‘The Messiah in Passover’ at Mountain Heights Baptist Church

Passover in Pagosa is an opportunity to experience the connection between Jewish Passover and Christian Communion.

During this time of the year both Jews and Christians participate in symbolic meals that serve as a reminder of the roots of their respective faith and beliefs. For those of the Jewish faith it is the Passover seder, symbolically a reminder of their escape from slavery in Egypt. For Christians it is Communion, also referred to as The Lord’s Supper, which was celebrated the first time when Jesus spent the evening with His disciples in the upper room the night before He was crucified.

Next week, the community will have an opportunity to participate in a unique presentation involving a full meal and a Passover seder illustrating the striking and sometimes surprising connection to the Last Supper that Jesus served to his disciples on the night before his death. Cathy Wilson, of Chosen People Ministries, will use drama, music and the seder elements to explain the symbolism for both Jews and Christians. The presentation is called “The Messiah in Passover,” and will be offered at Mountain Heights Baptist Church, Thursday, March 26, at 5:45 p.m. It will be a very informative evening for those from both faiths, as well as those who are curious about the ceremonial meals some of their friends participate in.

It is intriguing to consider that fact that The Last Supper ( a very Christian event) was in fact a Passover seder meal (a very Jewish event) that Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the night before His death. When Christians consider that particular Passover, they see how Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was about to happen — He would fulfill His role as the Redeemer — the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

For those who regularly observe Passover today, a question worth pondering is: Was the Passover table at the Last Supper similar to the typical Passover table today? For many who take a careful look at the various elements of the modern-day Passover–seder, the similarities are striking. Today there is a ritual washing of hands at the Passover. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the hand washing ritual a step further to teach his disciples an important lesson. In the New Testament book of John chapter 13, we are told that Jesus took on the role of the lowest house servant, wrapped a towel around Himself and washed the feet of everyone at the seder. This was a profound illustration of sacrificial love. Then He told his followers that He was giving them a new commandment to follow. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that your are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In today’s seder, the participants drink four times from a cup containing the fruit of the vine, to commemorate the four “I wills “ from Exodus chapter 6. The fist cup is the cup of sanctification: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The second cup is referred to as the cup of judgment: “I will rescue you from their bondage.” The third cup is the cup of redemption: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” The fourth cup is the cup of praise: “I will take you as My people.”

For Christians it is especially significant that it was the third cup of the seder that Jesus lifted up as He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) It was His blood that He would willingly shed the next day, that would become the immeasurable price paid to redeem those who trust in Him from their slavery to sin, just as it was the blood of lamb that redeemed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

During a Passover seder today, the unleavened bread is dipped two times, once in a bitter mixture and once in a sweet mixture. While revealing that there was a traitor among the twelve disciples, Jesus used the maror (bitter herbs) to illustrate the bitterness of being betrayed by a friend. When asked about the identity of the betrayer, Jesus replied in John 13:23-27, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it. And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot.” The Scripture records that after Judas took the bread Satan entered him. And Jesus told him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Another visual illustration in the present-day Passover is a cloth container on the table called “matzah tash,” which has three separate compartments, each containing a piece of matzah (unleavened bread). Prior to the meal, the matzah tash is taken out and the middle piece of matzah is removed. It is then broken in half and one piece is wrapped up in a cloth napkin and hidden away. The piece that is hidden is called the “afikomen.”

After the meal, the children in the home search for the afikomen and the one who finds it receives a gift. It is then unwrapped for everyone to partake. For Christians, followers of Jesus, this is a breathtaking picture of what their Messiah would do for them. The matzah tash, three compartments in one container, is a picture of God who is three-in-one — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The second member of the three-in-one is broken, wrapped in cloth, buried and eventually “resurrected” for everyone to share. For the Christian that is an amazing picture of what Jesus has done for them.

Was the afikomen present at the Last Supper? Did Jesus use it to point to Himself? Biblical scholars are divided about when the afikomen became part of the Passover seder meal. Some believe the afikomen was not included until after the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. Others believer the afikomen preceded Jesus and was already a part of the Passover tradition. Still others believe the afikomen was introduced by Jesus Himself and became part of the Passover seder meal after his death, burial and resurrection. In the Apostle Paul’s account of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, he records that it was with the serving of the bread after supper that Jesus took a piece and said, “This is my body.” Similarly, it is after the meal that the afikomen is brought out, distributed to everyone and eaten.

The middle matzah, is treated very similar to how Jesus was treated — it is removed and broken. Christians believe that Jesus left heaven, became a man, and was broken (died) for the sins of mankind. After His death Jesus was hidden away (buried), but He rose from the grave, and those who find Him and accept His as their personal Messiah receive the gift of life, here and now as well as for eternity.

It is also significant that the meaning of afikomen is derived from the Greek root aphikomenos, meaning “He has come.” For many the impact of that understanding is profound and they believe the afikomen of the seder illustrates and speaks of the Messiah who came, was cut off, was buried and was brought back. This also fits the biblical portrait of the work of the Messiah, which is described in detail in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 53.

During “The Messiah in Passover,” Cathy Wilson will present, illustrate and explain the elements, sequence and the procedures of the seder meal that link the Christian faith with its Jewish roots. The seder plate includes a roasted egg, a bone, horseradish, a cup of salt water, charoset (an apple-walnut-cinnamon blend) and parsley. Each one communicates rich meaning for both the Jew and the Christian. Cathy’s energetic and humorous style will make this a valuable evening for all who attend.

The cost for the meal is $5 per person, with a $20 maximum for a family of four or more. Anyone who would like to attend should call Mountain Heights at 731-4384 to make a table reservation.