Passover has concluded and the Feast of Unleavened Bread has begun. I hope that some who read my previous post decided to consider the Passover Feast and the symbolism it contains. I know in this busy world, time is extremely valuable. Pursuing the concept of expending time wisely, however, will certainly pay dividends in due time. Today, for those that desire to know a little more and who are willing to invest some valuable time, I offer the following thoughts about Passover as a springboard into a little deeper water.
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival [feast] or a new moon or a Sabbath day– things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 emphasis added)
In the 1970’s, it was my privilege to watch and listen as the late Zola Levitt presented the symbolisms found in the Passover Feast. Zola’s lesson played a significant role in the redirection of my spiritual life. Many of the items that I share (see below) are from Zola’s childhood memories as his family celebrated Passover. If you care to dig deeper into this arena, there is a significant amount of information on the Internet that reveals different perspectives. As always, if what you discover lines up with Scripture, then allow what you have found to grow and produce. If it does not line up with Scripture, discard it.
Event and Symbolism
The Jewish day starts at sundown. Therefore, both the Last Supper and the crucifixion were on the Jewish Feast of Passover. On Passover night, the evening before the Lord Jesus was crucified, He took the bread and wine and said to His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Studying Passover can provide a marvelous insight into the very essence of Christianity: the sacrifice of the Lamb. Both the Jew and the Christian can say, “I was delivered from slavery by the blood of the lamb.” The Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts, and we are saved from the bondage of sin by the blood of the Lamb of God.
Before the Passover meal is prepared, the house must be free of leaven. In the Bible, leaven is symbolic of sin. After clearing the house of any leaven, the next thing is to get out the special white linen artifacts that go with the Passover meal. White linen is symbolic of righteousness in the Scriptures (Revelation 19:7-8).
At the beginning of the Passover meal, women, who do very little in Judaism, light the candles. The symbolism is obvious. It was a woman who brought us Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. Thus, a woman still brings the light to the Passover celebration.
Four cups of wine are drunk as part of the Passover meal. The first cup is called the Cup of Sanctification, which symbolizes that those who partake are separated or set apart from Egypt (symbolic the World).
After the first cup of wine, the father of the family takes three loaves of unleavened bread and places them in a special white linen bag that has three compartments. The loaves of unleavened bread look like a large cracker, which is pierced with holes to facilitate proper baking and is marked with stripes from the cooking process. The symbolism of the appearance of the bread as it relates to the wounds that Jesus received is remarkable and easy to understand. The unleavened bread also symbolizes purity.
The father then removes the middle loaf of bread from its compartment in the white linen bag. The father breaks it, wraps it in a separate piece of white linen and hides it away. He “buries” it behind the cushion on his chair or in some other place in the house.
The Passover Lamb for the meal was to be without blemish, whose blood was to be sprinkled on each house’s doorpost in the original exodus from Egypt (symbolic of the World). Christians still partake of that symbolism by drinking the wine into their bodies, which are now “the House/Temple of the Holy Spirit.” During the original Passover, the avenging angel of death “Passed Over” every house that was sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, just as every follower of Jesus Christ no longer suffers the sting of eternal death apart from the presence of Almighty God.
The second cup of wine is poured and spilled into the individual plates in front of each person, one drop at a time. Each drop is to recall a plague that God visited upon Egypt as Pharaoh chose to harden his own heart. Due to Pharaoh’s choice to harden his own heart, God eventually hardened his heart for him. Thus, it is not a good idea to hear the Holy Spirit inviting you into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and say no, which hardens your heart. We do not know when/if the Holy Spirit might discontinue the invitation, but a person that chooses to reject His invitation places himself in a precarious position that may be one of no return.
After the second cup, the Passover meal is served in a leisurely and joyful manner for all present to partake. It is much like American’s Thanksgiving meal or the Love (Agapé) meal served as a routine part of the early Church meetings.
After everyone has finished eating the Passover meal, the Third cup of wine, which is called the Cup of Redemption, is poured. The “buried” loaf of unleavened bread is also brought forth by the father at this point. That “buried” piece is the middle piece and is to be eaten as the third cup of wine is consumed. The father breaks off pieces from the middle piece of unleavened bread and passes the pieces around the table. Each person eats his piece and takes a drink from the third cup of wine. Once again, the symbolism is astounding.
The father pronounces blessings over both the bread and the wine individually.
In Matthew 26:26, Jesus said a blessing over the bread. The “blessing” that is spoken by the Jewish father, which could have been the one that Jesus used, is as follows:
“Blessed are Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
Then, as noted in Matthew 26:26, Jesus said, “This bread is My body.” Jesus was the First Fruits out of the ground and He now provides life—the Bread of Life—to all who partake of Him.
In Matthew 26:27-28, Jesus raises the third cup of wine, the Cup of Redemption:
“And He took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, drink you all of it, for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
At this point in the Passover meal, the father would say blessing over the third cup of wine. Jesus, in Matthew 26:27-28, could very likely have followed suit by saying:
“Blessed are Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the Vine.”
Jesus said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until that day when He will drink it new with His Bride in His Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
The Jews celebrate Passover with joy! Christians tend to see communion to be celebrated as a somber event. The Jews see it as being freed from slavery 3,500 years ago! It seems reasonable that we Christians should see it as a celebration of eternal life in Jesus Christ! Re-thinking the wondrous promise of eternal life in Jesus might introduce more joy into our celebration of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for us!
Zola says that Jesus did not drink the fourth cup of wine (it is also entirely feasible that they did take the fourth cup and Jesus rightfully took His cup as Messiah). The fourth cup is called Elijah’s cup, the cup of Praise! The Jews look for the literal fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” An empty chair and even a wine goblet are left at the table throughout the proceedings. Elijah is expected to enter on some Passover night, take his seat, drink his cup and say, “Well, the waiting is over. The Messiah has come!” Zola believed that Jesus did not partake of the fourth cup because He, the Messiah, was already there. Jesus said that John the Baptist had come in the spirit of Elijah and had already announced the Messiah (Matthew 11:14). As we now know, Jesus, the suffering Messiah had come at that point in time, and Jesus, the reigning Messiah will come at His appointed time.
Although it cannot be proven by Scripture, there is certainly circumstantial evidence that the Communion cup taken today by Christians was the 3rd cup of the Passover feast. It is good to note, however, that it could just as easily have been the 4th cup. The “buried” loaf of unleavened bread would be the bread offered with Communion. The key point is, in the future, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, may we always remember Jesus and His sacrifice for all mankind.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29b)
The Lamb of God crucified on Passover,
Buried at the beginning of Unleavened Bread, and
Resurrected on First Fruits!