Monday, March 25, 2013

The Beauty of Passover

At sundown this evening, families around the world will gather to honor God in a feast, commemorating the night He spared His people and rescued them from slavery. It is a celebration most often recognized by Jews. However, as one who believes in Jesus as Messiah and has a love for my Hebraic roots, I find this feast has special meaning for me as well.

What is Passover?
Passover is the feast that commemorates the Lord bringing His people out of Egypt (Exodus 6:2-8). The children of Israel were in bondage, working as slaves in Pharaoh's kingdom. God commanded Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, but Pharoah’s hardened heart prevented them. To demonstrate that He is God and the Israelites His people, the Lord released a series of plagues on Egypt. The tenth plague was the death of the firstborn.

In preparation, the Lord told the children of Israel to partake in a dinner of lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, ready themselves to leave, and cover their doorways with the lamb’s blood.
"Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt."      
Exodus 12:13
At midnight, all the firstborn in Egypt were struck dead, except for those of the children of Israel. The Lord delivered His people from slavery that night and set an ordinance for Passover to be recognized among all future generations. 

 (Read the entire Passover account in Exodus 12.)

What Passover Means to Me
The demonstration of God’s power and might on that first Passover is enough to behold and honor. What miracles God has done for His people! But it is even more amazing to me that this instance in history was one of many that foretold of our Messiah.

I believe that Jesus, God’s Son, fulfilled the prophecy of the Passover Lamb (John 1:29). He was perfect in every way (a lamb without blemish) and given as a sacrifice for the sins of all people. Each one of us has sin and is separated from God because of sin. But it is because of His blood that we are able to be set apart as His children, free from the bondage of sin, able to live eternally in God's presence!

Jesus referred to his role as the Passover Lamb as He and His disciples ate the Passover feast together. It is also the feast that many of us refer to as “the Lord’s Supper”.
And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’”
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:18, 26-28
In this passage, we see Jesus naming the symbolism in the elements of the Passover feast. The unleavened bread as His body - striped, bruised, and pierced for our iniquities. The wine, the cup of redemption, as His blood - the only way we are cleansed and removed from our sins.

Praise God for supplying freedom through His sacrifice! He not only covers us so the curse of sin passes over us, but He completely redeems us out of sin’s bondage!

BUT God does more as He paints this beautiful picture of Redemption....

Symbolism of Passover and the Seder (Feast)
The entire Passover feast is beautifully symbolic of God's plan of redemption through His Son. While the original Passover did not include all these elements, they all still play an important role in telling God's story. Messianic and non-Messianic Jews all use these basic Seder elements, however, interpretations of their spiritual application vary depending on their belief in Jesus as Messiah.

These are just some of the spiritual applications I find fascinating about Passover and the traditional Seder.

(Note: This is not an exhaustive list! Check out the resource links at the end to find out more.)

Egypt & Slavery  
God’s people were enslaved by the Egyptians (Exodus 2:23-34). Egypt represents the world’s system of sin, in which we are held in bondage (John 8:34).

The Karpas – Parsley or celery greens dipped in salt water. Represents:
  • The growth of the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus1:7)
  • The hyssop used to paint the blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12:22)
  • The salty tears shed for bondage in Egypt and the joy of redemption. 
  • Right before Jesus’ died, He was offered a drink of wine and hyssop (John 19:28-30). 
  • The Spring time greens dipped in water mimics baptism and spiritual rebirth, and points to Jesus as the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

The Charoset – A mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine.
  • A reminder of the bricks the children of Israel made while in bondage (Exodus 1:13-14).
  • It also represents the community of believers united by faith and works.
The Maror & Chazeret - Bitter herbs such as horseradish
  • A reminder of the bitter suffering of the children of Israel while in bondage.
  • They also represent the bitter suffering of Jesus at His crucifixion and the trials we endure while living in this world (spiritual Egypt).

Zero’a – Roasted lamb shank bone
By sprinkling the lamb’s blood over the doorposts of their home, the children of Israel were delivered from slavery (Exodus12:2,6,13). Jesus is our Passover Lamb, who delivers us from the bondage of sin (1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 1:7). Here are some other ways Jesus fulfills the role as our Passover Lamb:

Beitzah – Roasted egg
  • A reminder of the voluntary peace offering given on the second day of Passover.
  • The egg replaces the meat given as the peace offering since sacrifices are no longer made in the temple. For some, it represents the mourning of the loss of the two Temples.
  • Represents Jesus' voluntary offering of himself as a sacrifice and His resurrection. It is a symbol of new birth, being born again (redemption). (John 3:1-10).

The Matzah - Unleavened Bread
  • God commanded that the bread be unleavened (Exodus 12:8,15).
  • The leaven represents sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
  • Matzah was also made quickly over fire (because they were to be leaving soon). As a result, the bread appears striped, bruised and pierced, as was Jesus at His death (Isaiah 53:5).
  • At the Passover table there are three pieces of matzah wrapped in white linen, each in a separate pocket, representing the Trinity.

The Yachatz 
At the beginning of the Seder, the middle piece of matzah is broken, wrapped in a separate cloth and hidden (this is called the afikomen). At the end of the meal, the children go and find it. This represents Jesus’ broken body, His burial and ability for anyone to find Him if they seek Him with the heart of a child (Luke 18:17; Jeremiah 29:13).

The Wine  Four cups of wine are served as a reminder of God’s four promises in Exodus 6:6-7. The third cup is the cup of redemption which Jesus drank and declared the New Covenant by His blood (Luke 22:20).

What Passover Can Mean for You
I know the act of celebrating Passover may not be feasible or even desirable for many of you. But it is my prayer that you are beginning to see the intricate workings of our mighty God over thousands of years, weaving together the greatest story of His LOVE.

It is His redemptive love that we celebrate today. To receive the gift of God's love through Jesus is simple to do and a decision that will revolutionize your life (for eternity)!

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10

It is a decision to believe and follow. Simply talk to God, admit your need for His forgiveness, tell Him you desire to follow Him, and then ask Him to lead you. 

Wherever you are in your walk with God, I encourage you to take a few moments to thank Him for sending His Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Thank Him for the opportunity you have to dwell in His presence for eternity. And in whatever way He leads you, celebrate the Passover Lamb!