Sunday, April 8, 2007

Passover

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...

Passover:

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.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Wow... Thank you for posting this. That was so interesting to read. I knew bits and pieces of it, but not the entire thing. Would you mind if I linked to it in my LJ?

Paula said...

Of course, we Jews don't consider it as "missing" anything! I understand that from a Christian perspective we have missed the boat, but we have to be allowed our own judgement as well -- and while we may well believe that Jesus had some good things to say, we don't believe that he was Moshiach. Although we do wait for the Messiah, Judaism is much more focused on this world, and on our behavior herein, than on the world to come. To me, the most important part of the Seder is the memories of the past and the consequent responsibility they lay on us. We were originally treated well in Egypt, given shelter during times of famine; we have a responsibility to do the same for those seeking shelter with us. We were made slaves by a later Egyptian dynasty and became free: we have the like responsibility to preserve others from the sufferings inflicted on us and to celebrate and share our freedom.

Despite the differences between Christians and Jews, this is all part of our common heritage and a responsibility I would like to see us all acknowledge and share. (No aspersions intended; there are plenty of Jews who do not see things this way, and plenty of Christians who are extremely conscious of their obligations to the strangers within their gates.)

Oh, and I'm here via the link from Kiwiria :-)

Prairie Rose said...

Paula, of course you don't consider it as missing anything. :) I know that Passover is a time to remember God's deliverance of the people of Israel out of bondage from the Egyptians, and I know that in and of itself is enough to celebrate about!

Obviously I fully agree that Christians and Jews alike should be responsible for preserving others from suffering, but relating this to Passover is new to me. Also the idea that backtracking to when times were good for Jacob's offspring in Egypt and what responsibility that would subsequently place on Jacob's offspring now would be considered the MOST important part of the Seder is new to me. Obviously it's very true and is consistent with true Christianity as well, but I always thought the focus of Passover was on the later period, when arose the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, and the Israelites were enslaved and treated cruelly, and then God delivers His people and takes them back to the Promised Land at long last.

To consider that because of being treated well in Egypt during the famine, so ought we also to harbor others in such situations is a beautiful lesson for the Passover to be a reminder of. I think of the Christians who gave their lives to do exactly that for the Jews during WWII. May we today do the same for anyone who is being persecuted.

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your respectful thoughts.

Paula said...

I wouldn't say the good times in Egypt are the *most* important part - but I would say they and the slavery times teach the same lesson, and it's one of the oldest: "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you." (Christians say it without those two "nots". )

Do you know about the Righteous Gentiles project at Yad vaShem"? They seem to be calling it "Righteous Among the Nations" now, which is a better translation. It honors those who saved lives during the Holocaust.