Torah: Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-13:16
Haftarah: Yirmayahu (Jeremiah) 46:13-28
B’rit Chadashah: Luke 22:1-23
This week’s Torah reading is so rich that it is hard to pick out just one theme. Since the Passover is so important to those of us who believe in Yeshua, it made sense to use this opportunity to visit that subject, perhaps in the hope of inspiring some of my Sunday-brethren to consider celebrating it this year.
When the Eternal One fulfilled His promise to redeem His people from bondage, it was through the Passover. God’s people were set free from Egypt via the blood of the lamb painted on our doorposts, so that we would not die in God’s wrath. Likewise, God’s people were set free from sin by the blood of the Lamb painted on our hearts, so that we would not die in God’s wrath.
Passover is the first Feast established by the Eternal One for Israel, preceding even Shabbat. It was also commanded to be a memorial which Israel was to keep for the specific purpose of teaching our children what the Eternal One had done for us (Exo. 12:26f). In the same way, we in the Messianic community take great joy in keeping the Feast in honor and remembrance of the greater redemption we have in the Passover Lamb, Yeshua (cf. Luke 22:19, 1Co. 5:7-8 & 11:24-25).
What is almost always missed by Christian commentators is the fact that the specific bread and cup that we are to partake of in remembrance of our Lord is the matzah and wine of the Passover. While there is certainly no sin in observing the Lord’s Supper (and this is in fact the practice of this author’s own synagogue), the Supper should be regarded as a snack which tides us over until the true Supper of Passover, not a ritual completely divorced of its roots.
It is fascinating in that regard that every single element of the Pesach Seder points to the ultimate Sacrifice:
- The Lamb was selected on the 10th of Nisan. (Exo. 12:3; John 12:1, 12)
- The Lamb had to be unblemished. (Exo. 12:5)
- The Lamb was to be sacrificed by the whole community on the 14th of Nisan. (Exo. 12:6)
- It was to be eaten with matzah, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (ibid., v. 8; Mat. 26:26, 1Co. 5:7-8) Judas was marked by being the one who dipped his bread in the bowl with Yeshua (Mark 14:20), and it is likely that the specific bowl being referred to was that containing the maror, or bitter herbs. It is no coincidence that the bitterness of Judas’ betrayal, in which he sold out Yeshua for the price of a slave, was thus marked.
- There are four cups traditionally drunk at a Passover dinner, two before and two after the meal, called the cups of Sanctification, Plagues, Redemption, and Praise (also called Acceptance). It is no accident that Yeshua’s final cup was the cup of plagues and that He refused the cup of Redemption, passing it to His disciples instead (Luke 22:20)—He came not to win redemption for Himself, but for us.
- Not a bone of the Lamb was to be broken. (Exo. 12:46, John 19:36)
- The blood of the Lamb protects us from God’s judgment and frees us from bondage. (Exo. 12:13, Rom. 3:25)
- A cup is traditionally set out for Elijah.
- The word afikomen is generally considered to be derived from a Greek word meaning “desert,” but may actually come from an Aramaic word meaning “He Came.” The practice of the Afikomen is to hide three pieces of matzah in a special linen pouch with three pockets. The middle piece is brought out and broken in half; one half is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden in the room for the children to find later, while the other half is eaten with the Cup of Redemption.
- The Lamb was traditionally roasted on a spit, with a crosspiece holding open the forelegs to allow the inside to be thoroughly cooked—it was literally cooked in a crucifixion pose!
Even the extra-Biblical Jewish traditions of the Pesach Seder point to the Messiah, right down to how we roasted the Lamb! This is important to understanding the other Feasts as well, for it sets the precedence of paying attention to these extra traditions which, if not Inspired on the level of Scripture, nevertheless seem to have been guided by the Ruach to point to the Messiah! (This is one reason why we shouldn’t take a “guilty until proven innocent” approach to dealing with Jewish tradition in the Messianic movement; see also “Rabbinic Judaism vs. Modern Judaism” for more discussion on this point.)