Happy Easter, everyone.
I wanted to share a little bit about how I experienced Easter this year. I taught Sunday School this morning so was unable to attend the worship service, but that was fine, because I had my Easter all week long. I'll post about Passover tonight, and everything else in a later post, as this will be very long...
This truly is the epitome of Easter anyway, isn't it? Just think, all those hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born, God designed Passover to demonstrate to His people what He was going to do. The Messianic symbolism in the Seder meal is unmistakable -- to anyone who is open to the idea that Jesus could be the Messiah, of course, which is how Jews can continue to celebrate Passover year after year and sadly miss the whole point.
I celebrated Passover this year with five other families at our pastor's home. We didn't do the full meal, we did the shortened version. I would like to share some of the symbolism and how it applies to that first Easter. God paints such beautiful portraits that it is such a shame we don't always see them.
The first step in celebrating Passover is to remove all leaven from the home. The yeast symbolizes sin, and as we enter into a celebration of Passover, the removal of the leaven from the home shows a willingness to remove corruption from our lives.
Next we partake of the first cup, the cup of sanctification and freedom. God promised this to the nation of Israel, and although they view it as a promise yet to come, we know it is a promise He has fulfilled through the sacrifice of His Son.
The next step is the washing of hands, to represent the cleansing from sin. We know of course that Jesus took this a step further and washed the feet of His disciples at His last Passover meal with them.
After partaking of parsley dipped in saltwater (to represent the tears of suffering of the Jews in slavery) comes the breaking of the middle matzah. On a plate sits three pieces of matzah -- to represent, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The middle matzah, representing the Son, is then broken in half. One half is replaced on the plate, while the other half is wrapped in a linen napkin and hidden. To think that Jews do this year after year without realizing the symbolism of Jesus' body being broken for us just as He explained to His disciples as they performed this part of the ceremony together, and buried.
Next the youngest child asks the four questions, which enables the parents to share with the children the story of the Exodus, and to remind them of the promise God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- a promise which has now been fulfilled, but for which they continue to wait expectantly.
The second cup is taken at this time, the cup of praise. Following this, the bone of the lamb is shown, representing the Passover lamb killed so that the children of Israel might live. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate Passover lamb, and His blood covers our sins, just as the sacrificial lamb represented this covering of sins in the years before Christ for the Jewish people.
After the meal, the piece of matzah that was hidden away (i.e., Jesus' crucified body) is found, broken, and eaten. "Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you," Jesus told His disciples. And then the cup of redemption follows, with Jesus' commentary that "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" -- the original cup of redemption was a reminder of God's promise that He would one day redeem His people, and now by Jesus' blood, we are indeed redeemed.
I couldn't help but cry at the next part of the Seder meal. At this point, a child was sent to the front door to look for Elijah, for Malachi prophesied that Elijah would prepare the way for the Messiah. An empty seat is always ready for Elijah at every Passover meal, in case this is the year that he comes. Of course, the child does not see Elijah coming, and his father tells him that maybe next year Elijah will come. This saddened me more than any other part of the entire Passover meal, to think of all those Jewish people looking for Elijah year after year after year in hopes that God's promise to send a Messiah will come true in their lifetime -- and here, Elijah already came 2,000 years ago, (Jesus identified John the Baptist as the Elijah who would prepare His way) as did the Messiah, and they missed him! How can a people looking so expectantly for someone miss him entirely when he arrives? It is truly heartbreaking.
The fourth cup is the cup of acceptance, or hope. Jesus says in Matthew 26, after taking the cup of redemption, that this fruit of the vine He will not drink until He takes it with the disciples in the Kingdom. This cup represents the hope of the Jewish people that they will live in a Kingdom of peace. Someday we will drink that cup with Jesus in His glorious Kingdom of eternal joy and peace, and the final promise will be fulfilled.
Is it any wonder, with this much symbolism, that Jesus commands His disciples to do this in remembrance of Him? I truly feel that the typical communion service practiced in many churches is not what Jesus had in mind. Perhaps it's fine... but isn't the symbolism lost when only this part of it is segmented out of the entire Seder that way? I feel that Christians would greatly benefit from celebrating the Passover in this way, in remembrance of Him. All of the traditional Easter celebrations are great, but a Seder reinforces the picture God drew for His people thousands of years ago and reminds us that all but the last promise is already fulfilled. It reminds us of Jesus' sacrifice as the Passover lamb, and reminds us of His broken body and His shed blood, by which we are redeemed. Yes, I believe that Passover is what "Easter" is all about.