One of my favorite clients is a lawyer of Jewish heritage. Last year about this time I was helping him with his accounts and the subject of Passover came up. (Incidentally, it is interesting how my faith comes into conversations at the LUBI. In general, I have to keep pretty quiet about it so as not to seem like I am proselytizing the clients, but opportunities still arise, and sometimes clients ask me outright about my faith.) My client was surprised that I was celebrating Passover even though I am not Jewish. I explained to him that the Jewish heritage is my heritage, as I am part of Christ's family, and He was Jewish. Since He celebrated Passover with his disciples, I figure celebrating with my fellow Christians is simply part of being in God's family.
Many churches over the years have incorporated a Passover meal into their Maundy Thursday celebration. But Passover is about more than just reenacting Jesus' last few days on earth. In following the Haggadah, the telling, we are recalling the prophetic nature of the original Passover, and celebrating how Jesus' life and death so completely fulfill those prophecies. We repeat the same prayers and read the same Scriptures that Hebrews have prayed for centuries, but with the knowledge that Christ has come to fulfill the hope inherent in the Seder. For a Christian, Passover is a worship service, an opportunity to praise God for his deliverance, both for the Israelites and for us as well.
Symbolism is dominant in Passover, both in the words of the Haggadah as well as the elements of the Seder plate. The greatest symbol is perhaps the matzah itself, the dominant element in the service. This unleavened bread (and leaven represents sin) is striped, pierced, and during the service, broken, hidden, found, and eaten. It is this found matzah (called the afikomen) that Christ uses for communion (the wine of communion is also an integral part of the Seder). He tells His disciples that He is this bread, the bread of life, and as we look back at the history of Good Friday and Easter, we see that the whole of Christ's redemptive work is symbolized by this broken piece of flatbread. And as my friend Jeff reminds us, the Hebrew word for bread is also the Hebrew word for life.
It was a privilege to again celebrate Passover with my community group, and I'm grateful to Jeff for teaching on the meaning of Passover during the weeks leading up to our Seder. We are hopeful that next year we will be able to lead the entire church in celebrating the Seder on Maundy Thursday, perhaps with a depth class for the preceding weeks to help celebrants realize the depth of meaning in the elements of the Haggadah. Passover is an amazing experience for a follower of Christ, a chance to see the Eucharist not merely as a Christian sacrament, but in the perspective of God's redemptive plan through the Hebrew people. Studying and celebrating Passover has better informed my faith in Christ, and reminded me that God was seeking my redemption and the redemption of all people long before He sent His Son to this earth.
As I reflect on Christ's redemptive work on Good Friday and Easter, I am grateful for the chance to add the truths of Passover to those reflections.