With Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread starting tomorrow, I thought I would take a moment and share the messianic Seder that I put together for my family. It’s inspired by the traditional Jewish Passover tradition but incorporates the Gospel of Jesus and certain things were amended to suit our family (i.e. changing the closing hymn from Psalm 115-118 to In Christ Alone). If you want a traditional Jewish or messianic Seder, you might want to look elsewhere, but if you want to celebrate the feast in a way that is both biblical and approachable, than this might be something you and your family will enjoy.
Messianic Passover Seder
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month (Nisan) shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.Exodus 12:1-14 (ESV)
“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.
Every household is commanded to bring a lamb for sacrifice, a male lamb without blemish is to be inspected by the Priests on the 10th day of the month of Nisan and is to be kept in the home for 4 days until they kill the lamb at twilight on the 14th. There is debate about the meaning of the word twilight in verse 6. By our understanding, twilight is roughly dusk. However, days on the Hebrew calendar begin and end at sundown. The word twilight in our bibles is translated from the Hebrew ben ha’arbayim which means “between the two evenings”. According to ancient Hebrew tradition, this was typically considered to be the time between noon and sunset. This passage also lays out God’s purpose for these commands.
- God personalizes the lamb. In a lamb becomes their lamb.
- The people, not the priests, offer the sacrifice at twilight.
- The people were to roast the lamb and to eat it with matzos and bitter herbs
- As slaves, it would have likely been more common to boil a lamb than to roast it, but that method of cooking was expressly forbidden.
- The meal was to be eaten in haste with belt on, shoes on, and staff in hand. Being ready to go when God gives the word.
- This was the LORD’s Passover-
- Judgement was coming to Egypt, but not only on the Egyptians and their gods but to Israel as well. Their one shot at salvation was their repentance of sin and acceptance of God that was demonstrated in the shed blood of the lamb.
- The Blood is a sign to the PEOPLE, not to God-
- They had to go beyond the outward ACT of sacrificing the lamb; they actually had to take the blood and apply it to their homes.
- Passover is to be a statute for all generations-
- Passover has been observed every year for nearly 3,500 years. It is a significant day not only for the Jews but also for the Christians.
The Setup of the Table
Traditionally, the leader sits at the head of the table. The youngest sits to the right, and the guest of honor sits to the left. At the Last Supper, Jesus sat at the head with John to his right and (oddly enough) Judas Iscariot to his left. The seat across from the leader is left open, reserved for Elijah. The Jews, even today, wait expectantly for the Prophet Elijah to return and fulfil the prophecy of Malachi:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.Malachi 5:5-6 (ESV)
For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John [the Baptist] and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.Matthew 11:13-15
The meal consists of 3 primary elements: the lamb, the matzos, and the bitter herbs. Other elements have been added over the years, but these three are the only ones that were ordered by God in Egypt. We will address these during the Seder, but one quick thought about the matzos.
The Matzos of the Passover is bread that is unleavened. Throughout the Bible leaven is used as a symbol of sin. The unleavened bread of the Israelites in Egypt was not simply a bread made in haste, not allowing the bread time to rise, but was carefully dictated by God as a symbol of how we are to be purposeful in not allowing sin into our own lives.
- The matzos is without leaven, as Jesus was with sin.
- The matzos is placed into the oven to be cooked. As it’s kneaded and baked, it is pierced with small holes and burn marks along its exterior, as Jesus was in fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
The Seder uses 3 matzos that are placed in a bag. This bag has three divisions inside. During the Seder, Jews remove the middle matzo and break it in half. They wrap it in a linen called afikomen and hide it somewhere else. They don’t know why, it’s just tradition. Some say that the 3 matzos represent the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but this makes little sense with the symbolism that we see later on in the Seder.
Messianic Jews recognize that the 3 matzos represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in that order. They are in a single bag with 3 divisions, a 3-in-1 bag if you will. The middle matzo, representing God the Son, is broken in half. Half remains in the bag with the other two matzos and the other half is wrapped up in the afikomen and taken away for a while to be discovered later. Jesus, who is both fully human and fully God (the breaking act) was sinless, He was striped and pierced, wrapped in linen, and was put a way to be discovered later.
**At this point, we break and hide the afikomen and then have everyone sit around the table.**
As the Seder begins, the leader takes a basin of water and ritually washes his hands, symbolizing purity, and the authority he has as the priest of his household to conduct the Seder. Jesus broke with this tradition as he took that basin and washed the feet of those who were under his authority. In keeping with His example, it is an honor to wash the feet of everyone here tonight.
Lighting the Candle
The wife begins the Seder by lighting candles and reciting a prayer:
“Blessed are you, O God, king of the universe, who has set us apart by His word and in who’s name we light the festival light.”
It was through a woman that God brought forth Yeshua ha’Mashiach, the light of the World.
The 1st Cup: The Cup of Thanksgiving
Raise the glass and offer the Kiddush blessing:
Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe. Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Our God, Ruler of the world, You have chosen us from all peoples, exalting us and sanctifying us with mitzvot [Your Law]. In Your love, Our God, You have given us Sabbaths of rest, feasts of gladness and seasons of joy; this Shabbat day and this festival of matzot [unleavened bread], season of our freedom, in love, a holy commemoration, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt. God, You have chosen us from all peoples, consecrating us to your service, giving us the Sabbath, a sign of your love and favor and the Festivals, a time of gladness and joy.
Blessed are You, who sanctifies Shabbat, our people Israel, the Church, and the Festivals
Serving the Matzos
Question #1 (asked by Child or Youngest Person): Why are we eating unleavened bread tonight?
Leader: We eat unleavened bread to remind us that the Israelites did not have time to wait for their bread to rise, but also a reminder that God has called us to be without leaven, which symbolizes sin, in our own lives. The Israelites that they had to be ready to move when God called them out of their temporary dwellings in Egypt.
As Christians it reminds us to live in a way that we remain ready to leave when the Lord calls us out of our own temporary dwellings in this world. Yeshua (Jesus) said that he is coming like a thief in the night and we ought to be ready for His coming (Revelation 16:15, Matthew 24:36-51).
We eat unleavened bread because today we remember Yeshua, by whose stripes and wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The bread before you, full of holes, is a symbol of Jesus’ body which was pierced for our sake. Yeast, a symbol of sin, leavens or puffs up bread just as sin and pride puffs up our hearts. Therefore we eat unleavened bread, a bread without yeast to remind of us of Jesus who came in the flesh yet was without sin.
As Paul wrote from 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
“Your boasting is no good. Don’t you know that a little1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (TLV)
leaven leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the
old leaven, so you may be a new batch, just as you are
unleavened – for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been
sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast not with
old leaven, the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with
unleavened bread – the matzah of sincerity and truth.”
**Break the Matzah**
All Together: “Because he was broken for us.”
The 2nd Cup: The Cup of Deliverance
The second cup is the cup of deliverance reminding us of God’s deliverance of the Jews through the plagues on Egypt.
**[List each plague that God sent and dip a finger. Then drip a drop of wine (a sign of joy that is not received) as each plague is read as a reminder even as righteous judgment is delivered, we are not to enjoy the suffering of others. Also as a reminder of the blood that is shed for our deliverance from physical and spiritual chains.]**
- The Nile is Turned to Blood
- Egypt overrun by frogs
- Livestock killed by disease
- Boils/painful soars
- Lightning and hailstorms
- Locusts destroy their harvest
- Darkness, the sun is blackened
- Death of the Firstborn
Serving the Karpas (Parsley Greens and Salt Water)
Question #2 (child or next youngest): “Why, today, do we dip our herbs twice?”
Leader: The green parsley reminds us of the continual rebirth of the growing things in creation as well as the new life that springs up after winter. As Christians it serves to remind us of the new life that God has given us in His Son, Yeshua. As it is written in Romans 6:4:
“Therefore we were buried together with Him throughRomans 6:4 (TLV)
immersion into death—in order that just as Messiah was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too
might walk in newness of life.”
Our forefathers dipped hyssop branches into the blood of the Passover lamb and marked their doorposts.
**Dip the parsley into the salt water**
As they wept their salty tears for their life of slavery in Egypt, the people of God painted the door lintels with the blood so that the Angel of Death would pass over them. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.
And like the parsley that stays green, we too have eternal life because of the sacrifice and Resurrection of Christ. As we dip the parsley into the salt water, we ask to remember the cost of our new and eternal life as Christ drank the bitter vinegar on the Cross.
**Dip the parsley again, this time into a small dish of apple and raisins**
But now we have hope. Because of the blood shed by the thorns that pierced Jesus’ brow; because of the blood from the wounds of the nails and spear that we, in faith, mark on the door of our hearts. We now wipe away our salty tears in the sweetness of our new life in Christ. We are reborn into His hope.
Serving the Maror (Bitter Herbs)
Question #3 (child or next youngest): “Why are we eating bitter herbs?”
Leader: We eat bitter herbs to remember that long ago on that first Passover God said, “bitter herbs they shall eat” (Exodus 12:8). We eat them to remember the bitterness of the slavery endured by God’s chosen family in Egypt and to remember the bitterness of the slavery we have endured to our sin nature.
As Christians they also remind us of our brothers and sisters, past and present, who have suffered and are suffering – some unto death – for Christ and the Good News of salvation. It reminds us that the cost of serving Jesus can at times be a bitter one. Above all we remember the suffering of Jesus who was whipped and beaten, marred beyond recognition for our sake. We remember how he endured the wrath of God and absorbed our bitter sins.
Let us read together from Psalm 22:14-18, as David prophesied:
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out ofPsalm 22:14-18 (ESV)
joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue
sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs
encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they
have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments
among them and cast lots for my clothing.
As we celebrate this Passover, we remember the great cost of our redemption.
It was at this point during the Last Supper that Jesus identified his betrayer.
And as they were eating, He said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray Him, answered, “Is it I, Lord?” He said to him, “You have said so.”Matthew 26:21-25 (ESV)
Search for the Afikomen
Leader: Children, find the hidden matzo that has been taken away from us. The child who finds it gets a reward, a ransom for it.
The 3rd Cup: The Cup of Redemption
The third cup is the cup of redemption. It symbolizes God’s redeeming work among His people where He paid a ransom for many.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45 (ESV)
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”Luke 22:20 (ESV)
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my Law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be my people… for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.Jeremiah 31:31-34
I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.Matthew 26:29 (ESV)
This last verse refers to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb spoken of in Revelation.
The 4th Cup: The Cup of Hope
Question #4 (child or next youngest): “Why do we eat this meal reclining?”
Leader: Because Jesus, our Passover Lamb, has brought us freedom. Today we remember that we are no longer slaves to our sin or to death. We have been bought by the blood of Messiah, adopted as sons and daughters of the King of kings. Free men and royalty recline while eating, just as Jesus reclined at his Supper. We remember that by His righteousness we are free to enter into the presence of God.
Serving of the Lamb
Leader: As the Jews needed the blood of a lamb on their doorpost for the Angel of Death to pass over them, so we need the blood of the Lamb on our hearts for death to pass over our souls. John the Baptist proclaimed from the River Jordan:
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!John 1:29 (ESV)
We remember that Jesus was not overcome by the evil men who surrounded him. His life was not taken by Jew or Gentile, but as He tells us in John 10:17-18:
No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.John 10:17-18 (ESV)
As we take part in this meat we remember that the Lamb of God, was sacrificed by our Great High Priest to atone for the sins of anyone who would take part in the offering that was made! We also rejoice in the intentionality of God’s perfect plan for our redemption.
God intentionally planted the tree that would be the source of the wood used for the cross He would hang upon. He intentionally placed the ore in the rocks that would become the iron, forged into thee nails, that would pierce Him. He intentionally allowed Judas Iscariot to join in His ministry, knowing the thoughts of his mind and the intentions of his heart that would lead to His arrest, flogging, and crucifixion. We take this meat, representing the voluntary sacrifice of Jesus and remembering that He is the pure, spotless Passover Lamb that was slain so that death might pass over us.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”Matthew 26:26-27 (ESV)
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Traditionally, the Seder would end with a singing of Psalm 115-118. Our family changes this closing hymn to something special to us; in this case, “In Christ Alone”.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
There in the ground His body lay Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
The 4th Cup- The cup of Hope and Praise Cont.
The final cup reminds us of the hope we have of Jesus’ return. This cup will be fulfilled at the wedding supper of the Lamb when our union with the Bridegroom is completed and we will rejoice forever with Him in His Kingdom.
**Closing benediction prayer**