Imagine the street outside your home filled with laughing, playing children, the mouth-watering aroma of rich food being cooked over a fire wafting through your window, redolent with the heavy incense of blossoms, cedar, and spices. You look outside and see that a tumble of huts made from leafy, flowering branches has filled every outside space possible.
Excitement is in the air.
There is an indefinable sense of hope, anticipation, open joy, and you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just know it is going to be a glorious day.
That is how it was, over twenty centuries ago, as Jesus’ mother Mary, His disciples, and the rest of His closest friends and followers gathered in Mark’s home at Pentecost. It had been fifty days since the Passover, when Jesus had died, and now it was the time of Sukkot, Israel’s favorite festival. Before His death, Jesus had given His final words of encouragement, teaching, and prophetic exhortation to His beloved followers, saying
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”John 13:34 (NRSV)
After His resurrection, the Lord had spent over a month teaching them the whole of the scriptures. When He had left them that final time, rising up into heaven, Jesus had asked them to wait in Jerusalem for a sign from Him, with no idea what that sign would be. He had reassured them they would know it when it came. Now, they had been praying together in this room ever since.
What happened next was so explosive, so earth-rocking, the world has never been the same since.
At its birth, the church was a group of 120 Jewish people receiving the Holy Spirit in a cataclysmic event, the compression waves of which would reverberate across space and time.
For on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 faithful Jews who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks—thanksgiving for the first harvest—now became the Holy Spirit’s First Harvest of many to come.
The early church took the Lord’s words to heart.
In those first days, Luke recorded,
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.Acts 2:42 (NRSV)
They called these meals “Love Feasts,” in honor of Jesus Who loved them, and Who told them everyone would know they were His disciples by their own love for Him and each other.
The deep significance of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are found in the Passover.
I wanted our children to understand that deep significance, to experience something of what the Passover meant, and to understand Who Jesus was as the Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world. Thus began a nearly 30-year time of study, research, discovery, and tinkering with the many Passover services now celebrated in both Jewish, and Messianic Jewish, households today. I discovered there is evidence in the book of Acts that the 1st century church enjoyed a modified version of the Passover Seder in their weekly gatherings, often calling it a “Love Feast.”
“Love Feast,” the fruit of all those years of study and celebration, follows the First Passover to the Last Supper, into the Love Feast Jesus has for us all. I put together a haggadah (according to the dictionary, a haggadah is “the text recited at the Seder on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover, including a narrative of the Exodus”) which incorporates the gospel accounts of Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples, as well as explanations for some key elements in the Passover itself, as it is observed today.
The traditional Passover goes long into the night. This haggadah has been modified so that families with children of all ages (like mine) can take part, lasting about an hour and a half (including dinner and dancing). “Love Feast” includes everything you will need to hold your own Passover Seder—order and flow of the worship service, songs, a menu, a list of items you will need, and speaking parts. It concludes with some thoughts on the First Passover, the Last Supper, and our legacy in the Love Feasts of the Bible.
May we continue what the early church began!