Jesus celebrated the Seder with His disciples.
Join us as we take a quick tour through parts of a traditional Passover seder
and highlight those points that are especially meaningful to believers in Jesus.
The removal of leaven
Before the beginning of the Passover, all leaven, which is a symbol of sin (1
Cor. 5:6-8), must be removed from the Jewish home. The house is cleaned from
top to bottom and anything containing leaven is removed. Then, the evening before
the Passover, the father of the house takes the traditional cleaning implements:
a feather, a wooden spoon, and a bag, and searches the house for any specks
of leaven which might have been missed (my mother used to leave it on top of
the refrigerator so my father shouldn't spend all night hunting!).
Washing the hands
Once the leaven is removed, the family sits around the table and ceremonially
washes their hands with a special laver and towel. Jesus also took part in this
tradition, but rather than wash his hands, he got up from the table and washed
the feet of his disciples, giving us an unparalleled lesson in humility (John
Lighting the candles
Once the house and the participants are ceremonially clean, the Passover seder
can begin. The woman of the house says a blessing and lights the Passover candles.
It is appropriate that the woman brings light into the home, because it was
through the woman that the light of the world, Messiah Jesus, came into the
world (Gen. 3:15).
Haggadah means "the telling" - the telling of the story of Passover. The story
is told in response to four questions asked by the children: why is this night
different from all other nights? The father proceeds to tell the story of the
Exodus from Egypt, reading from a book called "The Haggadah" and using symbols
and object lessons in order to keep the attention of the little ones.
The first cup of wine
The seder begins with a blessing recited over the first of four cups of wine:
"Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the
fruit of the vine." Jesus himself blessed the first cup in Luke 22:17-18.
The second cup of wine
The second cup is to remind us of the Ten Plagues and the suffering of the Egyptians
when they hardened their heart to the Lord. In order not to rejoice over the
suffering of our enemies (Prov. 24:17), we spill a drop of wine (which is a
symbol of joy) as we recite each of the Ten Plagues, thus remembering that our
joy is diminished at the suffering of others.
A very curious tradition now takes place. At the table is a bag with three compartments
and three pieces of motza. The middle piece of motza is taken out, broken, and
half is put back into the bag. The other half is wrapped in a linen napkin and
hidden, to be taken out later, after the meal.
The seder plate
The rabbis have devised a series of object lessons to keep the attention of
the little ones during the Passover seder. These items are tasted by each person,
as each is instructed to feel as if they themselves had taken part in the flight
Karpas - greens
The first item taken is the karpas, or greens (usually parsley), which is a
symbol of life. The parsley is dipped in salt water, a symbol of tears, and
eaten, to remind us that life for our ancestors was immersed in tears.
Beitzah - egg
A roasted egg is on the seder plate to bring to mind the roasted daily temple
sacrifice that no longer can be offered because the temple no longer stands.
In the very midst of the Passover Seder, the Jewish people are reminded that
they have no sacrifice to make them righteous before God.
Shankbone of the Lamb
In every Jewish home, on every seder plate, is a bare shankbone of a lamb. In
the book of Exodus, Jewish firstborns were spared from the Angel of Death by
applying the blood of a spotless, innocent lamb applied to the doorpost of their
homes as God brought the people from slavery into freedom. Today, we believe
Jesus is that perfect Passover Lamb, and when we apply His blood to the doorposts
of our heart, we too go from death into life, from slavery to sin into the freedom
of being a redeemed child of God. As John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus
coming towards him, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Ah, even through the wonders of modern technology, we still cannot bring you
the most memorable part of the Passover... the meal, just like grandma used
to make! Just picture it: steaming hot chicken soup with huge, fluffy motza
balls; some motza; slices of pungent, home-made gefilte fish with just-ground
make-you-cry horseradish; more motza; chopped liver (with lots of schmaltz and
crunchy fried onions) on a bed of lettuce; more motza; enough delectable green
salad to feed a colony of hungry rabbits; more motza; more crispy fried onions
on the side; more motza... and that's just the appetizer!
Next comes the meal... can you smell it? Tender, sweet brisket with cabbage;
more motza; home made flanken; stewed chicken, roasted chicken, broiled chicken,
boiled chicken, saut‘ed chicken, baked chicken; more motza; a whole roasted
turkey; more motza; fresh-cut green beans with onions; more motza; carrot and
prune tzimmes; more motza; sweet potato and raisin tzimmes; more motza; home-made
mashed potatoes swimming in butter; more motza... and we haven't even gotten
through the appetizer! Did you save room for dessert??? Well, you will have
to wait, because now it's time go on with the seder!
The third cup of wine is taken after the meal. It is the cup of redemption,
which reminds us of the shed blood of the innocent Lamb which brought our redemption
from Egypt. We see that Jesus took the third cup in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians
11:25, "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.'" This was not just any cup, it was the cup of redemption from slavery
into freedom. This is our communion cup.
The fourth cup is the Cup of Hallel. Hallel in Hebrew means "praise," and we
see in the beautiful High Priestly Prayer of John 17, that Jesus took time to
praise and thank the Lord at the end of the Passover Seder, his last supper.
The spotless Passover Lamb had praise on his lips as he went to his death.
A place setting remains empty for Elijah the prophet, the honored guest at every
Passover table. The Jewish people expect Elijah to come at Passover and announce
the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). So a place is set, a cup is filled
with wine, and hearts are expectant for Elijah to come and announce the Good
News. At the end of the seder meal, a child is sent to the door to open it and
see if Elijah is there. Every year, the child returns, disappointed, and the
wine is poured out without being touched. My people wait and hope for Messiah
- they do not realize that Messiah has already come. But those of us who believe
in Yeshua know that He is the one the prophets spoke of. He is the spotless,
unblemished Passover Lamb, whose body was broken for us, whose blood was shed,
and who now lives to distribute His life to all of us who apply His blood to
the doorpost of our hearts and have passed from death into His eternal life.