When the Messiah participated in his last supper, his last Passover seder, he filled the evening full of additional meaning that most Christians are not aware of. Because of this, most of my brothers and sisters in the Church miss the context of “communion,” the “Lord’s Supper.”
As most theologians will say, “A text, without a context, is a pretext.” In other words, to ignore the setting, the circumstances, the situation of a biblical event, is to have only a shallow understanding of its meaning.
This year, the first Passover seder will be held on the evening on April 16. I want to make sure that you can connect Passover with Messiah’s last supper. This will give you a richer experience when you do observe the “Lord’s Supper,” or Passover.
Using a Passover haggadah (available through our webstore) a short book that leads the family through the evening, the story of God’s deliverance of our ancestors from Egyptian bondage is retold. By so doing, we see ourselves as being there when God wrought his wonderful rescue for our people.
We recall the “I will” promises God made to our ancestors (Exodus 6:6–8), a cup of wine representing each promise, in order to appreciate what God did for us. We tell the story of the ten plagues to once again remember how important it is to respond when we hear the voice of God. We sing hallel psalms (praise songs) to the Lord for rescuing us, and we eat. That’s what the Messiah was doing at his last supper. Recalling, praising and eating.
Eating certain prescribed foods has become a major part of the Passover experience. They help us remember events and aspects of this special day. For example, we eat karpas, parsley, symbolizing “life.” It’s dipped into salt water, as a reminder that life in Egypt was immersed in tears.
We eat maror, bitter ground horseradish, to help us remember the many people who were lost as we were rescued. There were some Egyptians who did not trust the God of Israel enough to become part of the mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38) that escaped with the Israelis.
We eat roasted lamb to recall the sacrifice lamb that was killed, its blood smeared on the front doors of our homes, to provide salvation for those who trusted God. You might find it interesting that since the destruction of the Temple, the place of the sacrifices, in 70 C.E., most Jews don’t eat lamb. Since the Temple was the place for sacrifices, and the Passover lamb was seen as a sacrifice, and can no longer be made there, Jewish people eat some other kind of meat. However, we provide a lamb’s shank bone as a reminder of what once existed. Eating is a big part of the Passover seder. And it’s clear it was a big part of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) last seder.
If you read Luke 22, and have some familiarity with Passover, you’ll recognize many elements of a traditional seder. For followers of Yeshua, the most important elements are the matzah (unleavened bread) and the wine.
The matzah, a bread baked flat, recalls the haste with which our ancestors left Egypt. Eating this is an annual reminder to “move” when the Lord tells you to do something. Messiah took that bread and identified himself with it: “This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). Both he and his friends were familiar with the symbolism: leaven stood for sin in the Bible. He made certain that his dinner companions knew he was without sin, like the Passover lamb was without blemish. Eating helped tell his story, too. Matzah is also striped and pierced, just as Yeshua physically suffered.
He also took “the cup after supper,” the cup of redemption. In the Passover seder, that cup symbolized the blood of that perfect Passover lamb. “This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by my blood, which is being poured out for you” (Luke 22:20) he told his “family.” They needed to know that his sacrifice, coming the next day, was for a purpose—to provide a way out from slavery to sin, just as the Passover lamb, too, provided a way out from slavery—to Pharaoh.
So, at sundown on April 16, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Passover again. Many of them will sincerely attempt to identify with our ancestors in Egypt, whereas many will just have a wonderful dining experience. But typically, everyone will read a haggadah in which they will find the story of God’s deliverance and readings praising the Lord.
Please pray with us that more of God’s chosen people will grasp the full impact of the Passover. In and of itself, it is the story of the birth of the Jewish people as a nation, born through struggle and pain. That is sufficient, or as we say at the seder, “dayenu” “it would have been enough.”
Shalom in the Messiah,
Barry Rubin, President
Messianic Jewish Communications
© Copyright 2003 by Barry Rubin. Reprinted with the permission of Messianic Jewish Communications, 6204 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215.
Appearing Wednesday, April 16, 2003