Book: The Christian Passover Ceremony

At His last Passover, Jesus Christ instituted the service of footwashing and instructed His disciples to partake of the unleavened bread and wine as the symbols of His sacrifice.  True Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ to observe the New Covenant Passover—the Christian Passover.  However, it must be observed properly.  The apostle Paul warned the Christians at Corinth of the dire consequences of eating and drinking the new symbols unworthily: “For this reason, if anyone shall eat this bread or shall drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, he shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup accordingly” (I Cor. 11:27-28).

Partaking of the Passover unworthily includes the following:

  1. An improper manner, improper symbols, and an incorrect day and time
  2. An improper attitude of rebellion or habitual, calloused sinfulness
  3. Not discerning the body of Jesus Christ for healing
  4. Not discerning the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins

Partaking of the Passover worthily includes the following:

  1. The proper manner, proper symbols and the correct day and time
  2. A humble, loving repentant, yielded attitude
  3. Discerning the body of the Lord and trusting Him for healing
  4. Discerning the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins

The apostle Paul clearly taught the Christians at Corinth that they were not to eat a meal with the New Covenant Passover and that it should not be called “the Lord’s Supper” (I Cor. 11:20-22).  A meal is not to be eaten with the New Covenant Passover because it is a solemn ceremony in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and death for our sins.

Paul warned, “Because the one who eats and drinks unworthily is eating and drinking judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.  For this very reason, many are weak and sickly among you, and many have fallen asleep.  Now if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned with the world” (I Cor. 11:29-32).

Prior to the observance of the New Covenant Passover, each Christian should prayerfully examine himself, or herself, in order to fully realize that it is only through the love and grace of God that this gracious salvation of God the Father has been granted to each one whom God the Father calls.  While Christians are commanded to do good works and keep all of God's commandments as a way of life, it can only be accomplished through faith and the love of God.  The renewal of the New Covenant each year through observing the New Covenant Passover is each Christian’s solemn pledge to live and walk in the ways of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

If we truly love God with all our hearts and minds, we will desire to do what is pleasing to God the Father and Jesus Christ and we will observe the New Covenant Passover—the Christian Passover—exactly as Jesus Christ commanded.

The Footwashing

The footwashing service of the Passover ceremony renews one’s baptism yearly.  (For a full explanation of footwashing, read The Christian Passover by Fred R. Coulter).

Preparations should be made ahead of time for the footwashing so that this service may be conducted as smoothly as possible.  A sufficient supply of warm water should be furnished, taking into consideration the number of people participating.  Each participant should provide his or her own pan and towel for the footwashing service.  If the number of participants permits, it is entirely proper for the men and the women to wash feet separately.

If a Christian is forced by circumstances to observe the Passover alone, then he or she will not be able to perform the footwashing service.  In such cases, the individual Christian should certainly read and study the footwashing part of the Passover ceremony, and in faith before God should pray for understanding of the meaning of footwashing.  This special prayer to God about the meaning of footwashing can be offered in place of the actual service of footwashing.

After the footwashing is concluded, the Passover ceremony continues with the eating of the unleavened bread.

The Unleavened Bread

For the Christian Passover, only unleavened bread is to be eaten.  As the Scriptures show, all leaven was removed from houses in preparation for the Passover day, the 14th day of the 1st month, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which follows the Passover and lasts from the 15th day through the 21st day.  In addition to removing all leaven, unleavened bread was baked and made ready for the Passover and the Feast.  (Read The Christian Passover for a full explanation.)  A recipe for making unleavened bread is provided on page 31.     

If the New Covenant Passover—the Christian Passover—is to be observed in a private home, the room chosen for the ceremony should be completely unleavened prior to the Passover.  If the Passover is to be observed in a rented room, those preparing the room should remove any leaven from the confines of that room prior to observing the Passover.

The unleavened bread to be used for distribution to the participants should be placed on a dish or tray and be covered with a clean white cloth.  An excessive amount of bread should not be placed on the dish or tray, because this bread will be broken and blessed to represent the body of Jesus Christ.  Any bread and crumbs left after the services have concluded should be burned in fire that night, in accordance with God’s instructions for the remains of the lambs used for the Old Covenant Passover (Ex. 12:10).

For the Old Testament Passover, a lamb or kid goat was required to be sacrificed at the household of the participants.  In the New Testament, in his epistle to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul clearly teaches that the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ replaced and superseded all the animal sacrifices required under the Old Covenant (Heb. 9:12).  Jesus Christ is the New Covenant Passover Lamb, the perfect sacrifice of God the Father for the remission of our sins: “For Christ OUR PASSOVER was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).

The Wine

Few people realize that the skins of grapes have natural yeast spores which initiate the fermentation process almost immediately after the juice has been squeezed.  Before the advent of pasteurization and refrigeration, it was impossible to have grape juice year round as we do today, because there was no way to preserve the juice and prevent it from fermenting.  The only time of year when grape juice could be consumed was at the time of the crushing of the grapes, which always occurred in late summer, when the grapes were harvested.  Since grape juice could not be preserved, it was used to make either wine or vinegar.

The term “fruit of the vine” in Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:18 is not referring to grape juice.  In the spring, at Passover time, “the fruit of the vine” can only refer to wine.  The Greek word for unfermented grape juice is trudz and is never used in reference to wine.  The Greek word for wine is oinos, which always means wine fermented from the juice of grapes.  In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, it is recorded that Jesus created 180 gallons of wine, or oinos, out of water.  He did not create grape juice.  Jesus drank oinos, or wine. Those who criticized Him called Him a “winebibber,” as recorded in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34.  The Greek word for “winebibber” is oinopotees from oinos.

There is additional Scriptural proof that the term “fruit of the vine” does not mean grape juice.  In the Gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus,’parable of the vineyard: “There was a certain man, a master of a house, who planted a vineyard, and put a fence around it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and then leased it to husbandmen and left the country.  Now when the season of the fruits was drawing near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen to receive his fruits” (Mat. 21:33-34).

The specific mention of the winepress in this parable shows that the purpose of the vineyard was to produce wine.  That is the “fruits” that the owner expected to receive from his vineyard.  It was impossible for the owner, who was not in the country, to receive fresh grapes or fresh grape juice from the husbandmen.  The only fruits he could safely receive were raisins, which are sun-dried grapes, or wine fermented from the juice of the grapes.  While it is possible that some of the grapes could have been dried into raisins, the winepress in the parable indicates that most of the grapes were crushed and used to make wine.  That was the “fruits” of the vineyard, or “the fruit of the vine.”

At His last Passover, Jesus told the disciples, “But I say to you, from this time forward I will not drink at all of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew with you in the kingdom of My Father” (Matt. 26:29 and Mark 14:25).

Based on the Scriptural evidence, we can conclude the following: The fruit of the vine which Jesus and the disciples drank at Jesus’ last Passover was oinos, or wine, not trudz, or grape juice.  Those who believe that grape juice should be used for the Christian Passover service are following their beliefs and their self-determined righteousness instead of following the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures clearly show that “the fruit of the vine” is not grape juice.  Therefore, the use of grape juice instead of wine is not partaking of the Passover in the manner taught by Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul as recorded in Scripture.  The use of grape juice in place of wine for the Christian Passover is undoubtedly partaking of the New Covenant Passover unworthily.  An exception to the Scriptural teaching could be allowed for a person who has made a solemn vow not to drink any alcoholic beverage because he or she is a recovering alcoholic.  In such circumstances, God would not condemn the use of grape juice in place of wine.  In all other cases, wine, and only wine, should be used for the New Covenant Passover—the Christian Passover.

The wine to be used for the New Covenant Passover should be a fine quality red wine, a burgundy type—unfortified, as it symbolizes the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  The simplest way to gauge the quality of a wine is to check to see if the bottle has a cork.  Nearly every wine which has been bottled with a whole cork is considered a good quality wine.

Before the Passover service begins, the wine should be poured into separate small glasses for the exact number of participants, and the glasses should be covered with a clean, white cloth.  The wine should be poured from the bottle in a room separate from the room where the service will be conducted and the wine will be blessed.  Any wine which has been blessed for use during the Passover service should not be used for other purposes.  If there is some unused blessed wine remaining after the service, it should be poured on the ground, as was the blood of Jesus.  The glasses used by the participants should be washed as soon as possible after the service is concluded.

After the service, the participants should return to their houses or rooms and use additional time that night for study, prayer and meditation upon the awesome meaning and significance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God.

The entire New Covenant Passover—The Christian Passover, is truly an expression of God the Father’s love for each person by providing the perfect sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His own Son, the only begotten, so that everyone who is believing in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life” (John 3:16).