Friday, March 30, 2018


March 30, 2018


This evening, the Jewish celebration of Passover began.


This evening, at sundown, Jewish families sat down at the table for the Seder meal. Led by the father or grandfather, the family participated in the rituals of hand-washing, blessings, storytelling, asking questions, eating the prescribed foods, hiding, then later finding, the broken matzah, recounting God's deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, singing Passover songs, drinking four cups of wine, reciting psalms of praise—all done in a very orderly fashion, according to the Haggadah, the book used to explain the Seder service.


Last Sunday at our Year of the Bible Seder study, we had the opportunity to experience something of what it might be like in a Jewish family's home this evening. During my research in preparation for our Lake Hills' Seder study, I found several references to a book by Ceil and Moishe Rosen entitled Christ in the Passover. Dr. Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, and his wife Ceil came to faith in Christ in 1953 out of Orthodox Jewish backgrounds. The Rosens have since ministered to their own people for over 50 years.


The Rosens trace the history of Passover celebrations, beginning, of course, with the commands of God to the Israelites in Egypt. The children of Israel were not automatically exempt from the last plague, the death of every firstborn son. Only God's provision—the life and blood of the lamb—would save them from death. "Israel's redemption began that night behind the safety of blood-sprinkled doors. It was a night of judgment, but the substitutionary death of the Passover lamb brought forgiveness to God's people. In that awe-filled night of waiting, they experienced Jehovah's loving protection even in the midst of His fierce judgment." (pp.28-29)


Although God commanded the Israelites to celebrate the Passover yearly for generations to come, there were long periods of time during which they neglected this obligation. Only after their return from captivity in Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple did the observance of the Passover become a permanent part of Jewish religious life. There at the Temple in Jerusalem, the Passover lamb was solemnly sacrificed, and the Jews recalled their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and waited expectantly for the coming of Messiah.


When Jesus entered Jerusalem that last week before Passover, expectations were high, because many believed that Messiah would appear during that celebratory time. Jesus, however, was preparing to fulfill His role as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal together, and the Scriptures that describe that evening reveal connections with some of the ancient elements of the Passover service. One of those elements is the washing of hands, however, Jesus used this part of the service to wash His disciples' feet as an act of humble service. Another element is the breaking of the unleavened bread and then dipping it into the bitter herbs, which Jesus did, and then He handed a piece to Judas, the betrayer. (John 13)  After the meal had been eaten, Jesus broke the bread again and said, "This is my body…" (Matt. 26:26)--shocking words and an unusual act, as no other food was to be eaten after the meal. He then took the third cup of wine, called the cup of redemption because it represented the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood…"(Luke 22:20).  "He was telling them, in effect: "I am the true Passover Lamb who will be offered up for your redemption." (p. 70)


While there are four required questions to be asked during every Seder meal, the authors of Christ in the Passover address the unasked questions concerning the three pieces of matzo and the broken piece that is hidden, then "found:" Why take out the middle piece of matzah instead of one of the others? Why hide the broken piece (afikomen) and bring it back later? (The broader question: Why does there seem to be Christian symbolism in a Jewish celebration?) Because the early Jewish Christians continued to worship in the Temple until they were expelled, it is likely that some of their interpretations became part of the Passover ritual over time. The three pieces of matzo represent the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle piece of matzah (in appearance striped and pierced) represents Jesus. It is removed, broken (death), hidden (burial), then found (resurrection). After the afikomen is brought back, everyone eats a morsel, "signifying a personal, individual part in the everlasting redemption of God." (p. 109)


Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51)


"Just as the blood of those first Passover lambs was applied in faith to the doorposts of Israel's homes, so the blood of the Messiah must be applied in faith to the doorposts of our hearts. We worship God not only because the angel of death passed over the Jewish people's homes, but also because all of us—whether Jewish or Gentile—may be redeemed from an even greater bondage, the bondage of sin, through faith in the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah Jesus. Through Him we may pass over from death to life." (pp. 135-136)

Easter blessings,




No comments:

Post a Comment