Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Yesterday was the first day of Passover. Actually, it began at sundown on Monday evening. Jews the world over celebrated two seders, one on Monday and one on Tuesday, in honor of this very important holiday. Passover is celebrated on different days and dates each year, as far as our calendar goes. It is scheduled based on the Hebrew calendar.

I am not Jewish, but I know several people who celebrate Passover, so I posted "Chag Pesach Sameach!" as my Facebook status on Monday. It is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase which roughly translates "Happy Passover." A few of my friends were confused by this and asked me what I was talking about. Therefore, I offer this blog as an explanation of the importance of Passover.

First a few words from David Just, a Jewish friend who has faith in Christ:

There are only two holidays that we are required by The Law to committ to God. Those are the weekly Sabbath and the Passover. Because this is a joyous holiday, a very serious one at the same time and one commanded specifically by God, it holds a special place in our hearts, on our minds as well as on the calendar.

If Christians understood the meaning of each element in a seder, what each cup of wine represented, what each prayer meant and why "Next year in Jerusalem" is said at the end of both seders and the end of the holiday, then I believe Christians would have a deeper understanding of Our Lord's Last Supper, the cup of wine after dinner which He gave to His Disciples to drink, His death and resurrection and the Good News in general. Because is it not true that without His coming back from the dead there would be no Christian faith today?

A Passover Seder is a ceremonial meal which commemorates the Jews exodus from Egypt. The ritual contains several symbolic occurences which are reminders of the happenings leading to the Jews rescue from slavery. Questions are asked and answered. Ten drops of wine are placed on the plate as the plagues God sent on the Egyptians are listed. Herbs are dipped in salt water to bring to mind the tears and bitterness of slavery. Tasty charoset looks like the mortar Hebrew slaves put between bricks as they built. Matzoh -- unleavened bread -- is eaten as a reminder of how quickly the Jews had to leave Egypt when God told them to go. The meal is very rich in symbolism and is meant both to teach and to remind.

Passover is a festival of freedom, a celebration of God's protection and provision and as such it is a festive occasion. But it's even more than that. It is a foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive work on the cross. Way back at the first Passover, when the Jews ate standing up because they had to be ready, each family sacrificed a lamb for their meal. The blood of that lamb was painted on the door so that the angel of death would know to pass over that house as he sought out the first born of the land. For Christians, Jesus is our Passover lamb, his blood protects us from death. An interesting note from David:

God commanded that the lamb’s blood be painted on the posts and lentils of their doorways. The pattern on the passage from being inside (as slaves) and outside (as men on the path to freedom and redemption) has been compared many times to a gibbet. Many scholars believe that was the design Romans were using for crucifixions.

By the way, the Last Supper that Jesus ate with his disciples was a Passover Seder. The bread he passed to the disciples was unleavened bread. Some have noted that when he broke it, it would have made a snapping noise that would have been a powerful symbol to the disciples. The cup he gave them to drink was probably the fourth cup of wine, the Cup of Redemption. It is drunk to remind the Jews of their redemption from slavery into freedom.

Well that was, I hope, a lesson in both history and religious tradition. May it give you just a glimpse of this holiday. If you look more into it, you may find it enriches your faith.

Have a blessed day. Chag Pesach Sameach!

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