Saturday, April 15, 2006

When I see the Blood....

        I've celebrated Passover in one form or another several times in my life. Each time has been very different, but all memorable and meaningful. I've observed it a couple times with Christians and have also attended our local, very liberal synagogue. The strangest, and most moving experience, was in Kathmandu five years ago where I went to a Passover seder with 1500 mostly new-age Israeli travellers. Rabbis and kosher food had been flown from New York to Nepal for the occasion. (That's a story that deserves it's own telling.)
        Celebrating Passover is something I hope to continue and bring into our family's observance of the Death and Resurrection of our Savior, as Jesus was crucified during Passover and the Last Supper was the Passover meal. Yesterday my sisters and nieces and nephews came over and we had a small seder meal together. Alyssa did all the preparation and it was really special. I think it's a neat thing to do with kids because there's so much symbolism in it and you can gear it toward the ages of your kids. It is the retelling and celebration of Israel's deliverance by God from Egypt, and as Christians, our deliverance from sin through the death and resurrection of Christ. The visual, and edible, symbols bring the story to life for all of us. Here's what goes onto the seder plate:
        Maror (bitter herbs, usually horseradish) This is to remind us of the bitterness of the Israelites' slavery to Egypt, and as Christians, of slavery to sin
        Karpas (vegetable, usually parsley) This is dipped into salt water during the seder, to remind us of the tears that were shed by the Israelites in Egypt
        Charoset (a ground mixture of apples, nuts, spices and wine or grape juice) This is reminiscent of the mortar used to by the slaves in building for the Egyptians. The sweetness of the apples is a reminder that God's kindness helped them through their time in Egypt.
        Zeroa (the Shankbone of a lamb, or a beet whose red color is the color of blood) This is symbolic of the lamb that God instructed the Israelites to prepare and eat prior to their deliverance from Egypt. And of course, as Christians, we see Jesus as the true Passover Lamb.
        Beitzah (a whole cooked egg) This is symbolic of the temple sacrifice that was performed during Passover.
        There is also Matzah, unleavened bread that is eaten during the meal. Matzah is pierced with little holes that run the length of the bread giving it a striped appearance. Some Christians like to point out that this is symbolic of our Saviour being pierced for our sin, and that by his stripes we are healed. In the traditional seder, there is a special pouch containing three pieces of Matzah. The middle one is broken and the largest piece of it is hidden. It is called the Afikomen, and is representative of the Passover Lamb. Curiously, Afikomen is a Greek word meaning "that, or he, who is to come." To the Jews it is a sign of hope that the Messiah will come, and of course we celebrate Jesus, who has come and will come again! At the end of the seder a child looks for the Afikomen and when it's found everyone eats a piece of it. It really brings new life to Jesus' words at the Last Supper "This is My body which is broken for you" and his earlier proclamation that He is the Bread of Life and unless we eat His flesh we have no part in Him.
        Celebrating this Jewish feast has brought new meaning to my Christian life and richness to the Easter season. It has made me appreciate how all through history God's dealings with Israel were pointing to Jesus. While the Jews celebrate this as part of their heritage and their hope, we can celebrate the fullness and the fulfillment of it in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The seder ends with the words "Next year in Jerusalem!" As Christians this perfectly represents our longing as well- to be soon dwelling in the Holy City not made with hands, the New Jerusalem. Even so, come Lord Jesus!


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