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Mar 28 2010

Passover In The New Covenant

Typically, Christians do not celebrate Passover but instead, celebrate Easter which is right around the corner.  However, messianic Jewish congregations do celebrate Passover.  Since Passover begins March 29, 2010, I thought it would be nice to understand Passover and especially from a Messianic or from the New Covenant approach.

Passover is the celebration of the time when God passed over the Israelites in Egypt, striking the first born of man and beast. (Exodus 12:12) The blood on the door posts was a sign to the angel of death to “pass over” that household. (Exodus 12:13) God commanded the Israelites to forever celebrate Passover (Exodus 12:11, Numbers 9:2). Clearly, this is a type or shadow of Christ’s “pass over” wherein believers are covered by the blood of the lamb. Believers have eternal life. Below is a condensed explanation of a typical Passover Seder:

Removing Leaven

Before Passover begins all leaven, which symbolizes sin, is removed from the home.

  • Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV)

Ceremonial Washing of Hands

Once the leaven is removed, the participants ceremonially wash their hands. Jesus also took part in this tradition. However, instead of the ceremonial washing of His hands, He washed the feet of his disciples.

  • Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
    John 13:3-5 (ESV)

Lighting the Candles

It is the woman of the house that says the blessing and lights the Passover candles. It is taught that the woman lights the candles and brings in the light to the home because it was through the woman that the light of the world, Jesus, came into the world.  Traditionally, in Jewish Seders, it is the woman who lights the candles but I am unclear where this tradition originated.

  • I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)


Haggadah means "the telling." It is the telling of the story of Passover. Traditionally, the story is told in response to four questions which are  asked by the children.

Why is this night different?
Why do we dip green herbs in salt water?
Why do we open doors?
Why do we hide and then eat the Afikomen?

First Cup of Wine

The Seder starts with a blessing over the first cup of wine (there are four cups of wine in a Passover Seder). The blessing recited is "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine." Jesus himself blessed the first cup in Luke 22:17-18.

  • And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Luke 22:17-18 (ESV)

Second Cup of Wine

The second cup is a reminder of the ten plagues inflicted on the Egyptians for not letting the Israelites go and the suffering of the Egyptians when their hearts were hardened. It is a reminder to not rejoice over the suffering of our enemies (Proverbs 24:17) by spilling a drop of wine (wine is which is a symbol of joy) as the ten plagues are recited.

  • Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, Proverbs 24:17 (ESV)


At the table is a bag with three sections and three pieces of matza. The middle piece of matza is taken out, broken in half and only one half is put back in. The other half is wrapped in a linen napkin which is then hidden and will be used after the Seder meal.

What Is On The Seder Plate

The Seder plate originated with the rabbis (not scripture). It it tradition.  The elements on the Passover plate are sampled by each person symbolizing as if each person had taken part in the flight from Egypt. This is tradition and not part of God’s command in celebrating Passover.

The Seder plate consists of greens (usually parsley), which symbolizes life. The parsley is dipped in salt water (a symbol of tears) and eaten as a reminder that life for the Israelites leaving Egypt was immersed in tears. A roasted egg is a reminder that the roasted daily temple sacrifice can no longer be offered because the temple no longer stands. Bitter herbs are also found on the Seder plate which is usually ground horseradish which is eaten with matza. Eating of this hot horseradish brings tears to the eyes symbolizing the tears of the Israelites when enslaved by the Egyptians. Also on the Seder plate is a mixture of chopped apples, chopped nuts, honey and cinnamon. This sweet paste symbolizes the mortar that the Israelites used to build bricks for the Egyptians.

Shank Bone of the Lamb

There also will be a bare shank bone of a lamb which symbolizes the blood of the lamb applied to the doorposts so that the angel of death would Passover that home. As we know, Jesus is that perfect Passover Lamb so that we too go from death to life as a redeemed child of God.

  • The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (ESV)

The Meal

The meal usually consists of matza ball soup; gefilte fish, more horseradish; roasted chicken, and green vegetables.

Searching for the Afikomen

After the meal, the children search for the Afikomen. This is the matza that was broken in half and wrapped in the napkin and hidden mentioned above. The child to find the Afikomen receives a prize (usually money). The leader of the Seder breaks it up into small pieces and gives a piece to everyone. Interestingly, in Luke 22:19 Jesus broke the matza and gave it to the disciples at the Passover meal and said:

  • And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
    Luke 22:19 (ESV)

Jesus would have used the middle one of the three pieces of matza which stands for the priest (which we know was the mediator between God and the Israelites). There is a lot of symbolism in this broken matza.  Jesus’ body was to be broken, then wrapped in linen for burial, buried, brought back in His resurrection, give to all who believe. The matza is striped and pierced symbolizing His body that would be striped and pierced. It is by those wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). This middle piece of matza is the bread that we use in partaking of the communion.

  • But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
    Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Third Cup of Wine

The third cup of wine is after the meal. This is the cup of redemption, a reminder symbolizing the shed blood of the innocent Lamb which brought the redemption from Egypt. Jesus took the third cup (Luke 22:20):

  • And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:20 (ESV)

This was not just any cup; it was the cup of redemption from slavery into freedom. This is the cup that we take during communion.

Fourth Cup

The fourth cup is the Cup of Hallel (the Hebrew work meaning "praise").

Elijah’s Cup

In a Passover setting, a place setting remains empty for Elijah the prophet, who is the honored guest at every Passover table. This is because the Jewish people expect Elijah to come at Passover announcing the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). Therefore, at the end of the meal, one of the children is sent to the door to see if Elijah is there. Returning, the wine is then poured without being touched symbolizing to the Jews that He has not yet come.

  • “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. Malachi 4:5 (ESV)

The Messiah has come and sadly the Jews do not realize that He has come. The fourth cup no longer needs to remain untouched.

This is a typical  Passover Seder in a nutshell and all Passovers are done in this order.

Photo Credit

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  1. Margaret


    Very nicely put in a nutshell!…. Quite some time ago, I read the whole explanation of the Seder on a Jewish web site….. It was as you have said….. Keeping this in mind helps a person to realize that God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ is filled with meaningful details that could only come true with the power of the LORD….. It all assures us that God’s word certainly is true and there is salvation in no other….. Thank you for sharing this.


    1. Tishrei

      Thanks Margaret. There is so much of Christ that we can see in the Old Testament. The first Messianic Seder I went to, it was really amazing how much of Christ we can see. Personally, I get so much more out of these Old Testament celebrations than I do out of the ones that we do that are not found in the Bible. When God comes up with a celebration, it sure beats anything that we’ve been able to come up with.

  2. Loren

    For those of us who are Western, Gentile Christians, we have the tendency to overlook the roots of our Faith that are grounded in Judaism. Many Christians virtually ignore most of the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch/Torah.

    But as you pointed out, there is so much in the Jewish observances that God handed down to Israel and which point to Christ, that we can really see great and wonderful portraits of our Savior in them. Being part of a Hebraic Messianic congregation puts you in a unique position to share with those of us who do not get the opportunity to witness and participate in a Passover celebration. Thanks for describing all of this to us.

    1. Tishrei

      Hi Loren,

      I confess, I did not really “READ” the Old Testament as closely as I have before attending a Messianic congregation. I did read it cover to cover but not with such attention until I attended a Messianic congregation. And I confess I pulled out my notes and passover seder book to do this post.

      On another note, my favorite food in the Seder is LOTS of HOT horseradish on the matza. I think I’m making myself hungry.

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