A Messianic Seder
Have you ever thought about the significance of the fact that Jesus died on Passover weekend?
Passover was (and is) a Jewish holiday that included a week-long observance and a special meal. It was instituted in the book of Exodus after Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and miraculously through the Red Sea. Exodus 12 outlines the details given by God to the people of Israel about what they need to eat and do.
But why? To remember.
“And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” Exodus 12:26-27
We do these things to remember AND to teach our children about God’s faithfulness.
So, we intentionally remember and proclaim on the Thursday before each Easter.
Jesus and His disciples headed into Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, just like any other year of their lives. Everyone was gathering for the special feast, preparing their homes, eliminating leaven, and readying a lamb for slaughter.
But this year was different. This was the year Jesus rode into town on a donkey, walking over the palms, and hearing the praise of the people. Jesus sent his disciples ahead to prepare the meal that they had come to expect on the Passover weekend.
He and His disciples gathered that evening for, what we call now, the Last Supper. In essence, Jesus shows that all the things they’d grown up eating and drinking at Passover were merely shadows of the Messiah to come. “Take, eat; this is my body... Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28
These elements used to represent something in the past, but now they represent something more glorious and complete - Jesus Christ in the New Covenant!
And so, as we sit down with our children to reenact the Passover, we go through each element of the traditional Seder and talk about its significance to the nation of Israel then and to us now.
We carefully set the table ahead of time - with tin foil for plates, candles, and pillows instead of chairs.
We wash each other’s feet to remember the ceremonial cleansing of the priests in the Old Testament and the humble act of Jesus when He washed His disciples feet.
We dip parsley into salt water twice, once to remember the tears of the Israelite slaves in Egypt and once to remember the crossing of the Red Sea. We also remember our slavery to sin before Christ freed and redeemed us.
In the center of the table, we have three squares of matzah, representing the Trinity. We break the middle one and remember Christ broken for us. The broken matzah is wrapped in a cloth and hidden somewhere in the house for the kids to find later - it’s a fun event too!
We recline on pillows instead of sitting on chairs to represent the rest we enjoy in our freedom in Christ.
We eat horseradish on matzah to remember the bitterness of slavery in Egypt and slavery to sin. (The kids don’t like this part, but they always eat it because they know they need to taste the bitter in order to enjoy the sweet that is to come.)
Then, we get to eat charoset on matzah to remember the sweetness of freedom! Charoset is a sweet mixture of apples, honey, cinnamon, and nuts. We also share bites of charoset on matzah with the people sitting next to us, to symbolize sharing this wonderful gift with the people around us!
Throughout our Messianic Seder, we drink four glasses of wine, or juice:
- The first is the cup of sanctification. We remember how God set apart, or sanctified, the Israelites and how we are now set apart as children of God.
- The second is the cup of wrath. We dip our fingers in the juice and put a red drop on our plate for each plague as we name the ways that God’s wrath poured out on Egypt. Then, we remember that Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us! We pour that glass out instead of drinking it.
- The third is the cup of redemption. The sacrificial lamb in Exodus died so that the firstborn child of each family could live. That lamb paid the price. We remember Jesus’ death on the cross - the price that was paid for us.
- The fourth is the cup of praise! We look forward to the wedding supper of the Lamb when we will be forever with Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 26:29 “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” We praise God, we eagerly expect the fulfillment of this promise, and we drink the cup of praise! We say together, “Next year in the New Jerusalem!” Because, who knows? Maybe we’ll be there by then. Come Lord Jesus!
In traditional Jewish Seders, a place is set and left empty for Elijah to come. However, in our Messianic Seder, we believe that Elijah already came in John the Baptist and the Messiah is already here! So, instead, we leave a place open for Jesus. We set His place with all of the elements and pour Him some wine. During the meal, one of the kids opens the door to see if Jesus is here yet. So far, the answer has been no, but one day, the answer will be a resounding YES! We’re so ready for Him that we even set a place for Him on this night!
And of course, we share a meal together.
It’s beautiful, it’s memorable, and it involves all the senses. We love to disciple our children through these special, ancient traditions. And this year, we were able to share it with some precious friends!
And, have you noticed the timing? After Jesus’ final Passover dinner with His disciples, He WAS the Passover lamb that was slaughtered on Passover weekend. The significance is incredible.
Pilate, in an effort to make Jesus go free, uses a “Passover weekend tradition” in their culture to let one guilty person free. He poses the question, “Should we let (guilty) Barabbas go free? Or (innocent) Jesus?” “Barabbas!” they cry, “Crucify Jesus!”
And just like that, the innocent is sacrificed to save the guilty. The guilty goes free and the Lamb dies.
Guilty, vile and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah, what a Savior!