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David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, joins us at Watermark to discuss the symbols and significance for Christ followers in the Jewish Passover Seder. David will re-create the traditional Passover service and explain how it foreshadowed Jesus' death and resurrection, as well as the connection between the events of the first Passover in Egypt and the redemption that Jesus accomplished.
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Jeff Ward: My name is Jeff Ward, and I get to serve here on staff at Watermark. We are so excited you guys are here to join us. Pray with me, and then we'll dive in.
Lord God, we just thank you for sending your Son. We are amazed at this Jesus, the Christ, Yeshua, this God who would come and be born, wash feet, humble himself even to the cross. Father, we don't even begin to understand your love for us, the way you pursued us. Father, we just thank you for this evening, when we get to deepen our faith and understand the words that were said this night to the disciples. Open our eyes and clear our heads and remove the distractions and help us to focus on you for the next few minutes. We love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.
We are really excited. You guys are in for a treat tonight. You guys have heard Todd mention on a number of occasions that we've been able to develop some relationships with Jewish friends here in our community. For me, it has been really, really fun to build those relationships and have conversations and understand some of the context of the Old Testament and even some of what you're going to hear about tonight.
We got a call a few months ago that David Brickner, who leads Jews for Jesus out in California, was going to be available, so we jumped on that opportunity and invited him to come and be with us tonight. Again, just getting to know David already, it's going to be a real treat. You guys are going to have a lot of fun. Also don't forget there is a fabulous Good Friday service tomorrow around the noon hour, so we'd love for you to join us for that as well as we lead into Easter, and of course we want you back then.
Briefly, David was a practicing Jew, and he'll explain more of his story in a little bit. He came to Christ. His parents live in Israel. He has been in ministry with this organization for 30 years. He's an author, speaker, and really funny, and a singer, I hear. I hope you got one of these when you came in. We'll be using those tonight as we go through this presentation. Then after that Todd will come up and spend a few minutes on some Q&A. With that, invite David on up.
David Brickner: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you so much. Shalom. I feel at home. It's great to be here with you and to share with you the message of Christ and the Passover. Some of you may be thinking to yourself, "Jeff said he's with Jews for Jesus? What kind of a name is that? It sounds like a contradiction in terms, like 'vegetarians for meat.' Whoever heard of Jews for Jesus?" Well, hopefully you remember Jesus was born a Jew, and all of his followers…like Peter, James, and John…were Jews. All of the writers of the New Testament, with the possible exception of Luke, were Jewish, and Luke was a doctor, so who knows?
In all of this, it was God's intention to do what Paul said was break down the middle wall of partition dividing Jews and Gentiles and to make us one together in the body of Messiah. So if you know the Messiah, we're one together in him. Because of that, you share with me in a rich heritage, the heritage of the people of Israel, and all God did to reveal himself through the fathers and through the prophets and through the festivals of Israel becomes your heritage too in him.
It's a rich heritage that many of my own people don't quite understand. For the festivals, for example, for many of my people it comes down to this: "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." Tonight, as we look at the story of Passover, the story of God's deliverance of the Jewish people from bondage and slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago, we're going to see it is actually a festival of redemption, that God, in delivering Israel from that bondage, wove into the very fabric of a story a picture of a far greater redemption of all the world from the Egypt of sin through our Passover Lamb who is Jesus, the Messiah.
So let's look at that first Passover story, which you'll find in your Bibles in Exodus, chapter 12. We'll be reading verses 5-8 and 11-15. If you remember, at this time the Jewish people were in bondage. We were in slavery in Egypt, and God promised he was going to redeem us. He raised up Moses and sent him to Pharaoh to say, "Let my people go," but Pharaoh wasn't exactly willing to listen to Moses, so God had to persuade Pharaoh.
God can be very persuasive when he wants to be, and he persuaded Pharaoh by sending a series of plagues on the land of Egypt. Do you remember the story? There were 10 plagues in all. The Jewish people were living in a section of Egypt called Goshen, and they were automatically exempt from the first nine of those ten plagues.
For example, the Bible tells us when darkness fell across the land of Egypt as a plague from the Lord there was still light in Goshen where the Israelites were living, or when God struck the cattle of the Egyptians with plague the cattle of the Israelites were spared. But that wasn't the case with the tenth plague, the worst plague, the death of the firstborn. In order that that plague should not fall also on the Jewish people in Egypt, God commanded them to take a lamb. That's where we pick up the story now in Exodus 12:5.
"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. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs." Verse 11:
"Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and 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.
Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord ; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel."
That is the historical institution of Passover. We know the first Passover was celebrated on the night of the tenth plague way back in the land of Egypt, but as we just read in verse 14, God commanded Israel to continue to celebrate Passover as a lasting ordinance. So throughout our history, as we observed Passover, there were various symbols and traditions added to the observance to remind us of that first Passover back in the land of Egypt.
By the time Jesus and the disciples were celebrating Passover, all but two of the items you see on this table this evening were already incorporated into the Passover. Of course, the most significant Passover Jesus and the disciples celebrated was that one in the upper room. The Last Supper was a Passover. So, then, how much more significant does this festival come to be for us who follow Jesus in light of all he said and did on that night he was betrayed?
Of course, we are still celebrating Passover every year, and this past Monday night was the first night of Passover. We are in the Feast of Unleavened Bread right now. There's a tremendous amount of preparation that goes into the celebration of the Passover. You might recall from the gospel accounts that Jesus even sent Peter and John ahead of him into the city of Jerusalem, saying, "Go, prepare the Passover that we may eat."
This preparation involves many different things, but most significantly, doing exactly what God commanded Israel to do in the land of Egypt. As we just read in verse 15, we were to cleanse our houses of all leaven, anything with yeast in it. Of course, today that means all your Krispy Kreme doughnuts, your bagels, your Wonder bread have to go.
Because Passover occurs in the spring, in the religious Jewish home cleaning actually begins weeks in advance. Everything from floor to ceiling is cleaned. There's a whole different set of dishes put out for use at Passover, but we have a problem. The problem is that although it is the mother who does the cleaning of the house, the rabbis tell us in the religious home only the father can certify that the house has been properly cleaned. Yeah, you can see what kind of a problem we have.
The rabbis knew the men would be hard-pressed to get the job done right by themselves, and they wanted to ensure peace and harmony in the home at Passover, so they got together and thought about this problem and came up with a solution, which in Hebrew is called bedikat chametz or the searching out of leaven. Here's how it works.
The night before Passover, Mom, already having cleaned the house of all the leaven, will take a little bit that's leftover, maybe crumbs from the toast they had for breakfast that morning, something with yeast in it, and hide it somewhere in the house. The father, coming home later that day, will take in his hand a feather, a wooden spoon, and a napkin, and he'll go on a GI inspection to search out the leaven, looking high and low for those crumbs.
If his wife has been good enough to him, she has hidden it in the same place she hid it last year and the year before that and the year before that. When he finally finds those crumbs, he takes the feather and with a steady hand scrapes them into the spoon, wraps the whole thing up in the napkin, and what they still do in very religious Jewish communities is you'll see the men marching off to the local synagogue.
There's a bonfire burning in the courtyard. He takes the package, tosses it into the bonfire, recites a prayer, and so declares the house now properly cleaned. An ingenious way for the men to get out of the house cleaning. Right, ladies? The apostle Paul makes a very specific analogy to this very custom of bedikat chametz in 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, beginning with verse 6.
I think it's interesting that Paul doesn't really have to explain the allusion he's making here to bedikat chametz because there was such an awareness in that first-century church of these Jewish roots. Here's what Paul says, and you can get it right away, I'm sure. In 1 Corinthians 5, beginning with verse 6, he says:
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
We see in that direct allusion to bedikat chametz Paul is explaining something. He says in this context think of leaven like sin. It's a picture, if you will. When you take a piece of leavened dough and add it to a batch of unleavened dough, what happens? Well, that unleavened dough becomes leavened and rises, and that's what sin is like in our lives.
Some may say, "Well, I don't sin that much." It doesn't matter. Just one…a little leaven leavens the whole lump…causes us to become utterly sinful, to become puffed up in our own estimation before God. Paul points out that just as leaven is a symbol for sin, so then the unleavened bread, this matzah we eat at the Passover, is a symbol of purity and righteousness before God.
Now, ladies, I know you must be thinking it seems entirely unfair that you are the ones who have to do all the hard work cleaning house and the man gets all the ceremonial glory declaring it clean. Well, ladies, you have your very own bit of ceremonial glory that actually ushers in the celebration of Passover. At this time, Mom will take this book, which we call Haggadah… Haggadah is a Hebrew word that means the story or the telling.
Within this beautifully bound and beautifully illustrated book you'll find all of the story and the prayers and the ceremony associated with the observance of Passover. Mom takes this book to say a blessing. Now, I don't have a Haggadah for every one of you, but as was mentioned, when you came in you should have received a brochure that looks like this. I'm going to ask you to take it out.
If you'll open this all the way up, you'll notice the second panel has some of the blessings. The first blessing is the Brechat Haner, the lighting of the festival candles, which actually ushers in the celebration of the Passover. I'm going to say this blessing in Hebrew, ladies, but I'm going to ask you then to help me by saying the Brechat Haner, the blessing over the candles, in English. Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav ve-tsivanu lehadlik ner shel yom tov. Amen.
Together in English, ladies. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us by his commandments and commands us to kindle the festival lights." I think it's appropriate that it is the woman rather than the man who lights the candles and so brings light to the festival table, because in the same way, it was not through a man; it was through a woman and the will of God that the Light of the World came into the world.
As the prophet Isaiah declared, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you will call his name Immanuel, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of my people Israel." So I think it's appropriate for all of us together to recite the Messianic blessing over these candles. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us through Yeshua, the Messiah, the Light of the World, amen." Of course, Yeshua is the Hebrew way to say Jesus.
Passover is celebrated largely in the home around the family dinner table, and in the very religious home the father puts on a special ceremonial garment to signify the special role he plays in leading the Passover service. It's called the kittel, and it is a pure white linen robe, similar to the linen robes that were worn by the priests as they would minister on behalf of the nation of Israel in the temple when it stood in Jerusalem.
Because the father is leading his family, he's considered the priest of his household, and in very religious homes he'll put on this robe. Sometimes you can see some very ornate kittels as well. I've often seen religious men walking off to synagogue on Friday night wearing these kittels in Jerusalem. Not only because he's priest of his family but because he's king of his castle, he'll often put on this miter, which symbolizes a crown in the ancient Near East. You say, "David, you look like a contestant on Top Chef." Well, maybe.
Passover is not just a time for mothers and fathers. It's especially a time for the kids. The children are invited to participate in a number of different ways, but most significantly through the chanting of the Manish Tanah, four questions that are asked, usually by the youngest child, and the answers to those questions serve as the basis for the father retelling the story of the Passover, the Maggid.
Here's what the first one sounds like in Hebrew: Mah nishtanah ha-lailah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? She-b'khol ha-leilot anu okhlin chameytz u-matzah. Ha-lailah hazeh kulo matzah? Would you say that with me? Okay, we'll do it in English. "Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?"
After reciting all four questions, the father then unpacks the meaning of the Passover. He tells the story in accordance with what God commanded us to do way back in the land of Egypt. Just as there are four questions that unpack the meaning of Passover, so you can see here there are four cups, which serve as the outline of the Passover service itself. Each of us has a cup as we sit at the table, but we drink from that cup four different times during the Passover, and each time there's a different name and significance given to the cup.
The first time we drink it's called Kiddush, which literally means sanctification. There's a traditional Hebrew prayer we say over this cup. Certainly, Jesus must have said that prayer in the upper room, and then he said something that directly related to the words of that Hebrew prayer. Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, borei peri hagafen. Amen. Together with me in English. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine."
Then Jesus said, "It is with great desire that I have desired to eat this Passover with you, but I tell you truly, I will not partake of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it anew in the kingdom." With those words, Jesus was signaling to his disciples then and now that this was a very special Passover, not like any other before, one that looked forward to a fulfillment he himself would bring in the kingdom.
Everything is blessed now. Everything has a particular order to it as well. Seder is the Hebrew word for order. Passoveris referred to as a Seder meal, and this is a Seder plate. Despite its appearance, it's not for deviled eggs. You notice the compartments on the Seder plate actually correspond to the ceremonial food items on display here.
We have the first item, which is called karpas. That's the Hebrew word for greens, in this case parsley. The rabbis tell us the greens represent life. It's springtime, so we're thinking about these things. We have this life in our hands. What we do is we take saltwater, which represents the tears of life, and we dip the greens into the saltwater, reminding us that during our slavery back in the land of Egypt our lives were immersed in tears.
We remember that if God had not redeemed our forefathers we wouldn't even be here today. So we're all entering into this experience ourselves, and we now draw the greens from the saltwater and eat them to remind us we're participating in a life of redemption, a life that has been redeemed. God brought our people out through that salty Red Sea and into freedom, so now we enjoy freedom because of his mercy and grace. Praise the Lord.
The second item is horseradish. It's like Jewish Dristan, guaranteed to unclog the sinus passages in the back of your head. The horseradish (maror in Hebrew) is the bitter herb, just like we read about in Exodus 12:8. God commanded three things, that we have bread made without yeast, that we have lamb, and that we have bitter herb. This represents the bitterness of slavery we experienced in Egypt.
What we do is we take some of the unleavened bread. We bless it. Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz. Amen. Together with me in English. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." Then we take and dip this into the maror, getting at least a teaspoon of it on there, and then… I'm not going to do it. Do you know what happens when you eat this much horseradish? You begin to cry. You have very little choice in the matter.
You see, the tears we shed are another way for us to enter into that experience. It's very tactile. It's very participatory. Now you might remember when Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples he had said to them, "One of you is going to betray me." The disciples got all upset. They said, "Lord, is it me? It can't be me." Peter said, "Oh, I'll never betray you." Then Jesus said, "The one who dips with me tonight is the one."
That was a big problem, because each one of the disciples dipped in this sop, this bitter herb with Jesus. They all dipped. Think about that for a minute. Did they not also all betray him, each in their own way? They all left him in the garden. Even Peter who said, "I'll never leave you…" The Bible tells us after Jesus' arrest he followed him at a distance. Have you ever done that? I know I have. Following at a distance doesn't lead to good things. It didn't for Peter. It led to three denials.
Thank God for his grace, that even when we follow at a distance, even when we deny him, he is gracious to welcome us back. Yet we also have to remember that not everybody does come back. Remember, later on in the account in the Gospels we find Jesus himself taking the bread, dipping it in the sop, and handing it to Judas Iscariot. He said to him, "What you must do go and do quickly." The Bible tells us when Judas took the bread with the sop, Satan entered into him, and he went out into the night. Maror is bitterness and tears.
The next item on the Seder plate is called charoset. Charoset is a sweet mixture. There are chopped apples and nuts, honey, raisins, and cinnamon. It's delicious, but it represents the mortar we used to make bricks for Pharaoh during our slavery in Egypt. It kind of looks like mortar. You might ask the rabbi, "Now wait a minute, rabbi. If charoset represents mortar for bricks, which was bitterness and toil to our people, why is this stuff so sweet?"
"Ah," the rabbi will say, "because even the bitterness of our toils grew sweet when we knew our redemption drew near." We take some of the unleavened bread and dip it into the charoset, this time maybe getting a double portion of it on there. What we find is as we eat this mixture, that bitter taste left in our mouths from the horseradish just disappears in the sweetness of the charoset, which reminds us that even the bitterest things we must face in this world can be sweetened by the hope and promise of God's redemption.
This is the bitter root itself, the chazeret, which is ground up to make the maror. We don't do anything other than rest this on the Seder plate to remind us that especially in Egypt our experience was so that even the root of life itself was bitterness. The last two items on the Seder plate are the only two on the table tonight not present when Jesus celebrated in the upper room, and you'll understand why in just a moment.
This is chagigah. Chagigah is an egg that is hard-boiled and then roasted to turn brown. Chagigah was actually the name given to the festival sacrifice made in the temple at Passover, so this egg represents that sacrifice. We peel the egg and slice it. Before we eat the slice we dip it into the saltwater, which represents tears, because we are mourning the fact that this is a memorial to a sacrifice that can no longer occur, a sacrifice that took place in the temple, which was standing when Jesus was on the earth but, in fulfillment of his own prediction, not a generation later was destroyed.
From that day until this very present there has been no temple, no sacrifice, so my people mourn that loss with chagigah. Also, many rabbis tell us we shouldn't eat lamb at Passover as a main course anymore. Some other meat is served. This last item is zeroah, which is the shank bone of a lamb, resting on the Seder plate to remind us of those lambs that were so central to that first Passover in the land of Egypt but which are now so sadly absent.
We read about them in Exodus 12. God commanded that we take a yearling male lamb without spot, without blemish, without any broken bone, and sacrifice it. This reminds me of another perfect Passover Lamb who, contrary to Roman custom, did not have his legs broken when he hung on the cross, and so did Jesus fulfill this picture of the Lamb of God.
We come now to the second cup, which is called the cup of plagues. We don't drink from this cup right away, but rather we dip our finger in and drop a drop on the plate in front of us, one drop for each of the 10 plagues God visited on the land of Egypt. We remember the blood, hail, locusts, boils, cattle disease, darkness, slaying of the firstborn. Nine times Pharaoh hardened his heart, and each time God sent a plague on the land of Egypt.
The tenth plague was the worst of all, the death of the firstborn. God told the children of Israel to take the blood of a sacrificed lamb in a basin, to go outside of their homes, and apply the blood to the doorposts of their houses, putting it on the top lintel and the two side posts. The blood of the lamb on the top lintel and the two side posts. Some have remarked this may have indeed made the sign of a cross with the blood of the lamb on that doorpost.
That night, death flew through the land of Egypt. There was weeping and wailing as never before until Pharaoh cried out, "Let them go! Let them go or I'll die!" But everywhere that the blood of the lamb was on the top lintel and the two side posts, death passed over that house. So redemption came that night to the children of Israel in the land of Egypt.
Now because I believe in Jesus as my Messiah and because I have by faith applied the blood of his sacrifice to the doorpost of my heart, when death comes to visit me death is going to pass over me also because I have eternal life. Isn't that good news? Praise God for that. Now this is called the matzah tosh. Matzah is the unleavened bread we eat at Passover, and tosh simply means bag or pouch, and that's what this is. It's a bag actually for three pieces of unleavened bread, and each piece is in its own section or compartment.
The rabbis tell us the matzah tosh represents a unity. Three pieces of bread, one bag: three in one. Yet there is a bit of disagreement among the rabbis as to which unity it is this matzah tosh represents. Writing in the Haggadah, one rabbi tells us it represents the unity of the patriarchs. You know, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Another says, "No, no, no. It represents the unity of worship in Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the people," and so on go several more explanations.
Well, I believe the matzah tosh represents a unity also, but I believe the matzah tosh represents the unity of our triune God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here's why. During a particular time of the Passover, we will reach into the second or middle compartment of the matzah tosh. You can ask the rabbi, "Rabbi, why do we take the second piece and leave the first and the third pieces hidden?" The answer is, "We don't know. It's tradition."
This is the bread of affliction, which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. "Let all who are hungry come in and eat," says the father. This is a loaf of bread, and yet it's like a cracker because there is no yeast in it. In fact, we're so concerned there be no rising in the bread that a lot of this matzah is made just like… You see some are round, some are square, but we poke holes in the bread to make sure there's no rising, and then as we bake it, these brown stripes.
What a picture. Unleavened, striped, pierced, even as our sinless Messiah was striped by the Roman whips and pierced by the nails in his hands and feet and the spear in his side, as predicted over 700 years before through the prophet Isaiah. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was pierced for our diseases, and by his stripes we are healed."
We take the second piece from the middle compartment of the matzah tosh and break it in half. Now we take this broken piece and wrap it in a linen cloth or in a linen bag, calling it afikomen. That's a word meaning it comes later. It is to come. He who is to come. We take this broken piece wrapped in the linen cloth and now carry it outside of the room of celebration to be hid for a time, buried, if you will. This is such an important part of the Passover the entire celebration cannot be completed without that second piece. We'll get back to that in just a moment.
I'm curious. How many of you have never been to a Passover before? Wow. Well, if you should have the opportunity to go to a full Seder meal, I encourage you to go. You'll love it. But let me warn you. If you're going, eat lightly that day or not at all, because you are really in for a meal. I want to assure you Passover is much more than parsley and horseradish. We eat and we eat. Unfortunately, that's the part I forgot to bring with me here tonight.
We've come through the meal of the Passover now. I hope you've all had enough to eat, because this last part is the most important for us, as followers of Jesus, to understand. Toward the end of the meal, the head of the house will say to all of the children, "Go search for the afikomen." That's that second piece, broken, wrapped in a linen cloth, hidden for a time. It's a great time of fun for the kids, because they didn't see where it was hidden.
They go running around the house looking for it, because the child who finds it receives a reward. Then the father stands and continues this ancient ceremony of the matzah tosh and the afikomen by unwrapping the bread from the linen cloth. He then begins to break off small pieces for everyone seated at the table. Everyone now receives a piece of the afikomen. Does this remind you of anything, anything that happened in the upper room in Jerusalem?
You see, friends, if the matzah tosh represents the unity of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, why is that middle piece broken, buried, and brought back? If the matzah tosh represents the unity of worship, the priests, the Levites, and the people of Israel, why is that middle piece broken, buried, and brought back? But if the matzah tosh represents the unity of our triune God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…then we know why.
It's because Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, was broken in death, wrapped in a linen cloth, buried in the tomb, and brought back, resurrected by the power of God, conquering sin, conquering death. So it is no wonder Jesus took this bread and broke it and gave to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Do you see the picture? Wow!
Then he took the cup. Well, now you know we take the cup four times during Passover, so which time was it? Well, the Scriptures tell us Jesus took the cup after they had supped, after the meal of Passover. So we have the first two cups, then comes the meal, and the last morsel of food that's eaten is the afikomen, followed directly by the cup after supper, the third cup, which is the cup of redemption.
Looking back to the redemption God brought our forefathers from Egypt, the wine, the red, reminds us of the blood of the lambs. Jesus in the upper room stood and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." Those words must have riveted those disciples. B'rit chadashah. It's only mentioned once in the Hebrew Scriptures, in Jeremiah 31, beginning with verse 31.
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord , that I will make[b'rit chadashah]a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord …" That was the problem with the Mosaic covenant. It became broken.
"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord , I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts…" **Mosaic covenant written on tablets of stone; new covenant to be written on the tablet of our hearts."…and will be their God, and they shall be my people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."**
That was the ultimate condition upon which that new covenant rested. Now Jesus, coming to the very climax of this Passover Seder, raises the cup and says, "That which has been promised, that which you have been waiting for, that new covenant has come in my blood." Imagine how the disciples must have felt seeing this explained in this way. Amazing, to imagine that God wove into the very fabric of that original story of Passover this picture of redemption we can all participate in if we know Messiah as our Lamb.
The Bible says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." What other response can we have in light of this but to say so, to give thanks and praise to God, which is exactly how Passover comes to a conclusion. We have a big "say so" celebration, singing hymns from the Jewish national hymnal. You have copies, right? Well, you do, because the psalms are sung.
Psalms 113-118 are sung at this time. You can see some of the words of Psalm 118 in your brochure. We won't take the time now to read it, but read it when you go home and imagine Jesus, knowing what was about to happen to him, singing, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."
The Scriptures record that Jesus and the disciples sang the hymn, and then they went out to the Mount of Olives. Before they left, they would have taken the cup one more time, the cup of hallel, the cup of praise, taken together with hymns of praise. All over the world, Jewish people conclude the Seder by raising this cup up and saying leshanah haba'ah bi-yerushalayim ("Next year in Jerusalem").
Passover not only commemorates a redemption in the past but bears with it a great hope for a redemption still awaited, and therein lies the burden of my heart and of Jews for Jesus. You see, this hope of the Coming One has grown dim, and yet it's still found in the liturgy. Even at Passover there's a hope that Elijah the prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah according to the prophet Malachi, will maybe come and visit our home at Passover.
So there's a place setting and a cup for Elijah, and at a particular time the head of the house says to the youngest child, "Go open the door for Elijah." As the door is opened, we stand and greet him and say barukh haba beshem Adonai ("Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"). Then together we sing what is the oldest Hebrew melody known today.
Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu hagil'adi.
Elijah the prophet
Elijah the Tishbite,
Elijah the Gileadite,
Come even in our days
And bring with you Messiah.
Every year we stand and sing, and many wonder, "Is he ever going to come?" They're still waiting. They don't know of that one named Yochanan. You know him as John the Baptizer, who one day saw a Jewish man coming up over the hill and said, "Look! Behold! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." Of him Jesus said, "If you care to receive it, John is Elijah." They don't know of Yeshua, the Lamb.
It's my hope and prayer that in our being together this evening you might not only be enriched in your understanding of your heritage and make it a part of your story too but that you might share the burden I have for those who have never seen what you've seen here tonight. We wait, as they do, but with a different mindset, because the Bible tells us, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show forth the Lord's death until he come again." Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Let's pray.
God, you are amazing. We started this service saying that, and now we have seen in so many ways that you are. We stand in awe of you, because you have painted the story of our redemption on the pages of the Scriptures through the symbols of the Passover, fulfilled in Jesus, who clarified all of this so beautifully for us. We pray, Lord, that you would seal to our hearts this story today, that we would walk out of here and the amazement would not just be a momentary one but one we would carry with us as we go and share Jesus' love with our friends.
We pray especially as we move into this holy time this weekend that it would be with a new sense of amazement and joy and wonder and celebration, for you are such a good God, and we love you. We pray this message would echo forth around the world to all people, even to those from whom this story first came. We pray beshem Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, in the name of Jesus the Messiah, amen.
Todd Wagner: Let's thank David. David, come here and sit down with me for a second. That is great. It went very quickly. It was a ton of stuff. I know a lot of you guys are going, "Okay, man. I got a little bit lost in there trying to keep up with him and take furious notes." The great news is you're going to allow us to make that available online. You guys can go back and watch that and take it in, go over all that stuff, compare it to things you have. I want to draw out a few things on this again, just to drive the point home of how God has been telegraphing his plan of redemption.
As they look back, there's that "already," that deliverance and the Passover, to the "not yet" that was coming. Then Jesus on that night made that amazing statement to his disciples when he said, "Hey, listen. What was anticipated, this provision, this bread of life," which he had already claimed to be, "that everybody eats from that satisfies you, the sanctification, is my body. If you don't eat of it, you're not going to have satisfaction. And it's my cup, my blood, that creates the new covenant."
Out of that, as he said, we have pulled that bread and that cup, and on a continual basis… That's when he said, "As often as you eat this, do it in remembrance of me." That is our Communion. I wanted to ask you again… You said the only two elements that weren't there by the time of Christ that the rabbis had introduced to the tradition were the egg and the lamb shank. The egg was brought in why again?
David: That's a tricky one. It's because the temple's destruction meant there could be no sacrifice. The Passover lamb was sacrificed in advance of the Passover. We actually read about that in the gospel narratives as well. Because of the temple, the rabbis decided, "If it's not there, we shouldn't have lamb." Now there are some traditions that have instituted lamb as being eaten, but the zeroah and the egg, the bone and the egg, remind us that even in a time of joy we have sorrow over the destruction of the temple and the loss of the sacrifice.
Todd: By the way, that's why at the end during that Elijah cup, where they always end with saying, "Next year in Jerusalem," there's a song you didn't sing. Is it the Dayenu?
David: Do you want me to teach it?
Todd: Yeah, teach it to them.
David: Okay. Can you say that word, dayenu? What that means is "It would have been enough." The idea is if God had just brought us out of the land of Egypt it would have been enough, but he did so much more. You're going to pick up the chorus. I'll sing a couple of verses. There are actually probably about 15 verses. We won't do that, but you'll pick up the chorus. It's my favorite Passover song.
Todd: So they would sing that at the very end. A song we sing here sometimes is "Enough." "All of you is more than enough for all of me." You made reference to how there's still sorrow. Think about this. To the Jewish people, there was sorrow that the temple is not here. One of the verses is, "If you had given me the law, that would have been more than enough. If you had taken us out of Egypt, that would have been more than enough. If you had taken us out of the wilderness, that would have been more than enough."
So there's joy, and you said this really well. Because of the expectant hope, we can sing even while things are not as they should be. We are saying the same thing when we say, "In this world we have troubles. We're not home yet, but all of him is more than enough." We have received that prophetic fulfillment that Christ has come and given us what we could otherwise never get, which is sanctification and provision that satisfies, the holiness of God.
If we opened this up for Q&A, the very first question I think would be asked… We were kidding about your name, Jews for Jesus. We're Gentiles for the Jew. That's kind of what we are here. I know a lot of folks are going to want to make this all about specifically targeting the Jews, and that's not the heart at all. We don't target anybody. We love people. Correct? What would you say to folks who are going to ask that question, "Well, how do I reach my Jewish friend?"
David: Well, if you said "friend," we're off to a good start.
Todd: There you go.
David: Don't ever witness to somebody who's not your friend, because you want to share the love of God. The Scriptures tell us that actually there's an infectiousness to that love. If it's in your heart for that person, they'll see it. They'll respond to that authenticity. You may not know the answers to certain objections that come from a Jewish background, and that's okay.
Don't worry about that. You don't have to be an expert in the Law or the Prophets. You need to start with the love of God in your heart. Then if you have questions you don't know how to answer, say, "Boy, that's a good question. I'm going to have to go figure that out." Then contact Jews for Jesus, and we'll give you the answer. You can go back and have a Bible study.
Todd: Here's what's great. Just last weekend we spent a whole day training folks in our friend Greg Koukl's book Tactics. You don't have to be an expert on Judaism. The Bible does not say you ought to convert Jews. Nowhere in there is that commandment given. The Bible says we're to love our neighbor. The Bible says the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
What I would tell you is that you ought to learn Judaism, because Judaism is the foundation of our belief. What I would also tell you is that the best thing you can do to learn about Judaism is to ask a Jew. If you have a Jewish friend, sit down and say, "Hey, will you tell me about your belief? Tell me what you believe and why you believe that. Why do you make that out?" Ask them questions.
You'll find a lot of people of Jewish descent don't know a lot of the answers themselves. If you go, "Well, I've always understood this…" Look at things together and love people. Let me tell you what to do with your Gentile friends who don't know Jesus. Don't try and convert them. Share with them the hope you have. Love them. Befriend them. One of the greatest ways to love somebody is to share with them the hope you have in your Passover Lamb.
When you start treating anybody like a project, that is a problem. What I want to remind you of is that lost people are not your problem. They're God's sheep, and he loves them. He tells you to talk about the wonderful shepherd Savior you have and let that be God's problem and just be faithful with your responsibility.
Now, thankfully, guys like David and others can tell us from a Jewish understanding why they did the most Jewish thing a Jew could do, which is to believe in the Messiah, and why he believes Jesus is the Messiah. I, as a Gentile, tell them why I believe Jesus is the Messiah, who was to be a blessing not just to the Jewish people but to all of the nations. That is what Genesis 12 said in the original promise to Abraham. There were three things that were promised to him. Tell them what they were.
David:"I'm going to bless you and make your name great." Personal. "I'm going to make of you a great nation." Remember, when God said this Abraham was in his 70s. So was Sarah. They had no children. "I'm going to make you a great nation." "Test me. See." Thirdly, "In you all the families of the earth will be blessed." A blessing so great it can't be contained by one man or by one nation but bubbles up and flows to all people.
Someone said once how odd of God to choose the Jews. Well, God didn't choose the Jews; he chose one man, Abram, and through him brought forth the Jewish people, but not for themselves but so he could pour out his love and blessing to all the people of the earth.
Todd: So I, as a Gentile, tell them why I believe the fulfillment of that original blessing God gave to Abraham was accomplished through Jesus, the Bread of Life I partake from, whose blood was shed for me that I might be sanctified. So what I would encourage you to do is to just love people. Dialogue. Ask them questions. "Teach me what you believe." They might just go…
You know what? Just like too many Gentiles in America think because they're not Muslim or Jewish they must be Christian, there are a lot of people who are Jewish who think because they're Jewish they must be Jewish. They don't know much about religious Judaism, but they are racial Jews or political Jews.
The Scripture says nobody becomes a child of God by the will of man, by blood, but specifically by the will of God. How can they know God's will unless you share it with them? Not because they're Jewish but because you love them. That's what friends do. They share meals together. So what a tremendous opportunity to share a meal, any meal, and talk about where your satisfaction comes from. Your job is not to convert; your job is to love and speak the truth while you do it.
Let me ask you a question I think a lot of folks would love to ask people. They go, "Man, if the Jews are God's chosen people… As I look back, I can't think of any people who have suffered as much as Jews have." I've heard one Jewish person say, "If we're God's chosen people, it's about time he starts choosing somebody else."
David: One of the best lines from Fiddler on the Roof. Absolutely. The real story behind that story is there's a cosmic conflict going on in the world. We don't see it often, but we see the evidence of it in that suffering you're talking about. God staked his reputation on the continuing existence of the Jewish people, that promise from Genesis 12 we just talked about. God has an adversary. Do you know what the Hebrew word for adversary is? Ha-satan. Sounds familiar, right?
The Adversary, Satan, has been trying to make God a liar, and he can do it if he can wipe out the Jewish people on whom God placed his hand of blessing. So throughout history there have been the Hamans and the Herods and the Hitlers and the Husseins of history who have tried, by the Adversary's strength, to wipe out the Jewish people. By God's grace, despite all of the tragedy, we survived and thrive. We are back in the land, baby. We're here to stay, not because of how great we are but because of how great he is.
Todd: Amen. Do you hear that? The Enemy is a liar. It's what he said from the very beginning. It's why he started from the very beginning twisting Scripture. "Has God said…? By the way, can you really trust him? Is he really good?" All he is is a liar. He wants to make God out to be a liar. That's a tremendous way for you to talk to your Jewish friends when they go, "Hey, listen. I'm more of a secular Jew than I am a religious Jew, partly because I don't see God's favor upon us."
We talked about "It's partly because you have a great Enemy, but God is your protector. Here's the hope he offers you and the hope he offers us." By the way, does God love the Jew more than he loves the Gentile? The answer is "No," but he has said specifically he is going to do something with the Jewish people, and he will never, ever stop fulfilling that covenant promise to the Jewish people.
There are individual Jews who will not participate in that blessing, just like there are many Gentiles who won't participate in that covenant blessing. You will not be rightly related to God because your mom and dad were rightly related to God or if as a Jewish boy you were circumcised on the eighth day or if as a young child, if you're from a covenant view, which I wouldn't be, from the sense of covenant theology or the idea that you're entered into the community of grace because you're christened as a child, because the Bible talks about believer's baptism…
All of these things are so incredibly relevant. David, we want to talk about this too. I know you said, "We're back in the land." Do you want to share with them a little bit about a correct view of Israel and the land?
David: This was something God promised to Abraham, that this would be the land he would give to him and his descendants, but it wasn't something they could take for granted. Their enjoyment of the blessings of God in that land would be based upon their obedience. So throughout Israel's history we've been in the land, sometimes in obedience and sometimes in disobedience, and when the disobedience comes, then comes persecution. It's intended to bring us back to God.
Now the fact that Jewish people are back in the land today I think is a demonstration of God's grace, but it's no guarantee. My concern is that Israel come back to their Lord and receive his grace through faith in Messiah. That's our security. In the meantime, God has obviously demonstrated he's doing something in our time, in our day. That doesn't mean we ignore the plight of the Palestinians either.
I am really strong in insisting that God, as you said, loves Arabs just as much as he loves Jews. When Arabs and Jews can say to one another, "I love you in Jesus' name," then the world will really see the reconciling power of the gospel. That is spiritual dynamite, folks. I'm praying to see a revival among Arabs and Jews that will transform that part of the world, because it ain't happening through John Kerry.
Todd: Yeah, it's not. Did you all hear what he said there? The peace will come through the Prince of Peace. The relationship with the Lord is what brings them stability in the land. David, as an individual who believes Jesus is the Lord who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," is sharing with his fellow racial people…
David: All people, really.
Todd: All people, but specifically for Israel to be secure, for anybody to be secure. If he believes what he believes, the most loving thing he can do is share that security is going to come through a relationship with God, which only can be accomplished through Yeshua, through the one who is the way, who is truth, who is life, whose body was broken, who sanctifies you through the new covenant of his blood.
Let's do one more thing that's kind of fun. I'll do this quickly, and then we'll end with the classic blessing that is as old as Aaron himself. There's an interesting analogy that happens inside of this. It's the Jewish wedding. We can see all kinds of tie-ins to end times on this for us. In a Jewish wedding, when a young man picks out a girl, he comes to her and brings her a cup.
He says to her, "Here's the cost. I'm going to make the payment for the dowry. Here is the offer of a relationship." Stop me when I'm wrong or correct me or take the story over when you want. He puts the cup down, in effect, and says, "Here's the payment. Here's the offer of relationship." If she takes the cup and drinks of it, then she's saying, "I accept you as my bridegroom." What does he do then?
David: Well, he breaks the cup under his heel in the end. That's the mazel tov end of the wedding ceremony. But you're right. A lot of these traditions have been lost in the Jewish community, but the dowry, the cup, all of these things are symbolizing the sacredness of that marriage covenant. Ultimately, the cup, which is symbolizing that relationship, nowadays in Jewish weddings is broken under the heel, and that is a reminder, even in our most joyous occasions, of the destruction of the temple.
So there's this potent sense of absence, of loss that lingers. All of these wonderful traditions, like what you're referring to, seem to have become, in a sense, overwhelmed by the sadness of what we don't have now. A lot of people will go ahead and get married, break the glass, and have no idea what it means.
What you've started to see today with just the Passover is also true about the wedding. It's also true about all of the other festivals. God put into it a wonderful picture, not just of what we're doing but of Messiah, who is the groom, and of his bride, which is made up of people from every nation who come and call him Lord.
Todd: There's a wonderful group of things for us to learn in even just the seven feasts of Israel, Passover being the first, all the way down to the Feast of Tabernacles being the last. There's an amazing syncretism, because on the Feast of Passover we have the provision of Christ, then we have the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then we have the Feast of Firstfruits, which is the day of the resurrection.
You can continue to make your way through, where God was doing things in what's called his eschatological fulfillment, lining them up with each of the feasts. You can almost go through to every single one of these. Feast of Pentecost, when God brought the provision 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where he brought in the blessing and the outpouring of his Spirit.
There's a sync-up of all this different stuff, and how in the fall the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the ingathering. Some people are saying, "That's the only one that doesn't really have a New Testament fulfillment yet," and a lot of people think that ingathering could line up with the blowing of the shofar horn.
David: That happens at Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur is obviously the atonement. We come before the judgment seat of God. Then Tabernacles is the final ingathering, the great harvest. By the way, I wrote a book about this, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles. We have that for just about every feast.
When you look at the book of Revelation and the picture it shows us of what heaven is like, all of the metaphors and the story and the pictures are drawn from the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah, chapter 14, tells us that when Messiah returns, all of the nations are going to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. It is the final festival, which demonstrates his rule, his reign, and the establishment of his kingdom.
Todd: Tremendous. It's fun stuff. God is a master teacher. Master teachers use visual aids, and he has been teaching his people, "Do you see what I've done? Where is the middle one hidden? Let's find him. There's rejoicing. Let's eat of him. Let's be sanctified by him." Then we wait for that great day. My understanding, just to wrap up what I was going to, is in that wedding, when the guy offers it he goes back to his father's house and prepares a place for her.
He doesn't ever get to decide when that place is ready. It was the father who decided, because most guys would go back and build a lean-to and say, "Get the woman. Let's go." But he doesn't. He builds a place. The father says, "Now go back." As he approaches, there's a loud shout when he's within earshot, and then out comes the wedding party. You see that in the parable of the 10 virgins and all of that.
You can almost see this right here with Jesus saying, "Here's the cup. Take it if you're mine. Take and eat of this. Take and drink of this. Here's the payment, my broken body. I'm going to go and prepare a place. I'm going to come back, maybe next year in Jerusalem." It's all built in. All of these things work together. God, the master teacher, wants you to know him and be encouraged, and he wants you to be a herald of the good news and to grow and deepen in your faith.
Let's just thank David one more time, and let's close. I hope you familiarize yourself with his ministry. He told you how you can do that. It's a great resource for you as you look how you can love some people, which is your charge. Here's something we want to end with. In Hebrew and then in English, we'll pray a blessing over you.
David: In Numbers, chapter 6, God told the children of Israel he wanted to bless them, and he told the sons of Aaron, "Bless my people with this blessing, and they will be blessed." First in Hebrew, and then in English, and then we'll be dismissed. Would you bow your heads, please? Yevarekhekha Adonai vehishmerekha. Ya'er Adonai panav eleykha vichunneka. Yisa Adonai panav eleykha veyasem lekha shalom.
Todd: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace, the shalom of God, through his Son, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Let's do what we can to invite our friends to come and see the goodness of our Christ through the provision of his Son on the cross this weekend. Have a great night.