Passover, which celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from their bondage in Egypt under Pharaoh, is celebrated every year as God commanded Moses. “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” Exodus 12:14
There are many symbolic parts of the Passover and I believe each one is important enough to take the time to understand. Remember that the first Passover occurred when God sent the tenth and final plague to Egypt when Pharaoh continually refused to let the Israelites go. The Angel of Death “passed over” Hebrew homes that were marked with lamb’s blood on the doorposts while the firstborn of every Egyptian family was slain.
Jesus the Messiah celebrated the Passover Seder with His disciples in the Upper Room. (Read Mark 14:12-16) Seder means orderly and the Seder meal is orderly; with purpose. God is the author of order and not of confusion.
Some of the traditions of the Passover are so symbolic of Jesus that I believe the Jews may not understand exactly why they do it! But God knew and, of course, it was all part of His great plan. This is the order of the Seder meal as it is celebrated every year by traditional Jewish family:
- THE REMOVAL OF LEAVEN : Before the beginning of the Passover, all leaven (yeast), which is symbolic of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8), must be removed. The house is cleaned thoroughly and anything that contains leaven is removed. The evening before the Passover, the father searches the house for any speck of leaven that may have been missed.
- WASHING THE HANDS: At the beginning of the ceremony, the family sits around the table and washes their hands with a special basin of water and towel. Jesus went so far as to wash his disciples feet after their Passover meal. (John 13:1-17)
- LIGHTING THE CANDLES: Once the house and the family are ceremonially clean, the Passover Seder begins. The mother of the family says a blessing and lights the Passover candles. This is symbolic because it was through woman that the light of the world, Jesus, came into the world. (Genesis 3:15)
- HAGGADAH: Haggadah means “the telling” of the story. It is very important and includes the children of the family asking questions about why this night is different from all the other nights? The father tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt, reading from a book called “The Haggadah”.
- THE FIRST CUP: The seder begins with a blessing spoken over the first of four cups of the fruit of the vine. “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine.” Jesus blessed the first cup at their Passover in Luke 22:17-18.
- THE SECOND CUP: The second cup is a reminder of the Ten Plagues and the suffering of the Egyptians. In order not to rejoice over the suffering of our enemies (Proverbs 24:17), a drop of the fruit of the vine is spilled as each plague is read from Exodus 12:1-13. This shows that our joy is less when we remember the suffering of others.
- AFIKOMEN: A very curious tradition now takes place. At the table is a bag with three compartments called “matzah tazh” and three pieces of the specially made unleavened bread, “matzah”. The middle piece of matzah is taken out, broken, and half is put back into the bag. The other half is wrapped in a linen napkin and hidden. (We will explore this later in the week!)
- THE SEDER PLATE: This special plate which has sections, contains special elements that are part of the ceremony: the bitter herbs, the parsley, the hard-boiled egg, the lamb shank, the matzah, the charoset.(explained later, too) Also on the table is a bowl of salt water.
I have been fortunate to take part in two Passover Seder meals. Please stay with me as I remember and try to explain the beauty of our Savior and the order of our God in each part of the festival!