We celebrated Palm Sunday last week, and in doing so, we recognized the beginning of Holy Week, but Passover began at sundown this past Friday night. For Christians, it isn’t uncommon to pass this holy day without much thought of how our Jewish brothers and sisters may be celebrating. After all, we are New Testament believers, and Easter is coming. We aren’t under the Law.
“Every command and the prescribed processes of worship offered symbolic descriptions so we would recognize their completed fulfillment in Christ.”
Jesus Christ joined His creation as a man. Most expected him to be a conquering ruler. Instead, He came as a humble servant and sacrifice as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Every written word of the Old Testament given to men by God’s inspiration pointed to the coming Messiah. Every command and the prescribed processes of worship offered symbolic descriptions so we would recognize their completed fulfillment in Christ. Jesus affirmed this in Matthew 5:17 when he stated, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
The first believers of the new church were Jewish. As the Church developed, the ritual aspects of the Jewish faith began to dim as gentiles became grafted into its development. New facets of worship grew more popular as the various cultures intertwined into the Church. The veil shrouding our exposure to the Jewish faith initially lifted, and we began to see and understand the link between the Old and New Testaments. Over time though, the gulf between Judaism and Christianity widened, and in this, Christianity has lost rich layers of insight from God’s Word.
The Jewish foundation of the church is only a shadow, and the Passover tradition is something Christians can embrace. It isn’t a coincidence Christ chose Passover to reveal his divinity and God’s plan. If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a Seder Passover meal, please do. It is thick with parallels to Christ, too much to adequately cover here. We can, however, begin to understand the mysteries of the Seder plate.
The Seder plate features seven elements. In the center is a cup of salt water, which represents the tears the Israelites shed in a life of bondage in slavery to the Egyptians. Parsley also sits on the plate and portrays the hope of new life in the spring. The Jews dip the sprig of parsley into the salt water to remember life may at times be bitter and immersed in tears.
A forearm of a lamb shank is also on the Seder plate. It represents the slain Passover lamb, and its blood applied to the doorpost of the Israelite’s home. If the blood of the sacrifice covered the door, the angel of death would relinquish his command of death for the firstborn required from the family.
The bitter herbs, or horseradish, continues this symbolism. When you eat it, your eyes will likely tear up. These are tears of compassion in memory of our extended Jewish family living in bondage long ago.
The charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts and maybe a few raisins is another item on the Seder plate. The Jews see the charoset as a symbol of the mortar they made for bricks while in bondage in Egypt. It is also a commemoration of the spiritual redemption God offered the Israelites when he delivered them from Egypt. It has a sweet taste, so we will know there is the hope of sweetness in life.
Finally, the Passover Seder plate has a boiled egg which represents new life. The Aramaic word for egg is similar to the Aramaic word for “desire.” The egg reminds us that God desires to redeem us and offer us new life.
Without the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, we are in bondage to sin that eats away at our hope and joy in life. How many tears have you shed over hopelessness and fear? When your tears reflect a mourning in your heart over the sin in your life, Christ collects them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and will wipe them from your face (Revelations 7:17). We do not have to live in the bondage of sin. We no longer have to be slaves of sin (Romans 6:6).
“The Seder plate is the story of redemption from a life of bondage and points to the redemption offered in Messiah, Jesus Christ.”
As he hung on the cross, his blood flowed. His sacrifice for you redeemed the price of your sin and covered you so that death would relinquish its grip on you. When you put your faith in the sacrifice of Christ, you are a new creature and the old passes away (2 Corinthians 5:17). You can walk with confidence in the newness of life (Romans 6:4).
As a Christian, don’t shy away from exploring your Jewish roots. When we gain even a glimpse of how God weaves the intricacies of symbolic examples from the Old Testament to proclaim Christ, we are humbled in awe. The Seder plate is the story of redemption from a life of bondage and points to the redemption offered in Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Be encouraged to acknowledge what God has done through Passover and how it applies to Christians. Pray our Jewish brothers and sisters will understand the final redemption that Messiah, Jesus Christ offers.