By Bruce Rubin
I think about Passover all year round. But at Easter time I dwell on the subject quite a lot. God’s power and love for His people is especially displayed in the Passover story and all of its related events and it continues to impress and inspire me. Jehovah God’s plan of redemption is truly the most amazing thing that this mere human mind can only try to comprehend. The Exodus from bondage, Salvation at the Red Sea, delivery of the Law and the gift of the Promised Land--each is a miraculous story of its own. But when you put the entire package together, from Old Testament to New Testament, you must know that the King of the Universe planed the work and worked the plan with intimate detail, having an incredible end in mind for the good of His people and all to the glory of Almighty God.
Following Joseph’s success in Egypt, God’s chosen people were happy and healthy as they lived there. Why would they ever want to leave that place and go out into the dessert? After all, there were no shopping malls, golf courses, or bagels out there. But God had another plan for them so He had to make some changes to get them to leave. In a very short time the Jewish people went from freedom to slavery and following the 400-year captivity, they were ready for a change. God could now lead them out.
As a young Jewish man, before I understood the ways of our Lord, I could not fathom why God had to allow the enslavement of the very people He loved. Why, if God existed and truly loved His People Israel, did the long, bitter suffering even need to occur?
The stage was set for the departure, but Pharaoh would not let the people go. God brought judgment upon the land of Egypt in the form of ten plagues: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, disease of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the tenth plague - death for all first born males, both man and beast. However, death did not come to the first born if the blood of a lamb was applied to the door of a home. God was very specific about what kind of lamb was to be used. It was to be a perfect male in the prime of its life, without spot or blemish and no bone was to be broken.
I later realized that Egyptian first born males were also saved if blood was placed on their door post. I realized for the first time - it was not their Jewish heritage that saved them that night; it was the blood that saved!
The Exodus resulted and, as amazing as it was in and of itself, God’s plan had only just begun. Salvation at the Red Sea was next. I believe that the Red Sea Salvation in the Old Testament is analogous to the Resurrection in the New Testament. God showed up in a BIG way when He parted the waters, rescued His people and brought judgment to the Enemy. In the same way, when Jesus overcame death and the grave by virtue of the Resurrection, God’s people were again rescued, this time from our spiritual enemy.
From the Jewish perspective, I always thought that God did this simply because He was God and Israel was His beloved people,” the apple of His eye”. I was again surprised to learn that salvation was not given to the people so that they could go on with their lives as they desired – for God had a special purpose for their lives; they were soon to become the recipients’ of God’s Law. I now realized that God could have chosen anyone to carry out His glorious plan, to be an example for all people, for the ages, that Israel was no more special than other people. But Israel would be used of God to show what would happen if they followed God’s commandments or if they did not; when the people followed God, He blessed them, when they did not follow; they were overcome by the enemy. In much the same way, when we walk with God, he blesses our lives, but when we go our own way, He allows the consequences of that rebellion to happen, and our enemy Satan is only too happy to take advantage.
Following all of these miracles, you would think that the People Israel would honor and follow the ways of Jehovah God. But not so—my Jewish ancestors did not embrace the Law. They rebelled against God. What was to be a brief, two year journey of learning the Law, purging themselves of the ways of the enemy, and preparing for entrance to their promised land became a forty-year trek. All of the non-believing, rebellious people were removed and only those who faithful remained. God was now ready to deliver His people Israel into the promised land where more acts of wonder awaited them.
These incredible events excite me whenever I dwell upon them because they are historically real. Further, from a spiritual perspective, the powerful symbolism that is utilized by God provides an understanding of His divine purpose and direction. In my opinion, the symbolism contained in the events of the Bible cannot be matched anywhere in literature. The catalyst for many of these events was the Passover and one could conclude that the entire process could not have occurred without the Passover. This gives reason for us to take a close look at the symbols, which are contained in the celebration of the Passover Seder today, but actually given to Moses by God and outlined in Exodus 12.
Preparation for Passover begins with removal of leaven (bread made with yeast) from the Jewish home. Leaven is representative of sin and removal of leaven from the home is representative of removal of sin from the Jewish person’s life. Just as we cleanse our homes of leaven so we can enjoy Passover, so must we cleanse our lives of sin so that we can enjoy the blessings of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) our Passover Lamb. The Seder begins with the lighting of a candle, which is followed by a prayer over four cups of wine and the introduction of Unleavened Bread.
Before I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, I did not fully understand the meaning of these symbols. I could see that the candle brought light into the world, but I did not see that Jesus was the Light of World and that it was He that was represented in this candle lighting ceremonial part of the Seder. Before Jesus I could only see that the first cup of Seder wine represented joy, the second cup represented the ten plagues, the third cup represented the redemption from Egypt and the forth cup the future coming of Eliyahu (Elijah). But I could not see the Seder Wine as a symbol of the blood of Christ, the real redemption. And before Jesus, I saw unleavened bread or matza only as the bread that did not have time rise as Israel departed Egypt in haste, rather than as a symbol of Christ’s body, that was pierced and striped for our transgressions.
The Seder continues with a prayer over three pieces of unleavened bread, the breaking of the middle piece and the hiding of the “Afikomen”, which is wrapped up and hidden, just as Messiah Yeshua was wrapped up in grave-clothes and hidden in the tomb. The “Afikomen”, which in Greek means “Sweet One,” is later found and brought back to the celebration. Next come the MA NISHTANAH (Ma-Nish-Ta-Nah), or four questions. One of the children asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
Other Seder symbols such as bitter herbs (“Karpas” or Parsley) which is dipped into salt water. horseradish, a lamb’s shank, an egg and “ Charoset” symbolize the difficult times in Egypt, tears, mortar for bricks, the sacrifice of a perfect male lamb and burnt offerings and sacrifices that were roasted in the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. For the non-believer, these symbols are important, for the believer these symbols mean so much more, as we see Christ’s presence in the Passover begin to emerge.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the sacrifices and symbols that were given to Moses in Exodus 12. His body and blood are the living embodiment of the symbolic bread and wine spoken about in Exodus 12 and later fulfilled by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although Christ has always been present in the Passover, before I became a believer I did not see Him. I could sense that something was missing, but I could not identify the missing piece. I thank God that He has revealed Himself to me by becoming flesh; the Man, Jesus Christ. He is present in all things but the “veil” remains for those who do not know Him.
Epilogue – as a young Jewish boy I desired a relationship with God. I attended Hebrew School and I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah with my family, but I did not feel God’s presence in my life. I could not get my arms around God and I did not know Him. As a “completed” Jew, I now know our Lord and have a personal relationship with Him, all because Jehovah God revealed Himself to me as a man, Jesus Christ, God with skin on, someone that I could finally relate to. Because of this, I believe that God came not only to die for our sins but also as man so that a young Jewish boy (and the rest of the world) could get his arms around Him.
Jews all over the world celebrate Passover every year but they continue to miss Christ in the Passover as I did. I hope that a more in depth understanding of the Passover deepens your love for this incredible, historical and spiritual event. I pray that it will also help you to better explain God’s plan to your unsaved friends and the complete story of what happened on the night that God’s angel of death passed over those who chose to believe.