 22. The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag haMatzot) begins immediately following Passover, from the evening of 14 Aviv, April 22, to the evening of 21 Aviv, April 29 (Exodus 12:18).

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are inseparable. The term “Passover” is sometimes used to refer to the evening of Passover and the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread together.

While the day of Passover, Aviv 14, is not itself one of the annual Sabbaths, the following day, Aviv 15, is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and is a rest day. Though Torah does not actually call this a Sabbath. The New Testament calls this a “High” Sabbath (John 19:31).

The First Passover

You can read the story of the first Passover in Exodus 12. The first occurrence of the word Passover (פסח pesach, Strong’s number H6453) in the Hebrew Bible is in Exodus 12:11, “you shall eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.” The ancient Israelites were about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. Nine plagues were inflicted on Pharaoh and his land, and each time he refused to let Israel leave. The Passover lamb was the source of the blood the Israelites were to apply to the doorpost and crossbeam of their houses.

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb (Hebrew: ha-pasach, from pesach, a noun, #H6453). You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass (Hebrew: pasach, a verb, #H6452) over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:21-23).

When you read the phrase “Passover lamb,” the word “lamb” does not actually appear in the Hebrew text. It is supplied by the translators for clarity. Initially, the “Passover” was the lamb that was sacrificed. The term later came to represent the memorial that included slaying, roasting, and eating the Passover lamb.

The events surrounding Passover and the exodus from Egypt are among the most significant in the history of ancient Israel. They are memorialized each year in the first of the annual celebrations described in Torah. There are some elements of that first Passover were unique to that event, and they are not repeated annually in the Memorial Passover observance. Among those are:

1. Select the lamb on the 10th day of the month
2. Blood applied to the doorpost and crossbeam
3. Eaten in haste, dressed for travel

The Passover Memorial Observance

The original event happened once; the memorial event is to be observed (kept, Hebrew root word shamar) forever, literally ‘ad olam, “until forever,” or perpetually (Exodus 12:24). Verse 15 describes it as a “permanent ordinance.” The first instructions for how to observe the memorial begin right along with the instructions for the initial event (Exodus 12:14-20,24-27,43-51). It is interesting to note that all instructions for how to observe the memorial of the Passover are found in the Torah. While there are historical accounts of the observance in the rest of the Bible, no additional instructions are given.

The memorial is observed on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. For more on when this is, see my post When Is Passover? Further instructions include:

1. Any male eating the Passover must be circumcised (Exodus 12:44,48).
2. The Passover must be eaten in one house and isn’t to be carried from place to place (Exodus 12:46).
3. No bones of the Passover can be broken (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12) .
4. Nothing can be left over to the next day (Numbers 9:12).
5. It is to be eaten along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Numbers 9:11).
6. It must be slaughtered “at the place where Yahweh your God shall choose to place his name” (Deuteronomy 16:5-6).

The Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) provides a few accounts of Passover memorial observances.

Numbers 9 – the Israelites observe the first anniversary of Passover.
Joshua 5 – Passover is observed just prior to entering the Promised Land.
2 Chronicles 30 – King Hezekiah holds a Passover.
2 Kings 23 / 2 Chronicles 35 – King Josiah holds a Passover.
Ezra 6 – Passover is held in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

The Passover memorial observance requires three things be eaten. Everything else is an optional addition, including the wine.

1. The Passover lamb,
2. Unleavened bread, and
3. Bitter herbs

There are also three participatory requirements.

1. The lamb must be slain in the place where Yahweh chooses to place his name.
2. Nothing is to be left over until the morning, and
3. Any male participant must be physically circumcised – there is no requirement for females.

We are also instructed to remember and tell the story of the original Passover each time.

Passover in the New Testament

One of the earliest events recorded in the life of Yeshua is his trip to Jerusalem for Passover when he was twelve years old, found only in the Gospel of Luke. Luke 2:41 says that his parents did this every year. John is the only Gospel to mention two other Passovers during Yeshua’s three-and-a-half year public ministry up until his final Passover, which is recorded in all four Gospels. These four accounts are not homogeneous.

Only the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) describe the bread, though John does say Yeshua dipped a morsel in something. None of the Gospels mention lamb or bitter herbs at the meal. The Synoptics also introduce wine, something never before mentioned in regard to Passover. We might safely assume that people drank something at this meal, but it is never specifically mentioned as part of the celebration. Traditionally there are four cups of wine as part of the Passover Seder, yet it is uncertain exactly when this tradition developed.

There can be no doubt that Yeshua wanted his disciples to understand that the Passover had been foreshadowing his death. He took bread and identified it as his body; he took wine and identified it as his blood. Only Luke quotes Yeshua as telling his disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Luke probably learned this from Paul, who wrote these same words in 1 Corinthians 11:25. While it is noteworthy to reflect on the elements of Passover as prophetic of Yeshua, it should also be noted that Yeshua did not in any way change or add to God’s instructions for observing Passover.

Since none of the original instructions are changed in the New Testament, there are two important things to note. First, the requirement that males be circumcised still remains. While circumcision of the heart is an interesting study, it does not replace physical circumcision for Passover. Second, slaying a Passover lamb “in the place where Yahweh chooses to place his name” is also an interesting study. I won’t comment on Jerusalem or the Temple, but for most if not all of us, this is not possible.

The Passover Seder

For many families, preparation for Passover begins several days ahead of time with cleaning the house and removing leaven. Sometimes when there are children, something is left behind for them to search for and find so that they can experience removing it. The Passover is an elaborate formal meal, or Seder (a word meaning “order”), served using the best dishes and table service.

The traditional Passover Seder is a lengthy experience, sometimes lasting 4 hours or more. The order of the Passover Seder is set forth in the Haggadah, meaning “telling.” In a complete Seder there are fifteen steps that incorporate both the Scriptural requirements and traditions. I describe a 15-step Messianic Passover Haggadah that I created for use with prison inmates here that you can download.

Believers in Yeshua will also remember his death during the Passover Seder.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
(Matthew 26:26-28)

Some folks will also practice foot washing before the Seder, remembering Yeshua washing his disciples’ feet as recorded in John 13.


Blessing Over the Wine

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
בּוֺרֵא פּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
bo’re p’ri ha’gafen

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Blessing Over the Bread

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
הַמּוֺצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

Blessing for Eating Matzah

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
אֲשֶּׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֺתָיו
וֽצִוָּנוּ עַל אַכִילַת מָצָה

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav
v’tzivanu al achilat matzah

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Who has sanctified us by His commandments
And commanded us to eat matzah

Blessing for Eating Bitter Herb

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
אֲשֶּׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֺתָיו
וֽצִוָּנוּ עַל אַכִילַת מָרוֺר

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav
v’tzivanu al achilat maror

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Who has sanctified us by His commandments
And commanded us to eat bitter herb

Blessing of the Messiah

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ הַדֶרֶךְ לְיְשׁוּעָה
בַּמָּשִׁיחַ יֵשׁוּעַ אָמֵן

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha-olam
Asher natan lanu ha-derekh l’y’shuah
ba’mashiach Yeshua amein

Blessed are You, O LORD
Our God, King of the universe
Who has given us the way of salvation
In Messiah Yeshua, amen.


Matzah Toffee

This one is a favorite for our family, and is also a big hit with the inmates when I hold a Passover Seder in prison.


2 sticks butter (do not use margarine)
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with no-stick cooking spray. Line cookie sheet with a single layer of matzot. Cut or break them to fit, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 sticks butter with brown sugar. Slowly bring to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes. It will be thick.

Pour directly over the matzot and place in oven for 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it does not burn. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. When they melt, spread with a spatula.

Let the pan cool on the counter then move to refrigerator. When it is set, break into chunks.

Unleavened Bread

There is an abundance of good recipes for unleavened bread. Here is a simple and easy unleavened bread recipe.

Additional Posts about Passover

The Original Passover Story
Another Messianic Passover Haggadah
Celebrating the Passover
Thoughts on Passover
When Is Passover?

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