By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 31, 2005
It’s the season when many shop for new spring suits, dye eggs and anticipate Easter Sunday lunch.
But in the midst of the seasonal buzz, many Alabama churches seek to provide meaningful ways for their members to slow down and embrace a deeper understanding of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And though the Lord’s Supper is the traditional observance, many are celebrating the time leading up to Christ’s death by taking the meal He took on Maundy Thursday — the traditionally Jewish Passover seder.
Last year more than 250 people attended a Passover seder hosted by North Glencoe Baptist Church and led by John Phelps of HaOr Ministries, a Kentucky-based ministry that teaches churches about the Hebrew foundations of the Christian faith.
The response was so tremendous, according to Pastor David Denson, that North Glencoe scheduled Phelps again this year for their seder March 24.
To observe the seder, the church served a meal of baked chicken, a green vegetable and kugel, followed by the Passover meal of parsley, kharoset and matzoh — all foods symbolizing some facet of the Passover.
The Passover, which occurred thousands of years ago when the Pharaoh of Egypt refused the commands of Moses to free the Hebrew slaves from captivity, demonstrates how God spared His people through the shedding of the innocent blood of a lamb — just as He did in the crucifixion.
The story — as told in Exodus 12 — follows Pharaoh’s stubbornness in the face of plagues until death for Egypt was the final judgment.
The Lord instructed Moses and Aaron that every Hebrew family should choose a perfect lamb for sacrifice and smear its blood on the top and sides of the door frame of the house.
That night, as each Hebrew family ate the roasted lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, the Lord passed through the land and killed the firstborn male in every Egyptian home, sparing the Hebrews covered by the lamb’s blood.
For centuries, the Jewish people have observed the Passover seder meal to remember their freedom.
God instructed the Israelites in Exodus 12:14, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come after you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance.”
Denson said hearing and participating in the teaching of the seder adds to the greatness of the Easter celebration.
“The seder is another opportunity to bring the Bible to life to review for refreshing and rededication in your Christian walk,” he said.
Since it was the Passover seder — now commonly known as the Last Supper — that Jesus celebrated with the disciples the night before His crucifixion, Denson believes Christians can gain much from understanding the special meal.
“The teaching of the Passover seder covers the ages from the first Passover celebrated by the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, to the Passover in the upper room celebrated by Jesus Christ and His disciples, to its observance by the Jews today,” Denson said.
Jay Isbell, elder of the Beth El Shaddai Messianic Synagogue in Birmingham, a Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, said when Christians take part in the meal and tell the Passover story, they find that the symbolism of the whole service points to the coming Messiah.
Beth El Shaddai, like HaOr Ministries, gives Southern Baptist congregations guidance on how to conduct the Passover seder as well as how to celebrate it their congregations.
“As we celebrate communion, or the Lord’s Supper, we can see a shadow of these things, but if we carry out the whole service, we can see how it underscores God’s eternal plan for His people in a very powerful way,” Isbell said.
The seder is comprised of three parts: the haggadah (the telling), the meal and the afikomen (unleavened bread), Isbell explained. As the story of slavery to freedom and of darkness to light is retold, the pastor also leads the congregation in sharing a meal of bitter herbs, a roasted egg, a sweet apple mixture, parsley and a bone.
According to Isbell, the serving of the afikomen, or matzoh, is the portion of the meal when the lamb is remembered.
“Its blood was placed on the doorposts as salvation from that final plague, and the body of the lamb was eaten completely to give them strength during the coming times,” Isbell said.
“When Y’shua (Jesus) said ‘This is My body’ and ‘This is My blood,’ the disciples saw something very different from what many believers see today in a simple communion service,” Isbell explained. “He came to be our Salvation and our Strength.”
Zola Levitt, a Jewish Christian and founder of Zola Levitt Ministries in Dallas, Texas, said, “We should celebrate the feasts (like Passover) because Jesus celebrated them.”
Levitt teaches that through understanding the biblical feasts, one can see the core of Christianity, as Jesus was the perfect lamb sacrificed for us in order to save us from death.
In his booklet “The Miracle of Passover,” Levitt writes, “Understanding Jesus as a sacrificial lamb, in effect, is to understand the very heart of Christianity.”
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