Of all things I am most grateful for teaching me to see Jesus in the Old Testament. This week (April 14th-22nd) is Passover week, the first of the yearly holidays commemorating the story of the Exodus, where God freed Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Passover is one of seven holidays appointed to remind Israel of the work of God. These holidays are His-story, God’s means to reveal Himself to His people. First to the Jews, but also to all that would believe.
I am the Lord…
During every Passover celebration four cups of wine (or juice) are used throughout the seder meal to symbolize four distinct promises made by God to Moses and the people of Israel (Exodus 6:6-7). These four promises are true today for all that believe in Christ. They are promises that Christians should know and claim, temporary promises to Israel, eternity promises for Christians!
#1 The Cup of Sanctification
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” -Exodus 6:6
The Exodus of Israel begins with their slavery. Israel had grown mighty in numbers, so mighty that the King of the Egypt feared them (Exodus 1:8). It was within this time of slavery that God revealed Himself to Israel.
Strong, capable, involved, the rescuer of His people. In order to sanctify, to set them apart, God would have to remove them from the pagan culture they were slaves to. Having been freed from Egypt, and removed from these influences, God began giving a new culture to Israel throughout the Exodus. Skills were given and jobs appointed to each tribe as the Lord saw fit. Laws, rights, civil responsibility and social order was established. Corporate song and worship of God began taking place and the Sabbath was observed for the first time. Had the Lord not set Israel apart for Himself, Israel would have ceased to exist. Passover, Sukkot, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah… these beautiful holidays that lead us to the Messiah would not be.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, – 1Corinthians 1:2
“The Church of God” and “those sanctified” are not two different groups, but one group being defined. Those sanctified are the Church, and the Church consist of all who have been sanctified. This is not a moral sanctification that purchases our right to be in the church, but a separation by God through faith in Jesus. This is not a separation from the world into a new religion or set of beliefs, but rather a separation to God Himself. The New Testament refers to this as “adoption” (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5), Gods free act of taking us to Himself. God is the greatest most all satisfying piece of Christianity, In Him our yearning is satisfied. God is the field that we joyfully sell everything to buy, the peril that gladly costs us everything! (Matthew 13)
#2 The Cup of Deliverance
“…I will deliver you from slavery to them” -Exodus 6:6
Had the heart of Pharaoh not been hardened, Israel would have been delivered after the first plague. The Nile had turned to blood, the fish had died, and God had revealed Himself, but Israel remained enslaved. It took another nine plagues before Pharaoh would release them. The beauty in this is that God proves Himself greater than the god’s of Egypt, conquering everything that Egypt trusted in, proving himself strong and trustworthy to Israel. The final act of deliverance came through the Red Sea. Once again Pharaoh hardened his heart toward Israel and pursued them into the wilderness. Israel would again find themselves helpless; before them the Red Sea, behind them the armies of Egypt. It was here, in the face of death, that God showed himself the deliverer. The God of heaven and earth reached down and parted the seas; bringing deliverance for Israel and crashing down death on the Egyptians (Exodus 14).
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son” – Colossians 1:13
Just as God delivered Israel from the burden of the Egyptians (Exodus 6:6), so Christ must deliver us from the burden of sin. Egypt was a slave master, a ruler of Israel. Egypt imposed a yoke that Israel could not get out from under and that is exactly what sin does, “…you who were once slaves of sin” (Romans 6:17), “…and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery“ (Galatians 5:1). In the book of Romans chapter 5 and 6, Paul depicts sin as “reigning” or “ruling” in our bodies like a king would rule his people. It is Christ and Christ alone that can separate us to God, and in Him, we not only find freedom from the consequences of sin, but also freedom from its ultimate influence. Just as Egypt had to die in order to bring about the deliverance of Israel, we too must die with Christ, in order to be raised with Him (Romans 6; Colossians 2). New heart, new mind, new desires, new purpose… we are made new in Christ and it is in Him that we are delivered.
#3 The Cup of Redemption
“…I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgement” -Exodus 6:6
The third cup speaks to the cost. There was a price paid in order for Israel to be free. This redemption or “saving“, implies recompense or payment. In order for death to pass-over the firstborn of Israel, death would have to be satisfied elsewhere. This plague of death was to come upon the “land of Egypt” (Exodus 11:5, 12:12), and it would come upon all who lived there, including Israel. Being a child of Israel did not exempt anyone, but the blood of the passover lamb became a sign for the angel of death to “pass-over” the house (Exodus 12:13). The blood was costly, it was a payment, life for a life. The plague demanded death of the firstborn, and the blood satisfied or “paid” this demand. Could God have excluded Israel from the plague without having to sacrifice a lamb? Yes, but without the lamb there would be no “act of judgement” (Exodus 6:6), no legal ruling purchasing the people of God.
Matt. 26:27-28 – And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
It is no coincidence that the Lord’s supper took place exactly when the seder meal would have. In fact, we can gain incredible insight to the Lord’s supper by understanding the elements included in the seder. The act of “Communion” today was most likely the third cup, “The Cup of Redemption”. The Third Cup is also known as the “Cup of Blessing” and this is exactly what Paul was referring to in his letter to the Corinthians, “The Cup of Blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16) Paul is connecting Jesus’ blood and body to the Third Cup and the Afikomen which is traditionally eaten with Third Cup. Even more telling is the way John describes Jesus upon seeing his true identity, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29). John did not see his cousin, but the Passover Lamb. The very lamb that purchased the redemption of Israel 1400 years earlier, was now standing before John preparing to bring redemption for God’s people by becoming payment for their sins.
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us… redemption” – 1 Corinthians 1:30
See also: Romans 3:24-25, 1 John 2:2
#4 The Cup of Restoration
“…I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God” -Exodus 6:7
The fourth and final cup looks forward to a time when the Lord would fully redeem Israel and bring complete peace. This was a symbol of hope. Typically this cup is connected with the return of Elijah, and ultimately the coming of the Messiah. This final cup is a reminder that redemption is not yet complete. The Passover lamb was not the Messiah and whatever realities of redemption that it brought, they were not full nor final.
John 11:51-52 “…being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.“
Had redemption been complete following the Passover lamb, there would not have been a need for another sacrifice. Instead sin reigned in their mortal bodies and every year Passover and the day of Atonement served as reminders of their continual need of God’s forgiveness. Ultimately our sin is first and foremost before God, and second toward our neighbor. The latter can only effect our life here and now, it is the first offense that we must concern ourselves most with. This offense cannot be satisfied by words of forgiveness, nor acts of goodness. To pay for this sin on our own, it will ultimately cost us our life and separation from the love of God. The good news or “The Gospel”, is that Jesus cannot only set us apart to God, deliver us from sin, and become the full propitiation of our sin, but that in Him we can completely and eternally be restored to God (Titus 2:14; Heb 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4). What the Jewish people today are looking for, is made eternally possible in Jesus Christ or Messiah Yeshua. Just as there was one blood upon the door that led to the promise land, there is one blood and one door to the Father (John 14:6).
It was this fourth and final cup of the Passover meal that Jesus spoke of when he said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29). These words can only be understood in light of the meaning of the Fourth Cup. Jesus’ unwillingness to drink this cup tells us two great truths. First that complete redemption is also in our future. This land we now live in is not our home, and the journey we are on is not our destination. With complete assurance of our souls secured in Christ, we can joyfully endure the challenges and sufferings of this world. Secondly, that when Jesus refused to drink the Fourth Cup, He was declaring His glorious inheritance in the Saints (Ephesians 1:18), and postponing His own celebration. The victory is won, the work finished, but the wedding day is yet to come. The final words of scripture declare two longings waiting to be fulfilled…
“Surely I am coming soon”, and “Come, Lord Jesus!”
(photo by: bronze sculpture by C. Malcolm Powers)