EATING the Seder

With Easter quickly approaching, anticipation at our house is building for our traditional egg fights and kielbasa-horseradish-egg-mayo “slurries”.  It just wouldn’t be Easter without competitive egg fights that always mysteriously have a raw egg or two thrown in for good measure.  Nor would Easter be complete without seeing at least one or two be brought to tears for ingesting a tad too much horseradish!

If your family background isn’t Polish like mine, you might not be familiar with such interesting Easter traditions (and let me tell you, you’re missing out!).  My Polish roots stem from my Granny, Helena Jakubowski, and are a vitally important and special piece of my identity.  They connect me to generations who have gone before – family I have known, and not known – family who make me who I am today.

Tonight on this Thursday of Holy Week, my family and I celebrated the Passover Seder.  We aren’t Jewish, but our Savior is.  We didn’t personally experience the Exodus from Egypt, but our spiritual ancestors did.  We haven’t grown up traditionally celebrating Passover, but we can learn.

Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples – in fact, it was his final meal before his death.  That strikes me as fairly significant.  When he instructs at the close of the Passover meal, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me,” (1 Corinthians 11:24) I want to learn more about the deeper meaning of “this”.  When I read the words of John the Baptist heralding Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) I can’t help but think of the blood of the Passover lambs applied to the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes, sparing their firstborn sons from death.

Jesus’ familiar words, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” echo in my heart.  What is it about this meal, this Passover meal, that he so eagerly longs to share?

Two years ago I found out for the first time myself.  And if you’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in a Passover Seder, you too know the beauty, richness and fulfillment it represents.  A wise person once said, “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”  If that’s the case, the Passover Seder is full of coincidences that, viewed through the eyes of one who knows Jesus the Messiah, become fully known and understood.

Matzah, the unleavened bread, plays an important role throughout the meal.  If you’ve seen a piece of matzah before, you know it is striped and pierced, much like the prophecy in Isaiah 53:5 (ESV), “But he was wounded (pierced) for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

The matzah is placed in a matzah tash which is also called a “unity”.  This “unity” has pouches – three in fact.  There is disagreement and speculation about the reasoning behind a three-pouch unity, but the mystery of the Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit certainly comes to mind.  Three in one.  One yet three.  Three yet one.

At the beginning of the meal, the matzah from the middle pouch is removed from the “unity” and broken.  One piece is returned to the matzah tash, but the other half, referred to as the afikomen, is wrapped in linen and hidden for a time….”Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.” (Matthew 27:59-60)

At the end of the meal, the hidden afikomen is brought back to the table.  The afikomen – which means “that which makes things complete” – the broken, wrapped in linen, hidden away for a short time, taken from the middle pouch of the “unity” matzah tash – is the specific piece of matzah that Jesus broke and gave to his disciples saying, “Take and eat.”  The matzah “that makes things complete” represents the One who cried out, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Perhaps these similarities, which are but a small sampling of correspondences and fulfillment in meaning, strike you as simple coincidences.  But perhaps you, like me, see a beautiful resonance and full-circle of truth.  As I have studied and experienced the Passover Seder over the past two years, my faith has grown and expanded.

You know how it is when you have a funny expression, hand gesture, smirk, or unique oddity, and suddenly discover that your Great Aunt Beulah did the same exact thing?  Finding that out gives you a sense of place and connection.  Celebrating Easter with egg fights keeps alive my Polish heritage.

And eating the Passover Seder, seeing Jesus as the ultimate Passover Lamb, whose blood on the doorposts of my heart keeps me alive, connects me to a broader family of faith.  My God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and by discovering and re-enacting special events of my spiritual family like the Passover, I am given a renewed and expanded sense of place and connection.