As followers of Jesus, God’s (Jewish) Messiah, we relive the Passover meal (Pesach) with Rebbe Y’shua HaMoshiach and his disciples (see Mark 14:12-26, Matt 26:17-30, Luke 22:7-23, 1 Cor 10:15-17 cf. 11:23-26) – when he enacted the prophesied new covenant (Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 36:24-27), which he made with YHWH for all who believe through him.
This oldest of Jewish feasts, observed every year for over 35 centuries, is based on YHWH’s command to remember their deliverance (Exodus) from Egypt through blood sacrifice (Ex 13:3-10) – when the angel of death “passed over” the houses that had the blood of the lamb on the door lintels. The Pesach service was to tell the story (Haggadah, “telling”) of Israel’s miraculous deliverance by her Warrior-King YHWH. The Seder (order of service) was simple right through to Jesus’ time (27-31 ACE). It was adapted and expanded, after the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 ACE, with the development of Rabbinical Judaism via the synagogue system (no more sacrificial system). To reconstruct/relive how Jesus celebrated that last Pesach is a matter of historical probability, not certainty! I will keep it simple as Y’shua and his talmudim probably did it – while mentioning post 70 ACE elements.
Biblical historical scholars say there were originally probably only four elements:
1) Passover lamb symbolized redemption – the paschal/unblemished lamb sacrificed to save us (John 1:29, 1Pet 1:19-20). It was roasted with fire, symbolizing God’s judgement.
2) Unleavened bread (matzos) symbolized the “bread of affliction” in Egypt when they left in a hurry (Deut 16:1-4). Yeast (“leaven”) was forbidden during 8 days of Pesach, symbolizing the cleansing and removal of sin (1Cor 5:6-8). Post 70 ACE the matzoh took on added meaning as the Rabbis decreed it to be a memorial of the Passover lamb.
3) Bitter herbs (maror) symbolized the hardships the Hebrews endured under Pharaoh.
4) Glasses of wine – how many is not clear – certainly the cup of sanctification and cup of redemption (also called cup of thanksgiving or blessing). The wine symbolized God’s setting them apart (sanctifying, making holy) by the blood of the lamb for their redemption/salvation.
Post 70 ACE elements that the Rabbis added to the Seder:
1) Roasted shank bone (z’roah) represents the sacrificial Passover lamb.
2) Sweet fruit mixture (charoset) made of apple, cinnamon, nuts, honey & wine, used to offset the sharpness of the bitter herbs – God’s sweet redemption is near in our bitter oppression. It also represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves in building Pharaoh’s cities.
3) Roasted egg (beitzah) and salt water: the brown egg traditionally symbolized mourning for Jews, reminding them of the Temple sacrifice (chagigah) for sin, which was lost – so they dip the egg in salt water (the tears of sadness) and eat it. Y’shuah’s death was “the once and for all” sacrifice for sin, which put an end to the sacrificial system, so we now shed tears of joy! And the egg in this context represents new life, new creation: the Lamb of God’s resurrection!
4) Green vegetables (karpas) as in parsley, was to recall the hyssop used by the Hebrews to mark the doorposts with the blood of the lamb (Ex 12:22). It is also dipped into the bowl of salt water (the tears of Israel) in their trust of God for the promise of new life (green).
5) Bitter root (chazeret) as in romaine lettuce, reinforced the bitter herbs, a reminder of the enslavement in Egypt – bitter to the root of one’s being – which God delivers us from.
6) Four wine glasses: 1st Sanctification, 2nd Rejoicing, 3rd Redemption, 4th Praise. A possible 5th Cup of Elijah – still debated! The Rabbi’s say Elijah will settle it when he comes!
THE SEDER AS JESUS might have celebrated it as per historical evidence:
- Lighting of two Candles (safely assumed… light of creation, light of Torah)
- Cup of Sanctification: Luke 22:17-18
- Washing of hands (or later, 6.): was it here that Jesus washed their feet? John 13:2f
- Sing the Hallel: Psalms 113 & 114 (Psalms 113-118 were sung at Passover, Mark 14:26)
- Second Cup of Rejoicing at which the Exodus story was retold by asking questions as to why that night was different, recalling the 10 plagues/miracles and pass-over deliverance (there’s no New Testament record of all this, but we can safely assume it)
- Washing of hands for the meal being served: did Jesus now wash their feet? John 13
- The Blessing for the unleavened bread, breaking and sharing it: Mark 14:22. Jesus dramatically said it was his body given/broken for us – in his life (John 6:35) and more so in his death on the cross. Imagine the impact this had on his disciples?
- Eating the meal: the paschal lamb, matzoh and bitter herbs (“sop”? see John 13:26)
- Third cup of Redemption (Thanksgiving): Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:20, Matt 26:27-29, 1 Cor 10:16. Jesus said this cup, this “fruit of the vine”, was his blood of the new covenant (the B’rit Hadasah) poured out for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, giving us his (eternal) life, his Spirit. This was powerful and dramatic – Messianic! It brought to the minds of the disciples texts like Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 36:24-27, Lev 17:11, “the life of the flesh is in the blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (see Heb 9:22)
- Sing the Hallel, then they departed: Mark 14:26, Singing Psalm 115-118
- (Fourth Cup of Praise: no record of Jesus doing this, but it is traditionally blessed and taken after the final Hallel and then it’s followed with…
- (The Final blessing: no record of this but assumed, probably the Aaronic Blessing?)
- They went to the Garden of Gethsemane as they sang and walked deep in thought…
THE POST 70 ACE SEDER as it has developed over the centuries to our present time
- Lighting of Candles (Hadlakat Ha-Ner): the mother of the home (or father)
- First Cup of Sanctification (Kiddush): the father/leader prays the prayer & all drink
- Washing of hands (Urchatz): for cleansing to begin the ceremony meal
- The Hallel: Sing Psalms 113 and 114
- First Serving – eating of Karpas: green vegetable dipped in salt water
- Breaking the Middle Matzoh (Yachatz): The three-part matzoh tash (pouch) with three sheets of matzoh is lifted up, also called echad (unity). It symbolizes Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or unity of worship in ancient Israel: Priests, Levites and Congregation. Yeshuah’s talmudim say it represents God as Father, Son, and Spirit. The middle piece (Son) is broken in half. One half is replaced and the other half (called the afikomen) is hidden while the children close their eyes – later to be found by them. This is “the bread of affliction”
- The Four Questions (Ma Nishtanah) and the Passover Story (Maggid & Haggadah):
A child asks “the why” is this night different to all other nights:
Why on all other nights do we eat bread with leaven, but on this night we eat only unleavened bread?
Why on all other nights do we eat of all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
Why on all other nights do we not dip herbs at all, but on this night we dip them twice? Why on all other nights do we eat in the normal way, but on this night we eat with special ceremony?
The leader then explains each of the answers and the story (haggadah) of the Exodus.
- Second Cup of Rejoicing: remembering the 10 plagues that came upon Egypt, each with a drip of wine on a plate – the cup of God’s wrath and of our rejoicing! This cup is not drunk.
- The Seder Meal and it’s symbolism:
- The paschal lamb and it’s meaning:
- The matzoh and its blessing:
- The bitter herbs and its blessing:
- The ‘Hillel sandwich’: combine the matzoh and bitter herbs and eat it – together with the lamb and the charoset (sweet mixture). See John 13:26.
- Eat egg dipped in salt water: it’s customary to begin the meal with this
- The Grace after the meal: Prayer of Thanksgiving
- Finding and eating the Afikomen: it means “that which comes after” or “that which makes complete.” The Rabbis say it the substitute for the actual Passover lamb not sacrificed because there’s no Temple. Everyone eats a bit of it. Some say this is the bread that Jesus gave to his disciples calling it his body given for them, but there’s no historical evidence for this – probably a post 70 ACE Rabbinical development.
- Third Cup of Redemption: remembering the blood of the lamb put on the doorposts of the houses that bought them redemption. This is the cup that Jesus used when he said it was his blood of the new covenant (B’rit Hadasah) for our redemption.
- (Pour the Cup of Elijah – and the door is opened): not to drink the cup, but to see if he comes! I have this in brackets as some Jewish traditions do this, but others not.
- The Hallel: Sing Psalms 114 to 118
- Fourth Cup of Praise to end the service and the final blessing:
- The Conclusion – the Nirtzah – and “Next Year in Jerusalem”
L’shanah Ha-Ba-ah b’Y’rushalayim