April 5, 2004
A Little Bit of Matza Goes a Long Way
"That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over
the fire, along with bitter herbs, and matza" (Shemot
/ Exodus 12:8).
A Passover seder (ceremonial meal) is full of symbol
and meaning. One of the most important of these
symbols is called the afikomen. On the table is placed
three whole pieces of matza (unleavened bread). Near
the beginning of the celebration the middle of the
three is broken in two. One half is wrapped in a white
cloth and is hidden away until after the meal portion
of the seder is completed. At that time with the
involvement of the children, it is brought out again.
The afikomen is then unwrapped and shared among all
This custom actually goes against the original rules
of the seder. Afikomen was a word used to refer to an
after meal food. Tradition dictated that no afikomen
should be eaten, so that the taste of the Passover
lamb should linger in our mouths.
The slaughter of the Passover lambs depended on the
existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. Once the temple
was destroyed, the lambs could no longer be eaten. As
a result the Jewish leadership declared that afikomen
should be eaten following the meal as a reminder of
the Passover lambs.
It is noteworthy that the New Covenant writings record
that the eating of afikomen actually pre-dated the
destruction of the Temple. It was actually Yeshua who
established this new custom. Yeshua and his followers
celebrated Passover on the evening of his arrest.
Like every other Jewish community in the world at that
time and since, Yeshua, his disciples, and likely
their families gathered to remember how God
miraculously delivered the people of Israel from
bondage in Egypt. But this was to be a seder like no
other. In the time of Moses the judgement of God
passed over the Jewish people, if they applied the
blood of the lamb to their homes. Now in Yeshua, the
greater Passover Lamb was about to give himself, so
that all of us who apply his blood to our lives would
escape eternal judgement.
As a reminder of what he was about to do for his
followers, Yeshua broke with the tradition of his day
and gave afikomen to them to eat - one little piece of
matza to remember the greatest thing God has ever done
Ever since that time Yeshua's followers have continued
to take bread (not always matza, since many forgot the
context in which Yeshua did this), to remember the
sacrifice of the greater Passover Lamb. The same thing
has continued to be done at every seder worldwide for
centuries, though most people don't realize its true
But why would Yeshua choose to give us a small, dry
piece of matza as a symbol of remembrance of such a
great act. Through history many have preferred to
build all sorts of grand memorials to his love and
sacrifice. Statues, paintings, and other elaborate
things have been built in an attempt to convey what
some think are fitting ways to impress the masses with
what he did.
And yet Yeshua's own choice was a small, dry piece of
matza. Why would he do that? While it is difficult to
say for sure, I would like to suggest the following.
First, matza reminds us of the first Passover. We need
to understand Yeshua's sacrifice in the context of
Israel's deliverance from Egypt. It is this older
event that provides us with the best picture of what
it means to be delivered from sin and death through
Second, the matza places what Yeshua did in its proper
Jewish context. Yeshua is not just simply the Savior
of the world, he is the fulfillment of centuries of
Jewish expectation. To forget that is to disregard the
fullness of God's plans and purposes.
Third, early in the seder the matza is uncovered and
the words are recited, "This is the Bread of
Affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of
Egypt." Matza is the bread of the poor and afflicted.
In Yeshua, God came for the poor and the needy. Though
many would not admit it, we are all the poor and the
needy. The matza reminds us that God gave up his place
of heavenly privilege and came to meet us in our
deepest need. By stooping down to the depths he did,
he makes himself available to all people. At the same
time the Bread of Affliction reminds us that unless we
humble ourselves before God and one another, we can
never truly receive the deliverance of which the matza
Finally, this little piece of matza makes us think.
Connecting with its deep meaning takes some effort on
our part. We have to stop and remember what he did for
us, why he did it, and that he really did it for us.