Apologetics Bible lessons

Jesus Messiah in Passover prayers

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Jesus was born in the land of Israel and raised by a Jewish family. He was brought up in a Jewish heritage with its practices and customs. Accordingly, there are numerous blessing to be found by studying Jewish history and culture. This can provide additional insights into accounts from Scripture.

One example is studying aspects of the Passover meal, or Seder. There are many foreshadowing of the Messiah interwoven in Seder customs.

The Passover meal was a sacred feast that God instituted before the Israelites were freed from bondage in Egypt. The Passover has been passed down from the days of Moses. There was a period of time when the Israelites forsook the Passover, but under King Josiah, the Passover was reinstated and is still observed today.

Many of the traditional practices and prayers within the Seder probably predate the life of Jesus Christ. And, there is definite imagery in Seder traditions that are highly symbolic of what Jesus did for the redemption of men.

Consider two of the Seder blessings that are traditionally spoken at the meal. It is very possible that Jesus may have spoken these specific prayers of thanksgiving at the last Passover meal He observed with His disciples.

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus observed Passover with His disciples (Matt. 26:17-20). Specifically, Scripture records during that observance, Jesus broke the bread and offered the cup of the fruit of the vine. He told his disciples to continue to observe this as a sacrament in memory of Him. This is commonly known today as “the Lord’s Supper.”

Matthew records that Jesus took the bread and gave thanks (Matt. 26:26). When Scripture reads that Jesus, “gave thanks,” to a gentile believer this wouldn’t suggest any particular words that Jesus spoke. But to a Jew who is familiar with the Seder blessings it would suggest a specific prayer of thanksgiving.

The traditional Seder blessing, or thanksgiving prayer, for the breaking of the unleavened bread is said in Hebrew. But the prayer translates: 

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

If Jesus did indeed say this specific blessing, that would mean, directly after saying these words, “Who brings forth bread from the earth,” He then broke the bread and ‘“gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” That broken bread represented His body.

Jesus was crucified the next day. He died, was buried in a tomb, and raised to life on the third day. The Seder blessing is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is indeed the Bread of Life, who was brought forth from the earth.

After partaking of the bread, Scripture records that Jesus “took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them.” (Matt. 26:27). That cup represented His blood, which was “poured out for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

Note, the Bible specifically says Jesus, “took the cup.” This too is a portrayal of what Jesus did.

In Gethsemane, Jesus referred to His appointed time as “this cup.” It was a cup He dreaded but voluntarily accepted upon himself. The cup Jesus took upon himself was the cup of wrath over the warranted punishment for man’s sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

After Jesus took the Seder Cup of Redemption, He then gave thanks. The traditional blessing spoken over the wine or grape juice translates:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.”

This prayer too points to Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Jesus claimed, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1). “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It is only through Jesus, the true vine, that anyone can produce fruit for the kingdom of God. And, that is only possible because of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, for whoever receives Him through faith. In redemption, we are “in Christ.”

After Jesus said the blessing over the cup, He said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

Jesus then “offered” the cup to them. In “offering” the cup to the disciples, they were given a choice whether or not to accept that cup which represents His blood of atonement.

Jesus offered His life as a ransom for many. His life was “offered” for whoever would believe and receive him, but He does not force himself upon anyone. Each individual must choose whether to accept Him as their Lord and Savior – or reject Him.

Another aspect of the blessing of the fruit of the vine also points to Jesus divinity. John tells us that Jesus’ first miracle was in turning water into wine (John 2:11). In that first miracle, Jesus himself created the fruit of the vine.

Jesus is the “Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.” He is one with the heavenly Father (John 10:30).

These are just a few aspects of the imagery of Jesus in the Seder. That are many more.

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