Isn’t your life already busy enough? Who has time for a six-hour Passover Seder commemorating something that happened thousands of years ago? What could this possibly have to do with my life here and now, you may ask? How can a 3500-year-old Biblical ritual in any way relate to those living in the age of the laser, satellites, the worldwide web and computers? Well, let’s see!
The Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 3:15, “That which is has been already and that which will be has already been.…” Life is full of paradoxes. Do advancements in technology, science, economics, medicine, religion, and world government really promise to give men the rest for their weary souls for which they long?
How about a different approach to the questions and problems facing modern man? Is it possible to go forward by going backwards? This is a thesis that the ancient prophet Yermeyahu (Jeremiah) proffered to those who had ears to hear. He said, “Thus says YHVH, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in it’” (Jer 6:16). What were those ancient paths to which this white-haired Jewish prophet referred? This question is answered three verses later: “Because they have not listened to My words, and as for My Torah, they have rejected it also” (verse 19). YHVH through his prophets has been showing men the way of rest for their souls for thousands of years, yet men consistently refuse to listen. They always have a better way, so it seems!
The festival of Passover is one of the most ancient paths to be found in all of the Scriptures. In it are contained clues that will help the partakers of it to understand the past, present and the future.
A God-hater, Karl Marx, the father of modern communism, said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Yes, this can be said of dead, truthless and spiritless religion. But how about that religion which gives definition, purpose, meaning, hope and destiny to a man’s life? How could anything that comes directly from the Loving Father who created you and me in his own image be detrimental to us?
It has been said that the religion of the Bible tells a man where he has come from, where he is at and where he is going. Could it not be said that a man who knows the answers to these questions possesses true wisdom and wealth, and has indeed found rest for his troubled soul?
One of the most important scriptures in the Jewish faith is the famous shema passage of Deuteronomy 6:4–9. This passage, which is like a “pledge of allegiance” for the Jews, starts out by saying, “Hear [shema], O Israel …” The word shema literally means “to hear and to do.” Later, in verse five, the shema continues, “And you shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” Loving our Heavenly Creator is not just a mind-thing, but also an action and a doing thing. It is something we act out and participate in. This is the Hebrew way … the ancient paths! As a path is for the purpose of walking down, even so, Passover is meant to be celebrated. This is how YHVH’s people showed their love and devotion to him. Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, reiterated this when he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments [or Torah mitzvot]” (John 14:15).
This is what the Passover Seder is all about. We, as humans, learn by doing. We learn obedience by obeying. We learn to love by loving. We learn about heavenly and spiritual mysteries by walking out the types and shadows found in Scripture (of which Passover is but one) that point to the heavenly and spiritual domain or dimension of YHVH himself. The French have a saying: L’appétit vient en mangeant. Translated this means: Appetite comes while eating. Or we could say that the more one eats (delicious food) the more one wants. David said in Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that YHVH is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.” The more we walk out the commandments of our Heavenly Father, the more of his goodness we behold, the more of his blessings we receive, the more our soul finds rest, the more we want to walk out his commandments, the more we behold his goodness, and so on goes this wonderful spiritual growth-cycle.
So why do we go to the trouble, expense and time to celebrate a Passover Seder? First, it helps us to fulfill the commands YHVH gave to us to do at Passover, such as eating lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs; telling our children the story of the Passover; holding a “set apart convocation” and so on (Exod 12:14–20, 43–49; Lev 23:4–5; Num 9:2–3; 28:16; Deut 16:1–3). But again we ask, what is the significance and relevance to us of this celebration?
Passover is but the first piece of a panoramic puzzle or the first thread in a rich tapestry of YHVH’s plan of redemption of mankind. Though the children of Israel kept the first Passover 3500 years ago in the land of Egypt, this ancient celebration is not only a memorial of what occurred then, but is of utmost significance to the spiritual life of the Believer today. It has future or prophetic implications, as well. Passover is the first step of a spiritual journey that, if one continues in it faithfully to the end, will lead one into the very presence of YHVH Elohim, our Heavenly Father, himself. What a journey! Let’s look at it.
Ancient Israel, the covenant people through whom YHVH had chosen to reconcile all nations of the earth to himself, was in slavery in Egypt. YHVH heard their desperate cries, and remembering his promises to Abraham, with a mighty hand he brought down proud and powerful Egypt by his judgments and set his captive children free. Israel was in bondage to Egypt even as you and I were in bondage to our past sinful lives and under helpless control of the world, flesh and the devil. As the Israelites slew a perfect lamb and smeared its blood on the sides and top of the door posts of their homes they were spared the judgment of the death angel who smote sinful Egypt and all those who were not under the blood. Likewise, there is deliverance for us if we but recognize our state of sin and lostness, and if we but come repentantly to the cross of Golgotha upon which the bleeding Lamb of YHVH, slain from the foundation of the earth, hung. If we too will apply his blood to the door posts (thoughts and actions) of our lives, we, like our ancient forefathers, can escape YHVH’s terrifying judgment, for he will have no claim on our lives if we are under the blood of the Lamb.
Passover is but the first step in a parade of seven prophetic dress rehearsals or convocations (each is called a miqra-ee) represented by the seven glorious festivals of YHVH (called moedim or appointed times) all of which point to the redemptive work of Messiah Yeshua in the life of the redeemed believer. There are three set-apart festivals (called moedim) in the spring of the year that are prophetic shadow-pictures of Messiah’s first coming to earth, and there are four set-apart festivals in autumn which are prophetic shadow-pictures of his second coming at the end of the age.
Passover represents the redeemed believer coming out of spiritual Egypt. Interestingly, Passover falls at the beginning of YHVH’s sacred year. Not only is it at the beginning of the New Year, but it is the first festival of the year and represents the first step in a believer’s life—all falling in the spring season of the year: the time of rebirth and new beginnings!
Hag haMatzot (the Feast of Unleavened Bread), which immediately follows Passover and which is often considered to be a continuation of Passover, represents the believer putting Egypt out of his life, which is symbolized by putting leavening out of our homes and living in a leaven-free environment for seven days.
After that comes Shavuot (Pentecost). It is impossible for one to live sin-free for very long without help from above. Man needs a guidebook on righteous living, and one needs divine enablement to follow the instructions within the guidebook. YHVH’s Torah (i.e., the first five books of the Bible) is that guidebook and was given to Ancient Israel at Mount Sinai. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the first-century believers had not only been given Yeshua, the Living Torah (the Word of YHVH made flesh), but they were promised that the Ruach haKodesh (Set-apart Spirit) power of Yeshua, the Living Torah, would live inside of them empowering them to walk faithfully in the light and truth of the Written Torah.
After the Spring Festivals there are the fall festivals, which speak of a great harvest of believers at the end of the age corresponding to the second coming of Yeshua. Those festivals are Yom Teruah (Day of Blowing Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) immediately followed by Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day). Each of these contains a whole world of spiritual and prophetic meaning of tremendous significance to the believer pertaining to the regathering of Israel, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the return of Yeshua the Messiah, the marriage of Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim to his spiritual bride (the believing saints) and the establishment of YHVH’s millennial kingdom on earth. Learn about them. You will be blessed!
The central theme of the Passover Seder celebration was the lamb, along with the matzah (unleavened bread) and the bitter herbs. The Lamb is a picture of Messiah Yeshua who was crucified for you and me at the exact moment when each family of the children of Israel was killing its own lamb, and later on when the high priest was killing the Passover lamb up on the temple mount in Jerusalem.
In the Gospels we find recorded how Yeshua celebrated an early Passover or “Lord’s Supper” memorial celebration with his talmidim (disciples). At that supper, he instructed them how he would perfectly fulfill the role of the Passover lamb and that they were to continue that memorial meal to which Paul makes reference in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34.
In the Seder are four cups of wine around which the Seder revolves. They are called the Cup of Sanctification, the Cup of Deliverance, the Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Praise or Completion. The four cups are based on Exodus 6:6–8, in which YHVH makes seven promises (called the Seven Steps of Redemption) to Israel where he elaborated how he would start by delivering Israel from Egypt and end up bringing them into the Promised Land that he would give them.
It is believed that Messiah will drink of the Fourth Cup with his spiritual bride in his kingdom, for it is recorded in the Gospels that Yeshua drank of at least two of the four cups with his disciples during the Last Supper. But the last, or Fourth Cup of Praise or Completion, he said he would not partake of “until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29). Many see this as a reference to the long-awaited Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
And this, my beloved friends, is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the explanations of these wonderful events that Bible Believers celebrate during the Passover Seder. It is a journey, if you stay faithful to him, that will never end, for the more you grow and learn, the more you will realize how little you know and how vast the ocean of YHVH Elohim’s unsearchableness really is!
Now all these things happened unto them for examples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Cor 10:11)
But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which Elohim has prepared for them that love him. But Elohim has revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of Elohim. (1 Cor 2:9–10)
Overview of Key Elements Pertaining to the Passover
Here are some important facts about the Passover.
What is the meaning of the word Passover (Heb. Pesach)?
Pesach in Hebrew and Pascha in Aramaic and Greek means “to step, leap over.”
When does Passover occur?
Passover occurs on the fourteenth day in the month of the aviv, which usually in our month of March.
The Hebrew month always begins at the visible new moon (Heb. rosh chodesh).
The month of the aviv is the first month of YHVH’s biblical (sacred) year (Exod 12:2 and 13:4).
The word aviv (Strong’s H24) refers to when the barley grain is green in the ear (Exod 9:31).
The Passover must be observed on the correct day on the biblical calendar. The physical and spiritual worlds unite around the biblical calendar.
The Hebrew calendar is lunar-solar based. Metaphorically, this teaches us that Elohim and man come together at the biblical feasts, since the sun symbolizes Yeshua, the spiritual light of the world, while the saints, pictured by the moon, are to be reflectors of Yeshua’s light into the dark world around them.
The sun and moon must interact to coincide with the agricultural cycle to keep Passover in the spring of the year to fulfill the types of YHVH’s plan of redemption in the seven feast days. This is evidenced in the ripening of the barley grain in the land of Israel.
The feast days are in their seasons (Lev 23:4); i.e., the seasons were created around the feasts, which represent YHVH’s plan of redemption for mankind.
Heaven (the sun and moon), earth, the weather and the seasons literally come together harmoniously synchronize with each other in perfect choreography to picture YHVH’s plan of salvation. How few people are aware of this fact! Yet now you can walk in the light of this understanding and be apart of YHVH’s divine plan as you celebrate the biblical feasts.
Passover occurs at the full moon in the middle of the month on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Passover occurs when the moon has reached its full strength. The moon in harmony with the sun reflects its light and shines in the darkness of this world. This is a picture of Torah-keeping saints in Yeshua who reflect Yeshua, the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) and the Light of this world, into the darkness of this world.
Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which immediately follows the Passover, are the first of three aliyah or pilgrimage feasts.
As a spiritual pilgrim or sojourner who is passing through this world on his way to the Promised Land of YHVH’s eternal kingdom, each saint must embrace the idea of pilgrimage in their heart. This we do by going to the place where YHVH’s has placed his name to celebrate the Passover.
There are actually four Passovers. Each Passover unfolds and expands into the next one to bring the plan of redemption into fuller view.
The First Passover. This Passover was kept in Egypt. Unique aspects of this Passover are:
- The Israelites were about to leave Egypt.
- The Israelites were dressed in their traveling clothes with loins girded, sandals on and walking staffs in hand in preparation for leaving Egypt.
- There was no Levitical priesthood yet, and so the head of each family acted as the priest of his home, and thus the responsibility fell on him to kill the Passover lamb for his family.
- Passover was kept in the home.
The Second Passover. This was the Passover that ancient Israel kept once they were in the Promised Land. Unique aspects of this Passover are:
- Passover was kept wherever YHVH placed his name, which was were the Tabernacle of Moses (and later, the temple) was located.
- The Passover lamb was killed in the tabernacle and later in the temple.
- A memorial meal was eaten on Passover in the homes of each family.
The Third Passover. This Passover is known as the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20) and is the one that Yeshua instituted in the Renewed Covenant for redeemed believers. Unique aspects of this Passover are:
- Yeshua instituted this Passover at his Last Supper.
- This Passover is totally Yeshua-centered and focuses on the salvation of the individual believer through the salvific and redemptive work of Yeshua at the cross (Matt 26:28; 1 Cor 11:24–26).
The Fourth Passover. The Millennial Passover will be celebrated during the 1000-year-long Millennium or Messianic Age. Unique aspects of this Passover are:
- This Passover points to the wedding feast of Yeshua the Lamb when he will drink of the fourth cup (Cup of Praise) of the Passover Seder in his kingdom (Matt 26:29).
The commemorative Passover meal is called a Seder.
Seder means “order of service.”
At the Seder a haggadah is used. This is a booklet that is used to tell the Passover story to our children. The word haggadah means “telling or recounting” and it is following the command YHVH gave to the Israelites in Exodus 10:2, “And that you may tell in the ears of your son, and of your son’s son, what things I have done in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that you may know how that I am YHVH.”
Four cups of wine are central to the Seder.
The four cups of wine are based on the first four of the seven “I will” promises YHVH made to Israel in Exodus 6:6–8.
The four cups are not only commemorative, but also celebratory and prophetic. We drink the wine to commemorate and celebrate past, present and future events.
The First Cup. The Cup of Sanctification points to redeemed believers being set apart from the world.
The Second Cup. The Cup of Deliverance pictures redeemed believers being delivered by the strong arm of YHVH-Yeshua our Redeemer or Savior from the world, flesh and the devil.
The Third Cup. The Cup of Redemption points to the redeemed believer’s salvation. This is the “communion cup” or Cup of Acceptance (the first of two cups of wine) of the Jewish wedding ceremony, and it corresponds with Romans 10:9–10 when the new redeemed believer says “I do” to Yeshua. These first three cups point to Yeshua’s first coming as the Suffering Servant, or the Messiah Son of Joseph.
The Cup of Elijah. This sub-cup points to the coming of the end-times “Elijah” who will be preparing the way for Messiah’s coming again.
The Fourth Cup. The Cup of Praise or Completion points prophetically to Yeshua’s second coming as the Bridegroom to his bride (the Torah-obedient saints). This cup speaks to the millennial marriage feast of Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim.
The Key Elements of the Seder that were part of the original Passover in Egypt include:
- The lamb, which points to Yeshua’s death on the cross as the Lamb of Elohim sent from heaven to redeem sinful man from the wages of sin, which is death.
- The matzah (unleavened bread), which points to the perfect and sinless (or unleavened) life of Yeshua the Messiah, which the saints must eat (or appropriate to themselves spiritually).
- The bitter herbs, which are metaphors for the bondage and bitterness of life in Egypt under Pharaoh, which is a spiritual picture of the life of the believer in bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil before his salvation.
We are required to tell our children the story of the Passover as YHVH commands us in Exodus 10:2.
Passover is a feast where we’re commanded to celebrate our deliverance from “Egypt” (Lev 23:4–5).
Passover is a set-apart (or holy) convocation when the saints are commanded to meet together (Lev 23:4–5).
Passover is prophetic in that it points to Yeshua’s second coming.
In the traditional Jewish Passover Seder between the third and fourth cups there is a sub-cup of wine that is called the Cup of Elijah. A place is set for the prophet Elijah at the table, a cup of wine is poured for him, and the door is ceremonially opened to let him into the house where the Seder is occurring. This prophetically pictures someone who will come in the spirit of Elijah just before the second coming of the Messiah. At Yeshua’s first coming, this person was John the Baptist. Now in the end times, you and I are those who are coming in that spirit of Elijah to help prepare the way for Messiah’s return (Mal 4:5–6).
Did Yeshua Celebrate an Actual Seder at His Last Supper?
I believe that Yeshua kept an actual Passover Seder or “Pascal Supper” as Alfred Edersheim calls it in his book, The Temple—Its Ministry and Service (p. 193). Consider this brief overview of the Passover Seder and let us consider which parts, if any, the Gospels document that Yeshua did with his disciples during his last supper with them.
Kiddush and the First Cup. During the Kiddush, the first of four cups of wine is blessed and drunk. This first cup is called the Cup of Sanctification. Before the wine is drunk, a blessing is recited: “Blessed are You, YHVH our Elohim, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” Yeshua partook of this first cup in his Paschal Supper (Edersheim, p. 194; Luke 22:17).
Ur’chatz (the washing of hands). Yeshua changed this custom and washed his disciples’ feet instead (John 13:1–14).
Karpas (the eating of the green vegetables). This refers to the place in the Seder when the celebrants dip a green vegetable in salt water and eat it (John 13:26–27). The oldest will sit on the left side of the table and will dip the sop. From this, we can conclude that Judas was the oldest disciple. According to Alfred Edersheim, the sop and bitter herbs are synonymous (The Temple and Its Service, p. 194).
Yachatz (the breaking of the bread). The middle piece of three pieces of bread, or matzot, is ceremonially broken in two. Matzah (plural is matzot) is unleavened bread. The larger piece is wrapped in a napkin and set aside as the afikomen, the matzoh that is eaten at the end of the meal. This can be seen in Luke 22:19 when it is recorded, “he took the bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave unto them saying, This is my body which is given for you …”
The Maggid (the telling of the Passover story and the Exodus). The purpose of this is to teach young children the Passover story. Since there were no children present at the Last Supper, perhaps this is why the Gospels don’t record Yeshua performing this ritual.
The Second Cup (the Cup of Deliverance from the wrath or judgments of Elohim). The Maggid concludes with the second cup of wine, which is called the Cup of Deliverance. Yeshua symbolically partook of this second cup at the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42–44). In telling the story of the Exodus, each person is to see the Exodus as if Elohim personally redeemed them! This is based upon Exodus 13:8.
Rachtzah (the washing of hands with a blessing). There is no record that Yeshua did this ritual, although he instituted the foot washing ceremony.
Motzi Matzoh (the eating of the unleavened bread). Yeshua did this in Matthew 26:26. In John 13:23, we can see that the disciples were leaning or reclining. This practice is still a tradition in modern the Passover Seder. This custom symbolizing freedom from the bondage of Egypt, a picture of sin. The Israelites in one day went from being slaves to being a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6). Only kings and those who live in ease recline while eating, and the Believers in Yeshua are kings and priests before Elohim (Rev. 1:6; 5:10).
Maror (bitter herbs are blessed and eaten). Maror is bitter herbs. These bitter herbs are symbolized by romaine lettuce and horseradish and picture the bitter bondage and suffering of the children of Israel while in Egypt According to Barney Kasdan (God’s Appointed Customs, p. 28), Yeshua fulfilled custom (Matt 26:23).
Korech (the matzah and maror are eaten together). There is no record that Yeshua performed this ritual.
Shulchan Orech (the festival meal). Yeshua instructed the disciples to prepare for the Passover in Luke 22:8, which could have included purchasing a Passover lamb, which they would have eaten during the Shulchan Orech part of the Seder. The primary meaning of the Greek word pascha is “paschal sacrifice or lamb.” The meal or service itself is a secondary meaning.
Tzafun (the eating of the afikomen). This ceremony could have been fulfilled with the eating of the matzah.
Barech (the blessing after the meal). Yeshua prayed for himself and his disciples after the Passover meal (John 17).
The Third Cup (the Cup of Redemption). At the conclusion of Barech, the blessing for wine is recited over the third cup. Then the cup is drunk. This is the cup of redemption (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 10:16) and is a picture of communion (Edersheim, p. 195).
Hallel (psalm of praise). In ancient times, Psalms 115–118 were chanted in special praise to Elohim. The fourth cup is now filled, and a door is opened for Elijah to enter and proclaim the coming of Messiah.
Nirtzah (conclusion of the Seder). A final song is sung and ends with the phrase, Next Year in Jerusalem! The Yeshua and his disciples singing of a hymn is recorded in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26.
In conclusion, it seems to this author that the scriptural account of the Last Supper shows us that there were enough elements of the Passover Seder contained in it for this meal to qualify, for all intents and purposes, as a fairly traditional Passover Seder, which is very similar to the modern Seder.