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Passover: The Bread & the Cup

Why should Christians take great care in examining the traditions of the Jewish festivals?

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Posted on: 
16 Apr 2019
Passover: The Bread & the Cup

In Leviticus 23:4, it reads, “These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them” (NASB). The Hebrew word here for “convocations” (or “assembly”) is Miqra. The word, Miqra, means rehearsal or recital. Wayne Blank explains it as “to ‘re-hear’ what has been taught, but the modern-day accepted meaning of rehearsal, a practice session for a later event.” The Miqra referenced in Leviticus 23 when referring to the Mow-’ed or feasts in their appointed seasons, are understood as both a looking back to an event as well as a rehearsal, or looking forward, to what the Lord will do during these appointed times. Thus, we as followers of Jesus (Yeshua) bear a responsibility to declare the truth of God’s Word during the Lord’s festivals at their appointed times.

In regards to Passover, Jesus declares in Luke 22:14-16, “with fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (NKJV). Jesus was about to reveal himself through the elements of this festival they had been partaking in for centuries. We understand the Passover as a looking back on the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and God’s provision for them. When Jesus arrives and partakes of the Passover with his disciples, he fulfills the Law established by God with the Israelites when they left Egypt which is represented in the ceremonial traditions of the Passover Seder, the traditional Passover meal. 

Naturally, most Christians focus strictly upon the bread and the wine during Jesus’ Last Supper and acknowledge it in the ceremony of Communion. This is the most important element of the Last Supper as it is a representation of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. However, when we consider the declaration Jesus makes and the point at which he makes it in the Seder, the significance of this sacrifice takes on an even deeper meaning. Jesus does not take just any bread after the meal but rather he takes the Afikomen. Within a Passover Seder, in the element of the Afikomen, there are three pieces of Matzah (plural: Matzot). There are a variety of different interpretations as to why there are three pieces. Some believe them to represent the Levites, priests, and the people of Israel. Others believe them to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While still others believe them to represent the Triune character of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The latter fits the following interpretation and understanding of the Seder in terms of what it means for Jesus when he takes the bread and breaks it. 

At this point in the meal, the Seder leader takes the piece of Matzah from the centerfold of the Matzah Tosh, a white bag containing three pieces of Matzah. This piece of Matzah is then broken in half and the larger piece is wrapped in a white cloth and hidden away until the end of the meal as the Afikomen. When it is finally pulled out at the end of the meal, oftentimes considered the dessert of the meal, it is broken and shared among the Seder’s participants. Thus, according to the narrative in each of the four gospels, at the end of the meal, Jesus took the bread, the bread of affliction, wrapped in cloth and stowed it away until the time had come for the bread to be distributed among everyone. It was at this appointed time that Jesus takes the bread and breaks it saying, “This is MY body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Just as Jesus’ body was broken, wrapped, and stowed away in a tomb for three days, so too was the Afikomen, the “bread of affliction”, he chose to illustrate as his body being sacrificed for the sin of the world. 

In the same way, when Jesus took the cup, he took it after the meal (Luke 22:20). In a traditional Passover Seder, there are four specific cups. These cups represent the four acts of God that he declares concerning the deliverance of his people from Egypt. In Exodus 6:6-7, it is written, “I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…” (NIV). Thus, we have the four cups, the cup of deliverance, the cup of freedom, the cup of redemption and the cup of restoration. Just as Jesus took the bread after the meal, so too he took the wine. This specific cup was the cup of redemption. When Jesus took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, ...” (NIV), he was referring to the Lord’s declaration of redemption in Exodus of redeeming the people with an outstretched arm and with the Blood of the Lamb. His death shortly after the Last Supper provides eternal redemption for the people of the world through His blood. Furthermore, He follows this statement with, “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God” (NIV). Here, he refers to the fourth cup which is the cup of restoration. In Matthew, he says he will not drink of it again until he drinks it again with us in the kingdom of Heaven, referring to when we are reunited and restored with him in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29). 

In light of these traditions and the representation of the Passover elements, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and the redemption we receive through the breaking of his body and the pouring out of His blood takes on even greater significance. We see Jesus fulfilling this festival when we look back to the promise of redemption in Exodus 6 and recognize how Jesus pointed to the redemption of his blood as well as his body broken, wrapped in linen, and hidden away until the appointed time or the Mow-’ed

Let us, therefore, remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and his perfect fulfillment of the Torah as a first century Jewish man doing the work of His Father in eating the bread of affliction and drinking the cup of redemption. Thank you, Jesus, for pointing back to the narrative of the forefathers of our faith, sacrificing yourself for our redemption, and looking forward to being reunited with us in eternity. Let us never neglect your Miqra and your perfect fulfillment of the Torah.


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