Passover – Unleavened Bread

                          

Seder Table

Seder Table

 

 

Have you ever wondered why Jewish people celebrate Passover and Gentiles celebrate Easter? Why isn’t Easter found in the scriptures? Both occur closely together in the Spring of the year, so is there a connection? The answer to those questions will require us to look at some background, a little history and religious politics.

 

Background

 

Before we go through this discussion on Passover, it may be helpful to define and discuss the term covenant as it used in this write-up.

 

Webster defines covenant as “a binding and solemn agreement”.   Synonyms used for covenant are contract and testament. Basically, a contract or covenant is simply defined as a lawful agreement of an offer made by one entity, and the acceptance by another. (Note the word lawful) The word testament is similar and usually refers to a will. You have probably heard of the term “Last Will and Testament”, which is a legal offer and acceptance enacted upon the death of the testator or mediator. Covenant, as used in this discussion, refers to a legal offer and acceptance between God and man.

 

The Hebrew Tanakh sometimes referred to as the Scroll contains the Torah (Law), prophetic writings, and a collection of wisdom literature. The Gentile Sacred Writings are normally divided into two parts, the Old and New Testaments, or Old and New Covenants. The Tanakh and Old Testament contain basically the same content.

 

The Hebrew Torah (Law) refers to the first five books of the Old Testament. This is the covenant God made with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai and was mediated by Moses. This covenant instituted a priestly system of worship and required various rituals and sacrifices. As we shall see, the Law portion of the Old Covenant is no longer in effect. God made a replacement covenant that was made with the houses of Israel and Judah. This replacement covenant is the New Covenant which was prophesied in the book of Jeremiah. (Jer.31:31-34) The demarcation between the old and new covenants occurred in the first century A.D. The mediator and sacrifice of this New Covenant is Yeshua (Jesus). We will see the transition from the old to the new as we look into the Feast of Passover.

 

History of Passover (Pesach)

 

Ancient Times

 

Just a note before we start our discussion: The terms Hebrew, Israel and Jewish refers to descendants of those who’s lineage is traced through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All other nationalities are referred to as Gentiles (Goyim).

 

The Passover, or the Feast of Remembrance, commemorates God delivering the Children of Israel (Hebrews) out of their four hundred years of slavery in Egypt (Ex. 1:1-51). This is the first and most important feast in the annual cycle of Jewish festivals. The exodus or deliverance from slavery took place around 1445B.C.

 

 Passover derives its name from the last of ten plagues God visited on Egypt. The Pharaoh of Egypt refused to set the Hebrews free even after experiencing nine miraculous plagues. The tenth plague warned both Egypt and Israel that God would slay the first born of man and cattle unless blood of a sacrificial lamb was applied to the door posts and lintels of their homes. (Ex. 11)

 

                             The sacrificial lamb: (Ex.12:1-13)

 

  •  Must be a yearling selected from among the flock.
  •  Must be examined for four days.
  • Must be spotless, without blemish.
  • Must have its blood applied to the door posts and lintel of their homes before evening.
  • Must be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread that evening.

 

The Lord went through the land that night and struck down the first born of man and beast, but “passed over” the homes where the lamb’s blood had been applied. (Thus the term Passover) The children of Israel were set free, but were required to wander in the desert for forty years before being given any land of their own. The observance and requirements for the first Passover can be found in the Torah.

 

Passover has been celebrated in Jewish homes for thousands of years on the 14th day of the first month on the Jewish calendar (Nisan). Nisan corresponds roughly to March/April on the Gregorian calendar. The Hebrew people use a lunar calendar to mark the passing of years. Their lunar calendar has only 360 days, five fewer than the Gregorian calendar. An additional month of thirty days is added to the Jewish calendar every five years to keep the annual cycles aligned with the planting and harvest seasons.  Passover (the 14th of Nisan) begins on or about the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox marks the time during the earth’s rotation around the sun where the earth days begin to lengthen. This typically marks the beginning of what is referred to as Spring.

 

The celebration of Passover is governed by a particular order. (Seder in Hebrew) The Seder service is conducted in the family’s home around the dinner table. Each participant follows along in a booklet called a Haggadah. The Seder service is structured around four cups of wine. Each cup is named and symbolizes four expressions used in recounting God’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt. These four cups correspond to the four “I will” promises God made with Israel. They can be found in the book of Exodus chapter six. The names and meaning of the cups are:

 

  1. Ka’desh : Sanctification. (To set apart as Holy). “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians”.
  2. Kos Sheini: Rescue. “I will rescue you from their bondage”.

 

  1. Kos sh’lishi: Redemption. “I will redeem you with an out- stretched arm and with great judgment”.
  2. Kos R’vii Nirtzah: Praise and Thanksgiving. “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God”.

 

The photograph header of this discussion shows a typical Seder table. (Note the four cups of wine, the matzah, Haggadah booklets, and Seder plates with the symbolic foods.)

 

The day after Passover is a High Sabbath day which begins the weeklong Festival of Unleavened Bread. A High Sabbath can, and does fall on any day of the week. Weekly Sabbaths are on the last day of the week, which is a Saturday.

 

 During the week of Unleavened Bread the offering of Bikkurim (First Fruits) was presented in the Temple. The First Fruits offering was made on the day after the weekly Sabbath. So actually, three festivals are celebrated during Passover. First comes Passover then Unleavened Bread and then First Fruits (barley harvest). A description and requirements for these feasts can be found in the Torah. The Book of Leviticus chapter twenty three. (Note: This First Fruits celebration is for the barley harvest.) Another First Fruits celebration for the wheat harvest is held during the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

 

 Old Covenant Prophesy

 

The Old Covenant book of Jeremiah prophesied the enactment of a new replacement covenant. God told Israel :

 

  • “Behold days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers In the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant I will make with the House Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and upon their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach again each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more. : (Jer. 31:31-34 NASV).

 

Please note a few things about this prophesy:

 

  • God Himself is speaking to the people through the prophet.
  • The covenant is made with the Houses of Israel and Judah.
  • The Old Covenant was broken by Israel.
  • A (New) Law will be written on their heart and not on stone like the Old Covenant.
  • All will know Him.
  • God will forgive iniquity and remember sin no more.

 

Messiah Yeshua’s Passover and the New Covenant

 

 Now, let’s take a look at the term Messiah, which means “Anointed One”. Many Jewish people looked for two Messiah to deliver Israel. One was to be a Suffering Servant as described by the prophet Isaiah, (Isa.11:1- 5) the other being a descendent of King David. We now know Yeshua fulfilled both roles. So, let’s take a look and see how He fulfilled these roles. First as King: Yeshua was born of the lineage of Judah and a descendant of King David. We read in the New Covenant book written by Luke, that the angel Gabriel spoke to Yeshua’s earthly mother Miriam (Mary). He said that her son would be called “Son of The Most High”, and He would be given the throne of His father David and will reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:32-33)

 

Secondly as Suffering Servant: Yeshua (Jesus) traveled to Jerusalem with his disciples in order to celebrate Passover, as required by theTorah,. He had been ministering to the Jewish people throughout Israel, proclaiming himself  to be Ben-Elohim (Son of God), the promised Messiah. This greatly upset the governing class of Jewish and Roman leaders.

 

 Yeshuas ministry was from the time of his baptism until after his resurrection, approximately four years. During this time He was examined by the flock of Israel the “common people” and proclaimed by them to be Messiah. The people sang out the Messianic Psalm “Hosanna, Hosanna blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord”, as He rode into Jerusalem. (That song is from the psalm 118: 26 written by King David.) Some Christian denominations celebrate that event as Palm Sunday.

 

Just as a sacrificial lambs had to be examined for Passover. Yeshua  was also set apart and examination by the religious and Roman leaders. He found to be innocent, without blemish or spot. Never-the-less, they plotted to have him killed.

 

  • He was examined by the lawyers of the Torah. They asked him to explain which commandment was the greatest. Yeshua responded, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and might and the second is just like it, you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
  • He was examined by the Herodians, the secular and religious leaders. Their examination concerned Tribute Money.
  • He was examined by the common folks and proclaimed “Never did a man speak as He does, with authority”

 

Yeshua desired to eat the Passover meal with His disciples and gave them instructions for its preparation. It was a traditional Seder service until after the meal and before the third cup, the Cup of Redemption, was blessed. This is the point in the Seder where Yeshua took a piece of matzos (unleavened bread), and offered the bracha (blessing). He then broke it, gave it His disciples saying, “This is My Body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then taking the third cup, the Cup of Redemption, and said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…” He then proclaims his kingship saying, “Just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, so I grant to you that you may eat and drink at My table in His Kingdom, and you shall set upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”. (Matt. 26:26-32 and Luke 22:14-31) This was the inauguration of the New Covenant as prophesied in Jeremiah. This covenant was than ratified when His blood was shed on the cross. Three days later, He was raised up from the dead. This is why Yeshua is referred to as our Passover Lamb. His resurrection occurred on the first day of the week which was also the day after a weekly Sabbath, which was also the festival of First Fruits and there after referred to as Resurrection Day.

 

Fourth Century A.D.

 

Because of differing calendars, observances, and the influx of more and more goyhim (gentiles) into the Body of Yeshua (The Church), Emperor Constantine of Rome called a council of denominations. This council was held in the city of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The objective was to standardize dates and religious observances. The council did not achieve all of Constantine’s objectives to unify dates and celebrations. Some denominations refused to change their particular use of calendars and dates. One thing the council did accomplish, was to enlarge and enraged anti-Semitism. For example, the early Body of Yeshua (Church) celebrated Resurrection Day on the third day after Yeshua was placed in the tomb. This events original date was the first day of the week (Sunday) and also the day of the First Fruits offering. Thus, because the Jewish calendar was used, Resurrection Day did not always fall on the first day of the week. Some denominations wanted to celebrate it only on the first day of the week. The council fixed an annual date on the Gregorian calendar for the festival. Constantine then renamed Resurrection Day to Ishtar, after the Assyrian & Babylonian goddess of light and love, because of the increase of sunlight after the vernal equinox.  This of course widened the split between denominations. The name Ishtar was later renamed to Easter by the English monk Bede in 725 A.D. The date for Easter was also reset to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Thus,   aligning it closer to Passover. However, the pagan name Easter was retained, instead of Resurrection Day.

 

Current Times

 

 Messianic Jewish and gentile believers in Yeshua continue to celebrate both Passover and Resurrection Day. The celebration of Passover now has the expanded and profound emphasis of the New Covenant, which clearly testifies to God’s love for the Jewish people and all mankind. Additionally and here is the profound difference, Passover week for Jewish and Gentile believers in the Messiah is a celebration of the inauguration and radification of the New Covenant with its promise of the olam ha-ba (the world to come).

 

A Seder (order) as outlined in a Haggadah continues to be used in a New Covenant Passover. The Seder is presided over by the head of the household, and members of the household have various roles. The story of the original Passover is recounted and certain symbolic foods are eaten to remind the family members of the suffering and miraculous deliverance from bondage. The four cups of wine corresponding to the “I Will” promises made by God remain an integral part of the Seder. A full meal is eaten after partaking of the second cup, the Cup of Rescue. Matzos is than broken, passed around to be eaten, and Messiah’s words to His Disciples repeated. The third cup, the Cup of Redemption is taken and passed around, and His words of assurance in the New Covenant repeated. This is called by many denominations as communion or the body and blood of Christ. Many celebrate the New Covenant only at Passover and some celebrate it once a month and some not at all. Unfortunately, communion services have become a ritual and the significance of the last Passover is lost.

 

Conclusions

 

Hopefully, here are a few things we can take away from the discussions on the New Covenant Passover:

 

  • The Old Covenant’s or Law has been done away with.
  • Believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) are now under the New Covenant.
  • Passover’s emphasis is now profoundly different. The change is from celebrating deliverance from slavery in Egypt to delivery from the slavery of sin and life everlasting.
  •  Yeshua is the mediator of the New Covenant.
  • Yeshua is our Passover Lamb and He has set us free from sin.
  • He has redeemed us by the shedding of His blood.
  • He is the First Fruits of all believers who will be raised from the dead.
  • A future kingdom is promised to the Isreal of God and Yeshua will be King.
  • A New Covenant Passover will be celebrated in the new kingdom.
  • All those who put their full faith and trust in Mashiach Yeshua (Christ Jesus) will live forever with him in His eternal kingdom.

 

 

We’ll end this discussion with a quotation written by C. H. Spurgen, Dec. 2, 1855, and Published in The New Park Street Pulpit.

 

“The more you read the bible, and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished by it. One, who is but a casual reader of the Bible, does not know the height, the depth, the length and the breadth of the mighty meaning contained in its pages.”