By Tov Rose
Jesus the Messiah celebrated the Seder with His disciples the night before his death, which became the origin of our traditional Christian communion service. As a believer in Jesus, I delight in examining the Passover and seeing how it is meant to teach us and draw us closer to our Savior.
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There is so much meaning in the Passover and Jesus’ fulfillment of every symbol: The removal of leaven, washing the hands, lighting the candles, the Hagaddah, the four cups of wine, the Afikomen, the seder plate items (greens, egg, bitter herbs, Charoset, the Shankbone of the Lamb, the root of bitterness), the meal, the search for the Afikomen, and Elijah’s Cup.
The removal of leaven
Before the beginning of the Passover, all leaven, which is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8), must be removed from the Jewish home. The house is cleaned from top to bottom and anything containing leaven is removed. Then, the evening before the Passover, the father of the house takes the traditional cleaning implements: a feather, a wooden spoon, and a bag, and searches the house for any specks of leaven that might have been missed (my mother used to leave it inside the spice cabinet so my father shouldn’t spend all night hunting!).
The Search for Leaven is a reminder to Believers in Yeshua (Jesus), of several things: that we are to be separated from the leaven (sin) of the world, and not participate in it; and that our Messiah himself lived a sinless life before the eyes of many witnesses. Our homes should honor and model his life.
Washing the hands
Once the leaven is removed, the family sits around the table and ceremonially washes their hands with a special laver and towel. Jesus also took part in this tradition, but rather than wash his hands, he got up from the table and washed the feet of his disciples, giving us an unparalleled lesson in humility (John 13:2-17). In doing so he also fulfilled a prophetic passage from the Old Testament in preparing his disciples to physically carry the Gospel to all the world, “’How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Isaiah 52:7 (English Standard Version, see also Romans 10:15 and Nahum 1:15)
Lighting the candles
Once the house and the participants are ceremonially clean, the Passover seder can begin. The woman of the house says a blessing and lights the Passover candles. I’ve always considered it appropriate that the woman brings light into the home, because it was through the woman that the light of the world, Messiah Jesus, came into the world (Gen. 3:15)
Haggadah means “the telling” – the telling of the story of Passover. The story is told in response to four questions asked by the children: why is this night different from all other nights? The father proceeds to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, reading from a book called “The Haggadah” and using symbols and object lessons in order to keep the attention of the little ones. The Message of Passover is the story of redemption through a sinless, spotless lamb who bares the sin of our family so that we ourselves will not die when God passes over.
The first cup of wine
The seder begins with a blessing recited over the first of four cups of wine: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine.” Jesus himself blessed the first cup in Luke 22:17-18.
New Wine is the traditional choice for the Passover seder because in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition it represents the coming of the Kingdom of God (Joel 2:19-24; Zechariah 9:17). This blessing then foreshadows the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, while also inviting God to bring the Kingdom into our lives.
The second cup of wine
The second cup is to remind us of the Ten Plagues and the suffering of the Egyptians when they hardened their heart to the Lord. In order not to rejoice over the suffering of our enemies (Prov. 24:17), we spill a drop of wine (which is a symbol of joy) as we recite each of the Ten Plagues, thus remembering that our joy is diminished at the suffering of others, especially for those who suffer because of sin.
A very curious tradition now takes place. At the table is a bag with three compartments and three pieces of motzah. The middle piece of motzah is taken out, broken, and half is put back into the bag. The other half is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden (to be taken out later after the meal). A blessing is spoken thanking God for giving us bread from the earth to sustain and nourish us.
The seder plate
The rabbis have devised a series of object lessons to keep the attention of the little ones during the Passover seder. These items are tasted by each person, as each is instructed to feel as if they themselves had taken part in the flight from Egypt.
Karpas – greens
The first item taken is the karpas, or greens (usually parsley), which is a symbol of life. The parsley is dipped in salt water, a symbol of tears, and eaten, to remind us that life for our ancestors was immersed in tears. Jesus, on the cross was given a sponge soaked in vinager to drink that was lifted to his mouth by a stick of karpas.
Beitzah – egg
A roasted egg is on the seder plate to bring to mind the roasted daily temple sacrifice that no longer can be offered because the temple no longer stands. In the very midst of the Passover Seder, the Jewish people are reminded that they have no sacrifice to make them righteous before God. The egg is also a reminder of the power of the resurrection, and that we have new life in Jesus. He never gives up on us.
Maror – bitter herb
This is usually ground horseradish, and enough is eaten (with Motza) to bring a tear to the eyes. We cannot appreciate the sweetness of redemption unless we first experience for ourselves the bitterness of slavery. It was concerning the dipping of his Motza into the bowl that Jesus said of Judas Iscariot, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.” (Matthew 26:23) The Maror is also a reminder of the root of bitterness that we should try to keep out of our lives, choosing instead a life of forgiveness and grace as was shown to us (Psalm 133; Ephesians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 10:14-20).
Charoset is a sweet mixture of chopped apples, chopped nuts, honey, cinnamon, and a little Manischewitz grape wine (kosher for Passover) just for color! This sweet, pasty, brown mixture is symbolic of the mortar that our ancestors used to build bricks in the land of Egypt. Why do we remember an experience so bitter with something so sweet? The rabbis have a good insight: even the bitterest of labor can be sweet with the hope of redeption. This is especially true for believers in the Messiah. We can find sweetness even in the most bitter experiences because we know our Lord’s coming is near than when we first believed,
Shankbone of the Lamb
In every Jewish home, on every seder plate, is a bare shankbone of a lamb. In the book of Exodus, Jewish firstborns were spared from the Death by applying the blood of a spotless, innocent lamb applied to the doorpost of their homes as God brought the people from slavery into freedom. Today, we believe Jesus is that perfect Passover Lamb, and when we apply His blood to the “doorposts” or entry point of our heart, we too go from death into life, from slavery to sin into the freedom of being a redeemed child of God. As John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus coming towards him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
The Root of Bitterness
Wait, Root of Bitterness? Like most Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) who share the Passover story in churches, for many years, I never shared the story of the Root of Bitterness. I think that was unfortunate because it is probably one of the most important items!
The Root of Bitterness on the seder table brings to mind Psalm 133, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in Unity…” and what is it that causes division, “…lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled…” (Hebrews 12:15).
The Root of Bitterness hinders our prayers. The verses immediately following the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14-15, show Jesus teaching that the forgiveness of our sin/debt (by God) is contingent on how we forgive others.
Even the esteemed Jewish Rabbi and likely successor to the chief rabbi of Israel (Acts 22:33), Paul the Apostle, also warned of the consequences of the Root of Bitterness in a believer’s life in direct relation to the Passover meal. He pointed out that there are serious consequences for taking “the Lord’s cup unworthily,” including sickness and the death of the believer in question, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.
We should always be aware of the root of bitterness. How do you forgive? It is a decision of the will, choosing not worry to about your emotions, not speak evil out of your mouth toward the other person, and diligently work at it despite any thoughts of Bitterness that come up. Do this you will fulfill Mark 12:29-34. After a while you will realize that God has done a miracle in your life by taking that poison out of you. That is what Bitterness is—poison. It is like taking a drink of the most powerful poison while hoping someone else is going to die instead of you.
The whole concept of a wicked root system establishing roots in our lives is scary. We should want to keep the commandment of love (John 13:34-35). The message of Passover is not just redemption, it is also love and mercy. Luke 6:37 says, “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” This was Yeshua’s heart and it should be ours as well.
As shared by Jesus and his disciples in singing of songs and good comforting food!
The Search for the Afikomen
After the meal is finished, the leader of the seder lets the children loose to hunt for the Afikomen, which was wrapped in a cloth and hidden before the meal. The house is in a ruckus as everyone rushes around to be the first to find the Afikomen and claim the prize as grandpa redeems it from the lucky locator. The going rate is $25.00! Once the leader has retrieved the Afikomen, he breaks it up into pieces and distributes a small piece to everyone seated around the table. Jewish people do not really understand this tradition, but traditions don’t need to be understood – just followed! However, it is widely believed that these pieces of Afikomen bring a good, long life to those who eat them.
Many scholars believe that the tradition began with the disciples of Jesus. Understanding this then, Luke 22:19 takes on a greater meaning: “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.'” Jesus the Messiah would have taken the middle of the three pieces of motza, which represented the priest and mediator between God and the people, broken it as His body would soon be broken, then wrapped half in a linen cloth as he would be wrapped in linen for burial and hidden it as he would be buried. Later this prophetic Afikomen would be brought back, as Jesus himself was resurrected! Finally, Jesus distributed it to everyone seated with him, as He would distribute His life to all who believe. As He did this, he was conscious that this middle piece of motza represented His own, spotless body given for the redemption of His people. As the motza is striped and pierced, His own body would be striped and pierced, and it is by those wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). This middle piece of motza, or the Afikomen, is our communion bread.
The third cup of wine is taken after the meal. It is the cup of The Covenant, or the cup of redemption, which reminds us of the shed blood of the innocent Lamb which gave us freedom. We see that Jesus took the third cup in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25, “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'” This was not just any cup, it was the cup of redemption from slavery into freedom. This is our communion cup.
The fourth cup is the Cup of Hallel. Hallel in Hebrew means “praise,” and we see in the beautiful High Priestly Prayer of John 17, that Jesus took time to praise and thank the Lord at the end of the Passover Seder, his last supper. The spotless Passover Lamb had praise on his lips as he went to his death.
A place setting remains empty for Elijah the prophet, the honored guest at every Passover table. The Jewish people expect Elijah to come at Passover and announce the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). A place is always set, a cup is filled with wine, and hearts are expectant for Elijah to come announcing the Good News. At the end of the seder meal, a child is sent to the door to open it and see if Elijah is there. Every year, the child returns, disappointed, and the wine is poured out without being touched. Many of my people still wait and hope for Messiah – they do not realize that their Messiah has already come. Those of us who believe in Yeshua know that He is the one of whom the prophets spoke. He is the spotless, unblemished Passover Lamb, whose body was broken for us, whose blood was shed, and who now lives to distribute His life to all of us who apply His blood to the doorpost of our hearts and have passed from death into His eternal life.
When we finally celebrate our Marriage Supper with Jesus, it will be at a Passover Table with the Passover Lamb who took away the sin of the world!
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TOV Rose is the author of several books, including The New Messianic Version of the Bible, The Book of GOD: For Men, The Paranormal GOD, The Paranormal Seams of the Hebrew Bible, Fall of the American Babylon, Volume 1, Is It Not Written In The Book of Jasher?, Is It Not Written In The Book of Enoch?, and the upcoming, Book of GOD: Genesis Unbound.
When not writing books and all those other things, he enjoys quiet times at home with his wife, children and praying together with a group of grandmothers who have the uncanny knack of being able to bend God’s ear. Specializing in teaching the deeper things of God, TOV has a reputation for teaching solid Bible foundations and difficult to understand Biblical concepts in a compassionate simple manner that anyone can understand. TOV guests on radio programs, television shows and speaks at conferences, seminars and in local congregations.
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The New Messianic Version of the Bible is raising eyebrows in the world of Bible translators not only for restoring the capitalized GOD and LORD with the English translation of God’s Names that are correct, but it takes things a step further…
The name Yehovah is from the consonants YHWH, and can be found almost 6000 times in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). YHWH is rendered as LORD in most English Bibles, according to the pattern set by the King James Bible translators. But did you know that there are TWO forms of the Divine Name, the YHVH? One is the Father God and the other is His Son. Can you tell them apart in the Bible?
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Who are we to argue with such an old tradition?
Personally, I am in favor of the most literal translation of the Bible regardless of who translates it. Any translation that is going to be closer to what was originally written is bound to bring its readers closer to God.
Besides, in Deuteronomy 4:2, tells us not to add or take away from God’s Word, yet many translators removed the Divine Name. Every other religion on the planet uses the proper name for their God. Why don’t Christians and Jewish people do the same? It is odd. You don’t have to be a scholar to know that removing someone’s personal name and replacing it with a title is not accurate translating. In fact, it might actually be offensive. Just as offensive would be calling your own father by a name that wasn’t actually his own, you know, like the name of his son? How much more offensive to God the Father when we use the wrong name?
Tov goes on to explain, “In the New Testament book of John 6:46 Jesus says, ‘No man has seen The Father…’ If that is the case, then who have people seen, spoken to and even shared meals with in the Old Testament? Even in Exodus 33:11 it says, ‘And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” But if Moses did not speak with The Father face to face, then to whom was he speaking?'”
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