The Jewish people use this ritual to commemorate the original exodus meal Commanded by the Lord on the night the angel of death passed over all households in Egypt, taking the first-born son of any family if the front door was not marked with the blood of a lamb. Today's meals also serve as family and social gatherings where the story of God's almighty hand in the redemption of Israel from slavery is celebrated through prayers, questions and songs. The symbolism of each 'course' (part) of the meal is also explained and, for a believer, gives a good understanding of what actually happened annually on this night, including how Jesus would have led the remembrance, being the oldest son of the household since his earthly father, Joseph, had died.
Following I will outline each 'course' with a brief explanation of the symbolism as relates to Holy Scripture and Christian beliefs:
The Passover Seder begins with the lighting oof candles, done by the mother or eldest woman in the home/at the table. The woman usually veils and prays aloud in Hebrew, but I will provide the English translation: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has set us apart by His Word, and in whose Name we light the festival lights. To a Christian we can see this symbolizes the 'Light of the World' coming from the seed of a holy woman, as promised by God in Genesis 3:15.
The cup (of wine or juice, as family tradition dictates) is drunk from four separate times during the meal. And each represents a specific promise of redemption from God. Before each cup, the father or male leader of the household/group says aloud the following prayer: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
The first cup is that of sanctification. As Christians we can now see as Jesus passed this first cup he also added the words from Luke 22: 17, to let them know His trial was beginning and He was giving this cup/meal to them as a means of telling them they would be soon 'set apart' from other Jewish believers, because of their faith in Him.
Then a Bowl of Water is passed so that everyone can prepare for the courses of the meal by washing their hands. It was probably at this time that Jesus also began to wash the feet of those gathered, which would have seemed very unusual as it was not a normal part of the seder, and therefore we can now understand the many questions the disciples had while Jesus was coming around the table so they could wash their hands, but also so He could wash their feet. As Christians, we know this signifies humility, but we can also now see that Jesus also probably intended this to mean we all will need to continue to reflect and cleanse ourselves from head to toe before coming to the Lord's Supper.
The actual meal begins with a course of parsley, dipped in salt water. This represents the life of suffering and tears the Israeli people endured during their enslavement in Egypt. But even to the Jew parsley also represents life (generated by God) because it is a spring vegetable. Again, rich symbolism for a Christian!
Next is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the ritual - because four questions are then asked by a child (or various children) present. The questions ask over and over, 'how different is this night from all other nights":
1) Why do we eat matzah tonight? (Unleavened bread)
2) Why do we eat only bitter herbs? (And not any other vegetables)
3) Why do we dip vegetables twice, when usually we don't even dip?
4) Why do we eat reclining (to the left) and not at a table?
The leader answers each question to retell parts of the story of the exodus - after each answer the leader recites a prayer and then all share in that course.
1) Matzah - unleavened bread was all that could be prepared because our ancestors had to leave so quickly to escape their affliction - so this course is called the bread of affliction. But interestingly leaven also represents the presence of sin, even to the Jew. As Christians we can also refer to 1 Corinthians 5:7 for further explanation on this by Jesus.
Another significant symbolism is that the unleavened (sinless) Matzah is also pierced and striped! But perhaps the most 'telling' symbolism of the matzah ritual is that the bread is wrapped and stacked as 3 separate pieces of cloth and the leader uses only the middle piece during the meal to pass/share to all others present. This of course signifies the Trinity with the middle being Jesus, and that His only course was to be striped and broken for our sins. The traditional prayer offered at the time the bread is broken for distribution is: "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth" (so Jesus, who came and walked upon the earth is now symbolized as this 'bread of life'.)
2) Maror - this helps everyone to reflect on the sweetness of life verses The bitterness of life during the ancestor's previous enslavement. Many times the herbs are so bitter people can't help but shed tears as they eat. Of course, as Christians, we remember how bitter our lives, hearts and minds often were before our salvation, aand so many of us cried or cry many tears when we remember how our sins brought Him to such great suffering.
3) Kharoset - the second dipping of vegetables is done by first dipping Into the bitter herbs and then dipping into the mixture of chopped apples, Honey, nuts and wine. This is done to remind us that even the most bitter Of circumstances can be sweetened by the hope we have in God. As Christians, many of us cried tears of joy, remembering the sting that Jesus took away by covering our sin through His death and victorious resurrection!
4) Reclining - the children of Israel were instructed to eat quickly and e ready to leave at a moments notice - they ate 'on edge'. The Passover Seder is a night of celebrating the freedom God gave them from slavery and also the joy and freedom and time that can be taken to celebrate - so we can recline and not have to sit upright. Waiting on edge and unknowing. Come verses that a Christian may reflect on as significant are Matthew 11: 8 - come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. We also know where our eternal salvation comes from and so we can 'relax' room the many anxieties, worries and pressures we see so many around us going through, because they do not know door understand how putting you rust in the Lord makes everything joyful!
After these questions comes the 2nd Cup - the Cup of Plagues; helping us o remember the great cost at which their freedom and our redemption was purchased. All present dip their finger into the cup of wine/juice as hey recite each of the 10 plagues that came upon Egypt. Each drop is laced on a dish or cloth, and the act symbolizes how the happiness and stability of people's lives were reduced each time a plague came upon them because of the loss of property and life God had to use to bring about pharaoh's change of heart. As Christians we understand that each drop can also represent a drop of blood from Jesus as He was flogged, walked the at toward Calvary, or the blood that dripped down from his nail pierced ands and feet. Like the first Passover, this death of a spotless lamb
Brought about the release of many from the plaque of death.
The Shank Bone of a Lamb - It is interesting that an actual piece of lamb s not eaten during the Passover meal. Even thought the Israeli people ere told by God to prepare and eat a spotless lamb. At the Passover remembrance the leader imply holds up a shank bone to represent the lamb hat was used to mark their front doorposts. But even today, the doorposts re not marked, nor is any piece of lamb eaten. For Christians of course e see the Lamb as symbolizing Jesus, who broke the final plague of death or each person who comes to the True Lamb. My personal opinion is the iamb missing from the ritual also gives Christians today a clear understanding that the Lord's Supper was given by Jesus as a remembrance
Only - or else why would the Jewish people not still mark their door and at an actual lamb during their Passover meal? Jesus knew that He was the NLY and final lamb that could be offered to break the curse of sin and hat no other lamb, offering or repetition of the offering would be necessary. Therefore He commanded us instead to eat bread to remember - only as the symbol of His body broken and shared for all (as the matzah is broken and shared with all).
Messianic Jews also recite the following as the shank bone is shown:
Leader: On that same night I will pass through Egypt
People: I, and not an angel
Leader: and strike down every firstborn - both men and animals
People: I, and not a seraph
Leader: And I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt
People: I, and not a messenger
Leader: I Am the Lord.
People: I myself and none other.
Thus declaring that, since the Temple in Jerusalem no longer stands and he veil was torn in two and the lamb is no longer eaten at Passover, so e can only represent the sacrificial lamb, but never reoffer Him. So we ho have trusted in Yeshua the Messiah, and believe He IS the Lamb of God, our Passover. Like the ancient Israelites we know that it was God Himself, and not an angel, seraph, or messenger who achieved final redemption from sin and death. It was and can only today still be Jesus who took away the sin of the world. Also remember on the cross Jesus said it is finished" - done once for all.
At this time a song or series of songs is often sung - most popular is Dayenu!' (It Would Have Been Sufficient' - from Psalm 145:7). Another prayer is offered and all drink the 2nd cup while singing.
The final course of matzah is called the Afikomen. Again the prayer: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth read from the earth", is offered before being shared and eaten. But the important point is that this course is the 2nd portion of the original atzah that was broken by the leader at the beginning of the meal. This piece was 'stolen' and 'hidden' by one of the children during an earlier art of the meal and then the children search to find it and uncover it from the white cloth it was hidden in. As a Christian, do you see the symbolism of Christ in this - who was thought to be stolen or hidden when e was actually gone and resurrected from the tomb, and then found to be live by many of the disciples? So even as God planned the Passover vent He was purposing it to exactly foreshadow the death and resurrection f His Son!
The next cup is the Cup of Redemption, which symbolizes the blood of the iamb. It was at this time, during this final cup offering after the normal meal, that Jesus spoke the words "This cup is the new covenant in y blood which is poured out for you" (Luke 22: 20). So again we see that Jesus had no intent of making this a 'ritual' because it was not a part of he meal so the cup could not be a literal representation of Himself, but truly to be used only as a final remembrance of His redemptive act.
The celebration ends by lifting the last cup - the Cup of Elijah - which as been sitting at an empty place setting on the table. Their hope is hat Elijah will come at a future Passover to announce the Messiah's appearance. But many Jews in the time of Jesus thought John the Baptist as Elijah come back, and truly the purpose of John the Baptist's ministry as to announce that Jesus was Lord and Messiah. Even Jesus Himself said About John: "And if you are willing, accept it, he is the Elijah who was To come" (Matthew 11:14). So we can see that Jesus claimed the
Fulfillment of all prophecies through his ministry and completed 'the Story' during His final celebration of the Passover remembrance - making Clear that He is the Messiah, the final revelation and Way to salvation.
I urge EVERY Christian to find an opportunity to attend a Seder meal - if You have a Jewish friend or coworker ask them if it might be possible to Attend with them next year. Many times Messianic Jews open there Celebrations to the public, and give 'altar calls' at the end of these 'Services. I end by saying I hope this explanation of the Passover Seder Will cause Christians to understand how God planned and fulfilled His Promises from before the beginning of (our) time. To realize how God Acted through out history and has never left us or forsaken us and given Us the perfect sacrifice - Jesus. As the Passover clearly reveals that Israel had (and had) the means to know the Messiah, Yeshua, so we too can Learn much from this Passover and strengthen our belief that Jesus is the One, True Lamb who was slain for sin. May the knowledge that it is Christ And His perfect onetime sacrifice that brings us salvation become even Clearer to us as we learn about the Passover. May we "Look? (And see), The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
PS - Thanks to M/M Ed and Malka Eisen for inviting me and for the great great volunteer work they are doing to assist Russian immigrants in Networking for jobs, AND to share the Gospel of Christ!