The best china and silver are carefully placed on the table ready for the special meal. Two tall white candles are burning on either side of an arrangement of spring flowers. Set before my father is a plate with three pieces of matzoh, the unleavened bread, covered with a cloth that I embroidered as a young girl.
My family is sitting around the table waiting to begin the seder, the Passover meal. As we join other Jewish families in commemorating the Feast of Unleavened Bread, everything appears the same as the previous 19 years. Only one thing is different. I am. This year I join this celebration as a completed Jew.
As the youngest child present, I begin our celebration by asking a series of questions summarized by one main question, Why is this night different from all other nights?” My family takes turns reading from the Haggadah, the seder prayer book, and in this way the Passover story is recounted and my questions answered.
My father begins the answer: “We were slaves unto Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Eternal our God, brought us forth thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” For 430 years the Hebrew people had suffered under the evil Pharaohs. Threatened by their prosperity, he had enslaved them and murdered their infant sons. Mercifully God saw the plight of his people and commissioned Moses to plead the nation’s cause before Pharaoh. Nine times Pharaoh refused Moses’ request that the children of Israel be allowed to go into the wilderness to worship and serve the Lord. Following each refusal God sent a plague on the Egyptians, consistently sparing the children of Israel.
On the night before the final plague, God instituted the ordinance of the Passover. He told Moses that the Israelites should kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood on their doorposts. God warned that he was about to kill the firstborn throughout Egypt. He promised to pass over the homes that had lamb’s blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12:1213). Thus, on the night when grief and mourning struck every Egyptian household, the children of Israel were spared. The blood of the lamb saved them from death.
A different sacrificial lamb was prophesied by Isaiah. This lamb would be a sin offering pierced through for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5-7). Jesus referred to this prophecy at the Last Supper when he held up the cup and said to his disciples, “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28, NASB).
Jesus’ blood applied to the “doorposts” of our hearts is a sign to God to “pass over” our sins. Seeing that blood, God spares us from death, the just punishment for our sins. This night is different from all others because I celebrate God’s mercy in passing over my sin.
I ask my father about the matzoh: “Why do we eat unleavened bread tonight?” He explains that the matzoh was God’s provision for his children who left Egypt in such haste that their bread did not have time to rise. Eaten for the seven days of Passover, it is another reminder of God’s faithfulness in providing for his people’s needs.
Once again I reflect on Jesus, who said of himself, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:50, NASB). At the Last Supper Jesus referred to the matzoh as a symbol of his body, the bread that would provide eternal life for all who partook of it. In the same way that God provided matzoh as physical nourishment for the Hebrews, he also provided Jesus, our spiritual nourishment.
I proceed with the second and third questions: “Why do we dip the parsley into the salt water tonight? Why do we eat bitter herbs?” My father tells us the salt water is symbolic of the tears that the Hebrews shed as slaves in Egypt. The bitter herbs, usually represented by a piece of horseradish, are a reminder of the bitterness of that slavery.
Today there is no Pharaoh over me, but without Jesus I am enslaved to sin. United to him, I am set free from its power. As God redeemed the children of Israel from a physical bondage, 1500 years later he redeemed his people from spiritual bondage through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
Finally I ask the last question: “Why do we recline as we eat this meal tonight?” I’m told that leaning on a pillow throughout the seder shows that although our forefathers were enslaved in Egypt, we are now a free people. Likewise, I’ve been delivered from the penalty of sin—death. I’m totally free!
The Passover miracle was a promise fulfilled at Easter. My ancestors were spared temporarily from death when God passed over their homes, but I am now spared eternally. Jesus’ resurrection declared that an eternal victory had been won over death.
As the seder ends, I leave the table, rejoicing that Jesus my Passover Lamb has obtained eternal freedom from sin and death. But my rejoicing is dulled by sadness. With tears in my eyes I listen to my family sing the closing prayer, “The following year may we all be in Jerusalem.” I pray instead, “Father, in the following year let my family see your heavenly Jerusalem that is promised through your Son Jesus.”
Editor’s Note: Mrs. Lesser is a Jewish believer and a friend of our ministry. (This article first appeared in Light and Life, April 1983.)