“What is kosher?”
“What does Easter have to do with Passover?”
“What was Jesus doing at the Last Supper?”
These questions and others set me on a search for answers which resulted in my recently published book, Connecting with Christ at Passover.
My son often asked me during those years, “You know we’re not Jewish, right, Mom?”
I have been hosting an annual Passover Seder meal for 20 years. I now host Passover meals for people who want to learn more about Jewish traditions from a Christian perspective at churches and community centers. It has become a sacred part of my Easter traditions. My kids have often labeled it more odd than Holy and reverent. But I believe with all my heart that attempting to connect with the Christ of Passover in this way is important.
I want to clarify that I do not think Christians should ‘mimic’ longstanding sacred Jewish traditions or in any way take part in them for entertainment or pretense. The God of the Bible sets Jewish people apart as His chosen nation. Honoring the beautiful traditions of the Old Testament and learning about the chronicles of Jewish history should be undertaken with the utmost respect and reverence.
Understanding Jewish history, culture, and tradition is a perfect opportunity for people to connect with the God of the Bible during the Easter season.
The Old Testament books of the Bible are not random stories recounting wars and famine. They are a beautiful tapestry of love and passion that connects us to the Creator of the universe. The New Testament is not a confusing book of DO’s and DONT’s. It is part of a bigger plan that includes you and me. The Bible is a love letter from the author of our faith, a personal message of hope and promise. I believe it benefits us to look at these ancient traditions to find out how we fit into the story of God as told throughout the 66 books of the entire Holy Bible.
I have already established that I am not Jewish. I think it is also worth mentioning that I am not a pastor, theologian, bible scholar, or expert on much of anything. I am just an ordinary woman who believes that knowing Jesus Christ is the most important thing we can accomplish in our lifetime.
The Passover meal and the elements it contains are rich with symbolism for people of all faith backgrounds:
The Hebrew word Kashrus, where the word kosher comes from, means food is prepared according to Jewish food laws found in the book of Leviticus. The symbolic foods on the Ke’ arah, the Seder Plate, are parsley, bitter herbs, egg, Matzah, Charoseth, shank bone of lamb, and salt water.
The tradition of Passover transcends all languages. It is a sacred spiritual tradition that builds a bridge between people of every tribe and tongue to God. Passover celebrations vary according to the nation or region where they originate. The names for Passover come from the story in Exodus where God passed over the homes of His chosen people providing salvation and deliverance from slavery. The Old Testament Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach, is used 49 times. The New Testament, written in Greek, mentions the word Passover, or Pascha, 29 times. The book of First Corinthians in the New Testament names Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb.
The Hebrew word Haggadah means “telling”. The word Seder means “order of service” because each of the readings and symbolic foods of the Passover are presented in a certain order. There can be a dozen or more parts to the Passover Seder. Some traditional Seder dinners can last six hours or more.
The Maggid is a Jewish narrator who recounts the Passover story from the book of Exodus Chapter 12. Jewish people tell the story every year at Passover.
Passover is part of a different week-long Jewish festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Israelites called leaven (yeast) Chametz. It is used as a symbol for sin and evil.
Before the Seder begins, three pieces of Matzah are placed in a Matzahtash, a pure white linen cloth with three layers. Three pieces of Matzah are broken and buried in this white cloth. As Christians, we understand the three parts of the trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Afikomen is this middle piece of broken Matzah. The original Greek word means ‘He who comes later’ which Christians believe refers to Jesus. Jesus was most likely sharing the Afikomen during the Last Supper when he explained the broken Matzah as His body.
There are four cups used during the Seder. The Cup of Sanctification remembers the deliverance from Egypt. The Cup of Judgment recalls their freedom from slavery. The Cup of Redemption tells of God’s salvation plan. The Cup of Restoration foretells God’s coming back for his people. The cups are a beautiful picture of God’s story for those who believe in Him, from Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament, through Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. It was these cups of wine which Jesus shared at the Last Supper when He spoke of His blood of the new covenant.
Every Passover feast ends with a blessing prayed for all present. Lechayim (to all, to life) and Shalom (peace).
The Passover Seder is filled with beautiful symbolism. If this topic interests you and you would like more information, check out Connecting with Christ at Passover, by Trish Propson, at the Kaukauna library.
Take Five Action Steps:
Passover is an important feast for the Jewish people, but also has symbolic meaning for Christians. Connecting with Christ at Passover can be a meaningful way to deepen your understanding of the Christian faith within your family. Consider these five elements of the Passover celebration and how you might apply them in your own life this Easter season.
1. Telling the story
What is your story? Is God part of the narrative? Talk with your family about traditions and remember the rich history from your past together. Sharing these oral traditions can bind us together across generations.
2. Searching your heart
The feast of unleavened bread offers an opportunity for people to search their hearts and confess sin. Are you carrying secrets that cause you shame and guilt? Speaking them to God can offer hope, forgiveness, healing, and the promise of new life.
The Passover traditions are filled with hope that God will send the Messiah and Jewish people will be reunited in Jerusalem. For Christians, the promise that Jesus is coming back and hope for eternal life can be ours if we believe in Him. Where do you place your hope? What hopes do you have for your future? Share these with your family.
When Jesus washed His disciple’s feet at the Last Supper, He was humbly performing the ceremonial washing or Urchatz and revealing His servant’s heart. As a family, make a commitment to serve one another this Easter season. Do something sacrificial in secret to show kindness or service to a loved one. Discuss ways you can serve others as a family.
An important part of the Passover meal offers thanks to God. Dayyenu means that God has done more for us than we deserve. Take time this Easter season to share gratitude and thanks with your family.