The Jewish roots of our Christian faith run deep. The pinnacle of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was precipitated by a Passover meal, one that represents the Paschal mystery in the New Covenant. Jesus is the true lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world — the final sacrifice for all humankind, manifested first at the Passover, the Last Supper whose celebration would endure forever.
In Passover is every element of who Jesus was, what he stood for and why he came. To dig deeper, we look at all that occurred after God freed the Jews from slavery. This commemorates what God did for his people, and now continues to do through Jesus. As the disciples sat around their last Passover meal with the Master, I am sure they could not have imagined the rich symbolism of that moment or what was about to come.
As Moses prepared for the Exodus, God was clear about the perpetual celebration of the Passover. This has been carried on for generations through God’s instructions that were explicitly stated. This “never forget” mentality reminds us what God has done, and continues to do for those that follow him. It is a great reminder for us as Christians of our own Exodus from our old lives and into the new life that God gives us through Jesus.
Symbols in Passover
Passover rekindles in us the love of Jesus Christ through the various acts and symbols that are used. The holiday begins by a thorough cleaning of the “chametz” or leaven that is prohibited during Passover. This leaven is symbolic of our sin and must be removed from the entirety of the physical home. As the Jewish people clean their physical homes, so we as Christians should clean our spiritual ones and rid our lives of anything that remains sinful. Traditional cleaning tools ( a feather, a wooden spoon and a bag) are used to clean a Jewish home to get rid of the very last bit of leaven, the representation of sin. To really sift through and cleanse our own spiritual lives, we must take the time to examine our conscience, pray, and rid of ourselves as Christians of “all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1 NIV).
Lighting the candles is the next integral part of Passover, and one that sets the tone for the rest of the Passover meal. A Hebrew blessing is said over the candles by the woman of the house. This is profound and should conjure up images of our Messiah who was birthed through a woman, Mary. So as the light flickers on this sacred holiday, we can remember Mary’s fiat, her Yes to God. The candles also remind us that with the light of the world, our Messiah Jesus, everything began.
Next, the recanting of the story of the Exodus at the Passover meal is read through the “Haggadah,” a Jewish prayer book which guides the dinner. Haggadah in Hebrew means “the telling” and fulfills the commandment to tell our sons and daughters of how God liberated his people from slavery in Egypt. And although the Exodus was a specific event that happened a long time ago, it is the “telling” of what God did that perpetuates his praise and glory. As Christ followers this is also true of us; as we gather around our tables daily in various places, it is always a good time to pause, reflect and share what God has done for us and how He has freed us from the slavery of sin. This spiritual liberation is important not only to remember for ourselves, but also to pass on to our sons and daughters and others that God has placed on our path.
Present also at all Passover Seders is the Seder plate, which is filled not only with rich symbolism for the Jewish people, but also for Christians. A second glance at the plate shows Christ’s unwavering presence, his constant care for us, and a great reminder of his love. Each item on the plate has a special meaning, when meditated on, that reflect the old and the new, the rebirth of God’s people.
The “karpas” or greens are the symbol of life. The greens, usually displayed as parsley are then dipped in salt water, which serves as a symbol of tears to remind us of how our ancestors cried out in their slavery. We taste the bitterness of being enslaved to remind us where we came from. As Christ followers, we remember the tears we shed before Jesus came into our lives, our lack of hope and the state we were in before we received his grace. Tasting our tears is now an act of happiness, as we meditate on who and where we once were.
The “beitzah” or egg reminds us of the sacrifice that was once offered in the temple. For the Jewish people, it is a reminder that the temple no longer stands. As Christians, the egg reminds us that Jesus sacrificed himself once and for all for everyone- Jew and Greek, slave and free. Jesus is the temple, the New Jerusalem. His resurrection provides us the hope of eternity and reminds us that we are not waiting for something in this lifetime.
The “Charoset” a thick mix of apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and red wine remind us of the mortar that was used to build brick when we were enslaved in Egypt. This is a reminder of the bitter and back breaking labor the Jewish people had to endure. We can use this symbol as Christians to recall that we no longer have to work for redemption, but that it is offered to us as a free gift through our loving Messiah. Jesus asks us to follow him and tells us that He will carry our burdens on his back. What a loving and sacrificial God we serve!
The shank bone laid on the plate is a reminder of how the firstborn sons of the Jewish people were spared from the Angel of Death, as God commanded the Jewish people to apply the blood of a spotless lamb to the doorpost of their homes. By the blood of the lamb, the first born sons of the Jewish people were spared and “passed over” by the Angel of Death. Sound familiar? It should as Jesus is the lamb of God. As it says in Revelation 12:11, “We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.”
Messianic congregations remember
There is so much more rich symbolism and connection that can be made during this holiday of remembrance. What started out as the Lord’s last meal ended in victory over sin and death! So for us too as we reflect during this Easter season, let us use the Passover table to remind us where we came from and how we can continue to rid ourselves of sin through the blood of Jesus, the Passover lamb.
Several local Messianic congregations offer Passover observances that acknowledge this rich heritage. A few of them are listed here.
Temple Aron Hakodesh
April 11 from 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Hosted at Jacaranda Country Club in Plantation
For information and tickets visit: tak.churchcenteronline.com/registrations/events/55516
L’Chaim Messianic Congregation
April 10 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Hosted at Embassy Suites WPB
For information and tickets visit: lchaim.net/event/passover-seder/
Jews for Jesus has several Seders with various times, dates and locations across South Florida. For information visit: jewsforjesus.org/attend-events/