“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Passover I

Passover is a story of miraculous transitions – from slavery to freedom, from despair to hope, from darkness to light. Its greatness is the greatness of God. Its timelessness comes from the eternal truth of his involvement with His people. As God cared for the children of Israel in ancient times, He cares for all who are His today.

One of Messiah's last earthly acts was the celebration of the Passover. Gathering His disciples in a small room in Jerusalem, he led them in the Seder. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15). He passed the foods among them, and it was there, in the context of the Passover celebration that Yeshua (Jesus) revealed to them the mystery of God's plan of redemption. He spoke to them of His body and blood. He explained to them that He would have to die.

It was no coincidence that Messiah chose the Passover for the setting of what is now celebrated as communion, the Lord's Supper. For in the story of the Passover lamb, Yeshua (Jesus) could best communicate the course He would be taking over the confusing hours that were to follow. As we participate together in the Passover Seder, we experience once again God's great redemption.

OK, first the basics, a definition of terms:

1. Haggadah - Order of Service - a book which leads us through the order of the service.
2. Pesach - This is actually the name of the feast.
3. Seder - The Passover meal
4. The Seder Plate, which consists of: (a) Shank Bone – This is representative of the Paschal Lamb. As believers in Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, we know that our Paschal Lamb stated 'It is Finished' at his sacrifice. We now have this on the plate as a reminder; (b) Maror – Bitter Herbs represent the bitterness of slavery that the Israelites experienced in Egypt. We, like the Israelites were once in bondage. Karpas – The parsley represents the hyssop used to put the blood over the lintel and doorposts of the Israelites. Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, when He was hanging upon the cross was also given drink from a hyssop branch. Kharoset – This is a mixture made from apples, honey, nuts and juice. It represents the brick and clay with which the Israelites built the cities of Pharaoh. We eat this with the maror, showing that no matter how bitter the circumstances, they can be sweetened by God. Likewise, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach promised the disciples tribulation, but also told them to be of good cheer as He had overcome the world! (John 16:33) Egg – This, like the shank bone, represents the sacrifice at the temple. The egg represents the burned offering that was offered up the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Saltwater – We dip the karpas in this to symbolize the salt of the Red Sea where the Egyptians met their end, as well as the tears of the Israelites while in slavery. As stated above, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach was given drink from a stalk of hyssop, and we can only imagine the tears He shed for us! The Cup of Elijah – This is the cup that is poured for the prophet Elijah. Each year, in a traditional service, we await the return of the prophet Elijah, going so far as to have one of the children open the outside door to check and see if he has arrived! Matzoh – This is the unleavened bread, or 'bread of affliction', that is eaten during the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

In the days leading up to Passover, leavened items are removed from the home. These include all bread and cakes that contain yeast. Preparation for Passover includes a thorough cleansing, of the entire home, culminating in a ceremonial search for leaven, called bedikat khameytz. Tradition teaches that in each generation, we must consider ourselves as having been personally freed from Egypt. As we prepare for the experience of personal redemption, we put far from us the leaven of sin hidden within our hearts.

Even though our house has been thoroughly cleansed because of the approaching Feast of Passover, all rooms of the house must be clear of chametz (leaven). The master of the house, according to Jewish tradition, must personally inspect the house to be sure that all chametz is removed and none remains in his possession. On the eve before erev Pesach, the evening of Passover, the master of the house gathers his family about him and with the light of a wax candle goes from room to room searching for leaven. With a large feather, the father collects in a wooden spoon or other receptacle those crumbs of bread previously placed where they might easily be found, in corners and on windowsills. This search has to be made following Ma-Ariv prayer immediately after nightfall and before the commencement of any work. The master of the house washes his hands and makes the following blessing before beginning the search, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by your commandments and commanded us to remove the leaven."

On erev Pesach (the evening of Passover), all chametz found during the search, and the chametz that was left over from any meals, is wrapped together with the wooden spoon and burned. The following prayer is recited:

"All manner of leaven which is in my possession, that which I have seen as well as that which I have not seen, that which I have removed as well as that which I have not removed, is hereby annulled and accounted as the dust of the earth."

Typically in the Bible, leaven is a symbol for sin. With the destruction of the temple, the unleavened bread became a substitute for the Passover Lamb, which was to be perfect, without spot or blemish. Our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), made the unleavened bread a symbol of His own sacrifice for our sins.

There is much more to be said about this; I will leave you with these thoughts for part I, I hope to do several parts laying out the complete seder celebration...


Steve Sensenig said...

I'm enjoying this series of posts, Ray. It's very good for me to finally be learning more about some of these feasts.

steve :)

Ray said...

Thanks Steve -- I am glad that you are enjoying them... I struggle between too much information and not enough... but I am getting there...

Charles North said...

Ray. Sorry for not posting in so long. I have been reading your series on Jewish feasts though - and really loving it! It's interesting that Jews have "feasts." We don't really have feasts in the church. I wonder why?

Ray said...

Thanks for stopping by Charles! Yeah, I have been a bit busy lately myself -- always good to hear from you....

We USED to have feasts, but then the church did away with them... ;-)