I've been waiting for weeks to be able to write about this experience, and I thought tonight would be the perfect time to do so! Please forgive my choppy writing style to follow - there was so much information and my little thumbs were typing away as fast as they possibly could on my little iPhone!
By the way....Happy Passover, Y'all. And Shalom.
Okay, I don't know the first thing about the Jewish culture, other than what I've read and studied in the Old Testament and what my dear Lord has taught me. But I tend to think the Messianic Jews have it right...I mean, they still hold true to all the Jewish culture, but they are fully aware that the Messiah has walked this earth, was crucified on the cross, and rose again. They understand that the ultimate sacrifice was made. So, if you are one of my Jewish friends reading this, don't laugh at me. I would, though, appreciate your comments and insights as to what I've misrepresented!
So, let me tell you about this awesome night of our Seder and how you can see Christ all through out the Seder meal...
Passover is one of the most important holidays of the Jewish religion. It's a time when the story of the exodus is retold and remembered. Its significance is weaved all throughout the early books of the Old Testament (The Pentateuch) and the LORD called his children to remember the exodus from Egypt all throughout the rest of the Old Testament; How He rescued his chosen people to be separated from the other cultures and to be dedicated to Him and Him alone. And isn't this what Christ did for us as New Testament believers - He rescued his chosen people from sin and has called them to live a life dedicated to Him, separate from the world as we know it.
Don't forget that Jesus was a Jew. Christianity didn't come about until after his death and resurrection. Jesus celebrated the Passover each year (Matthew 26:17-19), but the most significant Passover meal he ate was his last. What we celebrate as Maundy Thursday. This is where we get the tradition of our LORD's supper - but more to come on that later.
The main idea that runs through the Passover meal is one of redemption. God redeemed His people from slavery. They were saved from death as a result of the slain lamb's blood on the door frame. As Christians, we also are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Passover is also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven makes the dough in bread rise and puff up. Leaven is also a symbol of sin. We are called to be Christlike - humble, not puffed up. (Phil. 2:5-7). Matzo is the unleavened bread used in the Passover meal. One source of the Passover wrote: "Matzo symbolizes faith. In contrast to leavened bread, matzah is not enriched with oil, honey or other substances. It consists only of flour and water, and is not allowed to rise. Similarly, the only “ingredients” for faith are humility and submission to , which come from recognizing our “nothingness” when compared with the infinite wisdom of the Creator."
And the symbolism of the matzo itself is amazing - it shows the piercing of Christ's side (the holes), the bruising of his body (the brown spots), and the stripes he bore for our sins (the lines of holes) (Isaiah 53:5).
The Passover Seder is highly symbolic. As you arrive at the table, there is a special tray with areas for each symbol: parsley or lettuce (represent life), bitter herbs (reminds us that life can bear the root of bitterness), matzo, the shank bone (symbolizing that there are no more temple sacrifices for atonement because the temple has been destroyed), charose (represents the mud they had to make the bricks out of for Pharaoh - you eat this with the bitter herbs - even in the most bitter of circumstances, life can taste sweet given the promise of redemption), the onion (when eaten, reminds us of the tears our ancestors cried), and hard boiled eggs (symbolizing the destruction of the temple as you break the egg. As you break it, you dip it into the salt water which symbolizes tears - this shows the sadness that there are no temple sacrifices anymore). There are also other things on the table with symbolic purpose: candles, salt water, matzo and wine.
There also is an order to the Seder meal (in fact, the word "seder" means order). The meal cannot start until the woman of the house lights the candle and prays a blessing over the celebration.
After the opening prayer, you drink the first glass of wine, the Kiddush. This proclaims the holiness of the holiday. (And you must drink the WHOLE glass before you proceed. This is my kind of celebration!)
Then you eat the green vegatable (lettuce or parsley) dipped in salt-water. This represents the tears throughout the times of slavery of the Jewish people.
Then you break the matzo in two.
This to me was the coolest part of the whole Seder. There is a pouch of four squares sewn together producing three pouches. There is a whole piece of matzo in each pouch (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). During this part, you take out the middle piece of matzo (God, the Son came to live on earth in flesh). You break it in half (His body was broken). You then take half of the broken matzo (known as the Afikoman), wrap it in a white napkin and hide it somewhere in the room (He was wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb).
The other half is laid aside to be eaten later.
Then, you retell and remember the story of the Passover. The youngest child comes forth and asks 4 questions:
1) Why is this night different than all other nights? Because we remember how God with His mighty and outstretched arm redeemed his people from slavery and bondage from Pharaoh. Remember, redemption is the heart of Passover.
2) Why do we eat in a reclining position? Only the redeemed could recline at dinner in a middle eastern fashion. Jesus and his disciples reclined at the last supper. (Mark 14:18)
3) Why do we eat only unleavened bread? Because the Israelites had to prepare their bread in haste as they had to be ready to flee the country of Egypt. (Ex. 12:15)
4) Why do we eat only bitter herbs? We remember the bitterness of slavery.
After this, the second cup of wine is poured, also known as the cup of plagues. Instead of drinking the whole glass, you dip your finger and drop a bit of wine on a napkin as you pronounce each plague that came up on Egypt (blood, frogs, gnats, boils, etc.). We pray because other people had to suffer so the Israelites could survive.
You then say some more prayers (I totally couldn't understand what they were saying!), and go back to the uneaten half of the matzo (this is sometimes referred to as the bread of affliction). You heap upon it the bitter herbs (usually freshly chopped horseradish! ISH!). But, before you eat that, you put charose on top of the horseradish. Charose is made of chopped apple, walnuts, cinnamon, and sometimes dates. This is to represent the mud the Israelites had to make the bricks out of for Pharaoh. This combination shows that even though life can be bitter, the hope of redemption is sweet.
After this step, you take a break from the ceremony and eat the Seder meal. I thought it was interesting that they didn't serve lamb at the Seder. It's more of a Thanksgiving feast. The reason they do this is because there is no more slaughtered lambs to sacrifice since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.
Remember that half of the matzo that was hidden? After the meal, the kids get up and go try to find it. Who ever finds it is the "winner". Though, they don't really win anything. The Christian symbolism of this is cool, though. It symbolizes that Christ rose on the third day and walked in flesh among his disciples.
Then you say some more prayers and drink the third cup, the cup of redemption. When you drink this cup, you eat with it bits of matzo. Think of this - this is the cup of REDEMPTION. The body (bread) and blood (wine) that was shed for YOU.
The last cup of wine is consumed as you recite Psalm 115-118, or songs of praise from Hallel.
There is a fifth cup of wine, though it is left untouched for the prophet Elijah. Since the Jewish people believe Elijah will precede the Messiah, they often leave an untouched cup of wine, sometimes an empty seat and often a door ajar in hopes the Messiah will return.
Though, we already know that the Messiah has come. He has walked among his people in flesh. He faced judgement of unfathomable manners. He died an unfair death. He rose on the third day. He is seated at the Father's right hand. He will come again in triumphal glory to bring His own home.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Mazel Tov and Happy Easter!