The Passover Seder is a meal shared by family at the beginning of the Passover. This is the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples in the upper room just before his crucifixion.
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the beginning of the Church it’s likely that the disciples continued the tradition of the Passover Seder.
This Easter we joined our sister church, Skinniya (tabernacle) in downtown Odessa for their Seder meal. For the Israelites this meal reminded them of how God spared their first-born sons, freed them from slavery, and brought them out with a great and mighty hand.
“And Moses said to the people, Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. For Jehovah brought you out from this place by the strength of His hand. There shall be no leaven eaten.” Exo 13:3
“And it shall be a sign to you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that Jehovah’s Law may be in your mouth. For the Lord has brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand.” Exo 13:9
In the Law it is called the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” or even more simply in Hebrew “Matzah” which just means “unleavened.” The feast started with the Passover meal on the 14th day of Nissan and continued for 7 days until the 21st of Nissan.
“And you shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For in this same day I have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall keep this day in your generations by a law forever.” Exo 12:17
The unleavened bread signified the haste by which God brought them out of Egypt, they didn’t have time to make bread with yeast that would need to set and rise. (Exo 12:39) They were to eat with their sandals, clothed and ready for a journey indicating their trust in God’s promise and anticipation of God’s imminent saving power. (Exo 12:11)
Of course the most significant aspect of this feast was the lamb that was to be slain and consumed by the family that night. The blood of the lamb was put on the doorposts as a sign of that this home had complied with God’s instructions so that the Angel of Death would pass over. (Exo 12:5-7)
The Seder meal as it is often celebrated today looks somewhat different than what we see in the Law. Tradition has added 4 glasses of wine representing God’s promise to: bring out, free from slavery, redeem, and make a great nation out of the people of Israel. This and many other traditions are not found in the Law, however, it is likely that some of these traditions were already part of the Seder meal by the time of Christ. Thus we see Jesus taking the wine and giving it new meaning as he spoke about the New Covenant.
“And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Mat 26:27-28
Probably the most significant difference between the contemporary Seder and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that we find in the Law is the absence of the sacrificial lamb. (Exo 12:21) God told the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb, roast it and then consume it entirely in one night. The lamb would die in place of the death of the first-born son that night. It was a substitutionary sacrifice.
As New Covenant participants we understand that Jesus is God’s ultimate sacrificial lamb. (Joh 1:29) We know that he stood in our place and took our punishment, his death was the perfect substitutionary sacrifice. Hebrews chapters 7-10 makes it clear that Jesus’ sacrifice has done away with the need to offer other sacrifices, which are only a shadow of the his sacrifice. (Heb 10:1)
Because our trust is in what Jesus did for us, we do not sacrifice a lamb, not even on Passover. Instead Jesus calls us to remember his death through the cup of wine and the breaking of bread. (Mat 26:26-29)
The Seder meal we shared with Skinniya Church blessed us. I had the privilege of speaking from Isaiah 53 on the significance of the Messiah’s suffering on our behalf. I also blessed the wine and bread as we took part in the New Covenant remembrances of the Lamb of God.