Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.” John 6:53
Israel’s exodus from Egypt, as celebrated in the Passover Seder, was a foreshadowing of a much larger escape to freedom.
A Seder is a celebratory meal. Much could be said about the ways that each item on the Seder plate reminds us of Israel’s bondage in and flight from Egypt. We might touch on precious details like having a young boy sing a song that sets forth “the four questions,” for the purpose of emphasizing the unique historical tradition of Passover.
We won’t try to cover all the details and tradition here, but will instead touch on just a few of the most meaningful aspects.
The blood of a lamb that was applied to the doorposts and lintels of all the Hebrew people’s homes — to protect them from the angel of death that would strike down the first-born of all people, and even animals, living in Egypt — would have approximately suggested a cross. As one pictures the blood being applied to each side post and to the lintel over the top, this image or connection becomes clear. The Jewish people were told to eat the lamb before they fled from Egypt.
During the celebratory Passover dinner each year, three pieces of matzoh, or unleavened bread, would be placed into a white cloth with three separate pockets. The middle matzoh, or afikomen, would be removed from the cloth late in the Seder, broken, and the pieces would then be eaten by all who were present. Jewish people had for some 1250 years — and in the last two millennia many still have — practiced this Seder without understanding its larger meaning.
Many of us are really only now coming to realize that Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples was a Passover Seder!
For more than a thousand years, until that “Last Supper” Passover that Jesus shared with His “brethren,” the prayer “Blessed art Thou, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth” had been offered as the afikomen, or the matzoh from the central pocket of the white cloth, was broken and then consumed by all.
But this second-person kind of prayer was brought into the first person as Yeshua dined with His disciples that night. Taking the cup of wine, He said, “This is my blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.” (Matthew 26:28) Then “He took bread, said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ ” (Luke 22:19)
This is also the origination of the Eucharist or Communion, as practiced in Christian churches.
We remember that when Jesus had earlier in His ministry told His disciples and others that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, many found the teaching so appalling and incomprehensible that they departed from Him! He was speaking figuratively of the vital importance of our recognizing and coming to Him — of understanding what the long Passover tradition had been foretelling.
The placement of the afikomen in the center pocket revealed that it would be the body of the Son — among three — Father, Son (in the middle), and Holy Spirit — that would be broken. The matzoh in the central pocket represents the One in the central position in the Trinity.
Jesus was crucified on Passover, died on Unleavened Bread, and was resurrected on First Fruits. As one person put it, “Probably not a coincidence.”
The matzoh in the Passover tradition, in addition to representing the sinless Messiah — since leaven had long been a symbol for sin in the Jewish culture — also reminded the Jewish people of their hasty flight from Egypt. They had been instructed to make the bread without leaven so they wouldn’t have to wait for it to rise.
The First Fruits tradition holds great meaning. Each harvest season, the “first and best” of the grain harvest would be offered to God. Its acceptance would guarantee the acceptability to God and the security of the rest of the harvest.
Yeshua, clearly the first and best in His sinlessness and voluntary sacrifice, provides and ensures the rest of the harvest of souls. He is described in Scripture as “the first fruits of those who sleep.”
The blood of the spotless lamb that was applied to the doorposts in Egypt protected the Hebrew people from death and signaled their freedom from bondage, the beginning of their exodus. The blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ — His giving Himself that we might renounce sin, recognize Him, and live — protects us from spiritual death and “makes us free.”
Israel’s feasts were called, in Hebrew, “moedim,” or “appointed times”; they were considered “rehearsals.”
The “rehearsal” idea suggests their preparing us for future events. Many people perceive that the annual timing of these feasts that Yahweh characterized as being “for all time” will parallel the timing of major “last days” events.
Who can adequately express the value of beginning to glimpse the uniting theme running through this vast history — that it is Jesus Christ (Yeshua), hailed by John the Baptist (Yohannan the Immerser) as “the Lamb of God,” who fulfills the Passover!
For all the contentiousness, cruelty, and false dichotomy that have existed down the centuries between spokespeople for the Jewish roots and for the Christian branches of the one tree that is the tree of Life — it is Jesus who is the Passover Lamb.
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