Last month we celebrated our Lord’s death and resurrection, but we need to make sure we never distance our Easter from Passover. They are intrinsically connected and yet calendar-wise they are often separated-this year, Passover is celebrated a month later than Easter. As Christians it is imperative that we understand how these two events are intertwined and how Christ is the fulfillment of the Seder.
Is Passover for Christians?
Whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Colossians 2:16-17 tells us that we should “let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts (Rom 14:5).
While it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Passover, it is beneficial to study it, and it could be beneficial to celebrate it if it leads one to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. That is something we should celebrate every day of our lives.
The Seder Plate
The Seder plate is the focus of the whole Seder service:
• Zeroth: a portion of the shank bone of a lamb to represent the paschal offering. Many Messianics do not include this because of Hebrews 10:9-14.
• Haroseth or Charoses: a mixture of apples, almonds, raisins and cinnamon mixed with a little wine. This symbolizes the mortar used by the Israelites during the Egyptian bondage.
• Karpas: either parsley, celery, lettuce, onion or potato, used to dip in the saltwater, a reminder of both the tears of hardship and slavery as well as the resolve and intense effort of the Jew.
• Hazereth: the green top of a bitter herb. Symbolic of lowly origins, suffering, and resolve.
• Baytzh: a hardboiled egg, which is the token for both grief over the destruction of the Temple and, at the same time, a symbol of the resurrection.
In addition to those mentioned above, more items are essential to the Passover Table: Unleavened Bread, Wine and the Haggadah.
Matzo: The Unleavened Bread. These are flat, bland, cracker-like wafers, which are both striped and pierced (Isa 53:5; Zech 12:10). There are three matzos and usually are placed in what is called a Matzo Tash, a square white silk bag that is divided up into three compartments for the three matzo wafers.
Why three matzos? The Jewish tradition is that the three represent or symbolize unity. Here are some theories: The Unity of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; The Unity of Worship: Priests, Levites, and the Congregation; The Unity of the Crowns: The crowns of Learning, Priesthood, and Kingship. Or, another suggestion: The Unity of God: The Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Four Cups of Wine
The Four Cups and their meanings are taken from Exodus 6:6-7:
• Cup 1 - The Cup of Consecration: “I will take you out of Egypt.” Simply put … God delivers, He alone intervenes! All the miracles and the plagues were part of the plan of God to deliver Israel from Egypt. In spite of their hardships, He was with them. The same is true today!
• Cup 2 - The Cup of Deliverance: “I will take Egypt out of you.” Becoming the people of God takes work! Knowing what the Lord requires and then becoming like Him, representing Him to the world around us.
• Cup 3 - The Cup of Redemption: This is the cup that Jesus used to memorialize His blood. Without this cup we cannot be completely transformed into His image! (1 Cor 11:24-26).
• Cup 4 - I will take you to be My people: Jesus is waiting for the marriage feast before He drinks from this cup (cf. Mishnah, Pesahim 7:13). Passover wine was red and mixed with warm water. Why? It reminded them of the blood of the Passover lamb:
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
The literal meaning is “telling” or “showing forth.” It is the same root used in Exodus 13:8. The Haggadah not only tells us what to do at the Seder, but also when, how, and why. The modern Haggadah is based on ancient writings in the Mishnah and dates back to the second century.
How the Seder Begins
The Haggadah book is opened and the Host reads from it. Everyone has a pillow in order to relax and to enjoy the celebration of their being freed from the bondage of slavery. The wife then has the honor of lighting the white Passover candles and saying a blessing:
Blessed art Thou, O LORD our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us by Thy commandment and commands us to light the lights of the Passover.
Two cups at the table are usually larger and more elaborate than the others. This night they are silver (remember that silver symbolizes blood and, thus, redemption). One sits at the head of the table, the other at a prominent spot before an empty chair. It awaits the lips of Elijah. The Prophet is the invited guest to every Seder and who, according to Malachi, is to announce the coming of the Messiah.
The Breaking of the Matzo
Early in the Seder, the Host takes the middle matzo and breaks it in two, leaving one half in the middle and puts the other half under the cloth for the “afikomen.” It is always wrapped in linen and hidden in a dark place.
The Four Sons
The Wise, Wicked, Simple, and Foolish Sons each play a part in the Seder meal by asking questions and getting instruction from the Host.
In every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he had gone personally forth from Egypt. As it is said, “And you shall relate to your son on that day saying, this is on account of what the Eternal did for me, when I went forth from Egypt. Thus it was not our ancestors alone, whom the most Holy, blessed be He, then Redeemed, but us also did He redeem with them. As it is said, He brought us forth from thence in order to bring us in, that He might give us the Land He swore to our ancestors.”
What has God done for you? Remember one of your weapons in witnessing is your testimony-your story! In general people don’t want to be preached to but they love to hear stories... “ Let me tell you what Jesus has done for me …”
Jesus is The Lamb of God, The Middle Matzo, The Afikomen, and The Third Cup of Wine. The only Greek word in the Haggadah is “afikomen” and its literal meaning is “He Came”! See our briefing, The Feasts of Israel for further study.