MESSAGE DELIVERED: NOVEMBER 13, 2016
Passover is a very special day on the Jewish calendar. Passover has the distinction of being the oldest continuously observed religious holiday known to man. Its roots go back 3000 years! This celebration commemorates the day when the Jewish people were freed from the bondage of slavery by the power of God.
Many centuries later, the Lord Jesus was in Jerusalem and He gave His life as the Lamb of God. In doing so, He took upon Himself all of our sin…the shame…the guilt…and yes the punishment that you and I deserved.
Jesus had to die in the right place, Jerusalem, and He did. He had to die at the right time…at Passover, and He did. He had to die in the right way by…shedding His blood…and He did. And then He arose from the dead to free us from the bondage, guilt and shame of sin and from the dread of death and judgement.
Paul, writing about Yeshua, Jesus, said something very significant. He wrote “For indeed Christ (or Messiah) our Passover was sacrificed for us”. Now, before the Jewish family has the Passover observance…the feast…there are a couple of rituals they go through. First of all, prior to Passover, many observant Jewish families engage in spring cleaning. And this has Biblical precedent.
I’m going to read to you from the book of Exodus. And before they were to observe Passover, these instructions were given. Listen to Exodus 12, and uh, I’ll begin with verse 15. “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread (or bread with yeast) from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”
Dropping down to verse 18. “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened. In all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.”
The Jewish family will scour their home from top to bottom to get rid of any product that might contain yeast or leaven…which throughout the Bible is the symbol of what?…sin and evil. And there is a custom in which they will actually pack up and give away their unopened leavened products and then they will fill their cupboards as they empty their cupboards of leavened products, they will then fill their cupboards with special Passover foods.
The next thing that takes place is the lighting of the candles. Before the meal begins, it is customary not for the father or husband of the home, but for the wife and mother of the home to come and light the candles…and then she will offer a prayer, and as she does she…brings the smoke or incense upward as she offers her prayer. And that is the beginning of ‘The Seder”.
In a few moments we’re going to be looking at the mechanics of the Passover Seder. We’re going to go through it step by step, point by point. But, as we do…as we go through the mechanics, don’t miss the Messiah, and don’t miss the message. Both of which, are clearly portrayed in this meal.
Now according to Exodus chapter 12, the Jewish family was to select a perfect unblemished lamb. In fact, back to Exodus 12 I want to share with you the instructions that were given. Exodus 12 and verse 5. “Your lamb shall be without blemish. A male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”
And so the lamb that they were to select to slay, was to be examined, it was to be inspected, and there could be no imperfections, there could be no blemishes. It had to be a perfect lamb. To be sure of this, they would set it apart for four days. And each day they would go out and would examine the lamb. And if they found a blemish, or an imperfection, that lamb could not be used.
Likewise, Jesus, the Lamb of God…His life was put under extreme scrutiny by His enemies. They tried to find some blemish, some fault, some error, and even His enemies had to admit they could find no fault in this Man. He was the perfect, sinless Son of God. The Lamb without blemish.
Now after selecting the lamb, they were to take that lamb, and they were to slay the lamb. We read that in the very next verse. “Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.”
And so, they were to sacrifice the lamb and then they were to take the blood of the lamb, and they were to stain the lintel and the side post of the door. You see the picture? The Cross. And then, they were to eat the Passover supper.
Now in the original Passover, there were only three items. Let’s talk about the three biblical elements that were part of the Passover meal. First there was the Passover lamb. An unblemished lamb was to be sacrificed. And it’s of interest to me that the biblical injunction forbade the breaking of any bones of the Passover lamb, in its preparation or even in the eating thereof, they were not to break a bone.
This pictures a Messiah who was slain for our sins! We read about this in the book of Isaiah of how the Messiah, God’s Passover Lamb, would be slain for our sin.
Listen to what the prophet writes. “He”, by the way, often Rabbis will be asked, who is Isaiah chapter 53 talking about? And they will often say well it’s talking about the nation of Israel. All through here we have all these personal pronouns. He…He…He…He. Listen to what the prophet said. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted. Yet He opened not His mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off (this one…this Messiah was cut off…that is He was killed) from the land of the living. For the transgressions of my people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.” He was the sinless One, who was slain for our sin.
Now since the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., a problem has been presented for Judaism. There is no temple. There is no priesthood. There are no sacrifices. Therefore, how does one atone for sin?
Jewish people today will say well we have found other ways to atone for sin. Through our prayers, through our mitzvahs, or good works: through charity,…through this type of thing.
Since A.D. 70, the Jewish people do not use lamb at the Passover meal. Instead, they may use chicken…perhaps prime rib, but uh, they no longer use lamb because of the destruction of the temple and of the priesthood.
The second original item on the Passover table, is a bitter herb. And I believe that this is a picture of a suffering Messiah. Listen to how Messiah suffered for His people…for you…and for me…but especially, for the Jewish people.
“He is despised and rejected by men. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The third item that is part of the original Passover, is matzah bread. Unleavened matzah bread. And I believe that this pictures a sinless Messiah. It is unleavened. You might note also that it has stripes. It also has piercings.
One of my favorite questions for my Jewish friends is from Zechariah chapter 12. Who is the One who is pierced? And usually they just stare at me blankly, and have no answer to the question. In Isaiah 53 reading of this sinless Messiah, and again, “They made His grave with the wicked. But with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence. Nor was there any deceit in His mouth”. And then it goes on to say, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He has put Him to grief”. And so forth throughout the scripture He is called in verse 11 “My righteous Servant, shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities”. Not His own, but He bears our iniquities, and so forth.
For we who are believers in, and followers of, the Lord Jesus Christ, the picture here of the Messiah is so evident, so clear. And yet, so many of our Jewish friends just cannot see Yeshua, Hebrew for Jesus, in the Passover ceremony.
And yet, the very last of the Jewish prophets, John the Baptist saw it so clearly. In fact, when he saw Jesus coming, he said “Behold” or look, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
Well now we come to “The Seder” itself. And the word “seder” simply means “order”. And the Passover Seder is a meal within a meal. The Seder is a ceremonial meal. But part of it also which, we won’t get in on this morning, is a feast. And sometimes that feast will last three to four hours. It is a time of celebration…and great food and festivity! But this is the ceremonial part that we’ll be looking at this morning. And it is filled with an abundant amount of spiritual truth.
It begins with the first cup of wine, or juice. Four times during the Passover Seder, the cups are filled with wine, or grape juice. And a Hebrew blessing is pronounced. Now the color of the wine is always red. Why do you think that is? Because it is to represent the shed blood of the Lamb.
The first cup is called the kadush which means “holiness”. The cup of holiness. And that is where we must always begin with God. You know, you and I we tend to compare ourselves to one another. To our neighbor, to our coworker…and we can always find somebody worse than us! And we feel pretty good about ourselves. But when I compare myself to a Holy God!?
The next step of The Seder is to put one’s hands in a bowl of water. It’s a ritualistic…ah, the Judaism loved ritualistic washings. They would cleanse their hands. But you know what folks? When I read the Gospels, it becomes so apparent. That God is not really concerned about unwashed hands, He’s concerned about unwashed hearts. Unwashed hearts. He wants the inner man to be clean, not just the outer man.
And then at this point, they take some parsley and they dip it in salt water. And you say, “well why do they use this leafy vegetable”? Well parsley they tell us reminds them of the hyssop that was used in applying the blood to the lintel and the door post. And so it reminds them of that. But then why did they dip it in salt water? Well when one dips parsley into strong salt water and eats of it, they want to be reminded of the tears, the agony, of the four hundred and some years of bondage and slavery in Egypt.
This point in the ceremony, there are three pieces of matzah in there. Three pieces of matzah. The middle one is taken, and it’s broken. Some questions. Why are there three pieces of matzah? Why not two? Why not four? Why three? And why of the three pieces is only the middle one broken? I believe that we have a picture here of the trinity. And of course the second piece is the Lord Jesus, who was broken for the sins of His people.
And then that middle piece. This middle piece is wrapped. And it is hidden. And then it is brought back and shared with everyone at the table. I believe this is a picture of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, that second piece that’s wrapped and hidden, it is called the afikomen. Now it is a word that doesn’t belong here, because this is a Hebrew feast. Afikomen is a Greek word. The only Greek word in the entire Seder. And you know what it means? It means He’s come. It doesn’t mean He’s coming. It doesn’t mean He shall come. It means He, the Messiah, has come! And yet our Jewish friends go through this every year, and they do not see Yeshua.
At this point in the ceremony, the father will often take a book called a Haggadah. And it reads from right to left, from back to front. It’s in Hebrew. And uh, he will…I mentioned it can last three or four hours? He will read this to the family, and explain the story of Passover as he does. And once the Passover story is told, four questions are asked of the children especially.
Why is the night of Pesach or Passover, why is it so different from all other nights of the year? On all other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread. Why on this night do we only eat unleavened bread? A third question, on all other nights we may eat any species of herb. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs? And then on all other nights, we do not dip or drink either sitting or reclining. Why on this night do we recline? And the discussion that follows provides a way of summarizing the Passover story.
And then they come to the second cup of juice. It is called the cup of judgement. Incidentally, not everyone is agreed upon the order of the cups. But, I believe the second cup is the cup of judgement. Why does the cup of judgement follow the cup of holiness? Well because God is Holy, He must judge sin. The wages of sin is always death. You see, God is Holy. He can’t excuse our sin, He can’t wink at it, He can’t pretend it didn’t happen, He can’t sweep it under the rug, He can’t turn away from it. He’s Holy! And therefore He must judge sin. And so they drink from the second cup, speaking of His judgement.
At this point, they have another ceremonial washing, a Hebrew blessing is pronounced and then they eat from the matzah bread. Notice again, the matzah is unleavened. And this points to the need of self-examination. The Lord’s Table came out of the Passover observance. And at the Lord’s Table, before you eat, before you drink, examine your heart. Do your own Spring cleaning. Take inventory. Is there sin in your life? Has fellowship been broken? Get things right.
And then, they eat from the Haroset. The Haroset is a mixture of apples and raisins and walnuts…cinnamon. And it’s kinda sweet. And you say, why do they eat of this? Well, rabbis tell us that this reminds them of the mortar that was used in all of those building projects that were completed by the Hebrew slaves throughout Egypt.
And then, another item that has been added to the Passover observance is an egg. A roasted egg. Rabbis tell us that the egg was added to show grief over the destruction of the temple. But I think in the providence of God that may have another symbolic meaning. Because, on Resurrection Sunday, there are often Easter egg hunts. Why? Because an egg is symbolic of resurrection life, new life. And I think that pictures a resurrected Savior.
And then, they take a little matzah, and I need a volunteer. Can I get you to eat that please? If you could use one word to describe the taste of the herb, what would you say? Bitter! Thank you very much. This reminds us not only of the Hebrew bondage…slavery, but it also reminds us…you know the book of Hebrews talks about the pleasures of sin for a season. You know, sin is pleasurable I guess or we wouldn’t do it! But you know what? Satan always promises, sin is pleasurable. But you know what? We enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. But then the harvest comes. Pastor Tom could tell you…I know this from my pastoral experience…I’d have people come to me broken. They had chosen to disobey God maybe twenty years ago. And now it was all coming home. And yes, God had forgiven them. But the consequences. And that is one of the lessons of the bitter herb.
Well at this point, they break from the ceremonial meal. They start their feast. Chicken, mashed potatoes…salads. It’s wonderful…wonderful feast. And then, after they finish the feast, they come back and finish the Seder. Children search for the afikomen. Remember it was broken, and it was wrapped and hidden. And then, they search for it…bring it back and share it with everyone at the table.
And then, they partake of the third cup. And the third cup is called the cup of redemption. By the way, at the Lord’s Table, the cup that you drink of, is the cup of redemption. God’s Holiness is followed by God’s judgement on sin. Right?
First cup, cup of Holiness, second cup, cup of judgement, third cup, cup of redemption. There is only one way if you’re a sinner…and I suspect you are because the Bible says all have sinned…there is none righteous, no not one…if you have sinned, there is only one way to avoid the judgement of a Holy God. And that is to experience His redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. What was true in Egypt is true today. All of us need our own Lamb. The shed blood.
You might notice there is another place setting at the table, and an empty chair. And you’ll find that in every Jewish home at the Passover feast. Why? Because they believe that the prophet Elijah may come. Well you know something folks? I believe the prophet Elijah is yet to come. It’s true he came partially…in type…John the Baptist. But I believe that before the great and dreadful day of the Lord Malachi says “Elijah will come”. I think it’s very possible…in fact I think it’s probable that he is one of the two witnesses of Revelation.
And then, as they close the Seder there is singing. They sing from the Hallel Psalms. Psalm 113 through 118. I think that the last Psalm that they sing is very very powerful…very very significant. I want to read from it and…I want you just to ask yourself a question. Is Jesus here? Is this speaking about Jesus?
Listen to verse 21 of Psalm 118. “I will praise you for you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Can I ask you a question? Who’s that talking about? Jesus! This was the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes! “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Folks, we use that verse all the time. But we’re missing something. You know what day that’s talking about? That’s talking about Good Friday. This is the day…this is the day…the day of our redemption. That is the day that is marvelous. This is the day the Lord has made…and we will rejoice and be glad in it. Because I’m saved now, I pray oh Lord, oh Lord…I pray now, send prosperity. And then it says, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. Who’s that talking about? We have here His first coming and His second coming! Remember Jesus said “You’ll not see me again until you say ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’”?!
And then verse 27 of the Psalm. “God is the Lord and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Who’s the sacrificial Lamb? Jesus. Yeshua.
And then comes the fourth cup. And this is called the cup of praise. Friends. You won’t hear this in a lot of churches. I know you hear it here but, you won’t hear this in a lot of churches. Judgement’s coming! And I believe it’s coming soon, and I believe it’s going to be severe. The question is, when God looks at the door of your heart, does He see the Blood? Does He see Jesus?
Let’s pray together. Father, you are worthy of praise, and adoration and glory. For we were lost in sin. We were ordained for judgement. But as for Israel…oh…you have provided a Lamb. A Savior. And His name is Jesus. His name is Yeshua. And He came and He was that perfect sinless Lamb. He shed His Blood. And you invite each and every one to come, and to drink from that fountain. To apply it for all hearts and lives. So Father, this morning, if there is one in need of their own Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world…but not just the world’s sin…their own sin…may they respond to You today. And we will give You the praise. In Jesus’ name…amen.