Looking forward to Passover each year makes me excited!
Until a handful of years ago, Passover meant nothing to my husband and me. When a friend invited us to a Passover Seder, we were curious and a bit leery but decided to attend. We wondered, “As Christians should we really be participating in this?” At first we weren’t sure.
After participating in a Passover Seder, my answer is a wholehearted “Yes!” I wholeheartedly encourage every Christian to participate in this amazing celebration that not only REMEMBERS the Lord’s powerful ways of bringing his people out of Egyptian bondage, but completely points to the Messiah freeing us from our own bondage of sin.
On top of that, I realized Jesus used something his disciples knew well. The exact same words are said at every Passover Seder every year, to teach important lessons like humbling one’s self, being a servant leader, that He is the Passover Lamb and remembering him. It truly is powerful imagery!
A New Understanding of Communion
Celebrating the Passover Seder meal helped my husband and I understand communion in a whole new way. Because it has impacted our lives so greatly, I wanted to share it with you and explain many things I never knew before. However, there is no way I can explain an entire Passover Seder in one little post.
Instead, I hope to pique your interest with what stands out to me most, so that you will want to learn more or even participate in a Passover Seder yourself. (Be sure to check out the resources listed below.)
The Passover Seder
The Passover is all about remembering how the Lord delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. But it also points to the Great Rescuer, Christ Jesus, and to his second coming. Taking the bread and the fruit of the vine, which is part of the Passover Seder, Jesus calls us to remember how he has delivered us from bondage too.
So grab your Bibles and let me give a little explanation!
Basics of the Passover in Exodus 11-12 and how It Points to Christ
Here is a quick reference to re-familiarize yourself with the specifics of the Passover in Exodus chapters 11 and 12 and how they point to Christ.
My Favorite Parts of the Passover Seder
The Four Promises
Four promises are repeated in the Passover Seder. These are taken directly from Exodus 6. I am adding the numbers so you see how they number the promises:
Therefore, say to the Israelites:
1. I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
2. I will free you from being slave to them,
3. and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement.
4. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.
Oh, I get chills just reading over these promises! The Lord did not promise these things only to those He delivered from Israel, because He knew Jesus was coming. These promises are for us too. As Jesus recited the words of the Passover, he taught us how to remember Him too.
Each of these promises is stated separately throughout the Passover dinner. Each blessing is associated with a cup from the fruit of the vine. (Hmm…where else have we heard about the fruit of the vine? The Lord’s Supper!)
A New Testament Parallel
This is not in the Passover but every time I recite the above promises I can’t help but think about what the Word says:
1. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30
2. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:18
3. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
4. “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21
I hope you have started to see how all of God’s plan fits together so well and that Passover not only pointed to the Messiah but that Jesus incorporated the idea of remembering Him into it as well!
Many of the recitations throughout the Passover Seder have been recited for centuries upon centuries, even back to Jesus’ day and before. It’s neat to think we are reciting the same things Jesus did.
(Due to space, I will not type them all out but will refer you to where you can find them.)
A spot reserved for Messiah – The Honored Guest
Jesus participated in the Passover feasts during his lifetime. After his death and resurrection, many believers spent the night before Passover fasting and praying his return. They would leave a place of honor for Him at the table waiting his arrival.
The wonderful thing is that because he instituted the Lord’s Supper during communion, we are able to dine with Jesus every time we take it and proclaim Him until He comes!
Is Jesus an honored guest at the table of our hearts?
The First Cup – The Cup of Sanctification
This cup goes with the promise “I will bring you out.” The cup is lifted, everyone leans to the left like a freeman (which symbolizes reclining) and then everyone says together:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
King of the universe
And the creator of the Fruit of the Vine.
Blessed are you, O LORD Our God, King of the Universe,
Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this festive season.
This cup is most likely the cup that Jesus blesses at the beginning:
After taking the cup, [Jesus] gave thanks… ”
At this point, the father and mother help everyone wash their hands. It is at this point in the Seder that Jesus would have washed the disciples’ feet and taught them about being a servant leader.
The Bitter Herbs
Bitter herbs like parsley are dipped into salt water and eaten. This represents the bitterness and tears of bondage while the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt.
This was possibly the point that Jesus dipped his bread in with the one who would betray him.
Later on in the Seder, the parsley is dipped into charoseth, which is a sweet mixture of apples, walnuts, honey, and cinnamon. This is a reminder that we must take the good things in life along with the bitter things in life.
The Four Questions
In Exodus 12:26-27, the Lord gives instructions how to talk to our children about the Passover:
“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.”
There are many things within the Passover that are different from ordinary life, and so the four questions help make clear that we are doing them in order to remember God’s power, grace, and mercy.
Question #1 – On all other nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only matzah, which is unleavened bread?
Question #2 – On all other nights we eat vegetables and herbs of all kinds. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?
Question #3 – On all other nights we never think of dipping herbs in water or in anything else. Why on this night do we dip the parsley in salt water and the bitter herbs in charoseth?
Question #4 – On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. Why on this night do we all recline?
These questions are not only asked but answered in the resources below.
Unleavened Bread: Bread of Affliction and the Afikomen
Matzah, unleavened bread, is used in the Seder. Three pieces of Matzoh are placed into a cloth pouch, called a Matzah Tosh, which has three pockets–one piece of Matzoh per pocket. “Each piece is separated from the others by a piece of cloth. They are a unity, yet in three parts, as we understand the triune nature of GOD to be (3, page 8). “
The bread that is eaten is called the Bread of Affliction. The Matzoh used today are striped and pierced. It reminds us of Christ’s suffering before and during his crucifixion because his body was striped and pierced. Even in the bread we see a reference to Christ!
This is so cool:
The middle piece is taken out and broken in half. The smaller half is eaten with one of the other Matzoh pieces. The larger half is wrapped in a white napkin and hidden.
“The hidden piece of matzah is called the AFIKOMEN. which is a Greek word meaning, “I have come” (Psalm 40:7-8), a yearly reminder that the Messiah, the true Passover Lamb, has already come. Later it will be “found” and returned to the table, which signifies to believers in Yeshua [Jesus] that He was buried, resurrected, and now sits at the right hand of GOD the Father soon to return. The Seder is not complete until the afikomen is “redeemed,” for a price, to the child that finds it (3, page 9).”
Isn’t it awesome? This directly reminds us of how Jesus paid the price so we could be redeemed to our Heavenly Father!
Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world .Praise the Lord, he keeps us from ever needing any other sacrifice for our sins! It is by Christ’s blood that we are covered and saved from the destroyer (John 1:29).
(FYI – Since the temple’s destruction in AD 70, most Jews replaced the lamb with a shank bone and the matzah has become the focal point of the meal.)
The Second Cup – Praise
This cup goes along with the promise of “I will bring you out.” It’s a time of praise for freedom. A song called Dayenu meaning “It would have been enough” is typically sung. A blessing to the LORD is recited with the cup held high, but a drink is not yet taken.
It’s during this time that ten drops are removed from the cup and one at a time are dropped in memory of God saying, “Let my people go” and the plagues when Pharaoh refused.
Again, the second cup is lifted, this blessing is stated and then the fruit of the vine is drunk:
Blessed are You O Lord Our GOD, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine!
According to Ray Vander Laan, it is during the meal and during this section of the second cup, that Jesus “took bread [matzah], gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying:
This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
To put Jesus’ words in the context of the Passover really brings His words to life!
It’s like Jesus is saying,
This, this bread that represents your deliverance from bondage
this bread without yeast,
this sinless bread,
this bread is My body, My sacrifice, My offering.
Eat it. All of you. Remember me!
And every time from then on they had Passover and had that unusual taste of unleavened bread, they remembered.
-Ray Vander Laan (5).
The Third Cup – Redemption (aka the Blessing or the Eucharistic Cup)
The promise with this cup is “I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm.”
Oh, how Jesus redeemed us! He spread out both of his arms on the cross and took all of our sins upon Him!
It is assumed that this third cup, the Redemption cup, is the one Christ used to initiate the Lord’s Supper.
This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul says:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, too bread, and when he had given thanks, he brok it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The Fourth Cup – Cup of Acceptance
The promise with this cup is “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”
This cup calls us to the service of God, to what awaits us–a time to be gathered to the Lord. It’s a cup of protection. Protection that Jesus refused to take as he was finishing his calling on Earth.
I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.
In essence, Christ didn’t drink to God’s protection so He could go to the cross. He rose from the dead and now is preparing a place for us in heaven, and then He will take us all home.
Not So Random
You see, Christ didn’t suddenly take some bread and some fruit of the vine at dinner one night and say “Hey, here’s a new thing, whenever you are eating food, let’s do this.” No! Instead, Jesus took a festival that God set up as a REMEMBRANCE to continue to use as a REMEMBRANCE for how GOD has delivered us from EVERY kind of bondage, both physical and spiritual! In light of the Passover, we begin to better understand Christ’s words regarding the Lord’s Supper. It makes us giddy with excitement to REMEMBER all He still has in store. HE IS RISEN and IS COMING BACK!!
Have you ever celebrated Passover? What stuck out to you most?
So have I whet your appetite to learn more? I hope so! Here are some great resources.
1 – The Bible – Especially Exodus 6, 11, 12; Luke 22; and 1 Corinthians 11
2 – Attend a Passover Seder. I would highly encourage you to attend a Passover Seder that is hosted in your city. If there is not a local church that does this, check with the Messianic Jewish congregations. This will help open your eyes and heart to Christ’s words.
3- Behold the LAMB: Passover with Yeshua the Messiah compiled by Leon & Leslie Clymer. We received this when we attended the Passover Seder with the Rosh Pinah Messianic Jewish congregation in OKC and used this when we celebrated Passover for the first time at home last year.
4 – Celebrating an Authentic Passover Seder: A Haggadah for Home and Church by Joseph M. Stallings. This book will walk you through everything including the history of Passover, an exact script to use during the Passover Seder, recipes for the dinner, and extra explanations!
5 – A DVD by Ray Vander Laan entitled The Path to the Cross: Faith Lessons vol. 11. All of his Faith Lessons are wonderful because he travels to the places where the stories happened so you experience the story in a visual setting as well.
Over the years, I’ve learned much from all these sources and have compiled some of what I’ve learned in this post. May you be blessed by it and continue being in awe of the Lord’s amazing ways!
Why not grab some friends and host a Passover Seder at your house next year?
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[…] meaning too! Jesus didn’t just pick up any cup. You see every single cup taken during the Passover Seder signifies […]
He did it all for us!!
Yes yes and yes – we had a seder last night at church – it was so cool!
Thanks for sharing all of this, Kristi. I loved the new testament parallel verses to the four promises to Israel.
Yes! Jesus wasn’t having “communion”, He was partaking of the Passover at the Last Supper. Understanding all you’ve shared gives us a deeper appreciation of what Christ did that night and all that the Old Testament says on the subject!