Saturday is the first day of Passover this year. Although we already celebrated Easter at the end of last month, I think it’s so important to remember the Passover celebration as well.
Celebrating Passover by having a Seder dinner is something I’ve done for the past three years. It has radically changed the way I see the Resurrection and the symbolism of what Jesus did and when He chose to do it.
A lot goes on during a Seder dinner — it’s a time for all participants to remember how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. During the dinner, we remember the ten plagues God sent, the redemption as He brought us out of Egypt and the future glory and joy when Messiah comes. For the Christian, it is no different. It is beautiful to remember what God did so long ago in Egypt — how He has set us free from our slavery and redeemed what was broken.
One of my favorite parts of the Seder ceremony has to do with Matzoh — the unleavened bread required at Passover. God told the Israelites to only eat unleavened bread during Passover to remind them of the fact that there was no time for the bread to rise when they left Egypt.
At the beginning of the Seder, the leader takes out a container that has three sections for three different pieces of Matzoh. There isn’t any agreement as to why, where or how this tradition of three pieces began. Some say it symbolizes the three fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Others say it symbolizes the priests, Levites and the congregation. Either way, there are three pieces of matzoh.
The leader takes the middle matzoh out of the container and breaks it in two parts. He puts one back, and the other he wraps in a separate napkin. This pieces becomes the afikoman, which means dessert. The leader hides the afikoman and moves on with the ceremony. After the meal, the children go to look for the afikoman. The child who finds it brings it to the leader, but holds it as a ransom until a price has been paid — usually a treat for the child. The service cannot continue until the afikoman has been redeemed.
So, let’s review: The afikoman, the middle piece of the three matzot, was broken, hidden away and brought back. For its redemption, a ransom had to be paid. Symbolism, anyone??!!
After the afikoman has been redeemed, the leader breaks it into pieces and distributes it to the whole group. It is the dessert, and its taste is to remain in their mouths as long as possible to remind everyone of God’s deliverance in the past, present and future.
So let’s go back to a room with a few guys in it a couple thousand years ago. The group has just finished their Passover meal, the youngest person in the room (perhaps his name was John) has found the afikoman and redeemed it. The leader begins the ceremony:
And as He had done earlier, Yeshua took the afikoman and gave thanks.
“Baruch atah Adonai, elohaynu melech haolam hamotzee lechem min haaretz.” Or, in English, “Blessed are you, O LORD our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Yeshua broke the afikoman, passed it to His disciples, and then said something new: “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
It is so much more powerful to me to know that the elements in the Last Supper were already part of a bigger tradition. Jesus didn’t take random pieces of bread or a meaningless cup of wine. They are part of the ceremony of the Seder dinner. They are part of the Jewish tradition. They take on new meaning when Jesus breaks that second piece of matzoh and tells us that what’s been broken, hidden, and redeemed is what He is going to do for all of creation.
It’s a beautiful thing.