Last week, we looked at the first part of the Passover Seder all the way to the family meal. As I mentioned, God being a God of order (Deuteronomy 7:9; Proverbs 7:9), we can fully appreciate that aspect of Him as we navigate through the different steps of the Passover Seder – much of which has remained untouched throughout the ages and around the world. Now, we continue with the celebration, all the way to the final “La Shana Haba B’Yerusalaim! “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The many steps of the Passover Seder take us through the story of redemption from slavery in Egypt, provision and protection through the wilderness wanderings and blessings in the abundant Promised Land. It also shows believers that Passover transcends ages, generations and people. For us, modern-day disciples of Yeshua, Passover takes on a much deeper meaning of redemption from slavery to sin and real freedom in Messiah.
Something took place during the second part of the Passover that, to this day, would remain a tradition for believers around the world. In the last liturgical part of the Passover, everything we were exposed to up to now falls into place and forms a beautiful message of hope. So, let us look at the last part of the Seder and particularly what happened in the Upper Room 2,000 years ago between Yeshua and His disciples after they had enjoyed the Shulchan Orech, or “set table”.
Tzaphun (Eating of the Afikomen): According to Jewish tradition, this is the first thing that takes place immediately after the dinner is finished. The children are sent around the room to hunt for the afikomen. One child will find it and proudly bring it back to the leader who unwraps it, breaks it into small pieces and gives one to each of the guests. To fully understand the rich meaning of this part of the Seder, we must go back to the beginning.
A bag called the maztotash (matzah bag) or commonly known as the unity bag, was filled with several full squares of matzah, three to be exact. Every matzotash in use comprises three distinct compartments within on large bag or pouch. Each of the compartments is filled with a sheet of matzah from which we will partake at various times throughout the Seder.
It is always from the middle compartment that we pull one full sheet and break it in half during the part known as the yachutz. One half is placed back into the matzotash, and the other half is wrapped into a white linen napkin of some sort and hidden in the room while the children cover their eyes.
The half that is wrapped becomes known as the afikomen. The meaning of the word varies depending on who you ask. Many people believe that it means “the last piece” or “dessert”, as it is the last piece of edible food that is taken by all. Yet, others including myself, believe that the root of the word means “I have come” (Psalm 40:6-8), a meaning that is in line with the ministry of the Messiah, especially within the context of His redemptive career.
When asked about the meaning of the three separate compartments inside the unity bag, Jewish people have various answers. Many don’t even have an explanation for this strange tri-compartment bag.
Some say that the three compartments represent the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. While this sounds beautiful, nobody can dogmatically affirm it, and why would we break Isaac into two halves? Others see the three compartments representing the three kinds of Jewish people of ancient times: the High Priest, the Levites and the Israelites. This also sounds great but why would we break the Levites in two? Nobody really knows!
There is one explanation that fits the picture better than all the others, and that is the one that sees the three parts of the unity bag as the three persons of the triune Godhead: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While I also cannot be dogmatic about that version, I am convinced that it is the best-fitting one for the matzotash. The bread is unleavened, and we know from the Bible, leaven is a symbol of sin. The bread is also pierced and striped (Isaiah 53:5).
It is always the middle matzah that is broken in half, representing the broken, sacrificed body of the Son, Yeshua who died for the sins of the world. Then, according to Jewish tradition, we wrap the afikomen in a white linen napkin. This continues to fit what happened to Yeshua as he was wrapped inside linen burial cloth by Joseph of Arimathea upon being taken off the cross (Matthew 27:59).
Amazingly, Jewish customs ask us to bury the afikomen in the room and forget about it for the time being. When we hide the afikomen it corresponds to the burial of Yeshua in the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Now, we are on the other side of dinner, and as we eventually recover the “hidden matzah”, it is a symbol of the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah after three days.
None of the steps followed in the traditional Jewish Passover Seder were invented by Christians. They were established by Jewish people over the centuries and continue to be celebrated in the same order at the same time during the Seder. Simply put, the Jewish tradition of the afikomen is best explained by the Triunity of God which can also be found in the Tanach if one seeks it with an open mind and a desiring heart (Isaiah 48:12-16; 63:7-14).
It is at that very moment in the Upper Room that Yeshua decided to institute something new for His disciples. Something that continues to this day, known as the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. He told the disciples that the broken matzah represented His body when we read in Luke 22:19, “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.”
Yet, this was only half of the story, as He immediately took the cup to finish His powerful new explanation.
Ha-Geulah (The Third Cup: The Cup of Redemption): As I previously mentioned, Passover includes four cups based on the passage in Exodus 6:6-7. They always have the same name; they always appear in the same order and same placement in the Seder. The first two, the Cup of Blessing and the Cup of Plagues are always consumed prior to the dinner, and the next two, after dinner. In Luke 22:20, we read, “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.” This is a clear indication that Yeshua would have taken the first cup after dinner or the third one, also known as the Cup of Redemption. The celebration of redemption out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land of Israel is still very meaningful to us Jews around the world, but to me, as a Jewish follower of Yeshua the Messiah, it has a greater significance. It means that now I can also celebrate my redemption from the bondage of sin because of His atonement on my behalf, which included His resurrection and ascension until He returns one day in the future to establish the messianic kingdom.
Eliyahu HaNavi (The Prophet Elijah’s Place): From the start of the Seder, a place setting is kept at the family table for Elijah. At the end of the evening, we send a child to open the front door and see if Elijah is on his way. The child returns and confirms that Elijah is not coming. The reason why we invite Elijah has to do with his role in ushering in the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). The majority of Jewish people are still waiting for Messiah to come. If Elijah would show up, it would mean that Messiah is not far behind him. So, it is on a sad note that the Seder almost comes to an end since Elijah hasn’t come yet. As a modern-day disciple of Yeshua, I have more hope because I believe that someone did come in the spirit and power of Elijah and ushered in Messiah Yeshua 2,000 years ago (Luke 1:16-17). The cup of Elijah was fulfilled by Yochanan the Immerser who immersed and introduced Yeshua at the onset of His public ministry.
The Hallel (The Fourth Cup: The Cup of Praise). This is the final cup that everybody drinks, and it is known as the cup of praise. Incidentally, Yeshua might not have partaken of this last cup during the Last Supper as He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18).
La Shana Haba B’Yerushalaim (Next Year in Jerusalem). Finally, when all has been said, shared and consumed, the family joins in unison for the final joyous greeting La Shana Haba B’Yerushalaim. It is the tradition to wish one another that next year we will celebrate Pesach or Passover in Jerusalem. This had even a greater meaning before the birth of Israel as a modern nation in 1948.
Many people have been to Jerusalem or will visit in their lifetime, and many others never will, but one thing is guaranteed from the Word of God – those who have placed their trust in the death and resurrection of the Yeshua the Lamb of God, will one day be with Him in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).
There is nothing better than celebrating Passover and recognizing that it speaks of the redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt, but also of Yeshua’s followers’ redemption from under the bondage of sin. I have applied the blood of the Lamb of God to the doorpost of my heart and as a result, I fear not the upcoming judgment because I am certain that God will pass over me.
Passover is a beautiful Jewish tradition that also has a powerful prophetic fulfillment. Please make sure God will pass over you so we can celebrate in His kingdom together.