A Christian's Perspective On Passover
Every year in the spring, Jewish families and synagogues all over the world celebrate the Passover. They commemorate the deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and God’s protection and love for them as His chosen people. This year, Passover starts at sundown on Friday, April 5 and ends at sundown Friday, April 13.
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The book of Exodus in the Bible records how God used ten plagues to convince the Egyptians to free their slaves, plagues such as locusts, hail, darkness, and turning the Nile river (Egypt’s lifeline in the desert) to blood. The plagues culminated with the death of every firstborn man and animal in Egypt, but God, intending to save the Israelites from this last plague, instituted Passover. Each Israelite family was to kill and lamb and serve it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The blood of the lamb was brushed across the door posts of all Jewish households. When the angel of death passed through Egypt, he would see the blood and spare them from the plague.
Later in Exodus, as part of the Jewish law, God says of Passover, “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.” Children are an important part of any Passover Seder (service), and Exodus stresses the importance of passing the story of deliverance from Egypt down to each generation. No one should ever forget what happened.
A normal Passover Seder will include a telling of the Exodus story, aided by several “elements,” foods that are tasted and remind us what happened. A staple at any table is matzah, unleavened bread that represents the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. They didn’t have time for their bread to rise. A Seder plate in the center of every table also has several important items, including
- Karpas – a green vegetable like parsley, representing springtime and new life, and God as the Creator of that life.
- Maror – bitter herbs, usually horseradish. The taste of the horseradish should bring us to tears, reminding us of Israel’s suffering.
- Charoset – a sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and wine. The sweetness tempers the bitterness of the maror, just as God’s deliverance tempers the bitterness of slavery.
- Salt water – representing tears. We eat this with the karpas.
- A lamb bone – this reminds us the sacrificial lamb. A lamb is no longer sacrificed or eaten at Passover, because there is no temple in Jerusalem.
- Khagigah – a roasted egg. This is eaten in place of the lamb, signifying springtime, much like the karpas, and eternal life because of its circular shape.
Participants also drink overflowing four cups of wine during the Seder, for sanctification, the plagues, redemption and praise. An overflowing cup is often a symbol of abundance and joy. But, during the Cup of the Plagues, we diminish the fullness by ten drops, one for each plague. Even in our celebration, we never forget the high price that was paid for our freedom.
Because my father is Jewish, I grew up celebrating Passover with extended family for friends. When I was young, I never understood the significance of the holiday. It was just a big meal, much like Thanksgiving. After my parents became Christians (I followed later), they decided to continue celebrating the Passover, and to celebrate it as more than just a cultural holiday. Learning the rich significance of Passover has been a tremendous journey. It is now one of my favorite times of year.
Passover is a Jewish holiday, but it is often wrongly seen as the Jewish counterpart to Easter (in the same way that Hanukah is seen as a Jewish counterpart to Christmas). Jewish families are not the only ones who celebrate this beautiful holiday. Christians see Passover and Easter as inextricably connected. A Passover seder was the meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples (the Last Supper) Thursday night, right before his arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday.
There are also some interesting parallels between Passover as it was instituted in the Old Testament and the story of the Christ in the New Testament. The Israelites covered their door posts with the blood of a lamb, to protect themselves from the angel of death. Jesus is repeatedly referred to as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist. His blood covers the sins of those who believe and saves them from eternal death (rather than physical death).
Added, then, to the significance of Passover as the story of deliverance from Egypt is the idea of deliverance from sin and of eternal salvation. The Passover lamb is seen as a type of Christ. When instituting Passover, God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice and eat an “unblemished lamb.” In the same way, the Apostle Peter says to other Christians, you know that“you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (emphasis mine).
Every Passover Seder ends with the shout “Next year in Jerusalem,” expressing the hope that we may one day celebrate in Israel. Christians also look forward to the New Jerusalem, a holy city that God will build for His followers when He create a new earth, after Christ returns from heaven. Thus, when we exclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem!” we are looking forward to the day when Christ will come back to earth, to eternal life and joy.
Whether celebrated with family or in a corporate setting, thankfulness and worship are always central to Passover, a beautiful picture of what God does for His people. If you are interested in attending a Passover Seder this year, Chabad of SCV will be holding a Community Seder Friday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. Visit http://www.chabadscv.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/73474/jewish/Passover-Seder.htm to RSVP.
If you are interested in learning more about what it means to celebrate a Messianic (Christian) Passover Seder, visit http://www.messianicseder.com/.