General, Hebraic Calendar, Passover

My Jewish Brother’s Good Friday Message

Better late than never I guess. I thought I posted this. But it seems I wrote it and never got it out there. So this should have been last weeks post.

My brother Steve is a practicing Jew. Steve has never had an issue with being identified as either Jewish or Christian. As he puts it “We worship the same God.” It doesn’t matter to him if he worships God in the synagogue or in the church. Steve didn’t change his beliefs about God when he became Jewish. He changed buildings.

So, today I’m on the phone with my brother and he’s relaying to me something that came up in conversation with his coworkers. This is just a group of guys at work. In light of the Easter upon us a conversation materializes among his coworkers. They get on the subject of religion. One of these guys Steve knows to be a committed Christian. So Steve takes the opportunity to share something about Jesus that he knows most Christians don’t typically know about Jesus; that Jesus was Jewish.

The Last Supper a Jewish Seder

Steve went on to share that Jesus and the disciples when they gathered for the Last Supper were in fact celebrating a Passover Seder. “I didn’t know that.” was most of their responses. And then he pulled out the big guns. He talked about something which has deep meaning in relation to our Christian faith and yet typically unknown among Christian believers. Knowing Steve to be Jewish and them hearing these insights with their traditional church taught perspective definitely left them pondering.

Just a cracker and so much more

Jewish holiday Wine and matzoh - elements of  passover supperSteve talked about what might seem the most insignificant part of the seder, the matzo, which is unleavened bread. It’s a flat square cracker. Three matzos are placed in a special bag at the onset of the seder. At one point the leader takes the center matzo out of the bag. He breaks the matzo in two. He wraps the larger piece in a napkin and it is hidden until later. This piece of matzo is called the afikomen.

Here’s the scene Steve described to his Christian coworkers

Vienna - Mosaic of Last supper by Giacomo Raffaelli
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Jesus and His disciples, all being Jewish, are observing the Passover with a seder meal.  In keeping with the very specific steps of the seder, Jesus, the leader, takes the bread, (matzo) and breaks it. This action being done at ever seder meal may not seem profound in and of itself. It was just what came next in the seder. But His words in that moment spoke volumes to those Jewish men in attendance.

Steve went on…“When Jesus picked up the afikomen and said “This is my body” He was not only declaring Himself the Son of God and Messiah, but when He said, “given for you.” He was further declaring that He was the Paschal Lamb that would be sacrificed.”

Steve said, “Jesus may have never said in so many words, “I am Messiah.” but His words combined with his actions at that particular moment in the seder He was announcing that He not only was the promised Messiah but that He was the sacrificial Lamb. And everyone in attendance would have fully understood that.”

The Afikomen

The afikomen, the middle matzo, the one broken, symbolizes the sacrificial Passover Lamb. It also symbolizes Messiah. To say that Steve left his coworkers scratching their heads was to say the least. In a ten minute conversation he gave them understanding about Jesus they never learned from all their years in church.

Luke 22:19 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.”

Do this in remembrance of Me

In the traditional Passover Seder the afikoman represents freedom from Egyptian slavery and exile. In fact the focus of the seder is a celebration and commemoration of  deliverance from bondage in Egypt. The afikomen is brought out at the end of the meal. It is the last thing eaten. It is broken and distributed so that everyone gets a piece no matter how small.

For Jews still waiting for Messiah they see the afikomen as a symbol of the final redemption which will be fulfilled by Messiah, yet to come. Jews that believe Jesus (Yeshua) to be Messiah accept by faith just as do Christian believers that what was once considered a future event, represented by the afikokmen, (meaning- what comes later) has been fully accomplished by Jesus and our redemption is complete now in Messiah Jesus.

The Taste that Lingers

What Messiah Jesus accomplished through His death, burial and resurrection is the final redemption. The larger half of the matzo which is brought out at the end speaks of the best that is yet to come. Jesus’ declaration as He distributed the afikomen was that the future is now and the long awaited final redemption is about to take place.

No other food was to be eaten after the afikomen. It is supposed to be the last thing you taste of the seder. The French end a meal with a ripe piece of cheese. Here in the west we tend to end a meal with some kind of sweet. It is the final tada. It is intended to be the final taste that finishes off the meal. It’s the taste that lingers.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Romans 3: 22-25a This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

Isaiah 53:5
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Hebrews 7:27
Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer daily sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people; He sacrificed for sin once for all when He offered up Himself.

1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit,

When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” He was announcing a change to the not only the focus of the Passover Seder but the reason it is observed in the first place. Rather than being a remembrance of deliverance from Egyptian slavery the Passover seder was now going to be a ceremony in commemoration of the forgiveness and deliverance purchased for us through the blood of Jesus. The deliverance Jesus purchased is from the bondage of sin and freedom from slavery to the god of this world. It’s a great reason to celebrate Good Friday, Passover as well as Resurrection Sunday.

The best is still yet to come

Now, when we partake of the afikomen we still have something to look forward to. We look to the skies and await the return of Jesus. In His first coming, Jesus came so that He could  be the sacrificial Lamb. He came to redeem us from the bondage of sin. In His second coming, Jesus will not come again in reference to sin (Heb. 9:28) but as glorified King. The first time, Jesus came wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. For His second coming, the clouds will split and Jesus will arrive with the blast of a trumpet accompanied with the host of heaven.

Revelation 21:1-3

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.”

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