Tuesday, April 03, 2012
CHRIST IN THE PASSOVER
At the beginning of the dinner, a woman lights the candles and sings a blessing. Without her, the story of our redemption cannot be told. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she brings the light into the world and shares it with all of us.
"And Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)
First, three matzahs are placed in one single pouch. Early on in the dinner, the middle matzah is broken and one half is wrapped in a cloth and hidden. Later on, a child will find the "affikomen" (a Greek word meaning, "that which comes last"). This final piece - taken from the "bread of affliction" is shared by all at the very end.
Early on in the meal, we dip our matzah into horseradish and charoset (a sweet mixture of honey and nuts). This symbolizes how our bitter afflictions can be sweetened by our hope in God. It's also at this point in the Passover that Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer, saying:
"One of you shall betray me." Peter motioned to John to ask who he was. Jesus answered, "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop." After he dipped sop, Judas left to betray him." (John 3:21-30)
What I find interesting is that, during the meal, everyone dips the sop together and eats it. Very likely the disciples considered that it could be any one of them who would betray Jesus. Most especially, Peter might have feared that it was him due to the fact that Jesus rebukes him and prophesies that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows. This might explain Peter's dogged determination to stay with Jesus throughout the night, and even to cut off the soldier's ear with the sword.
Another fascinating aspect of the Passover is the inclusion of the prophet of Elijah. There is a cup poured for him, and a place set at the table for Elijah. At one point, a child goes to the door to see if he will return and announce the coming Messiah. In Malachi 4:5 it says that the prophet Elijah will be sent before "the great and terrible day of the Lord." Jesus said of John the Baptist, "...this is Elijah" (Matthew 11:14).
If we read the prophecy in Malachi about the return of Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah we find this:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." - (Malachi 4:5-6)
When the Angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) he repeats this same promise:
"But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John...Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." - (Luke 1:13-16-17)
Jesus also affirms that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy saying, "Indeed, if you are willing to accept it, he (John) is Elijah, whose coming was predicted." - (Matthew 11:14)
This is a serious revelation for me, because it suggests that the "Day of the Lord" may have been fully realized in the first coming of Christ (although I leave room for the second coming version as well). However, when the Angel of the Lord refers back to the prophecy in Malachi, he is affirming that the coming of Elijah - in the form of John the Baptist - is a fulfillment of that same Malachi promise, which appears to speak of what we would normally refer to as an "end times" event, or a final judgment, not simply a messianic precursor.
It starts to make me wonder in what ways Jesus fulfilled the "Day of the Lord" prophecies in his first coming. He most certainly came to judge the Jewish leaders of the day, (the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees), and his crucifixion resulted in the tearing of the temple veil, and soon after the temple in Jerusalem was utterly destroyed...and remains so to this very day.
At the final cup, "The Cup of Praise", it is a tradition to sing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). This is most likely the very same hymn that the disciples sang (Matt 26:30) as they left the Passover table. The song says, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner...it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:22-24)
It was this fourth cup with Jesus refused to drink from, saying, "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God." (Mark 14:35)
After the singing, Jesus and his disciples left the city and went to the Mount of Olives. It was dictated by tradition that the Atonement Lamb's body was to be offered up to God outside the city walls. (see Hebrews 13:11-14)
At 3pm on Good Friday, the shofar was blown to announce that the lamb was being sacrificed. It was also the moment at which Jesus declared, "It is Finished" and the veil in the temple was ripped in two.
I cannot express to you how amazing it is to me that God predicted all of this, thousands of years in advance, and instituted the Passover Seder to remind the Jews of His plan. It blows my mind that God fulfilled all of this on very exact day, even the same hour of the day, that He ordained so long ago.