It was Good Friday, twenty-seven years ago today, when I gave birth to my first-born son, Ethan. I was reading Psalm 127 while in the hospital, when I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing in Memphis—on March 29! It is now the eve of Good Friday, and I can’t sleep for thinking about what the Father in Heaven did to save me on another Good Friday some two thousand years ago. The more I meditate on the significance of that event, the more overwhelmed I am with the love of God and the sacrifice He paid for my redemption.
There is another reason this day has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been doing a Bible study with my ministry partner, Joney, and a good friend of hers who is an Orthodox Jew. I have cherished every moment of our time together looking at the plan of God as it unfolds throughout the Old Testament. Oh, how Joney and I pray that the Lord will reveal the Messiah to this precious woman.
With Passover and Easter Sunday approaching, our conversation has centered on the Passover: its significance and symbolism. I was curious to learn how an orthodox family commemorated God’s deliverance of His people through the Exodus. So, I did some research. With several Study Bibles and Strong’s Concordance in hand, I began my search. What I discovered is fascinating! The symbolism and signs hidden in the Jewish feast known as a Seder are unmistakable. Every minute detail is pointing us to One person, and He is the Son of God incarnate as the Son of Man (Isaiah 7:14; Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10; Colossians 1:18-22, 2:9). One of the sources I used is a book by Chosen People Ministries titled The Gospel in the Passover (www.chosenpeople.com).
The Seder Meal
The Haggadah is an instructional guidebook that participants use to assist them in conducting the Passover Seder. Here is the order of service (Seder): Lighting of the Candles (Genesis 3:15; Luke 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; John 10), Cup of Sanctification, First Washing of the Hands (John 13:1-11), Dipping of the Parsley (Exodus 12:21-22), Breaking of the Middle Matzah, The Story of the Passover, The Four Questions, Cup of Plagues (also known as the Cup of Judgment), The Lamb Shank Bone, Second Washing of the Hands, Eating of the Bitter Herbs, Eating of the Bitter Herbs with Charoset, The Roasted Egg, The Passover Supper, Eating of the Afikoman, Cup of Redemption, Elijah’s Cup, and lastly, the Cup of Praise.
Time will not allow me to unpack each part of the Passover meal, so we’ll focus on some key elements. As we do, you’ll get a better understanding of how Jesus kept and, ultimately, fulfilled the Passover (Luke 22:12-22; Luke 24:19-27; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). It’s the story of redemption, atonement, deliverance, and salvation through the blood sacrifice of a Lamb.
Behold the Lamb in the Old Testament
From Genesis to Revelation there’s a crimson trail of blood. It started in the Garden of Eden where God Himself killed the first lamb and used its skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Then there’s the account of Abraham and Isaac. Stop and read Genesis 22:1-13. Once again, we see how God provided a sacrificial substitute for Abraham’s one and only son. Then we come to the narrative found in Exodus 12:1-38, and we find another lamb slain inaugurating the feast of the Passover.
The book of Isaiah has been called the gospel of the Old Testament. It’s my favorite book of the Bible. In fact, the name Isaiah means the LORD has saved. Another Hebrew name that means Jehovah saved is Joshua. In Greek, the name Joshua is Jesus–the one who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:18-25).
The apex of the book of Isaiah is chapter 53. Curiously enough, this passage of scripture is omitted in the liturgy readings in synagogues today. No other prophecy so clearly depicts the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the earth.
Among the elements of the Seder is the Shank Bone of a Lamb. It’s very significant. The Hebrew word for shank bone is Zeroah and is akin to the arm of the Lord: specifically, the outstretched arm of the Lord (See Exodus 6:6). In fact, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 clearly identifies Christ Jesus as our Passover Lamb. Read Isaiah 52:10-15, 53:1-12; Psalms 98:1-3, 77:15, 44:3, 136:12.
Before we go any farther, stop and read the following passages: Psalm 22:1-21; Luke 22:1, 23:56; John 18:1, 19:42. It is not a coincidence that the Lamb is mentioned some sixty times in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:7, 5:7-9, 7:9-10, 13:8, 15:3-5, 17:14).
The Center Bread
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the earth.”
Matzah (unleavened bread) is an integral part of the Passover meal, and it is eaten to commemorate the Jews’ hasty exit from Egypt. The unleavened bread is striped and pierced to slow down fermentation and to imitate the way it was prepared in Egypt. But it strongly points us to One whose hands would be pierced and whose back would be striped with a whip (Psalm 22: 6-18; Isaiah 53:4-7; Zachariah 12:10, 13:1).
And then there is the Matzah Tash. It is an embroidered pouch with three pockets; each pocket holds a piece of matzah. The three pieces are thought to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To us, this mysterious bread represents the Trinity: the Father—Ha Av, the Son—Ha Ben, and the Holy Spirit—Ruwach Ha Kodesh (John 10:10, 29-31). The center matzah is broken in half before the meal begins; one half is placed in the center pocket of the pouch.
The other half, called the Afikoman, is wrapped in a linen cloth, hidden away, and brought back at the end of the feast. It is then divided into smaller pieces and given to each person at the Seder table. Afikoman is a Greek word that means “the one who is to come” or, “he came” (Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:9). It unmistakably represents Jesus as the Christ. While Jews consider the center bread to be representative of Isaac, they have no explanation for the ritual of breaking the bread in half and hiding part of it, wrapped in a cloth. At the end of the feast, the children search for it. The one who finds it gets a gift (Luke 23:52-56, 24:1-13).
Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 1:29, 3:14-18, John 8:24-28, 12:32-37, 19:37; Zechariah 12:10, 13:1; Psalm 111:2; Joshua 22:5; Philippians 2:9-11; Matthew 27:1-44
The Cup of a New Covenant
“Blessed art Thou, O LORD our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.”
The Seder is centered around four cups, each named after a promise of God (Exodus 6:6-7). The Cup of Sanctification (Luke 22:20; 1 John 1:7-9) and the Cup of Judgment (Luke 22:20) are the first two. There is a song that is sung at this point in the Seder called “Dayenu” which means, “It is enough” or “we would have been satisfied.” It goes like this: If He had rescued us from Egypt but had not punished the Egyptians—Dayenu…. And on and on it goes.
To paraphrase a quote by John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Here is a question: If the Lord never did another thing to prove His love for you, would His work on the cross be enough? Would you still be satisfied with Jesus?
The Cup of Redemption is the third cup (Jeremiah 31:31; Exodus 6:6, 12:38; 1 Peter 1 Peter 1:3, 18-19; Luke 22:1-21; Matthew 26:28). When Jesus took the Passover meal with His disciples, He ushered in a New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). And just as there were Gentiles who also came out of Egypt, His redemption would include people from all nations–just as God promised Abraham (Genesis 17:1-5).
As a side note, here are some important words in Hebrew: Kippur—Strong’s #3725—The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 1-28, Hebrews 6:19, 9:7-26; Genesis 6:14). It comes from this Hebrew word: Kaphar—Strong’s #3722—The root word is to cover, clean, forgive, make atonement, be merciful, to purge away, make reconciliation, pardon, or reconcile. Mercy Seat and forgiveness are also kin to this word.
The fourth and final cup is the Cup of Praise.
Digging Deeper: Psalms 98:1-3, 77:15, 44:3, 136:12; Jeremiah 32:21; Leviticus 16:1-34, 17:6-11; Romans 3:24-25, 5:8-9; Colossians 1:14-20; Hebrews 10:4-28, 11:28, 13:11-20; Ephesians 1:7, 2:13, 6:12; Mark 10:45
An Empty Seat for Elijah
At the Seder table there will always be one extra place setting for the prophet Elijah—the one who will usher in the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom on earth (Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6; Isaiah 40:1-5; Luke 24:13-27). Jesus declared that Elijah had come. He was John the Baptist (John 1:15, 23-29, 37; Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 1:17, 76-78).
The Seder meal ends, as it did with Jesus and His disciples, with the reading of the Psalms 113-118. They are still waiting with the hope that “next year in Jerusalem” they will celebrate the Passover with their Messiah (Psalm 118:121-26; Isaiah 28:16).
Today, let’s be mindful of how much the Lord has done and celebrate the fact that The Lamb has been slain and our sins are washed in His blood. Let’s raise the Cup of Praise to our God and King. And perhaps next year, in the New Jerusalem, we will be celebrating the true Passover at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9)!
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, and worthy is the King who conquered the grave! Psalm 118:29, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”