“Christ in the Passover”

Just finished reading "Christ in the Passover" by Ceil and Moishe Rosen of Jews for Jesus. Michael Ramirez had invited us over to a semi-Seder with some great food and some great fellowship. That was the closest I have been to an actual Seder. We, as a group were able to talk about the many pictures of Christ in the Seder and that is what this book does for you. In the preface she gives us the reasons for God choosing Israel as His special people. 1) “to teach all nations of Himself” 2) “to show forth His love and faithfulness” 3) “to be a blessing to all people” 4) “to be a praise to Him” 5) “to bring forth salvation to all mankind”.


She then goes back to the Israelites in Egypt. They had become content in their prosperity but that all began to change as a new Egyptian Pharaoh began to envy them. This set the stage for Moses, the plagues and the mighty deliverance from Egypt for the Jews. The final blow to Pharaoh was the killing of all of the first born males. The Jews were instructed to find a lamb and then sacrifice it, spreading its blood over their doors. The destroyer passed over the house covered by the sacrificial blood. The book breaks down the word and shows that it means more than just passing over; but: “It was not merely that the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites, but that He stood on guard, protecting each blood sprinkled door.”


“He intended that the ancient experience should have a lasting effect on His people; its importance must be reinforced with regularity for all time….He commanded the annual reenactment of that first Passover night, a ceremony that would appeal through the senses to each person of every generation.’


She talks of the lamb. “Redemption through the death of the Passover lamb was personal as well as national. Even so, salvation must be a personal event. In Ex 12:3, the commandment is to take a lamb, a nebulous, unknown entity, nothing special; in Ex 12:4, God says “the” lamb. Now he is known, unique, set apart. Finally, in Exodus 12:5, God specifies, “your” lamb, each redeemed soul must appropriate the lamb for himself.”


The bitter herbs of the Seder represent the repression of the Egyptians and the bitterness of life, which the life of the lamb that they had taken into their home died so that they may live. “Even so, the believer in the Messiah Jesus receives new life through His death as the Lamb of God.”


The unleaven bread of the Seder represents the putting away of sin, as leaven almost always represents sin in the bible. The word “Matzo” means sweet without sourness. “The unleavened bread typified the sweetness and wholesomeness of life without sin.” “They did not put away in order to be redeemed; rather, they put away leaven because they were redeemed. Paul describes unleavened bread as sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:7-8

7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.   8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. NKJV This unleaven bread would take the place of the roasted lamb: “In Passover observances after the cessation of the Temple sacrifices, the matzo (unleavened bread) took on added significance when the rabbis decreed it to be a memorial of the Passover lamb.”


Ex 12:14’So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. NKJV


This “feast” is meant to be a “memorial” kept forever. “Now God commanded the annual memorial of the Passover observance so that His people might reflect regularly upon all that He had done for them.” Feasting, singing, celebration and gladness are the words that surround the time of Passover. The Passover lamb could only be sacrificed in Jerusalem so Jews from all over would come to Jerusalem for the time of Passover. The author refers to Jesus’ wrath in the temple describing them as “a den of thieves” in relation to this quote: “Most people bought lambs in the Temple, knowing from bitter experience that the priests could almost always manage to find some minute imperfection on any animal brought from the outside”.


The last supper of Jesus was a Passover meal or a Seder. The meal would include 4 cups of wine as a symbol of joy. The meal with its blessings and questions from the youngest son as to the “why’s” of the night make each element important. The washing of the hands in which Jesus chose to wash the disciples feet. The Passover lamb would be the last thing eaten.


Here is a breakdown of the meal with Jesus’ actions with the author’s headings:


The Kiddush (the blessing over the first cup of wine)


Luke 22:17-18 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves;  18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 


The First Washing of Hands


John 13:4-5 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.


(Table of food brought; bitter herbs dipped in salt water; table of food removed; second cup of wine poured; ritual questions asked; ritual answer given; table of food brought back; explanation of lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread; first part of Hallel; second cup taken; second washing of hands; one wafer of bread broken; and thanks over bread recited.)


Broken pieces of Bread Dipped in Bitter Herbs and Charoseth, and Handed to All:


John 13:26 Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.


“The Paschal meal eaten; hands washed a third time; third cup poured.)


Blessing After Meals:


1 Cor 11:23-25…Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,  "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."


Blessing Over Third Cup (Cup of Redemption):


1 Cor 11:25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 


(Third cup taken; second part of Hallel recited; fourth cup poured and taken.)


Closing Song or Hymn:


Matt 26:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Here are some interesting insights of the author:


Speaking of Judas: “Because he left before eating the Passover, he had, in effect, excommunicated himself from the congregation. Neither did he have any part in the new memorial that came after supper.”


“The bread that Jesus broke for the bitter sop was not the bread of which He said, “This is my body”. That came later. We see this from the account that He took that bread after He first gave thanks at the end of the meal; then He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24. Not only the words were shocking. It was a very unusual act, for after supper no other food was to be eaten. Jesus here instituted the new memorial. He was teaching the disciples in cryptic terms that after His death, the Paschal lamb would no longer have the same significance.”


“The gospel accounts of the Last Supper mention only two of the four seder cups—the first and the third. According to early Jewish tradition, these two were the most important. The first cup was special because it consecrated the entire Passover ritual that followed. But the Mishnah states that the third cup was the most significant of all. The third cup had two names: the “cup of blessing,” because it came after the blessing or grace after meals, and the “cup of redemption,” because it represented the blood of the Paschal lamb. It was of this cup that Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new testament” Mt 26:28


Our author then examines a modern Seder with this observation: “They continued to drink the four cups of wine to symbolize gladness. Still, the main course of the feast was conspicuously missing!” “The appearance of the striped and pierced matzo brings to mind two verses of Scripture that help to complete the picture: “With his strepes we are healed” Is 53:5, and “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” Zech. 12:10.”


The modern Seder without the lamb, has inserted another ritual with the matzo. The host takes 3 pieces of the bread representing unity. He breaks and hides the middle one to be found by the children later. This “buried” matzo is called the, aphikomen. The rituals of the meal are followed by a great feast of the foods of any given location. Remember, the lamb was the last thing to be eaten at the Passover meal. The only thing left is the aphikomen, the hidden matzo. “In Temple times, the lamb was the last thing to be eaten; now, in the absence of the sacrificial lamb, the unleavened bread was to represent the Passover sacrifice. The taste of the matzo and the memory of the lamb were to linger in the consciousness of each celebrant….The host unwraps the aphikomen and distributes olive-sized pieces to everyone. All partake of it with quiet reverence.” The meal is finished with only the last two cups of wine to go.


So where did this ceremony with the “aphikomen” come from? The middle piece of a trinity that is taken and buried and then found and shared with all their representing the sacrificial lamb. Easy to see Jesus, but how did it get to be a part of the Jewish Seder practiced by Jewish families all over the world for centuries? The answer comes from the “ambivalent status for a time of the Jewish Christians….They continued to worship in the Temple and attended the synagogue with their fellow Jews. When the break finally came, the Jewish believers in Jesus did not abandon the synagogue. Rather, the synagogue expelled the Jewish Christians….The early Jewish Christians incorporated into their own Passover services the spiritual lessons, customs, and insights taught them by Jesus Himself at the Last Supper…..some of their customs and interpretations became part of the Passover ritual of that time. The use of the aphikomen to commemorate the Passover lamb would have been particularly meaningful to the Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple…Therefore, the words, “In memory of the Passover Lamb,” spoken over the aphikomen in the Sephardeic seder, present a double symbolism: The middle wafer represents Jesus, the Messiah, who, by His sinless, perfect life, fulfilled the prophetic symbolism of the unleavened break, and who, by His sacrificial death, fulfilled the prophetic symbolism of the Passover Lamb!


At the seder we single out the middle matzo, representing the Messiah, even as He was foreordained to die for the sins of the whole world. We break the middle matzo, signifying His death, for He was crucified, even as the psalmist and the prophets foretold in Ps 22, Is 53 and Dan 9. We hide the middle matzo, signifying burial. Just before the third cup of wine, perhaps symbolizing three days, we “resurrect” the middle matzo, just as Jesus the Messiah rose from the grave in fulfillment of Job 19:25 and Ps 16:10. Then all the faithful partake of the middle matzo, signifying a personal, individual part in the everlasting redemption of God, even as Jesus taught: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (Jn 6:51).


Each time I cover this material it adds to my Easter communion experience. Only God can open blind eyes.


About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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