Passover begins this evening. It seems especially significant that this year, Passover begins on Good Friday. After all, they both celebrate the same thing.
The very idea that Passover is still celebrated now, in 2018, amazes me. Over thousands of years (with minor exceptions, such as during the years leading up to King Josiah), the Jews have celebrated the Passover. Whether in Israel and Judea, or even when spread to the corners of the earth, they’ve faithfully reenacted God’s sacrifice and salvation year after year after year.
While Pete and I mainly celebrate Easter, both of us are partly Jewish—Pete’s father and my grandfather were Jews. And while we weren’t raised Jewish, it seems a shame to neglect such a significant part of our heritage. We’ve decided it’s past time to learn more about our roots. At this time of year, that means learning more about Passover.
Our first step was to watch this very entertaining video. I suggest you watch it too.
Having read the pertinent passages in the Bible many times, I thought I knew all the “important stuff” about this most significant of holidays. It turns out I’ve just scratched the surface. I thought all the traditional pieces of the Passover celebration were just that—human tradition. It turns out that those “man-made” traditions are hugely prophetic, telling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I don’t have space to go into all the examples. That would take a book (and there are already books on this topic). But let me tell you about something I just learned that impressed me—a lot.
At one point during a Seder, at least as practiced in our handy Haggadah, or how-to manual, the host picks up three pieces of matzo. These are usually said to represent the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (or perhaps the three “ranks” of Jews—the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites). As Christians, we could also consider them symbolic of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, there’s a very good reason to look at it this way.
The middle piece of matzo, called the Afikoman, is said to represent “sacrifice” (hence the tie with Isaac). The head of household separates it out and breaks it in half. One half is returned to the plate holding the other two pieces. The other half is wrapped in a napkin and hidden somewhere in the home. Later, the children in the family will go searching for it.
Why do we think the Afrikoman represents Jesus? Even though it represents sacrifice, Isaac wasn’t actually sacrificed. God provided a ram instead. Isaac wasn’t broken, nor was he hidden away for a period of time. But Jesus was. He was broken on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, and hidden in the tomb for three days. Furthermore, Jesus had a dual nature—His humanity and His divinity—represented by the two parts of the broken matzo.
There’s more. If you look closely at a piece of matzo, you’ll immediately notice that it’s full of holes, and it’s divided by a series of stripes (they don’t show up well in this photo, but they’re there). Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed. Some even point out the dark patches from baking the flour—the matzo looks bruised. And Jesus was a bruised reed.
Finally, matzo is baked without yeast. In the Bible, yeast is symbolic of sin. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6.) Just as matzo has no yeast, so Jesus had no sin. That is why He could be our perfect sacrifice.
Much later in the celebration, the children are finally given permission to go searching for the hidden piece of matzo. Whoever finds it receives a prize, and there is much joy and laughter. The rest of those seeking, who don’t get the prize, feel disappointment. You can see the parallels—those of us who find Jesus receive an everlasting reward, along with much joy.
This is just one small part of a Seder; the meal typically lasts for hours. As we learned about each part, I was repeatedly astonished how these traditions—particularly the extra-Biblical ones, such as hiding the matzos—so clearly portray Jesus. I expect the prophecies of law and prophets to point to the coming Messiah, but realizing that God even influences our extra-biblical celebrations just serves to remind me that He truly is Lord of all creation.