LCN Article
Our Passover Commitments

March / April 2024

Richard F. Ames

In 2024, the sunset of April 8 will mark the beginning of the first day of the sacred year, Nisan 1—the first day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This means that we will observe the annual Passover service on Sunday evening, April 21, followed by the seven Days of Unleavened Bread from sunset on April 22 through sunset on April 29. By the time you are reading this, I trust you will have already begun your pre-Passover preparations, spiritually if not physically. 

Most of us will be observing the Passover in small congregations, but try to imagine what it was like in Jesus’ day. The ancient Roman-Jewish historian Josephus mentions that more than two million people came into Jerusalem to keep the Old Testament Passover in his day, in the late first century AD (The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3). Imagine what it would have been like to be there in AD 31. Scripture gives us a record of that Passover when Jesus transformed the old observance, instituting the New Covenant. “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matthew 26:27–28).

The Greek word for covenant here is diatheke. Eating the bread and drinking the wine were confirmation of the disciples’ acceptance of Christ’s coming sacrifice and His shed blood. We as Christians today need to remember that, at each Passover, we are not making or renewing a covenant. We made our covenant—our agreement—with Him when we accepted baptism. Passover is not another baptism; it is for already-baptized Christians who are following His instruction by annually confirming our acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice. We renew our commitment to our Savior, not our covenant with Him.

On that first New Covenant Passover evening, Christ warned His disciples that they would not keep their commitment to Him perfectly. The Apostle Peter boasted that he would never be unfaithful, so Christ rebuked him. “Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times’” (Matthew 26:34).

Peter did deny Christ three times, and only then did he repent of his earlier boast. We, too, sometimes fail to honor our commitment to our Savior. So, what can we do to help ensure that we are doing our best to remain faithful? In this article, we will review some of our most vital Passover commitments. For any of you readers who are not yet baptized, you can apply these as commitments to your life in general, but for baptized Christians each year at Passover, the confirmation of our commitments takes on a special meaning.

Maintain a Repentant Attitude

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the dishonest painter. He would always submit the lowest bid for a job, but the reason was that he would always water down his paint. One day, it rained, and the paint washed off a church building he’d painted. So he prayed, and asked, “Lord, what shall I do?” Then a voice came from heaven and told him, “Repaint and thin no more!”

That’s a humorous quip, but the point is serious. We must turn from sin. We must “repaint and thin no more.” We must restore what we’ve taken and pay for damage we’ve done. And we should do so before others catch us in our sin. Criminals often proclaim “I’m sorry!” after they are caught. But they are sorry they were caught, not sorry for their sins. We as Christians must have a genuine godly sorrow for our sins. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Instead of having a worldly sorrow, we should have an attitude like King David expressed. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:12–14).

God knows our secret faults, even more than we know them. In fact, not only must we repent of what we’ve done, but we must also repent of our carnal human nature: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

Ultimately, we need to ask God to help us see ourselves as He sees us—to reveal the blind spots that prevent us from repenting and growing. I sometimes remember a line from To a Louse, a famous poem by the eighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns: “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie usTo see oursels as others see us!” In modern English, we would say, “Oh, that some Power would let us see ourselves as others see us!” 

To do this isn’t always easy; some of you may remember seeing yourself on video for the first time, noticing all the little tics and mannerisms that get in your way. And the changes we need to make go much deeper than the superficial and physical, even if we can’t see them ourselves. Once a year, I muster the courage to ask my wife, “Honey, in preparation for the Passover, what one thing do you think I need to be changing in my life?” That’s sometimes hard for her, as she may think of two, three, or four changes, but I ask for just one “big one” to work on. And I am grateful for what she shares with me.

As Christians, we make mistakes, but year after year we strive to make fewer. We strive to learn from our mistakes, and we should take those mistakes as lessons that bring us closer to Christ. Of course, while we should not be practicing sin as Christians, we do sin at times. But we don’t need to “beat ourselves up” for sins—we simply acknowledge them, and because we maintain a sincerely repentant attitude, we know God will extend His grace and forgiveness, knowing the sincerity of our hearts. That’s why the Apostle Paul was able to write, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Forgive Others

In His model prayer, Jesus reminded us to ask the Father to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Just as God forgives us when we repent, we must be quick to forgive others. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

I’m sure you have known people who just can’t let go; they’ve been offended, and they want you to know they’ve been offended. But it is even a physical principle that holding on to anger and offense hurts the offended person—sometimes as much as or more than the person who committed the offense. There’s a book titled Don’t Let Jerks Get the Best of You, in which Dr. Paul Meier discusses people who are stuck in deep depression because they cannot let go and forgive. “A patient can be depressed for many years, then forgive the one who caused his repressed anger and totally recover from the depression, because his serotonin has been restored naturally and the brain is able to work correctly” (p. 170). He writes that while “deep-seated anger can lower your serotonin level and cause clinical depression” (p. 152), forgiving others can produce peace of mind.

Now, forgiving doesn’t mean that you encourage or enable someone to sin again and again. For example, spousal abuse and child abuse are serious crimes, and victims should seek out the help and protection they need. You may need to distance yourself from an unrepentant sinner. But, like the old saying goes, often the best answer is, “Let go; let God.” Instead of building up your anger at someone’s unrepented sin, trust that the matter is in God’s hands and that He will do what needs to be done. Especially when the offense is simply to your pride, or involves the other person’s selfishness or disrespect, the best response often is to let it be a matter between the sinner and God. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15). As Passover approaches, commit to maintaining an attitude of forgiveness.

Avoid Spiritual Weakness

Paul wrote to one of his protégés, the evangelist Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6–7). Christ had promised His disciples great power: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We do not want to neglect God’s gifts. Though not many of us are mighty and noble, He still gives us spiritual power that He does not give to the influential people of our world. Yet that power comes with a responsibility. We read that “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4–6).

At baptism, we made a commitment to be faithful, to avoid spiritual weakness. We must not let our trials wear us down and weaken us. We know a famous passage in James that, while seeming counterintuitive, is a vital principle: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4).

It’s not that the trial itself is joyful. The idea is that we can endure any trial by keeping in mind that God is using the trial to make us both patient and complete. And we can take comfort in reassurance from Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

No matter how severe our trial, we know our Savior is there for us. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We must commit to avoiding spiritual weakness.

Avoid Spiritual Bitterness

Sometimes, when we receive correction, we can feel deflated. And that deflation can turn into bitterness.

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Hebrews 12:11–15).

When we turn inward and stew in our own private hurt, we are letting go of the cure for bitterness. It can be tempting to nurse our hurt and feel sorry for ourselves. I remember, many years ago, I was strongly corrected and my first impulse was to sort of fade into the wallpaper, to think, I’m just going to be low-key. But that’s not the best answer. We need to pursue peace with those around us, as Christ taught us:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:43–48).

I remember that in Big Sandy, many years ago, one of our brethren had a garlic plant of some sort, and every time he dug it up he found more of the root, which kept on generating more of the plant each time. Eventually, he had a huge, huge pit, because he couldn’t dig out that literal root of bitterness. We need to do the same in our own lives and dig out roots of bitterness before they become huge and hard to remove.

Accept God’s Forgiveness

Sometimes, people try to make you feel guilty, and will try to put a guilt trip on you. Victims of abuse are sometimes “gaslighted” and made to feel guilty for the abuser’s crime. Satan wants us to doubt that we are forgiven, and to feel that we aren’t worthy of forgiveness. That’s a half-truth; Satan likes to distort God’s truth to discourage us. While it’s true that none of us are truly worthy of God’s forgiveness, it is a lie that He has not forgiven us. Paul reminded the brethren in Ephesus that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

We must never doubt God’s gift to us. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

That gift of forgiveness is awesome, and we must not despise it. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). When we repent, God forgives us. When you look back on your life, notice those times when God could have judged you guilty right at the moment of your sin, for all sin is worthy of the death penalty. But God is merciful, patient, and longsuffering. He has promised to save us, and He saved us through grace and through faith. And we know that it is through the faith of Christ that we are saved: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, King James Version).

He is our intercessor. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

I will always remember pastoring the Cincinnati congregation, back in 1965. One of the ladies in the congregation was dying of cancer, and she had always had a kind of domineering attitude toward her husband and others. She had a hard time expressing tender emotions and showing her vulnerability. I counseled her to try to help her express her sorrow and pain, not just bottle it up. Later, some of the ladies in the congregation told me that, near her time of death, she asked her husband to raise her into a sitting position in bed, and that she looked him in the eyes and said, with tears, “I belong to you.”

It made me think about the Shulamite woman in the Song of Solomon. At first, pledging her life to her beloved—symbolically Jesus Christ—she says, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16). But later, the sequence is reversed: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (6:3).

Have you told your Savior that you belong to Him? Have you told that to God the Father? It’s the truth. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

Christ died so you could be saved. That’s how much He loves you. And He bought you for that price. You belong to Him who has forgiven you, as each of us belongs to Him. At Passover, each year, we are reminded of His commitment to us and ours to Him.

Thank God Continually

Paul warns us that there will be an attitude of thanklessness in the last days. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1–5).

What should our attitude be, instead? “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). In the parable of the persistent widow, Christ’s message was “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Support God’s Work

God has a plan of salvation for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived and who ever will live. He wants us to become part of His Family forever. Yet only a few of those billions of people are being called to be His firstfruits. Who will be those firstfruits? Those who commit to enduring to the end (Matthew 24:13). Will you be one of them? I hope so! 

Out of the more than eight billion people on planet Earth, only a relative few will be taking the Christian Passover in the evening of April 21 this year. The Passover is a memorial of God’s amazing love for each of us—what He did for us, is doing for us, and will do for us. And it reminds us of a future when the whole world will observe this sober but joyous occasion.

In this present age, however, God is doing His work through just a small handful of human beings. This has always been the case, as Christ reminded us: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37–38).

So, as we approach the Passover, we must examine ourselves and our commitments. The Days of Unleavened Bread reveal our part in God’s plan of salvation. God instructs us to replace the leaven of malice and wickedness with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8). So, we must all be committed to being overcomers. In Revelation 2 and Revelation 3, Christ seven times speaks of those who overcome, as He states the various rewards for overcoming. And we read, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be His God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). We must strive to overcome our carnal human nature and ask God to create in us His divine nature (2 Peter 1:2–4).

Brethren, let’s appreciate how God uses us to accomplish the Work, thankful for the opportunity and for what it will bring. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57–58).

Brethren, as you prepare to take the Passover, review and renew your commitments—so you will know you can tell your Savior and your Father in Heaven, “I belong to You!”