Luke 22:14-16 (NIV) - When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
This meal (Seder, pronounced say-der) is a Jewish celebration of the Israelite's flight from Egypt and the angel of death "passing over" doorways with lamb's blood applied. Those present recline as a reminder that they are now free to relax and enjoy a meal. This is part of the tradition.
The celebration begins with lighting candles and pronouncing a blessing of thanksgiving and hope of the coming of Messiah. Messianic Jews (those of Jewish ancestry who are believers in Jesus as the promised Messiah) include a blessing of thanksgiving for fulfilling this hope in Jesus and a reminder that His followers are to be the light of the world.
Included throughout the meal are four cups of wine or grape juice.
The first represents God's promise to bring His people out of Egypt. Children take part at this point by answering traditional questions revealing the story of the exodus from Egypt. Also part of this is the traditional ceremony of cleansing hands before partaking of the meal. It is at this point that Jesus got up from the meal and washed His disciples' feet to demonstrate humility and service.
The second cup represents the plagues sent by God to show His power. During this part of the ceremony Jews remember the sadness and mourn the loss of life suffered by their enemies.
The third cup, the one Jesus lifted up as a symbol of His blood shed for the forgiveness of sin, is the cup of redemption. With this He associated His sacrificial death to come with that of the lamb's blood that saved their households when the angel of death passed over.
After this cup, they recite responsively the words of Psalm 118 which includes the words "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. (verses 22 and 23).
Then after the fourth cup accompanied by praise to God and the hope of the restoration of Israel, a final hymn is sung and the Seder meal is ended.
There are other traditions that are repeated throughout the meal and are part of the ceremony, but the predominant focus of the meal is the celebration of salvation and freedom.
The exodus was a foreshadow of what Jesus would accomplish by His death. The blood of the lamb is a reminder of the sacrifice He made. Lighting of candles reminds us that He is the Light of the World and we are to follow His example. Jesus used the wine and matzo (bread) as symbols to remind us of His suffering. Even the words that are sung point to Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Savior of the world.
At the end of the Seder meal everyone proclaims "Next year in Jerusalem!"
Just as His people for thousands of years anticipated Messiah's first coming, we celebrate all that He is and find hope in His promised return.
(Read about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and God's command to celebrate yearly in the Book of Exodus (the second book of what we call the Old Testament))
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