The Lamb of God – Symbolism in the Passover Seder

If you are going to read this, please pray, as this is put together as a long note, and from several sources.  PROVE ALL THINGS!  HOLD FAST TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD!  May you be blessed as you prayerfully consider the implications of how many ways He shows Himself to all of us, if we will just search (like the children) and find that bread from heaven, the Passover Lamb…  Think on the Jews who are still looking for their Messiah, look for all the ways the Messiah shows Himself even in this Seder. This note is taken from several sources, and my experience while at the Seder.  The sources I remember I will note below.

These are just thoughts or observations as I learned about the Seder traditions, so possibly all my thoughts aren’t correct, but it’s how I saw it from my viewpoint as I watched.  There is no way to be complete, there are variables such as whether it occurs on Shabbat, then additional words are added, but this is to just ponder the wonders of this prophetic celebration of the Passover Seder.  My thoughts and notes have been added within as I went along.

On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”   Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.  Matt 27:62-66

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”   Matt 28:5-7

We have freedom to celebrate these feasts, and I was blessed to be a part of a Passover Seder celebration that made me want to compile this from a few sources, a my experience a couple years ago.  Passover is a one-day feast (holiday) that God actually commanded to be observed as a memorial forever (Exodus 12:14). Jesus the Messiah celebrated the Seder (means ORDER) with His disciples.   Think on that as you read.

Or if you would like to hear:

THE MEANING OF PASSOVER PT. 1 – Dr. Ralph Lindstrom

THE MEANING OF PASSOVER PT. 2 – Dr. Ralph Lindstrom

The removal of leaven

Before the beginning of the Passover, all leaven, which is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8), must be removed from the Jewish home. The house is cleaned from top to bottom and anything containing leaven is removed.  (.  Instantly I thought of Psalm 139:23-24 … Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.) Then, the evening before the Passover, the father of the house takes the traditional cleaning implements: a feather (My thoughts Ex 19:4- Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself), a wooden spoon (think on the cross) , and a bag, and searches the house (with lit candles) for any specks of leaven which might have been missed.

Washing the hands

Once the leaven is removed, the family sits around the table and ceremonially washes their hands with a special laver and towel. Jesus also took part in this tradition, but rather than wash his hands, he got up from the table and washed the feet of his disciples, giving us an unparalleled lesson in humility (John 13:2-17). (My thoughts: He humbled Himself, and served them.  Peter did not want Jesus to see the filth, as many of us don’t until we realize He will have no part of us if we don’t…. He made their feet beautiful, and told them to do the same.  We are all made ministers of reconciliation.  May we bring the gospel wherever we go. Isaiah 52:7; Rom 10:15  (And may we help point others to His Word to be washed, vs. beating them over the head with our own words.)

Lighting the candles

Once the house and the participants are ceremonially clean, the Passover Seder can begin. The woman of the house says a blessing and lights the Passover candles. It is appropriate that the woman brings light into the home, because it was through the woman that the light of the world, Messiah Jesus, came into the world (Gen. 3:15)

Haggadah  Haggadah (“the telling”) – recounts the story of Passover.

The story is told in response to four questions asked by the children: (can’t help but think of the childlike faith we must have to enter His kingdom) Why is this night different from all other nights? The father proceeds to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, reading from a book called “The Haggadah” and using symbols and object lessons in order to keep the attention of the little ones.

Each of the Four Cups of Passover stands for one of the four “I wills” of Exodus 6:6-7:

  • Sanctification: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
  • Judgment or Deliverance: “I will rescue you from their bondage.”
  • Redemption: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”
  • Restoration and/or Praise: “I will take you as My people.”

IF YOU ARE NOT CRYING RIGHT NOW, APPLY EACH VERSE TO YOURSELF.  JESUS TOOK THESE FOUR CUPS UPON HIM.  

The red color of the fruit of the vine reminds us of the blood of the lamb, which was applied to the doorposts and lintels of Jewish homes to avert the terrible judgment of the Lord upon the wickedness of Egypt.

The first cup of wine

The Seder begins with a blessing recited over the first of four cups of wine: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine.” Jesus himself blessed the first cup in Luke 22:17-18.  And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

The second cup of wine

The second cup is to remind us of the Ten Plagues and the suffering of the Egyptians when they hardened their heart to the Lord. In order not to rejoice over the suffering of our enemies (Prov. 24:17), we spill a drop of wine (which is a symbol of joy) as we recite each of the Ten Plagues, thus remembering that our joy is diminished at the suffering of others.

***AFIKOMEN

A very curious tradition now takes place. At the table is a bag with three compartments and three pieces of motza. The middle piece of motza is taken out, broken, and half is put back into the bag… The other half is wrapped in a linen napkin and hidden, to be taken out later, after the meal.  From here, all sorts of thoughts swirled through my head, I had to continue the study, this is what I found.

The Seder dinner is highly symbolic through the foods that are served, prayers that are offered, stories that are told and blessings and praises offered up to God.

Lamb, representing the innocent lamb that was sacrificed the night of the Passover [so that its blood could be put on the door posts and lintel of the home as a sign for the angel of death to pass by or over the home],

Matzah (unleavened bread), which symbolizes the purity of the sacrificial lamb.

Bitter herbs which are served as a reminder of the suffering of the lamb.  This article will focus on one portion of the Seder dinner, which is a mystery to most Jews.

AGAIN ARE YOU CRYING YET?…

At a certain point during the dinner the leader of the Seder picks up a linen bag from the table which contains three pieces (TRINITY – spoke VOLUMES to me) of matzah.  The leader then removes the second or middle matzah and breaks it in half.  (The father generally does this).  Think on the Father and Jesus as He is held up (lifted up) on that cross.

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  John 12:32

Half is placed back into the bag and the other half is carefully wrapped in a linen napkin and then hidden someplace in the home.   (Remind you of the tomb?) The piece that is hidden is known as the ‘afikomen’ and reappears later in the service.  (Remind you of the resurrection?)

After the meal, the children are sent out to find the hidden afikomen.  The child who finds it receives a reward.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. Luke 10:21

Rabbinic law then requires that a small piece of the retrieved afikomen be eaten by everyone present at the service as a reminder of the Passover Lamb.  (Remind anyone of communion?  TEARS YET?)

Since the entire Passover service is woven with rich symbolism, it must be asked: “Why three matzahs?”

One rabbinic tradition holds that they represent the three groups of Jewish people: the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites.

Another tradition holds that they represent the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  However, there is no biblical basis for either of these explanations and neither fit the symbolism behind this breaking of the bread ceremony.  Rabbinic tradition is at a loss to explain why the middle matzah must be broken.  Why must the Levites be broken and not the other groups?  Or, why must Isaac be broken and not Abraham nor Jacob?  Rabbinic tradition is silent on this important issue.

In reality, the triunity of the Godhead is being symbolized – three persons within the oneness of God, just as three matzahs are in the oneness of the linen bag.  The second person of the Godhead, the Son, came to Earth as the Messiah.  He was broken (died), wrapped in linen, and hidden away (buried). At first glance, this assertion may appear to be a fanciful attempt to Christianize the Jewish Passover, but the evidence overwhelmingly argues to the contrary.

First, the afikomen was not present in the day of Jesus.  It was a later addition to the Passover celebration.  The last solid food taken in that day was the lamb at the dinner.  Rabbinic tradition holds that the afikomen now represents the lamb, and therefore everyone must eat of it. (Hmmm… our Passover lamb).

Second, there is much debate among rabbis concerning the meaning of the word afikomen.  The problem is compounded since afikomen does not exist in the Hebrew language.  It is just not there!  Rabbinic consensus usually explains that it means dessert since it is eaten after the meal when a dessert would normally be eaten.

Amazingly, afikomen is the only Greek word (the common language of Jesus’ day) in the Passover Seder.  Everything else is Hebrew.  It is the second aorist form (completion of an action, without reference to length of action) of the Greek verb “ikneomai.”  The translation is electrifying.

  • The word simply means – ‘HE CAME’, or “He who is coming.”
  • (Jewish tradition says this is regarding Elijah)

Many traditions have developed around the afikomen.  Moroccan Jews save a piece of the afikomen for use when traveling at sea throughout the year.  They believe that if a piece of the afikomen is tossed into the stormy waves, it will STILL THE WATERS…. (Hallelujah again, Lord open their eyes!)  It is easy to see the origin of this tradition as Jesus spoke and calmed the stormy Sea of Galilee. It must be asked, “How could the afikomen, if it speaks of Jesus, make its way into the Jewish Passover when the majority of Jewish people today do not accept Jesus as the Messiah?”  The situation in the first century must be examined to shed light on this question. Jewish believers had already broken away from the sacrificial system, believing that the Messiah had made a once-and-for-all sacrifice upon the cross.  They were already celebrating Passover without the lamb, choosing to incorporate the broken matzah (afikomen) into the service at the precise point at which the Lord had said, “This do in remembrance of me.”  It is not difficult to imagine this tradition being borrowed by others seeking to switch to a lambless Passover without their even realizing the full significance behind the ceremony. Ultimately, Passover foreshadowed the Jewish Messiah as the true Passover Lamb.  The Hebrew prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah in terms of the Passover Lamb and of the greater redemption that He would bring (Isaiah 53).  He would be the innocent, pure Lamb upon whom the judgment of God would fall in place of the people.  He would be the One who, with great bitterness of suffering and death, would shed His blood to provide the greater deliverance from sin. How tragic that in millions of Jewish homes today the most obscure ceremony in the Passover (the afikomen) is the one that gives it its greatest and most powerful meaning.  The afikomen (the ‘He came’) is an annual reminder that the Messiah, the true Passover Lamb, has already come!! And so, year after year, the small voices of children drift through the night: “Why is this night different?” And the testimony of the afikomen echoes back in reply… “He came…”

For it was on this holiday that the true Passover Lamb was crucifiedburied, and on the third day rose again to provide the greater redemption, the deliverance from sin.  It is only in Him that the Passover message finds its fullness.  The Lamb still cannot be separated from the holiday.

There is no question that Jesus is the Passover Lamb.  Scripture records it.  History echoes it.  Yet, one final Passover question remains, and it is the most important of all: “Is Jesus your Passover Lamb? Have you placed your trust in the Messiah and His sacrifice as your only hope of Heaven?”  Even as the ancient Israelite was required to individually apply the blood to his door, so, too, today men and women must individually make a decision concerning the Lamb of God.  There is still no deliverance without the Lamb.

The seder plate

The rabbis have devised a series of object lessons to keep the attention of the little ones during the Passover seder. These items are tasted by each person, as each is instructed to feel as if they themselves had taken part in the flight from Egypt.

  Karpas – greens

The first item taken is the karpas, or greens (usually parsley), which is a symbol of life. The parsley is dipped in salt water, a symbol of tears, and eaten, to remind us that life for our ancestors was immersed in tears.

These verses come to mind:

  • Ex. 12:22 – And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
  • Ps 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise) I even think on the hyssop that the sour wine was lifted up to Jesus on the cross…

Beitzah – egg

roastedEggA roasted egg is on the seder plate to bring to mind the roasted daily temple sacrifice that no longer can be offered because the temple no longer stands. In the very midst of the Passover Seder, the Jewish people are reminded that they have no sacrifice to make them righteous before God. (I wondered if there was any tie to where we came up with Easter eggs other than the pagan meanings of fertility.  When I went to my first Seder, sudddenly I wondered, did they somehow have their roots in this roasted egg? A little research shows that some do feel part came from the Passover celebration.  The children hunting for the afikomen, new life, the stone rolling away, unbroken leg bone, thoughts I pondered).

No bones were broken on Passover Lambs.  (Exodus 12:46).  (For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.)

This was prophesied and fulfilled in Christ: Ps 34:19-20; John 19:31-36). 1 Pet 17-20 describes Jesus as a Lamb without blemish or spot, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).

Tell me if this picture of a roasted egg reminds you of the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus sweated droplets of blood in His agony.  I searched for this picture just curious what they looked like, and found a man who had tried to roast an egg the proper way (generally they just dye with tea, it’s easier), and this again,  made me cry.  Did we assimilate the dying of the egg into our celebrations?  The Lamb shank is in the background.  Is that a reminder that not a bone was broken?

  Maror – bitter herb

This is usually ground horseradish, and enough is eaten (with Motza) to bring a tear to the eyes. We cannot appreciate the sweetness of redemption unless we first experience for ourselves the bitterness of slavery.  (reminds me of this passage)

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  John 8:31-36

Charoset

Charoset is a sweet mixture of chopped apples, chopped nuts, honey, cinnamon, and a little Manischewitz grape wine (kosher for Passover) just for color! This sweet, pasty, brown mixture is symbolic of the mortar that our ancestors used to build bricks in the land of Egypt. Why do we remember an experience so bitter with something so sweet? The rabbis have a good insight: even the bitterest of labor can we sweet when our redemption draws nigh. (see Lk 21) This is especially true for believers in the Messiah. We can find sweetness even in the bitterest of experiences because we know our Lord’s coming is near.

Shankbone of the Lamb

In every Jewish home, on every seder plate, is a bare shankbone of a lamb. In the book of Exodus, Jewish firstborns were spared from the Angel of Death by applying the blood of a spotless, innocent lamb applied to the doorpost of their homes as God brought the people from slavery into freedom. Today, we believe Jesus is that perfect Passover Lamb, and when we apply His blood to the doorposts of our heart, we too go from death into life, from slavery to sin into the freedom of being a redeemed child of God. As John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus coming towards him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

The Meal

The most memorable part of the Passover… the meal… can you smell it? Tender, sweet brisket with cabbage; more motza; home made flanken; stewed chicken, roasted chicken, broiled chicken, boiled chicken, sautéed chicken, baked chicken; more motza; a whole roasted turkey; more motza; fresh-cut green beans with onions; more motza; carrot and prune tzimmes; more motza; sweet potato and raisin tzimmes; more motza; home-made mashed potatoes swimming in butter; more motza… and we haven’t even gotten through the appetizer!

The Search for the Afikomen (This was the most memorable to me)

After the meal is finished, the leader of the seder lets the children loose to hunt for the Afikomen, which was wrapped in a napkin and hidden before the meal. The house is in a ruckus as everyone rushes around to be the first to find the Afikomen and claim the prize as grandpa redeems it from the lucky locator.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Once the leader has retrieved the Afikomen, he breaks it up into pieces and distributes a small piece to everyone seated around the table. Jewish people don’t really understand this tradition, but traditions don’t need to be understood – just followed! However, it is widely believed that these pieces of Afikomen bring a good, long life to those who eat them.  (THEY BELIEVE THAT IT BRINGS LONG LIFE TO THOSE WHO EAT THEM, NOW IF THEY WOULD JUST EAT THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN)

The tradition perhaps dates back to the time of Jesus. If this is the case, then Luke 22:19 takes on a greater meaning:

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”

For Jesus the Messiah would have taken the middle one of the three pieces of matzo (matzah), the piece that stood for the priest or mediator between God and the people, broken it as His body would be broken, wrapped half in a linen napkin as he would be wrapped in linen for burial, hidden it as he would be buried, brought it back as he would be resurrected, and distributed it to everyone seated with him, as He would distribute His life to all who believe.  As He did this, he was conscious that this middle piece of motza represented His own, spotless body given for the redemption of His people. As the matzo is striped and pierced, His own body would be striped and pierced, and it is by those wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

(Comment from my friend Marian Winans: I had a chance to go to a JEWS FOR JESUS presentation of the Seder over 15 yrs ago, & I remember this part SO VIVIDLY. Also, another part that got me the most was how even in the preparing of the Matzoh there is to be 39 burn marks on it. Little do those who prepare it know that this serves as a reminder to us of His beatings at His trial.  Therefore, those stripes on the Matzoh remind us of the 39 stripes He bore for our healing.  AND the holes in the Matzoh remind us of the thorns and nails He suffered for our redemption.)

This middle piece of motza, (matzoh or matza) or the Afikomen, is our communion bread.

Third Cup

The third cup of wine is taken after the meal. It is the cup of redemption, which reminds us of the shed blood of the innocent Lamb which brought our redemption from Egypt. We see that Jesus took the third cup in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25, “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'” This was not just any cup, it was the cup of redemption from slavery into freedom. This is our communion cup.

Fourth Cup

The fourth cup is the Cup of Hallel. Hallel in Hebrew means “praise,” and we see in the beautiful High Priestly Prayer of John 17, that Jesus took time to praise and thank the Lord at the end of the Passover Seder, his last supper. The spotless Passover Lamb had praise on his lips as he went to his death.  (These are my thoughts as I researched and found different thoughts on the significance of the fourth cup).  I first was looking for Elijah and found the announcing of the birth of John the Baptist at the “hour of incense” which was the priests offering – the prayer – at the ninth hour.  The High priest who would offer up the sin offering, would say “It is finished”.  This was at the same time that Jesus, who became our sin offering said those same words and the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom.  (See Matt 24 & John 19)  There are some that surmise the 4th cup is the cup He prayed to have taken from Him, and the scriptures say He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He was in heaven.  When He received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head (the hour of prayer comes to mind) He gave up His spirit…

Elijah’s Cup 

A place setting remains empty for Elijah the prophet, the honored guest at every Passover table. The Jewish people expect Elijah to come at Passover and announce the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). So a place is set, a cup is filled with wine, and hearts are expectant for Elijah to come and announce the Good News. At the end of the seder meal, a child is sent to the door to open it and see if Elijah is there. Every year, the child returns, disappointed, and the wine is poured out without being touched.

The Jews wait and hope for Messiah –they do not realize that Messiah has already come. But those of us who believe in Yeshua know that He is the one the prophets spoke of. He is the spotless, unblemished Passover Lamb, whose body was broken for us, whose blood was shed, and who now lives to distribute His life to all of us who apply His blood to the doorpost of our hearts and have passed from death into His eternal life.

      • Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Luke 1:11-17

HE CAME!  AND HE’S COMING AGAIN!

DO YOU KNOW HIM?!!!  HERE’S HOW.

GOSPEL LINK IS ALSO ABOVE

Sources:

Disclaimer:  I am not recommending nor noting, any of the doctrine of the sites I mention.  I simply gained information (much of it secular) as to how I see the Word in this tradition speaking to the Jews, crying out to them….

Some was taken partially from Chosen People Ministries and also from the book, “The Feasts of the Lord” written by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal.  Some additional information was gleaned from other sites such as hebrew4christians.com and Wikipedia.   And some from my thoughts as I observed my first Passover Seder.  I compiled this, do not claim to be the author, as unless spoken in the first person, much was not from me.