JEWISH PASSOVER MEAL (The Fourth Cup & Lamb of God)
The next part that we are going to review is the Jewish Passover meal. Now this part is not quoted directly from the Bible. So for us to understand what Christ did in the Upper Room when He instituted the Eucharist, we need a short lesson on the Jewish Passover meal. Many of you will learn today just how Catholicism is fulfillment of Judaism, and when Jesus completes the Passover meal, he institutes a new covenant in the Eucharist. So this Passover meal, the Feast of the Passover, is instituted and practiced annually on the 14th day of Nissan for nearly 1300 years. During the Jewish Passover meal (also called the Seder Meal) there is an obligation. I repeat: An obligation, to drink four cups of wine. Now this meal can be broken down into four basic parts.
1st Cup - The first part of this Passover meal is the festival blessing and in that festival blessing the presiding priest says, "Let the festival begin." They say a few prayers and they drink from the first cup of wine.
2nd Cup - Then they go on to the second part of the meal. At this point the youngest person in the room would ask the presiding priest, "Father, why is tonight different from all other nights? " And the person administering the meal or priest would read from Exodus in the Torah. This was a very special way to remember the exodus so that future generations would never forget how Yahweh saved the Israelites from the bondage of slavery. After they read from Exodus, they would sing the Little Hallel. Hallel means “praise.” It’s a praise song, ”Halleluiah.” It’s Psalm 113. Then after they would sing the Little Hallel, they would drink from the second cup of wine, and this would finish the second part of the meal.
3rd Cup - The third part of the meal would begin as they ate the main course. They would eat different foods, each with a symbolic meaning. They ate the roasted lamb. It represented the Pascal lamb that was sacrificed in Egypt. They also ate bitter herbs and spices. These bitter herbs would remind them of the bitterness of bondage, and how bitter it was to be enslaved for so many years. They also ate green herbs dipped in salt water. It tasted bad, but the salt reminded them of the tears that the Israelites shed in the 400 years of slavery. They would also eat something called haroseth, which was apple that was mashed up and cooked with wine and a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. It represented the mortar used in the bricks to build Egypt. They also ate unleavened bread called matzah, just as they ate on that first night in Egypt. They ate many symbolic foods and when the meal was done, they would drink from the third cup of wine. By the way, the third cup of wine is referred to as the “Cup of Blessing.” This is the cup that Jesus changes later on, and if you recall sometimes in Mass, you may sing, “The Cup of Blessing Which We Bless.” This is the origin of the phrase. Drinking the cup would close the third part of the meal. Then they would go on to the fourth part.
4th Cup - The fourth part is the climax of the meal where they would conclude with several more prayers, and then they would sing the “Great Hallel”, which was Psalms 114-118. Then they would drink the fourth cup of wine and the presiding priest would say the words, “TEL TELESTI” which means “IT IS FINISHED” or “IT IS CONSUMATED”. The meal is completed. Jews still practice this Passover meal today much like they did nearly 3300 years ago.
Now the Jews celebrated this feast for about 1300 years. Every year on the 14th day of the month of Nissan they would celebrate the Passover meal just as God ordered. The Jewish calendar has different months of the year than the calendar that we use. The month of Nissan falls around our Easter time, somewhere around April or May. If you were Jewish, according to Jewish law, you had to celebrate a Passover meal. They would go into Jerusalem - this is where the temple was - and would celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus’ famous ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was the ride into Jerusalem before Passover.
We are going to be going a little faster here at this point. We’ve been studying from the book of Exodus and if you were following along in your Bible, we would be in the Old Testament. Now we’re going to skip all the way into the New Testament. I’m skipping hundreds of prophecies of the Messiah and so much more information, but for the sake of time we are going to skip over this and go straight into the New Testament. There is one Old Testament prophecy I would like to quote. It’s Jeremiah 31: 31-33, and it goes like this, “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”(Jeremiah 31:31-33) This is a prediction, a prophecy, of a new covenant that the Lord makes.
When we enter the New Testament, Jesus is born. And He’s born in a town called Bethlehem. Now we all know that. But did you know that in Hebrew, the word “Bethlehem” means, “House of Bread?” You might want to jot that down: “House of Bread.” I had a friend who recently visited the town of Bethlehem, over in the Jerusalem area. He had some information that I wanted to include. Animal sacrifice of the Passover and many other feasts of those days had taken place in the temple. There was so much animal sacrifice going on. You have to realize a million people walked out of Egypt and they had all these lambs. And they had to have a male unblemished lamb for Passover that you had to have fields of shepherds watching over sheep. And you had to have literally thousands and thousands of male unblemished lambs so you had to have a huge heard of sheep to be watched over. And these sacrifices took place in Jerusalem at the temple. So a town formed outside of Jerusalem and this town is where the shepherds families lived and the shepherds lived when they weren’t out with the sheep. But the shepherds formed a town called Bethlehem. And the shepherds that the angel Gabriel appeared to on the day that Jesus was born were not just any shepherds guarding sheep, but these shepherds were guarding the sheep that were the sacrificial lambs of the old covenant. And these very shepherds were given a personal invitation to come and to witness the new Lamb of God, the sacrifice of the new covenant. They weren’t just any shepherds; they were the shepherds in charge of guarding the old covenant sacrifices.
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