Until now, the Seder has been a mystery to me. Being raised a Christian, I knew little about Jewish traditions or celebrations. Of course, I knew our Savior was crucified during the Passover and the Exodus story on which it is based. But I knew nothing of the Seder, its symbols and practices.
So when our church hosted a Seder on Maundy Thursday, the same day that Jesus celebrated Seder with his disciples in the Last Supper, I signed up. I wanted to learn more about the Jewish traditions my husband was raised under. He wasn’t the least bit interested in attending, having been there and done that, but it was a new experience for me.
Should Christians Partake In The Seder?
In advance, I did some research about the Seder and whether Christians should partake in it. Surprisingly, I found it a controversial topic, with many lined up on both sides.
The quite orthodox Orthodox Presbyterian Church says no. “In 1 Corinthians 10:21, it is said that you cannot eat at the table of the Lord and then go and eat at the table of those who deny Jesus is the Christ,”, adding, “Do not look to others’ practices, but follow the Apostles of Christ (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).”
Others, like the Catholic Church, say it is okay as long as it is celebrated authentically. “The Seder Meal is a sacred Jewish ritual. For Catholics to re-enact this sacred ritual is disrespectful of the Jewish tradition. The Seder Meal is a Jewish tradition that Catholics should enjoy only if we are privileged to be welcomed to a Jewish Passover table.”
And another Catholic commentator warned, “Catholics unfamiliar with the Jewish Seder should not attempt to improvise or Christianize it.”
The Baptist Church shares similar concerns about appropriating a Jewish tradition as a Christian practice. It advises Christians to “think hard before holding Seder meals during Holy Week.”
Considering this a disputable practice, I turned to the Bible. In Acts 20:6 and Acts 27:9, Paul is said to have celebrated Jewish feasts. And in 1 Corinthians 9:20, he wrote, “ To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.”
So I decided to attend.
Adapting Seder To The Gospel Message
Full disclosure: Our Seder was a Christian one. While it followed the steps of a traditional Jewish Seder, each of its symbols was explained by pointing to their completion in Jesus.
In that, I found it uplifting because we were celebrating Christ, as the accompanying bulletin stated:
“Truly, we can say Hallelujuh for the great redemption that God has wrought on our behalf,
redemption at a terrible price: in Egypt, the death of the firstborn;
for us, redemption from sin, the death of God’s son.
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him, should not perish but have eternal life.’”
The part of the ceremony I found most interesting was the empty place setting Jews reserve for Elijah, the guest expected but who has not yet arrived.
Our pastor referenced our recent study of Malachi 4:5 – “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”– and how Jesus said that prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist in Matthew 11:
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
We also read from Isaiah about how Jesus completed the Old Testament prophecies about his coming, his works, his suffering and death as a guilt offering and his resurrection. And because these truths have been fulfilled, we can look forward to His second coming.
Our Seder closed with traditional benediction, “L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim,” or Next Year in Jerusalem. And this was the saddest part of the evening for me. Our Jewish brothers and sisters have no hope but only to look forward to coming together again next year in this sin-filled world.
We know, but they don’t, that Jesus is the Seder’s fulfillment and promise. They refuse to have ears to hear and eyes to see.
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:11.
No Jesus, No Hope
It was the same sad feeling I had after attending my mother-in-law’s funeral presided over by a rabbi. There was no hope given to the other mourners as in a Christian funeral service where we hear Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25.
However, my husband and I rejoiced for her because he shared the Good News with her late in life. She believed that her God could do anything. When my husband asked her if God could even come as a man and pay for her sins, she agreed too. When he explained this was the role Jesus played as Messiah to the Jews, she said, “Then I guess I’m a Christian.”
Now that I’ve done a Seder, I’ll sit the next one out. It was instructive to learn more about the tradition, its roots and meaning. But the hopeless feeling I was left with was distressing, knowing the Jewish people only look backward. They have nothing to look forward to because the Old Testament promise of a Messiah, their Mashiach, has already come:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement
that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16