The Passover service is a solemn occasion. It is not a time for laughing and general fellowshipping. Therefore, prior to the service, the church members should assemble quietly and respectfully. This does not mean that everyone should wear a long face and avoid even the briefest greeting. Christ's Passover meal with His disciples reflects warmth and friendship, without detracting from the solemnity of the occasion. Our minds should be focused on the purpose of the service and our relationship with God. This service is the most solemn and serious occasion of the entire year - the anniversary of the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Passover is observed in MEMORY of His suffering and death.
If two ministers are sharing the service, they should simply decide on the appropriate places to change speakers. There is no set format for a shared service.
The service is for baptized adults only. No one should participate in the service except members in good standing. (However, since the Passover is a commanded ordinance, the ministry should not presume to tell members not to take it in their own home, even if they are suspended or disfellowshipped. The responsibility for that decision belongs to the individual).
In advance, purchase or prepare a sufficient amount of unleavened bread. Either homemade or commercially available unleavened bread is suitable for the service. If the bread is purchased, be sure that it is completely unleavened. Some so-called unleavened bread has some leavening ingredients. Even the word "kosher" does not ensure that the bread is free of all leavening agents. Read the ingredients label. If you try a new kind, be sure to taste it first to be certain that it is easily edible.
If you choose to use homemade bread, those baking it should be careful to bake it in a leaven-free environment. It should be made no more than a day or two in advance to ensure freshness. Be sure to make more than you think you will need and have extra on hand at the service should it be needed (backstage, in another room, or in your vehicle outside).
Also have ready a sufficient amount of natural red wine. Wine has no active leaven remaining because of the alcohol content. Be sure you obtain a natural, unfortified wine. Alcoholic content will be between 10% and 13%. Wines containing 19% and 29% are fortified with grape brandy and should not be used. The label will tell you the percentage of alcohol. It should be a red wine - preferably claret (Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) or burgundy (Pinot Noir), but any natural red wine could be used. Once you have poured the small amount of wine into the little glasses be sure to remove the leftover wine, that you have not poured for the service, from the hall (place it backstage, in another room, or in your vehicle outside). If you know the exact number of people partaking of the service, there will be none left over to be poured out onto the ground.
Be sure the hall is clean and prepared very neatly. Where possible, the tables should be covered with white tablecloths. While napkins should be used to cover the unleavened bread, which has been placed on a tray (or trays). If there is no cover on the wine tray a white napkin can be used to cover the wine as well.
It is important to have enough space in the hall to accommodate the footwashing service with men and women in separate rooms. See that this part of the meeting is well thought out and organized to prevent confusion.
The service begins without prayer.
Explain that this service is a very sobering occasion because we are reflecting on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is also, however, a most encouraging service because it reveals the love of God for His people. We are given this annual reminder of the glorious victory over sin that is ours because of the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God. Point out that those who participate in the service are expressing their faith in the death of Jesus Christ on their behalf, and renewing their commitment to let Christ live His life in them.
Read and expound the following Scriptures. You may add emphasis and examples where appropriate.
Exodus 12:1-13. The historical record of the first Passover. I Corinthians 11:23-30. A summary of the New Testament Passover. John 6:32-58 (ALL). Explain that these verses show that Christ came in the flesh and willingly gave His life to pay the penalty for our sins. Point out that both the eating and drinking are associated with eternal life.
John 13:1-17. Expound these verses to explain the attitude of humility and service Christ Himself displayed as an example to true Christians. He also then commanded us to do likewise.
(At this point give any necessary instructions for an orderly footwashing service. Men and women should be in separate rooms for the footwashing service.)
I Corinthians 10:16-17. Emphasize that we become one Body by all partaking of the bread of life, Jesus Christ; that Christ lives His life in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, making us part of the ONE BODY OF CHRIST - HIS CHURCH, THE BEGOTTEN FAMILY OF GOD. The small piece of unleavened bread we eat symbolizes Jesus' body broken for us.
Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 52:14.
I Peter 2:20-24. Note here that the context refers to an attitude of love toward others. Christ's suffering set an example for all Christians, that we should be willing to suffer for one another. Eating this unleavened bread at the Passover service demonstrates our total COMMITMENT TO GOD AND HIS WAY OF LIFE, and our desire to wholeheartedly live by every word of God and to let Him live in us! In addition, we renew our commitment to be willing to partake of Christ's sufferings, to suffer as a Christian for righteousness' sake. We also bring to remembrance Christ's stripes, which he received for our transgressions, for our iniquities - realizing that God "...has laid on Him; the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6). It is by Christ's stripes - his excruciatingly painful torture - that we may be healed (I Peter 2:24).
Remove the napkin from the bread on the tray (or trays) and pray over it, asking God to bless it as a symbol of Christ's body, broken for us. This prayer should include the fact that Christ suffered for us and we must be willing to suffer as He did for righteousness' sake. Thank God for His love and all His mercies toward us. Ask God to give us His mind and attitude of service, as members of the Body of Christ. Then break the bread into small bits on the trays and have the deacons pass them to everyone. (If no deacons are present in a small service this should be done by a leading man or men in the congregation.) After being served, each person should quietly and solemnly eat the small piece of unleavened bread. Those passing out the unleavened bread should take a piece of unleavened bread from the tray they are passing.
I John 1:7
(Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20-22 - if desired).
Then uncover and pray over the wine, giving thanks and asking God to bless it to this sacred use as the symbol of Christ's blood, shed for the remission of our sins. Thank God for giving us His Son to die for us, washing us clean that we might be reconciled to God. Thank Him for Christ's willingness to submit to His Father's will, even unto death. Then have the deacons (or leading man or men) serve the wine. Those who pass out the wine should remember to take a glass of wine from the tray they are passing. Each member should take a glass and quietly and reverently drink it. It is a renewal of your acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins. The deacons (or leading man or men) should then collect the glasses on the tray. After they have returned, cover them and the unused bread again with the napkin.
John 13:8 - through - John 17:26. These are the words Jesus spoke to His disciples after His last Passover supper with them, just before He was seized to be taken and crucified. Since it is rather long, you may, in advance of the service, mark certain portions of these chapters to be read instead of reading all of it.
After this Scripture reading, lead in a hymn (Matthew 26:30), preferably a Psalm, and dismiss quietly. There should be no closing prayer.
After the service has ended, and the people have left the hall, you should discard any portion of the bread and wine left over that was taken into the room for the service and had been blessed. Only such wine or bread actually taken into the room and prayed over during the service need be discarded! The WINE should be poured out onto the ground. The BREAD should be incinerated/burned that evening. It ought not be consumed or used for any other purpose after the service.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Why does the Passover service begin shortly after sunset?
That is when the Israelites kept it in Egypt. Exodus 12:6 "...the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it [the lamb] at twilight." The Hebrew from which "twilight" or "in the evening" as some translations have it - is translated - literally "between the two evenings" (between sunset and dark). In Deuteronomy 16:6 we read: "But at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, as the going down of the sun..." [Authorized Version]. This is also when Christ kept it with His disciples.
Why white tablecloths and napkins?
White in the Bible is associated with righteousness. In scripture the color white is also associated with holiness, purity, honesty, cleanliness, and things that are good. Revelation 19:8 "And to her [the bride of Christ] it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean, and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
Why do we pour the leftover wine out onto the ground?
Christ blood, which is represented by Christ's shed blood, was poured out onto the ground when he died on the stake. The wine, which symbolizes Christ shed blood should be disposed of in a similar manner. The wine that was blessed (prayed over) during the service should be poured out onto the ground immediately following the service so that it cannot be used for any other purpose. Matthew 26:27-28: V27 "Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. V28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed ["poured out" - as many translations have it] for many for the remission of sins."
Why do we burn the leftover unleavened bread?
We find in Exodus 12:10 that any leftovers from the Passover meal were to be burned with fire. Exodus 12:10 "You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire." Any unleavened bread that was blessed (prayed over) during the service should be burned so that it cannot be used for any other purpose.