Monday, 1 April 2013

Passover and Easter

It is noteworthy that a number of Christians today enjoy partaking in Jewish Passover or Seder meals. Is this appropriate for Christians? I would suggest that if this is an act of remembrance of the work of Jesus upon the cross then there is essentially little wrong with it. Jews remember their ancestors’ slavery in Egypt as they take part in this community meal, and for Christians the communion is a remembrance of the work of Christ upon the cross. There is then a close correlation between communion and the Seder meal. Indeed the symbolism is clearly there in the New Testament, just as Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt so Jesus leads us out of the bondage to sin and death. However, there are a couple of comments that might be raised. Firstly, some of the traditions of the Jewish Seder meal seem to be an elaboration on the Exodus account, although not necessarily wrong. But I would suggest there is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the Mosaic account. Secondly, there is some debate over whether the last supper is really a Passover meal, or just a traditional Jewish meal. This is because Jesus was seemingly crucified on the eve of Passover, and the meal took place the day before. At the meal Jesus explained the symbolism of the wine as his blood poured out and the bread as his body broken for us.
   The account of the Passover meal can be found in Exodus 12. We see the Israelites in Egypt are told to prepare a meal and eat it in haste. They are instructed to kill and roast a year old lamb over an open fire during the evening, and then eat all of it after sunset. That which is not eaten should be burnt. The meal should also consist of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The blood was to be applied to the doorpost and lintel with a sprig of hyssop.
   We can see imagery of Christ’s sacrifice in the Passover, but as noted there is a debate around the last supper and whether it really was the Passover meal, or just a traditional Jewish meal. At the last supper we read of the bread and wine, but no lamb or bitter herbs. However, Christ was himself the sacrificial lamb, and just as the Passover lamb was tied to a stick and roasted over the fire, so too Jesus was nailed to the cross and raised up in darkness, but what of the fire? In some sense the Law of Moses is a fire. Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly and then was roasted in front of the Law of God as he bore our sins upon the cross. Jesus was also offered the bitter herb of hyssop mixed with vinegar. Remember, Moses told the Israelites to paint the blood on the doorposts using hyssop. And as Jesus said at the last supper, the fruit of the vine was symbolic of his blood. Jesus then tasted the bitter herb as the ‘blood’ was applied to his head and he provided the bread of his body.

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