Springtime is on the way, and that means we are headed toward Passover and Easter. Jewish Passover and Christian Easter are forever connected because more than two thousand years ago in Jerusalem Jesus rose from the grave during Passover. It seems so fitting that as winter gives way to spring, we walk right into Passover and Easter.
In the Torah, more specifically in Exodus 23:14, the Lord commanded His people to celebrate 3 annual festivals unto him. These were 7-day festivals when God’s people ceased their work to remember His faithful work in their lives and on their behalf. The Living God loves to celebrate, and it is beautiful that He invited them into celebrations that would last 7 days!
The 3 annual festivals are:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pesach/Passover in the spring
The Feast of Harvest, Pentecost in the spring, 50 days after Passover
The Feast of Ingathering, Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall
Once Jerusalem was established as the capital city of Jerusalem, the Jewish people started traveling to Jerusalem for the 3 festivals. These festivals came to be known as “foot festivals” or “pilgrimage festivals.”
God’s House was located in Jerusalem. (We call it the Temple, but he always called it a “house.”) In commanding these festivals, it was almost like the Living God was inviting His people to come to His house for a 7-day festival when they celebrated HIS faithfulness in their lives. Like a father gathering his children to him to tell and retell stories of his presence, power, and saving activity on behalf of their families, clans, tribes—and as the nation of Israel.
Passover is the 1st of the 3 annual feasts. And the Seder sits at the heart of Passover.
Every year, at the beginning of Passover, Jewish families around the world gather at their tables for a special event called the “Seder.”
“Seder” means “order” in Hebrew. The Seder is a ritual meal that combines food, song and storytelling. At the Seder, the story of the Exodus is told, remembered, reimagined, and celebrated (Ex.12). It’s the story of the Lord miraculously rescuing, delivering and saving his people from bondage in Egypt.
At the Seder, Jewish families practice remembering and celebrating their story as a nation and the story of God’s faithfulness to them as a people.
Remembering and celebrating are both acts of worship—remembering God’s faithfulness and celebrating God’s faithfulness. Both center our focus, attention, and affection on the Living God and His salvation, deliverance, and sustained provision in our lives. The way to move forward with courage is to look back and recount God’s total faithfulness to us in the past both individually and communally—He has not forsaken us still. He has not failed us yet. He will not fail us in the future. This is a reason to celebrate!
One of the central purposes in the Seder is for families to tell the Exodus Story to their children. Jewish learning happens through repetition—going over a story or truth again and again until it works its way into you, like yeast into dough. During the Seder the children participate fully. The Exodus story is told, and the children ask and answer questions. Then they learn and remember and Exodus Story AGAIN with their parents and grandparents.
But the Seder is so much more than just telling the Exodus Story. They reimagine the account with various food items on the Seder plate that bring their whole bodies into the experience of remembering and celebrating. Again, the children are invited into the experience; the story comes alive to their five senses. They don’t just listen to a story; they enter into the Exodus Story and reimagine it in their own lives.
A Seder plate usually includes:
- A roasted shank bone to represent the Pesach lamb;
- An egg representing spring and the circle of life;
- Bitter herbs representing slavery in Egypt;
- Charoset (mixture of wine, nuts, and apples crushed together) to represent the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt when they labored for Pharaoh;
- Parsley to dip into salt water to represent the tears and hardship of slavery;
- Three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread) representing the bread the Israelites took with them when they fled on the night of Passover.
As the Exodus story is told, everyone at the table participates by partaking of the various food items as they remember, retell, and reimagine the story together. The ritual takes them back to the time of the Israelites being miraculously delivered from the tyranny of the Egyptians. The ritual encourages them to courage forward, imagining how they can help others become free and make the world a better place. The Seder encourages, inspires, and quickens us.
Remembering, looking back, is the way forward.
When we face uncertainty in front of us, we look back to God’s certainty behind us.
His record is faithful. Every step of the way He was faithful. He is faithful. He will be faithful.
When we remember His faithfulness in our lives, we surge forward with renewed perspective, confidence, and assurance that He goes with us, before us and behind us. We are not alone.
For those interested in hosting your own modified Seder this year, there’s a wonderful written resource called the “Haggadah.” It is used during the Seder to tell the Exodus Story. “Haggadah” means “telling” in Hebrew. It will help you and your family to facilitate the Seder experience and give you the opportunity to remember, reimagine, and retell the ancient yet living story of God’s deliverance. If you’d like to use it in your own Seder this year, click here to find a free downloadable version.
Kristi McLelland is a speaker, teacher, and college professor. Since completing her Masters in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary, she has dedicated her life to teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves through a Middle Eastern lens. Her great desire for people to truly experience the love of God has led her to guide biblical study trips to Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. To learn more about Kristi’s upcoming trips, speaking, and more, visit newlensbiblicalstudies.com.