Passover: Prophetic Fulfillment or Ancient Jewish Tradition? – Part 2

Last week, we looked at the first part of the Passover Seder all the way to the family meal. As I mentioned, God being a God of order (Deuteronomy 7:9Proverbs 7:9), we can fully appreciate that aspect of Him as we navigate through the different steps of the Passover Seder - much of which has remained untouched throughout the ages and around the world. Now, we continue with the celebration, all the way to the final “La Shana Haba B’Yerusalaim! “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The many steps of the Passover Seder take us through the story of redemption from slavery in Egypt, provision and protection through the wilderness wanderings and blessings in the abundant Promised Land. It also shows believers that Passover transcends ages, generations and people. For us, modern-day disciples of Yeshua, Passover takes on a much deeper meaning of redemption from slavery to sin and real freedom in Messiah.

Something took place during the second part of the Passover that, to this day, would remain a tradition for believers around the world. In the last liturgical part of the Passover, everything we were exposed to up to now falls into place and forms a beautiful message of hope. So, let us look at the last part of the Seder and particularly what happened in the Upper Room 2,000 years ago between Yeshua and His disciples after they had enjoyed the Shulchan Orech, or “set table”.

Tzaphun (Eating of the Afikomen): According to Jewish tradition, this is the first thing that takes place immediately after the dinner is finished. The children are sent around the room to hunt for the afikomen. One child will find it and proudly bring it back to the leader who unwraps it, breaks it into small pieces and gives one to each of the guests. To fully understand the rich meaning of this part of the Seder, we must go back to the beginning.

A bag called the maztotash (matzah bag) or commonly known as the unity bag, was filled with several full squares of matzah, three to be exact. Every matzotash in use comprises three distinct compartments within on large bag or pouch. Each of the compartments is filled with a sheet of matzah from which we will partake at various times throughout the Seder.

It is always from the middle compartment that we pull one full sheet and break it in half during the part known as the yachutz. One half is placed back into the matzotash, and the other half is wrapped into a white linen napkin of some sort and hidden in the room while the children cover their eyes.
The half that is wrapped becomes known as the afikomen. The meaning of the word varies depending on who you ask. Many people believe that it means “the last piece” or “dessert”, as it is the last piece of edible food that is taken by all. Yet, others including myself, believe that the root of the word means “I have come” (Psalm 40:6-8), a meaning that is in line with the ministry of the Messiah, especially within the context of His redemptive career.

When asked about the meaning of the three separate compartments inside the unity bag, Jewish people have various answers. Many don’t even have an explanation for this strange tri-compartment bag.

Some say that the three compartments represent the Jewish patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. While this sounds beautiful, nobody can dogmatically affirm it, and why would we break Isaac into two halves? Others see the three compartments representing the three kinds of Jewish people of ancient times:  the High Priest, the Levites and the Israelites. This also sounds great but why would we break the Levites in two? Nobody really knows!

There is one explanation that fits the picture better than all the others, and that is the one that sees the three parts of the unity bag as the three persons of the triune Godhead:  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While I also cannot be dogmatic about that version, I am convinced that it is the best-fitting one for the matzotash. The bread is unleavened, and we know from the Bible, leaven is a symbol of sin. The bread is also pierced and striped (Isaiah 53:5).

It is always the middle matzah that is broken in half, representing the broken, sacrificed body of the Son, Yeshua who died for the sins of the world. Then, according to Jewish tradition, we wrap the afikomen in a white linen napkin. This continues to fit what happened to Yeshua as he was wrapped inside linen burial cloth by Joseph of Arimathea upon being taken off the cross (Matthew 27:59).
Amazingly, Jewish customs ask us to bury the afikomen in the room and forget about it for the time being. When we hide the afikomen it corresponds to the burial of Yeshua in the tomb (Matthew 27:60).  Now, we are on the other side of dinner, and as we eventually recover the “hidden matzah”, it is a symbol of the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah after three days.

None of the steps followed in the traditional Jewish Passover Seder were invented by Christians. They were established by Jewish people over the centuries and continue to be celebrated in the same order at the same time during the Seder. Simply put, the Jewish tradition of the afikomen is best explained by the Triunity of God which can also be found in the Tanach if one seeks it with an open mind and a desiring heart (Isaiah 48:12-16; 63:7-14).

It is at that very moment in the Upper Room that Yeshua decided to institute something new for His disciples. Something that continues to this day, known as the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. He told the disciples that the broken matzah represented His body when we read in Luke 22:19, “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Yet, this was only half of the story, as He immediately took the cup to finish His powerful new explanation.

Ha-Geulah (The Third Cup: The Cup of Redemption): As I previously mentioned, Passover includes four cups based on the passage in Exodus 6:6-7. They always have the same name; they always appear in the same order and same placement in the Seder. The first two, the Cup of Blessing and the Cup of Plagues are always consumed prior to the dinner, and the next two, after dinner. In Luke 22:20, we read, “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” This is a clear indication that Yeshua would have taken the first cup after dinner or the third one, also known as the Cup of Redemption. The celebration of redemption out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land of Israel is still very meaningful to us Jews around the world, but to me, as a Jewish follower of Yeshua the Messiah, it has a greater significance. It means that now I can also celebrate my redemption from the bondage of sin because of His atonement on my behalf, which included His resurrection and ascension until He returns one day in the future to establish the messianic kingdom.

Eliyahu HaNavi (The Prophet Elijah’s Place): From the start of the Seder, a place setting is kept at the family table for Elijah. At the end of the evening, we send a child to open the front door and see if Elijah is on his way. The child returns and confirms that Elijah is not coming. The reason why we invite Elijah has to do with his role in ushering in the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). The majority of Jewish people are still waiting for Messiah to come.  If Elijah would show up, it would mean that Messiah is not far behind him. So, it is on a sad note that the Seder almost comes to an end since Elijah hasn’t come yet. As a modern-day disciple of Yeshua, I have more hope because I believe that someone did come in the spirit and power of Elijah and ushered in Messiah Yeshua 2,000 years ago (Luke 1:16-17). The cup of Elijah was fulfilled by Yochanan the Immerser who immersed and introduced Yeshua at the onset of His public ministry.

The Hallel (The Fourth Cup: The Cup of Praise). This is the final cup that everybody drinks, and it is known as the cup of praise. Incidentally, Yeshua might not have partaken of this last cup during the Last Supper as He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18).

La Shana Haba B’Yerushalaim (Next Year in Jerusalem). Finally, when all has been said, shared and consumed, the family joins in unison for the final joyous greeting La Shana Haba B’Yerushalaim. It is the tradition to wish one another that next year we will celebrate Pesach or Passover in Jerusalem. This had even a greater meaning before the birth of Israel as a modern nation in 1948.

Many people have been to Jerusalem or will visit in their lifetime, and many others never will, but one thing is guaranteed from the Word of God - those who have placed their trust in the death and resurrection of the Yeshua the Lamb of God, will one day be with Him in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).

There is nothing better than celebrating Passover and recognizing that it speaks of the redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt, but also of Yeshua’s followers’ redemption from under the bondage of sin. I have applied the blood of the Lamb of God to the doorpost of my heart and as a result, I fear not the upcoming judgment because I am certain that God will pass over me.

Passover is a beautiful Jewish tradition that also has a powerful prophetic fulfillment. Please make sure God will pass over you so we can celebrate in His kingdom together.

Passover: Prophetic Fulfillment or Ancient Jewish Tradition? - Part 1

Passover 2021 is just around the corner, and very soon, Jewish people all over the world will gather around the family dining table– the best they can in the age of Covid restrictions–to celebrate the traditional Passover Seder. This ancient Jewish tradition is found in the Bible (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23) as it pertains to the departure of the children of Israel from Egyptian captivity and the journey to the Promise Land through the wilderness wanderings.

From one family to the next, one country to the next, and across the spectrum of Jewish religious practice, Passover is celebrated religiously, traditionally and creatively, and yet some things never change.

I remember the first few Passovers I attended in France over 50 years ago. Much was happening in front of my eyes as I sat bewildered and overwhelmed by the various elements we touched, smelled and ate. Much of what was happening, punctuated by prayers, storytelling and songs, was very foreign to me. All the ancient traditions of our forefathers were being reenacted around the table with many parts of them remaining obscurely unknown - even to the leader of the Seder. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.

Could the Passover Seder have a deeper meaning than what is taught on the surface in a Jewish home? I am not speaking of a mystical meaning that only the most enlightened spiritual people could grasp, but could there be a prophetic meaning within the Feast of Passover for people through the ages and especially today? I believe there is, and I also believe that it isn't until we unpack the prophetic meaning of Passover that we can truly appreciate the full, rich message of provision and redemption God is trying to share with us throughout the entire Bible.

Our God is a God of order (Deuteronomy 7:9; Proverbs 7:9), and we can really appreciate that aspect of Him as we navigate through the different steps of the Seder; much of them having remained untouched throughout the ages and around the world. All Jewish people used a booklet that contains the order of the service (seder means "order" in Hebrew), and helps us to move forward with the celebration, all the way to the final "La Shana Haba B'Yerusalaim! "Next year in Jerusalem." The booklet is known as a Haggadah, meaning the "story" or the "telling".

At first glance, the many steps of the Passover Seder take us through the story of redemption from slavery in Egypt, provision and protection through the wilderness wanderings and blessings in the abundant Promise Land. The original requirements, as found in Exodus 12, were pretty basic. Our ancestors were to acquire a lamb, apply its blood on the doorposts of their homes, stay inside as the destroyer passed through their villages. The lamb was roasted and consumed, with bitter herbs, unleavened bread and four cups of the fruit of the vine were drunk throughout the evening.

Much was added by way of traditions over the years, and the Haggadah was born to guide Jewish families through the rich celebration of redemption. What if the Passover was a type of something or someone greater than the sacrificial lamb and various elements? Let us go through the main parts of the Seder and discover how they are connected and how they all point to a specific part in the redemptive career of Yeshua the Messiah.

Bedikath Chametz (Search for the Leaven): Before Passover can take place, a Jewish home must undergo a thorough search for anything containing leaven, and it must be cleansed of it all (Exodus 12:19-20). Interestingly enough, when used symbolically, leaven in the Bible represents sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8, 11:28).

Brechat Haner (Blessing over the Candles): The official starting point of the Seder is the lighting of the Passover candles to separate the mundane from the holy, much like what takes place every Friday night for Shabbat. It is the role of the woman to light the candles, say a prayer and invite the presence of God into the room.

The Kiddush (Cup of Blessing): The first cup of Passover, or kiddush or "Cup of Sanctification" is filed to the point of overflowing (a symbol of joy in Judaism). It is one of four cups based on Exodus 9:6-7. We recite a prayer and drink the cup leaning to the left, sitting on pillows for comfort to symbolize that we are no longer slaves. Incidentally, no one really knows why we lean to the left.

The Urchatz (First Handwashing): One of two hand washings now takes place, where young children go around the table with a pitcher, basin and towel to ceremonially wash the hands of all guests, starting with the leader of the Seder. This symbolic handwashing takes us back to the cleansing of the priest and Levites at the Temple. This is the time that Yeshua chose to wash the feet of all the disciples (including Judas Iscariot) as He knelt down in a powerful display of humility and servanthood (John 13:1-11).

The Karpas (The Parsley): Now comes the time to grab a sprig of parsley, dip it in very salty water and eat it after a prayer is recited. The parsley is known as a symbol of the green of springtime (Passover season) and the saltwater symbolizes the tears shed in Egypt and possibly the water of the Red Sea. Looking at Exodus 12:21-22, the parsley more powerfully symbolizes the hyssop used to dip in the basin filled with the blood of the lamb and to apply on the doorpost for protection. Believers in Yeshua–The Lamb of God– have symbolically applied His shed blood on the doorpost of their own heart so that when the time comes for judgment of all mankind, we will be passed over.

The Yachutz (Breaking of the Middle Matzah): At the onset of the Seder, three sheets of Matzah are carefully placed in a pouch (matzotash) divided into three compartments. Now comes the time to take the middle matzah, break it in half, place one half back in the matzotash and wrap the other half carefully in a white linen napkin. We then proceed to hide it in the room and forget about it until a later time when we send children hunting for it. More on the middle matzo later.

The Maggid (The Retelling of the Story of the Exodus): Guests around the table take turns in retelling the story of the Jewish exodus by reading various passages in the Bible. Exodus 12:1-13 being the main passage. Some of Psalms are also read throughout the evening (Psalm 113-118, the Great Hallel) as they were in the days of Yeshua and before.

Ma-Nishtanah (The Four Questions): The youngest child able to do so, rises and asks four traditional questions about why we eat matza, why we eat bitter herbs, why we dip our food and why we lean as we drink the cups. The leader explains why. The four questions are traditionally done in a song reminding us of the reasons why this night is so different from all the other nights. It is usually followed by the story of the four different sons to whom Jewish fathers retold the Passover story, symbolizing four different kinds of people (wise, wicked, innocent and simple-minded.)

The Makkot (The Second Cup or Cup of Plagues): Remembering that a full cup is a cup of joy and since we shouldn't rejoice over the fate of our enemies (Deuteronomy 32:35; Matthew 5:43-48), a tradition was developed where we fill the cup and then take a drop out with a spoon for each of the ten plagues, thus symbolically reducing the cup and making it one we won't rejoice over. This second cup is then placed back on the table to be consumed later, slightly before the dinner is served.

Dayenu (It would have been Enough): Time to be creative and sing the Dayenu. This is a joyous song describing all the things that God did for His chosen people and how a couple of miracles would have been enough, but He kept adding many more.

The Rachatz (Second Hand Washing): Once again, the guests are invited to do another symbolic handwashing.

The Maror (The Bitter Herbs): As we remember how bitter our lives were made during the slavery in Egypt, we all dip a piece of matzah in the bitter herbs (usually grated horseradish) and that makes us cringe and even shed a tear from the strong taste. It also reminds us, believers, of the time we were slaves to sin before Messiah Yeshua redeemed us

The Korekh (Bitter Herbs with Sweet Mixture): We all then break two small pieces of matzah from the matzotash and put bitter herbs on one side, charoset or "sweet mixture" on the other and close it in a small sandwich. The sweet mixture is overly sweet to overpower the bitterness of the maror and remind us of the sweetness of redemption and dwelling in the Promise land. It also reminds us believers of the sweetness of redemption from our sins by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Yeshua the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

The Shulchan Orech (The Set Table): Finally, comes the time for a festive dinner for the whole family. Everyone sets their haggadot aside and rejoices in the fellowship and sharing of a copious dinner (made without yeast).

After dinner is finished, the second liturgical part of the Passover celebration takes place. It is definitely the time when all the parts of the Seder come together, and this is also the time when Yeshua chose to institute a very important ritual that continues to take place to this day. As we will see, Passover is both a Jewish tradition and an event filled with prophetic significance.
This will be the topic of Passover Part 2, published next week.