Attn Newcomers: You may wish to read the Overview post first.


How Christians Can Celebrate Passover

(Newcomers to this blog may wish to see the Overview post first.)

PESACH - Passover
(pronounced Pay'sock or Pay’soch – put your tongue at the roof of your mouth and exhale
for the “ch” sound! )

Passover takes place in the Jewish calendar month of “Nissan” – yes, spelled and pronounced just like the automobile! Some readers may be aware that the Jewish calendar does not agree with the Gregorian (or Roman) calendar the western world follows. Although the dates of most Jewish holidays do not change from year to year on the Jewish calendar, the Jewish year is not the same length as our solar year. So Passover could land in March or April, and generally close to Easter.

Any person from a Jewish family - or any Christian who has read Exodus 12 - will know the story of the very first Passover, and importance of the lamb's blood. When Pharaoh would not release the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, even after God inflicted nine plagues on the Egyptian people, God commanded Moses to have all Jews paint the blood of a perfect lamb on their doorposts. This was so their first-born children wouldn't be slain along with the Egyptian first born children in the tenth and final plague. The Lord would pass over the Jewish households.

How exciting! Because of the blood of a little, pure lamb, we escaped the wrath of God that fell on Pharaoh's people and his own family for their disobedience to the message Moses carried from God! The Israelites were now free to leave their bondage to Pharaoh and start a new life! This is what was to be celebrated throughout the centuries:
"This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall
celebrate it as a festival to the Lord - a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be
sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying ‘go and make preparations for us to
eat the Passover’."
(Luke 22:7,8)
In honor of the sacrificial lamb, there is a commemorative plate set on the Passover table which should contain a lamb shank among other foods mentioned in the questions, and these are ceremoniously held up or eaten at various times during the service.

The book which is read at Passover Seders, the “Hagaddah”, is a story within a story that has been used for at least four centuries. It’s about four sons who ask their father the meaning of Passover. They are questioning him about why this holiday (which lasts seven days) is different than other nights. The singing of the “Four Questions” is a beautiful thing. It is actually one question, sung between each of four answers:

“Why is this night different from all other nights, from all other nights?”
(Mah nishtanah ha-lahylah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-layloht, mi-kol ha-layloht?)Because:
-On all other nights, we may eat chametz (leavened grain products) and matzah (unleavened bread). On this night, only matzah.
-On all other nights, we eat many vegetables. On this night, maror (bitter herbs to remind them of their bondage in Egypt).
-On all other nights, we do not dip even once. On this night, twice.
-On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining. On this night, we all recline (they can relax).
The father then opens the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Sometimes everyone present gets a turn to read a portion - The ten plagues God brought on the Egyptians, the resulting liberation of the Jews, their wilderness struggle, and the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea.

Jesus does not share this outer story, about the father and sons, with the twelve disciples because it hadn't been written yet. But the men are together on that famous night in the upper room to celebrate their ancestors’ freedom from bondage, and the prophetic similarities between the activities for this holiday which God gave to Moses are strikingly the same as what Jesus did at the Last Supper:

Jewish PASSOVER compared to the LAST SUPPER:
The Jews are told to take only unleavened bread on their journey.
Jesus broke unleavened bread with the disciples.

The ceremony contains glasses of wine as an honor to the lamb's blood and sweat of the Jews.
Jesus offers the disciples wine as a symbol of his blood, yet to be shed.

The "matzo"* crackers are dipped in the bitter herbs and eaten to represent sorrow and hard labor.
The disciples dip and eat the bread to to represent Jesus' body.

The blood of the lamb was shed at the first Passover to save the Jews from the plagues and free them from a seemingly never-ending bondage.
Jesus was sacrificed soon after the Passover and his blood was shed to save us from our sins and free us from eternal death.

The ceremonial matzo (“Afikomen”) is hidden under a cushion, not to be seen until the end of, when the children uncover it and bring it out.
Jesus was entombed and wasn't seen again for three days. At the end of three days he is seen alive outside by the women, having shed his wrappings.

There are 3 matzohs separated in different folds of a napkin, used in the ceremony at various intervals.
Jesus was born, died, and rose again (3 stages) - We worship the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost (God in 3 persons).

*Matzo, or Matzah [plural matzohs] is the name of the cracker-like bread that is used today to represent the unleavened bread of the Egyptian Jews as they hurriedly prepared to leave. The bread may more have resembled what we now know as pita bread, but must not be allowed to ferment and rise. In biblical days and today, for seven days the Passover observer must eat nothing with leaven (yeast) of any kind. The house must be cleansed of all forms of leavening. No rising flour or bread dough is used at all, and a different set of dishes should be used than the rest of the year. Many use this time as their “spring cleaning”. You’ll see my family’s favorite yeast-free recipe, “Mandel Bread” (chocolate chip or almond bars) at the end of the chapter!

To the Messianic Jew, the 3 Matzohs take on another meaning at Passover: One represents Jesus' birth, the middle one His burial, and the third one His resurrection.

After this part of the story, the reader of the Hagaddah goes on to direct the gathered people in worship, where they praise God with many joyous songs and prayers including the song “Chad Gadya” (discussed in the later chapter, “The Ultimate Sacrifice”). These songs and prayers state that if God had done nothing but place them out in the desert, "it would have been enough". But God gave them riches, fertile land, and blessings beside that in Canaan. When the Jewish people celebrate the liberation from Egypt, they are also celebrating their future liberation from all persecution and their homecoming to the Promised Land. At the end of the Passover, everyone at the celebration raises a glass and makes a toast with these traditional words: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

And so, similarly, we believers worship God for giving us Jesus - if he had died for just one of us, "it would have been enough". But He gives us more than that. Through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, God grants us abundant life here on earth and eternal life in Heaven, and is preparing greater riches for us there. As King David said:
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
(Psalm 23:5-6, NKJV)
And Jesus, hundreds of years later:
"In my Father's house are many mansions;
If it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you…
..I will come again and receive you to myself;
That where I am, there you may be also."
(John 14:2-3, NKJV)

As you may have guessed, that night was not originally called "Passover." It was called the "Feast of Unleavened Bread".
Passover today is usually celebrated with special dinners and services on both the first and second night. All evening long, a special cup filled with wine is placed on the dining table, and a door to the home or temple is left open. This signifies the welcoming back of Elijah – whom most Jewish people say is the forerunner and announcer of the Messiah, if not the Messiah himself.

This is a copyrighted excerpt from the book What Every Christian should Know about the Jewish People: Improving the Church's Relationship with God's Original Chosen Nation. (© 2008, Sheryl Young, Wine Press/Pleasant Word Publishing). All rights reserved. Although the book is no longer available, please enjoy the other informative posts on this blogsite. 


Mommy2Lots said...

This is very interesting. I will have to get the book now. :-)

Mommy2Lots said...

P.S. I'm linking to this from my Homeschooling blog. :-)