The more I study the Bible, the clearer it becomes that understanding Judaism is critical for a fuller knowledge of God. And while our tendency is to skip past the Old Testament and go straight to the New, we can’t have one without the other. From the Garden of Eden to the prophecies of Malachi, the Old Testament points to the One who is to come—the messiah.
God chose the Jewish people to be a holy nation, set apart. He made covenants with them. He gave them the Law. He chose kings to lead and prophets to reveal. But God didn’t intend to give them “ownership rights” to Him forever. He selected the Jews to be a faithful people to receive the greatest part of His plan for creation—His son Jesus.
Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than at Passover.
For more than 3400 years, the Jews have commemorated Pesach (Hebrew for Passover) to joyously remember how God spared the lives of firstborn Hebrew sons when He saw the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts and how He miraculously liberated them from slavery by the Egyptians.
The key elements of the seder table—bitter herbs, a shank bone and matzohs—symbolize the bitterness of bondage, the redeeming blood of the perfect lamb and the hope for salvation. (Since I’m a novice on this topic you may want to explore it further on your own.)
As the ladies and I listened to our seder host explain the history and symbolism of the seder elements, we were fascinated by the story and led to one amazing conclusion. Jesus was present. Because, who is the perfect, blemish-free Passover lamb but Jesus?
John the Baptist knew. Upon seeing Jesus he called out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)
It’s Jesus’ shed blood painted on the thresholds of our hearts that redeem us from eternal death. (Ep 1:7) It is by His blood that we are miraculously liberated from the slavery of sin. (Jn 8:36) And it is by Jesus’ sacrifice that we have not just hope, but a promise for salvation. (Ro 5-6)
The night before He was crucified, Jesus celebrated Passover (the first communion) with His disciples. But He didn't look to the past deliverance by God, He looked to the future one. For when He offered the bread, He said, “Take it; this is my body.” And of the wine he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mk 14:22, 24) With these seder elements Jesus introduced a new Passover—and a new convenant.
The last piece of matzoh eaten at the seder is called the afikomen. It’s a substitute for the Passover lamb. This Greek word can mean “that which is coming”, i.e. dessert, yet it may also mean “he who is coming.”
Our seder host told us to observe our piece of afikomen as he explained its significance. As I held the matzoh between my thumb and forefinger I considered Jesus—our redeemer—and I imagined him saying, “Take. Eat. This is my body broken for you.”
Then I realized at the point where the matzoh was held between my fingers I felt my heart beating. It was as if the afikomen itself had life and I felt it pulsating. I even looked to see if it was moving. You may think this was nothing more than a normal physiological response, but I think it was Jesus saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (Jn 6:51)
Jesus is our Passover. He is our afikomen. He is the one who came—and is coming again.
He is our bread of life.
“Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:7-8)