Yesterday Christians around the world celebrated Easter, and so did we! The most common Christian traditions are attending church as a family, a special festive dinner together, and an Easter egg hunt, where everyone searches for brightly-colored Easter eggs (usually hard-boiled chicken eggs). . . as well as various types of candy, in particular, chocolate Easter bunnies! We enjoyed all these activities, and it was a wonderful time of worship and celebration. However, what many Christians (and Jews) don’t realize is that the day Jesus was crucified—which we call Good Friday—is also the Feast of Passover for Jews. And, Easter Sunday—when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ— is also the Feast of First Fruits. Did you know that? If you’re like me, you may not have known this, or at least fully appreciated the significance of these facts. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. God provided his own son as the sacrificial lamb, like the ram God provided for Abraham nearly 4,000 years ago to substitute for his son Isaac. The Passover lamb, sacrificed by the Israelites 3,500 years ago on the night before they fled Egypt, looked forward to the time when the Lamb of God would be sacrificed, once for all, to bring each of us from spiritual bondage and death into freedom and spiritual, eternal life. That is the day when Jesus died on the cross. Messiah in the Passover, edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, is a landmark reference book for the Church to connect us to our spiritual roots, deepen our love for God, the Jewish people and our Messiah, and to teach us how to “experience the joy of celebrating Messiah in the Passover in our own homes and churches.”
Nearly eighteen scholars contribute chapters explaining the fulfillment of Old Testament patterns in the life of Christ, shedding brilliant light on the symbolism surrounding the life and death of Jesus as the Messiah and giving even more depth to our understanding of communion, which was first established at the time of our Lord’s last supper (which was also the Passover Seder that Jews still celebrate today).
As one outstanding example of what the book teaches: One of the central aspects of the Jewish Seder involves taking three sheets of matzah (unleavened bread) and inserting them in three compartments of a special bag, known as the matzah tash. At one point in the evening ritual, the father (or leader) takes the middle sheet of matzah and breaks it in two. He replaces half but wraps the other half in a white napkin and hides it somewhere in the house. (As a game, the children are supposed to look for it.) This hidden half is known as the afikoman, which is found and distributed in small pieces to everyone as “dessert” after the meal, but it’s literal derivation is from the Greek and means “the one who has come,” a clear reference to the Messiah. Matzah is a flat bread, made without any leaven (which is symbolic of sin in the Bible). It is also striped and pierced. For Christians, the symbolism cries out so loudly it gives me goosebumps! The three matzahs are perfectly symbolic of the triune nature of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle sheet is broken and half of it is hidden. Jesus was crucified and buried. After three days (at the end of the meal), he “comes again” (is resurrected) and distributed to all. Jesus was like the matzah. He was sinless (without leaven). He was striped (lashed) and pierced (by the nails and sword). He was hidden for three days but then rose again. His life has been distributed to all who will accept it. As Jesus said at the Last Supper, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you“ (Luke 18:19-20). What a clear message: Jesus was the Messiah, offering himself as the Passover Lamb, crucified on the Passover, and raised again on the Feast of First Fruits. If you are Jewish or have Jewish friends, this makes the Gospel so accessible. May we all find Messiah in the Passover! Beyond many very scholarly articles explaining the Old and New Testament teaching about the Messiah, there are a couple of chapters dedicated to sharing everything you need to know about how to conduct your own Passover Seder. There are complete recipes for all the most common dishes (I published one for Matzah Ball Soup two days ago), and they give permission to anyone who would like to run off copies of the order of service for their personal use. There are additional resources available at their website:
Think about it! I hope you get the book and learn more about finding Jesus, the Messiah, in the Passover. Next year, I’m hoping either to participate in a Seder or hold my own! As Gentile believers, I think we’re missing out on a great blessing if we fail to enjoy this marvelous feast that God gave (all of) his children thousands of years ago. Let’s connect with our spiritual roots and begin enjoying the privileges of His communions!
Speaking of the Messiah (and fulfilled in Christ), the Bible records: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
(Last photo shared by my spiritual sister, Elizabeth, from her family Seder. It’s not exactly like the one you can download from https://www.messiahinthepassover.com/ but serves as a lovely example! Thank you, Elizabeth! Our German daughter, Gerlinde, taught us one of the German Lutheran traditions of sharing a lamb cake to teach that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next year, Gerlinde and I are hoping to organize a Good Friday Seder for our family as well! Thank you, Gerlinde!)