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 
present.

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 
for us.

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 
meaning.

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 
the Messiah.

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 
reminds us.

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.