By Jaime Nava –
Jesus entered Jerusalem during the period of the Passover. This was a time for the Jews to recall God’s saving work recorded in Exodus. The Passover meal is recorded in Exodus 12. When Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples, He was taking the old meal, a shadow, and in its place gave a new meal: Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The meal of the first Maundy (Holy) Thursday is one we partake of every week.
Many Christians find the connection to our Jewish roots (via the same faith of Abraham) fascinating. Sadly the “natural branches,” that is the Jews, were broken off of the root when they disbelieved God’s Word and rejected the Son of God (Romans 11:20). Even so, Christians, as a wild branch, have been grafted onto the root who is Jesus (John 15:5) by faith. Christians are a part of Israel because of faith in God’s Word. This is the way it has always been (Romans 9:6-8).
There is a thoroughly Jewish meal, known as the Seder, that celebrates the Passover. It contains a structured order for celebrating God’s work in the Exodus with certain cups of wine to recall certain events, and eating parsley dipped in salt water to remember the bitterness of the journey and the many tears shed, among other things. With our Jewish connection, Christians see this meal as theirs, and many Christians and congregations celebrate this meal each year. Some may even use it as an evangelism tool to bring in Jews to the church.
There are problems when Christians celebrate this Seder meal. Firstly, we are told that this is the meal that Jesus Himself celebrated. There is no historic evidence of this. The first full record of the Seder meal as we know it was found around the turn of the first millennium, 1000 AD, from a rabbi’s prayer book. There is zero evidence that Jesus celebrated the Seder meal. Secondly, Jesus Himself said, “do this” not “do this and that”. We have what we need to know about the true and final Passover meal from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians. Finally, the Seder meal commemorates the Passover meal from Exodus. The lamb’s blood was placed over the doors so that the angel of death would pass over and spare those inside. Jesus is the Lamb of God who causes the final death to pass over God’s people with His own blood. The Passover meal was a shadow looking forward to Jesus. The better meal, the New Covenant, is the one Jesus Himself gave on the night when He was betrayed, because through that meal we not only remember, but actually receive forgiveness as we eat body—bread and blood—wine.
If Christians celebrate the Seder, what are we doing? We are celebrating the shadow instead of the Son. We are misleading people away from Christ and into a human invention. We are disregarding Jesus’ own words. Here’s the better thing: attend a service on Maundy Thursday and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Use the service from your hymnal. Follow the pattern of God’s people for the past 2,000 years. This is good, right and salutary so to do.