On Saturday, we joined Jewish families around the globe in celebrating the Passover. I cooked all day, preparing unleavened treats, and Dan set up the Seder table for our family and guests (the Zug family).
Dan and I have been hosting Seders for several years now, with a variety of different people, across the county. And each time I sit down at this sacred and traditional meal, I come away learning something new about Jesus.
When we host a Seder meal, Dan and I assume two familiar roles. He plays the rabbi, or the Jewish man of the home, dressed in his prayer shawl and wearing his yarmulke. I sit at his right hand as the Messianic interpreter, the one who explains the traditions in terms of its Christian significance and how we can see Jesus in each element.
This year, for the first time, we led a Seder that involved small children, two under the age of five. We wanted to see what the Seder was like through the eyes of a child, plus it was a new challenge for us to appeal to someone with a shorter attention span.
A lot of the chanting and the drinking of the different cups of wine went right over their heads. Rightly, they hated eating the bitter herbs. That’s the point. I think we adults try to sugar coat it with meaning, but to the kids, it’s bitter. They just wanted to spit it back out. That’s probably the best response.
The children especially liked it when Dan got down on the floor with them and washed their hands with a pitcher and a bowl of water. I thought about how Jesus stepped down from heaven to our level, for a moment in time, to be with us. And at this point in the Passover (the Last Supper), in humility, Jesus bowed down lower to wash the disciple’s feet. The kids recognized how special it was for the host to leave his place of honor at the head of the table and sit on the floor by them to wash their hands.
But their favorite part of the entire meal was the Afikomen. It comes at two points during the meal. The first is when the leader takes a piece of matzah, the unleavened bread, and breaks it in half. The first half goes in the matzah tash, a special ceremonial bag with three compartments. But the second half becomes the Afikomen (Greek for “that which comes last”).
The leader wraps the Afikomen in a piece of cloth and tells the children to hide their eyes while he hides it. Later, towards the end of the Seder meal, the leader reminds the children of the hidden Afikomen, and they set out to find it. The child who finds it gets a reward.
You might be thinking, “This is a bizarre tradition.” Yes, it probably sounds that way, to the western mindset. Our Thanksgiving dinners don’t exactly involve lots of liturgy or symbolic elements. But, this has been going on for thousands of years, and each element has ties back to the Exodus from Egypt. And for Christians, we believe that they also have forward looking ties to Yeshua, Jesus, our Messiah, who fulfills all of these elements.
For thousands of years, Jewish families have been talking about the Afikomen Jesus. He, like the matzah, left his home in heaven, represented by the tri-part trinity matzah tash bag. He was broken, pierced, wrapped in a white cloth, and buried. Then, after a time, he was raised to life again.
The children played a key part in this re-enactment of Jesus’ birth, death, burial, and resurrection. It was the undervalued, lower-class women who found the empty tomb, and likewise, it is the innocent, young children who are the ones to find the hidden Afikomen. They joyfully run back with the good news, to receive their prize. What’s been lost has now been found.
This must be what Jesus meant when he told us to have the faith of a child-to run eagerly to spread the good news, to believe you’ve found the truth and want to share it, and to earnestly expect your promised reward.