Every Passover is opened with this prayer: “Praised be Thou, O Lord, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments, and enjoined upon us the mitzvah (good deed) of kindling the Festival lights…
According to tradition, the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt because of the pious women of that generation being more righteous than the men were. That might sound a little familiar to us today. Because of this, it is the woman’s privilege to kindle Shabbat and festival lights in the home. In every Jewish home, women for centuries have ushered in The Passover with this prayer and the lighting of two candles. One candle for Judah/Israael and one candle for Ephraim/Israel – Jew and non-Jew. To many Messianic Jews, Ephraim represents the 10 lost tribes who are most likely believers found in the Christian community. Jewish people then begin the ceremony commanded by G-d Himself continuing with the prescribed prayer found in Ex: 13:8.
“And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, this is done because of that which the L-rddid unto me when I came forth out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:8)
Did you notice? …”And thou shalt show thy son in that day….” That is why rabbis’ predict that the Messiah will come on Pesach. Moreover, as believers we know that he did! Unfortunately, the larger communities of Jews are still waiting for the Messiah.
Being knowledgeable of that in Messianic congregations, Jewish or Gentile women light the candles and pray this prayer: First in Hebrew then English.
“Baruch ata Adonai Elohaynu melech ha-olam, sheshal lach et y’chid’cha, Yahshua Ha-Mashiach, lih’yot or ha-olam v’seh happesach shelanu l’ma-an nich’yeh biz’chuto.” Amein.
Which translates: Blessed art thou, O L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sent Thy Son, Thine only Son, Yahshua the Messiah, to be the light of the world and our Paschal lamb, that through Him we might live.
G-d gave the Jewish people many special days for remembering the great things He has done for them and One of the most important of these days is the feast of Passover. Passover reminds the Jewish people of the last meal eaten while they were in bondage in Egypt. It reminds them of their journey –the Exodus–from Egypt to the land that G-d promised. In Biblical typology, Egypt is symbolic of sin. It should then remind all unredeemed unbelievers that they are in the land of Egypt. Figuratively an unredeemed unbeliever is a still in bondage in Egypt as he is in bondage to sin. The long hard journey depicted in the haggadah (or story) recited every Passover of the exodus is symbolic of the progressive sanctification of the redeemed believer on his way to the Promised Land. As every Israelite was redeemed by the faithful placing of the paschal lamb’s blood on the lintels of their doors, we as believes are redeemed, reconciled to YHVH Elohim by the covering of Yahshua’s sacrificial blood. It also reminds us though we fall by the wayside on occasion, as did Israel, G-d is faithful and forgiving. If we repent, pick ourselves up and continue our journey, and like Israel, we may have to bear temporal punishment in the process but we have the promise of greater glory than we could ever imagine. Passover also symbolizes the outcome of the journey for like the Israelites, believers will someday arrive into the Promised Land as they did. Nevertheless, more important, Passover is a reminder of the redemption wrought by G-d when the angel of death passed over the homes where the Blood of the Lamb had been applied to the lintels of the doors. The Talmud tells Jewish people that Passover is to remind adults to “impress, inspire and educate” their children. Passover is a happy time, a joyous time, and a time to celebrate.
For 3,500 years Jewish people prepare for the Passover in obedience to the command found in Ex. 13:7, “no leavened bread (shall) be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in thy quarters.” Ancient Jewish sages say leaven in biblical terms is symbolic of sin and the Jewish home is thoroughly cleaned of all leaven before the day of Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread. To further insure the absence of even a trace of leaven, special dishes are used, as well as special pots and pans to prepare food, none of which will have any leaven in them. To not do this mitzvah (commandment) is to invite the wrath of G-d, excommunication and exile from G-d and the people.
Passover is also about families. Ex. 12:1-14 tells us the story. Each person in the family has a role to play. The Passover is called the Seder, a Hebrew word meaning order. The order of the Seder has been consistent for at least 2000 years. The Haggadah, (a book of songs, prayers, and various readings) tells the participants what to do and when to do it. The head of the family (traditionally the father or grandfather) sits at the head of the table and directs the proceedings.
The Seder begins with the woman of the home lighting the Passover candles, in hope that the light of the candles will light the spirits of the family. Then follows the Kiddush, the blessing of the wine: There are four cups served during the meal for the four I Wills” of G-d found in Ex. 5:6-7. The first cup represents the first of the four I wills spoken by G-d. It reads in v. 6: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” This is the cup of sanctification. The wine must be red to remind the participants of the Blood of the Lamb. The Passover meal is served, but first let us see what the other three glasses of wine represent. There follows three other cups relating to the scripture as the Seder progresses. The second cup relates to G-d’s second I Will Rescue You. This is the cup of telling forth of praise and deliverance. The third cup: I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” this is the cup of blessing and redemption. After the third cup the Prophet Elijah is invited to the Seder. A place has been reserved for him with a full glass of wine. The fourth cup recited from Ex. 6:7 reads: I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a G-d. I want you to remember this cup. It is the cup of completion and there is an important parallel found in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that directly relates to Passover.
After the first cup, the meal is laid. A special Passover plate is used and the items are laid in a specific order. Maror is bitter herbs and can be horseradish. It is eaten twice during the Seder. Arranged clockwise around the Maror starting at 1:00 is Z’roa, which is the shank bone of a Lamb in remembrance of the Paschal Lamb. On the opposite side at 11:00 is the Beitzah or roasted or boiled egg which is a symbol of mourning of the destruction of the temple and I might add since the destruction of the Temple no Lamb has been sacrificed, therefore, the Z’roa or shank bone. For believers the Lamb of G-d once sacrificed is sufficient, but it is curious that since about the time of Yahshua no Lamb is eaten or sacrificed during the Passover. Could it be the Lamb of G-d has already come? Judah is partly blinded now, but someday the scales shall be lifted maybe by the means of the typology found in the Passover. Then at 4:00 we find charoses This is a mixture of grated apples, nuts, other fruit, cinnamon and other spices, mixed with red wine. The charoses has the appearance of mortar to symbolize the lot of the Hebrew slaves whose lives were embittered by hard labor with brick and motor. The bitter herbs are dipped into this mixture. At six o’clock we find chazeres another bitter herb, which is romaine lettuce that is dipped in the charoses. At 8:00 we find karpas, a vegetable, (celery, parsley or boiled potato). This will be dipped in salt water which is placed near the Seder plate and eaten. The last thing placed below the plate is (3) three whole Matzah, Unleavened Bread, separated and wrapped in a white cloth.
The participants then take karpas (the green vegetable) and dip it in a bowl of salt water. This symbolizes two elements. One new birth-redemption-renewal and the tears shed during the two hundred years of slavery in Egypt. We as believers are the salt of the earth leaving the tears of bondage behind as we are redeemed and enter into a new birth. The parsley is also symbolic of the hyssop used to apply the blood to the Israelites doorposts. It was hyssop used to quench the thirst of the L-rd as he hangs on the tree.
Afterward the leader takes a pouch containing three matzos which represent the three classes of Jewish people: The Kohen ( Priests) , the Levites (Temple workers), and Israel.
The rabbis say that three loaves represents strength in unity. The middle matzo is taken by the leader and broken in half, wrapped in white and hidden. Does any of this remind you of anything? We will get back to this. The part that is hidden is called the Afikomen, or the bread of affliction. It is know in the Passover as the dessert.
Then the youngest member of the family has the important task of asking the leader about the Passover and Seder. He wants to know why this night is different from any other nights. He asks:
On all other nights we eat leaven –why on this night only unleavened bread?
On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs–why on this night only bitter herbs?
On all other nights we don’t dip even once–why on this night do we dip twice?
On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining–why on this night do we eat reclining?
Then the leader answers these questions by telling the story of the Exodus.
At this point the second cup of wine is poured. Each participant dips his little finger in the wine and recites, one by one, the 10 plagues as he puts the drop of wine onto his plate. In so doing the Jewish people remember even the suffering of their enemies. A prayer is recited and the second cup is drunk.
Have you ever wondered why John was seated next to and to the right of Yahshua? Because he was the youngest and that is the honored place in the Passover next to the leader.
Then there is a closing, the Hallel Psalms (113-118) are sung, a prayer is recited, and, in unison, all participants say “next year in Jerusalem.”
There is also the ceremony of U-r’hatz (the washing of hands) washing is, and has always been, a very important personal and religious function for Jewish people. Not only to purify, but it also reminds us of the priests as they prepared themselves for religious service as G-d commanded. The hands are washed several times during the meal. This is symbolic of the washing of the Ruach HaKodesh for believers who are also priests. The bitter herbs and charoset are eaten together. The bitter herbs recall the bitter bondage of slavery and the sweetness of the charoset of freedom. A bittersweet remembrance. It is customary to eat a Hillel sandwich named after the great Jewish sage Hillel. This is made up of two pieces of matzo and bitter herbs (horseradish). Then the regular meal is served. Now remember the Afikomen has been hidden during the entire Seder.
After the meal, the children search for the Afikomen for the one who finds it will receive a reward. Rabbis say the Afikomen is most important because the Seder cannot end until each participant in the Seder has eaten a small piece of it. Some rabbis believe that the Afikomen is more important than the shank bone. When it is found the third cup of wine is taken. This is the cup of redemption. Isn’t it odd that in a ceremony instituted 3,500 years ago, and not changed for the last 2000 years should have the cup of redemption drunk after the finding of the Afikomen, broken, hidden then revealed. Does that say anything to you? Yahshua was broken (died on the tree) Between two malefactors, became leaven or sin for us, was hidden in the grave three days, and revealed unleavened as our redeemer. Look at this unleavened matzo. It is pierced and has stripes. So did our L-rd. He had no sin but was made sin (leaven) for us.
What other applications can we make from Passover? Remember I told you to remember the fourth cup. Well, we will get to that.
Yahshua was celebrating Passover when He performed what has come to be known to Christians as the Lord’s Supper or communion. The rich symbolism of the Seder service paints a very clear and revealing picture of Yahshua as the promised Messiah. We know that the early believers did not celebrate Easter, but for over 200 years celebrated Passover. The emperor Constantine ordered many of the Jewish festivals to be outlawed instituting pagan holidays in their stead, which caused many believers then and now to lose sight of their roots and depth of understanding of scripture. Even to the point of denying Yahshua’s Jewish heritage. However, that’s another message.
I’ve alluded to several applications as I spoke. Let us make some more. Before the Passover begins, in the Jewish household there is a thorough search for leaven. Found, it is then removed from the house. Leaven is sin. Yahshua instituted remembrance of Him in the Passover through the wine and bread (matzo). Christian’s celebrate it as the Lord’s Supper or communion. What the Passover and leaven speaks to is that when a Christian remembers the L-rd in communion he should examine his heart to find any sin and get rid of it by confessing it to the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:27-28 documents that)
We remember that the woman brings the light to the Passover table by kindling the candles. Without her, the story of the physical redemption of the Jewish people could not be told. Two thousand years ago, a Jewess named Miriam, (we know her as Mary) was the choice vessel of G-d to bring spiritual redemption to the world. Without her, the story of salvation could not be told.
The three original elements of the Passover were bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and the lamb. Bitter herbs speak of bitter bondage. The believer should be practicing Passover but if a Christian practices communion he is to reflect and realize the bitter bondage of sin and the cure for that bondage, The Lamb of G-d, Yahshua. He was pure, sinless, without spot -just like the unleavened bread. Just as the Paschal Lamb that was sacrificed and eaten before Yahshua came.
Then, we have the great drama of the Afikomen. Three matzos are placed in one pouch. The Middle one is taken, broken, wrapped in white, hidden away, found, redeemed, and shared by all. The middle matzo that has taken the place of the Lamb is important as shown by the fact that everyone at the table must partake of it. We see a picture of Yahshua in that middle matzo and if we do not partake of Him we are lost. Ashkenazi Jews believe partaking of the middle, Matzah has the power to heal the sick. Sephardic Jews believe it can calm stormy seas. Sound familiar.
Afikomen is the only Greek word in the Passover. It means He Came! The Afikomen looks back not only at the Passover Lamb bringing physical salvation in Egypt, but also at the Savior! The Passover Lamb who brought spiritual salvation to the world. Isaiah described this event when he said, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our inequities,; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, and Isaiah also said “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of G-d, who taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
The Jewish people believe that Elijah will announce the Messiah. Remember, I told you about the place and the fifth cup of wine. Each year Jews set a place for him at the table, waiting and hoping for the announcement. Two thousand years ago Yahshua said of John the Baptist, “this is Elijah” (Matthew 11:14.) Malachi 4:5 says, that Elijah will be sent before “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Could it be that Elijah will be one of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11 who will appear before the Second Coming of Yahshua?
In Matthew, we see Yahshua taking the unleavened bread, symbolic of His pure and spotless body and the cup of wine, representing His blood. The cup, He took was the third cup. The cup of redemption. Next we have the fourth cup and I told you to remember it for it signifies a very important statement by Yahshua Who did not drink the fourth cup. Why? He said He would not drink of it until He drinks it new with us in His Father’s Kingdom. Remember, what the fourth cup symbolizes in the four “I Wills” of G-d (Ex. 6:7): “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a G-d.” This is the cup of completion! When Yahshua returns we will drink the fourth cup with Him in the Kingdom age, the millennium, the kingdom age of Israel’s total resurrection and supremacy on earth. Amein, Amein!
Then at the very end of the Passover the disciples sang a hymn and Matthew speaks of it in Matthew 26:30. This hymns is the Hallel, the Psalm sung at the end of every Seder in every Jewish household for over 2,000 years. Psalm 118 in verses 21,22 read: “I will praise thee, for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. (22) The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Who is the head stone, none other then Yahshua ha Mashiach! Then in verses 22-24 we read: “This is the day which the L-rd hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Yahshua Became the Passover Lamb on behalf of us all. The lamb had to be perfect with no spot or blemish. “He hath made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). The lamb was sacrificed. “Yahshua, our Passover, is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7)
The lesson of Passover is simple. Jewish or non-Jew, old or young, rich or poor—On that night in Egypt, the only issue was whether or not the blood was on the doorpost. Sincerity did not count. Good deeds did not count. Degrees and pedigrees did not count. What we must recognize, however is that we first have to trust and then to put that trust into action as the Israelites had to learn, to bring deliverance to fruition as evidenced by that generation falling in the desert and not coming into the Promised Land due to their disobedience. If we believed the blood would save us, but did not act and place it on the lintels as G-d instructed we were doomed. Salvation was a two-part street. Belief and action. So we see if the blood of the lamb was on the doorpost, death did not come. If there was no blood death was a certainty.
The requirements have not changed for us today. G-d still requires a blood sacrifice to atone for sin, but the amazing news is that G-d Himself provided the sacrifice. In His own Son Yahshua. The price has been paid once and for all time, and that is why the Lamb sacrificed is no longer a part of the Passover.
Yahshua has said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6) One question Passover teaches us to ask:
“Is Yahshua your Passover Lamb?”