Monday, March 17, 2008

Please Passover the Salt

I had the rare opportunity to attend a Passover Seder on Palm Sunday with some good friends. Although Passover isn't officially for another month, Resurrection Sunday (Easter) is unusually early this year, and it makes some sense to observe Passover at this time rather than afterward. To any of my Orthodox Jewish acquaintances out there who might take offense, I am currently accepting invitations to attend your Passover observance and will happily discuss it with you then. :)

So I was there for four hours. This from the post-Baptist person who is used to hour-and-a-half services and 45 minute weddings. Curiously, with all the Haggadah reading, song singing, and FOOD, I hardly noticed the time flying by. I found the clear symbolism of the Passover Seder to the Christian faith extraordinary on both historical and spiritual levels. Few Christians have the awareness or the opportunity to experience a Seder and connect the divine rescue of the Hebrew people from Egypt with our own spiritual rescue from sin. Chalk up another blessing God has sent my way.

The following is a partial list of Passover symbols that I found to have direct application to faith in Jesus Christ:

The roasted egg, "HaGigah"
[from the Haggadah] For Jewish people, the egg is a sign of mourning, and a symbol of hope for spiritual restoration and resurrection. Just as the paschal lamb is free from blemish, pure and holy, so is the egg. White is a color that means purity and holiness. But we have sacrificed the lamb, the egg has been roasted, now brown, made dirty by our sins. But in the egg is the hope for spiritual restoration, as we peel away the brown shell, revealing the white egg underneath, again made pure and holy, resurrected.

For Christians, the peeling away of the brown shell is act of Christ as He redeems His believers, removing their sin. (Thank you, Rabbi Parviz, for redeeming the "Easter egg" for me!)

Parsley, "Karpas"
[from the Haggadah] Parsley on our table, this was hyssop in Moses' time. And our bowl of salt water represents the basin of blood (Exod. 12:22-23)...We remember that it was hyssop that King David cried out to be cleansed with (Psal. 51:7)...And it was hyssop that a sponge filled with wine vinegar was put on and lifted to Y'shua's lips (John 19:28-30).

[from the Haggadah] Hyssop is a green leafy plant with a long stalk. Symbolizing life and cleansing, the hyssop was dipped once into blood and lifted up to a wooden post for salvation from death, and once into wine and lifted up to a wooden post for salvation eternally. The raising of the hyssop to Y'shua was the last act of man before the last death of the Lamb.

[from the Haggadah] We now turn to a mysterious tradition. The Matzoh Tosh is one linen, with three compartments. A sheet of matzoh is placed in each of the three compartments. No one truly knows from where this tradition comes, but our rabbis teach that the Matzoh Tosh is a picture of Israel's patriarchy, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some also teach that it is a picture of Temple worship, with the priests, Levites, and the Israelites. However, neither of these explanations are satisfied by the tradition. The middle matzoh is taken from the linen and broken...This then becomes the afikomen. A strange word whose origin is also unknown, "afikomen" is Greek and means "that which comes after," or "that which is come." This is traditionally interpreted as the last piece of food which may be eaten at the Passover."

At this point, Christians might recognize that the three Matzoh curiously symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the middle one symbolizing the Son is broken and hidden away in the realm of humanity. Later, when the afikomen is found and after the meal portion of the Seder has ended, the afikomen is broken into pieces and distributed among everyone present.

[from the Haggadah] (During the meal, the "afikomen" is found and the one who finds it is rewarded. Traditionally, this is when the child [who finds the afikomen] receives their [sic] first Hebrew Scriptures. That gift is given at the Festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost, 50 days after Passover.)

It is at this point during Jesus' last Passover that he breaks the afikomen and says to His disciples "Take and eat, this is my body." (Matt. 26:26)

[from the Haggadah] Y'shua takes the matzoh and says "take and eat, this is my body." He is being very literal. Matzoh is prepared in a very special way. It is rolled out into big sheets and a large wheel with pins in it is rolled over the dough. It pierces the bread so that heat will rise through the bread and bake it very rapidly. It is baked for 18 minutes, 18 being the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word "Chai," which means life."

[from the Haggadah] There is no yeast, it is sinless. It is the bread of life, and it has been pierced. The baking process also leaves marks or stripes.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. (Isai. 53:5)

[from the Haggadah] Y'shua knows that in a very short time, he will be taken from his disciples, he will be beaten and striped 39 times with a lash. His body will be pierced, but by his death comes our healing.

The third cup of wine, "The Cup of Redemption"
Then [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt 26:27-28)

[from the Haggadah] Y'shua was being very literal. Now the wine not only represents the blood of the lamb that was shed at the first Passover, it now is the blood of the Lamb that is to be shed at Y'shua's last Passover. His words could not be missed. This is Jeremiah's prophecy coming to pass! After all, whose body is it that is removed from the middle of a three-part unity, broken and wrapped in linen, hidden away only to be found again? And for those who would find him, resurrected, they would receive the gift of the Word, not just words on paper, but the Word written on their hearts and in their minds, the Word of the Holy Spirit, 50 days later at the festival of Shavuot, Pentecost.

The fourth cup of wine, "The Cup of Sanctification"
[from the Haggadah] I believe it was this cup that Y'shua was speaking of when he said, "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." He is promising us that we will have a full cup of Sanctification awaiting us when we join him at that great feast in our heavenly home. Moses brought us through the waters of the Red Sea, into the wilderness, where God provided for us, sustained us, and gave us his Word, and finally led us into the promised land. And Y'shua has led us through the waters of our baptism, into the wilderness that we call life, that is both bitter and sweet. And God sustains us and provides for us, giving us his Word by the Holy Spirit, and promises that we too will enter the promised land, our heavenly home, where a banquet awaits with a full cup of wine to be shared with Y'shua.

The last part of the Haggadah describes the final cup of wine, reserved for the prophet Elijah
[from the Haggadah] And this final goblet, a full cup of wine for someone whom we have invited and pray will come, this is Elijah's cup. Every year, Jewish families will pour a cup for Elijah and leave the door ajar, hoping that he will come. Our tradition says that Elijah will come at Passover and will announce the coming of Messiah. [see Mala 4:5-6] And every year the people wait, losing their faith and not knowing that Elijah has already come.

Jesus told His disciples, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matt 17:11-13)

[from the Haggadah] May you go forth and tell this story to the children of many generations, that they would come to believe and be saved by the blood of the Lamb, Y'shua HaMashiach.

I marvel at how many aspects of Jesus Christ's passion week on earth contains images of God's covenant with Israel at the Exodus from Egypt, aspects that many might think of as coincidences until one sees that there are too many of them happening in symbolic order to be purely coincidental. Of course, Passover makes incomplete sense without the Resurrection, which believers will celebrate this Sunday. And for me, the Resurrection takes on a deeper meaning through experiencing the symbolism of the Passover at which Jesus Christ's became its sacrifice.

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