This is the second of three posts on The Gospel in the Passover Seder, written by Amy
Ramseur, a member of our church and volunteer with Children's Ministry. Here is Part I if you have not yet read it.
So now, let us return to the meal as it is celebrated today. Now that the home has been ridden of leaven, the meal is prepared. The Seder is the ritual or traditional meal composed of symbols of slavery, rescue and redemption, intended to teach the children about the Lord’s provision and promise (Exodus 12:26). In the midst of it, a lavish meal is served to the family. The ceremonial Passover meal is centered around the Seder plate, usually a plate with six divisions for each of the symbolic foods:
1) the roasted shank bone of a lamb, representing the Passover lambl
2) a hard-boiled egg, symbolizing new life and hope
- parsley, representing the misery of life in Egypt
- horseradish, or "maror", a symbol of the bitterness of slavery
- charoseth, a sweet mixture of apples, cinnamon, honey, possibly nuts and raisins, representing the mortar and bricks the Israelites were forced to use to build for Pharaoh and the sweetness of the coming redemption
And then there is the matzo or unleavened bread and the four glasses of wine or grape juice.
A very specific order is followed in the partaking of the Seder, known as the Haggadah. For our purposes we will only make note of some of the significant moments during the reading of the Haggadah and the partaking of the Seder meal.
Candles are lit to set the evening apart from all others. Then the head of the family, serving as the leader of the Seder, raises the first glass of wine, known as the Cup of Sanctification and after his blessing, everyone drinks. Jesus would have led His disciples in this blessing.
Next comes the ceremonial washing of hands – or perhaps only the fingertips of the leader. Here Jesus took ceremony a step further and in an act normally devoted to a servant, stooped and washed the feet of His friends. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…not servant is greater than his master…Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13Bitter herbs dipped in salt water are eaten next, a reminder of the Red Sea parted for the Israelites’ escape and the herbs themselves point to the new Nation God was establishing for Himself.
Next follows a curious tradition (added perhaps sometime after the 13th century), though for us it seems to shout of a truth that is difficult to miss! Three pieces of matzo, or unleavened bread, are placed on the table and are referred to as a "Unity". (To believers this clearly represents the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.) It is important to note that prior to being baked the unleavened dough is pierced (to prevent it from rising) and the browning marks from baking give it the appearance of being striped. The middle matzo is broken into two pieces and one portion of these is placed in a white napkin or a special white bag. This is known as the "aphikomen", which the leader then hides while the children are not watching. We will see this aphikomen, which means "that which comes last", later at the closing of the meal. But already, what images have been stirred in your mind regarding this aphikomen? This bread has no leaven. Recall that leaven is a picture of sin in Scripture. Jesus was without sin. The appearance of each piece of matzo may have caused you to recall Isaiah 53:5, "He was wounded for our transgressions…And by His stripes we are healed." The fact that the middle matzo, which we see could represent the Son, is broken and hidden away for a time, only to be revealed at a later moment!
- Amy Ramseur, Children's Ministry Volunteer