The Fourth Question
The Story of Passover - Exodus 12:25-27
Exodus 12:25-27 says, “When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ And the people bowed low and worshiped.” During Passover, the children ask four questions which will be answered. The fourth question is: “On all other nights we eat our meals sitting or reclining. On this night why do we eat only reclining?” To answer to this question, the leader reminds everyone that at the first Passover, it was done by a people enslaved. The children of Israel were instructed to eat the Passover in haste, their loins girded, their staffs in their hands, their sandals on their feet, awaiting departure from the bondage of Egypt. But today, we all may recline and freely enjoy the Passover seder as we remember the goodness and greatness of God.
The leader then tells the story of the first Passover. The story of Passover is a story of miracles, a story of redemption, a story of the mighty power of God to overcome evil. The Lord had promised the land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yet here were their children in Egypt. The Pharaoh who had come to power feared them. Pharaoh decided to exert greater control over this people, imposing harsh and bitter slavery upon the Israelites. Still, God blessed His people in strength and number. God brought a man who was born to an Israelite couple, hidden for three months, placed in a basket on the Nile, and raised in the house of Pharaoh. But then he killed an Egyptian and fled from Egypt becoming a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Lord, however, saw the affliction of the children of Israel and heard their groaning. He would raise up this man name Moses to lead them out of bondage. Moses, fearful and reluctant, went to Pharaoh and brought to him a message from the Lord God Almighty, “Let My people go.”
The story of the children of Israel is the story of believers. It too is a story of miracles, a story of redemption, a story of the mighty power of God to overcome evil. We were in bondage and enslaved to sin. But God brought to us a man, the Son of God, who was born to a virgin, hidden from Herod and had to escape to Egypt. He was raised in a home in Nazareth and lived a sinless life. He began His ministry with His baptism by John the Baptist and began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to deliver us who were in bondage to sin. He came to set us free, and make the blind to see.
Today I can relax and remember all that God did for me through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I remember my life of sin before Christ and how God has come that I may have life and have it more abundantly. Eternal life – a gift from God.
Thank You Father, for giving me life. For setting me free from my bondage to sin and self. Just as you sent Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt, thank You for sending Jesus Christ that I may not perish, but have everlasting life.
The Plagues and the Cup of Joy - Exodus 3:19-20
Exodus 3:19-20 says, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.” Within the Jewish Passover story, time is taken to share the story of how God delivered the Israelites out of bondage. After Moses tells Pharaoh to let God’s people go, Pharaoh says, “no.” So God is going to set a series of events in motions that will compel Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
These series of events called plagues, were sent one by one. Yet with each plague, Pharaoh hardened his heart. God told Moses, “When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” (Exodus 7:4-5). The plagues included the water being turned into blood killing the fish; frogs all over the land and in the houses (to which Pharaoh delayed the removal by one day); gnats or lice from the dust of the ground; flies swarming over everything; disease effecting all cattle; boils breaking out as sores on man and animals; hail all over the land effecting the crops (except in Goshen where the Jews were); locusts covering the land; darkness to the point it could be felt; and finally the last plague of Passover.
It is at this time a second cup is filled. This cup is a symbol of joy and the Passover celebrates God’s mighty deliverance bring joy to the people. But it is also a time to remember the great cost at which redemption was purchased. Lives were sacrificed to bring about the release of God’s people from the slavery of Egypt. Though we celebrate the triumph of our sacred cause, our happiness is not complete so long as others have to be sacrificed for its sake. Therefore, the cup of joy is diminished as each plague is recalled to give expression to the sorrow over the losses each plague is exacted. As each plague is called out the finger is dipped into the cup and a drop of the wine is placed on the plate.
But a far greater price purchased our redemption from slavery to sin – the death of the Messiah! His death came with excruciating torture. Likewise many saints have been martyred for the cause of Christ. While we celebrate and have great joy in our relationship with Jesus Christ, it is diminished because many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been and are being imprisoned, tortured or killed. Many have paid dearly so that others can hear the good news of the Messiah and how they can find freedom. Their commitment, resiliency and faithfulness are greatly admired. While freedom in Christ is freely offered, the sharing of the Good News has and is sometimes at a great price.
Thank You Lord for the joy of our salvation. Thank You for showing Yourself in mighty ways through Your great power. We remember those who have been persecuted for Your name’s sake. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life with joy.
Wednesday, April 10 - The Passover Lamb - Exodus 12:3,5-7
Exodus 12:3,5-7 says “…On the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for themselves, according to their father’s households, a lamb for each household…Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” Rabbi Gamaliel, teacher of Rabbi Saul later known as Paul the apostle, taught that in recounting the Passover story one must be certain to mention three things: the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs and the Passover Lamb. The matzah reminds us of the haste with which the children of Israel fled Egypt. The bitter herbs reminds us of the bitter slavery they experienced there. The roasted shankbone present represents the lamb whose blood marked the houses of the children of Israel, signifying their obedience to God’s command.
God told Moses later in the same passage “…you shall eat it in haste-it is the LORD’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments – I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:11-13). God is executing judgment in all of Egypt. But God’s mercy extends to all who put the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts. Only those will be spared. It does not matter what the Egyptians believe or who they serve, God will demonstrate His almighty power and holiness. He passed over the houses with the blood, not executing judgment; but showing mercy. Since the temple in Jerusalem no longer stands, lamb is not eaten at Passover. The shankbone remains to remind the participants of the sacrificial lamb.
For the believer, we understand Jesus is the Passover lamb. The symbolism is remarkable. He was unblemished – never sinning. He was holy and perfect. It was His blood that was shed on the cross. It is Jesus’ blood that covers our sin. When we apply the blood of Jesus on our hearts, we receive God’s great mercy. We do not experience death. When God executes judgment, He sees Christ’s blood and passes over. God passes over our lives and gives us life because Jesus’ blood has been applied.
On the night of Passover, God passed through Egypt and struck down every firstborn. It was God who brought judgment on all the gods of Egypt. He is God. Likewise, as a believer, we know it was God Himself who achieved final redemption from sin and death. It is God Himself, through Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. It will be God Himself who will judge us on that final day and we will give an account to Him.
Dear Jesus, thank You for being my Passover Lamb. Thank You for Your blood that covers me that I may not receive judgment, but grace and mercy. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life because of the Passover Lamb.
The Afikomen - Luke 22:19
Luke 22:19 says, “And when He had taken some bread and 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.’” In the Passover seder, there is a roasted egg. The egg is a symbol of mourning, reminding us of the destruction of the second Temple. It is also considered by many to denote new birth and eternal life, since the shape of an egg shows no beginning and no end. The roasted egg can be eaten with the meal. It is at this time a song of praise to God is shared called a Dayenu. Dayenu means – it would have been sufficient. Everyone remembers how God was gracious to the children of Israel. After this time of praise the second cup – the cup of joy is now consumed. Following a prayer of blessing the meal is finally served.
After the meal, comes the Afikomen. The Afikomen takes us back to an earlier time in the Passover. Earlier there was a plate containing the three matzot (or three pieces of unleavened bread). The three matzot are wrapped together for Passover. The middle piece of matzot is broken. One half is called the afikomen. The word afikomen means dessert. It is wrapped in a cloth and has not been ‘stolen’ by one of the children. Now it has to be ransomed back by the head of the table. It is a fun game for the kids and can be quite profitable. In reality, the head of the table must get it so the kids can negotiate a pretty high price. The afikomen is then distributed and eaten as the dessert for the Passover meal.
Interestingly, in Jewish Passover, there is no symbolism for this game. But for the believer, the symbolism is quite amazing. The three matzot wrapped is symbolic of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The center piece – not the first or the last piece - of matzot is clearly symbolic of Jesus Christ. In the trinity, it is always stated: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Messiah was broken for our sins. After Jesus’ death, He was wrapped in cloth and placed in a tomb. Luke 23 tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. At the end of the chapter, it tells us a man named Joseph, a good and righteous man, “…went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain.” (Luke 23:52-53). Later at the resurrection it says “But Peter go up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his house, marveling at what happened.” (Luke 24:12). God paid sin’s ransom with the death of Jesus Christ. But as the afikomen has been bought back and is celebrated by eating it as dessert, we can celebrate because Jesus was brought back to life.
We can partake of the matzah meditating on the broken body of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We can let that taste linger in our mouths as we rejoice the Lamb who was slain rose from the dead and gives us hope of eternal life.
Thank You God, for the symbolism of the afikomen and how you were broken for us that we may have eternal life. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life!
The Cup of Redemption, The Cup of Praise
and The Prophet Elijah - Luke 22:20
Luke 22:20 says, “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Within the Passover Seder, four cups are consumed. The first is the cup of sanctification. The second cup is the cup of joy. Both of these are consumed before meal time. The third cup is consumed after the meal and Jesus takes the opportunity to share this cup is symbolic of His blood that will be shed. Interestingly, this cup is called the Cup of Redemption.
All four cups are taken from Exodus 6:6-7. The third time God said, “I will”, He says, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. The Cup of Redemption symbolizes the blood of the Passover lamb. It is taken in gratitude for the freedom which the Lord granted the Hebrew children and in thankfulness for the bounty of which was eaten. It is a time to recognize gratitude for what God did for them.
Isaiah 59:1 says, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” It is our own righteousness that falls short. Though the Lord searched, He could find no one to intercede, “…then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him.” (Isaiah 59:16). Jesus later declared the cup represented His blood which would redeem man. Just as the blood of the lamb brought salvation in Egypt, so Messiah’s atoning death can bring salvation to all who believe.
At a Passover Seder, there is one place prepared but no one sits at. The Jews do this to reserve a place for the prophet Elijah. Malachi 4:5 says, “Behold I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” Jewish tradition states that Elijah’s greatest mission shall come when the Messiah will appear on earth, to usher in the long-promised era of permanent peace and tranquility. So in the seder, the Jews pray for freedom. They pray his spirit will enter the home bringing a message of hope for the future, faith in the goodness of people and the assurance that freedom will come to all. At this time in the seder, a child will go to the door opens the door to welcome Elijah to the seder. For us as believers, we look forward to the coming of the Messiah again – Jesus Christ. He will come again and we welcome His spirit into our lives and to our worship.
Finally, the fourth cup is the Cup of Praise. Taken from Exodus 6:7, “Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The people give thanks for all that God has done. They recognize His goodness and power. Quoted here is Psalm 136:1-16 and verse 26 where the people respond, “His love endures forever.” God is worthy of all our praise. He is the Lord God, the alpha and omega, the first and last, who was and is and is to come. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Thank You Father for being our Redeemer. Thank You for loving us. We pray Your Spirit will strive with us. We give You praise. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in praise!