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What is a Seder?
The early church, for the first decade, was distinctively Jewish and practiced the seder ritual. Everyone in the early church knew the great Jewish rituals that Jesus of Nazareth followed and practiced them as He did. Jesus embraced those rituals; religious observances that enhanced knowledge of who God is and His works in relation to His people. These rituals had been handed down through the generations so the people would never forget God’s story of redemption. Both Jesus and most of his disciples were very religious, including those in his inner circle of leadership, Simon Peter, James and John. The Lord practiced these rituals, not just because He was a Jew and wanted to do what others did, but because they were good, and enhanced how the story of redemption is told from one generation to the next. Any Jew of the first century knew about and practiced these sacred seders and observed the special days, (Hebrew-Mo’ed).
So, how does this ritual or “order of service” (Hebrew-Seder), relate to Passover and Communion?
The answer is that Communion rose out of the Passover Seder. We know that because of what Jesus and his disciples did the very night that Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples (the “Lord’s Supper”) and followed the “Story-telling” (Haggadah) ritual they did. We only have bits and pieces in the accounts in the Gospels. The entire meal would have been 2-3 hours with the teaching and events that took place; we only have the highlights recorded. The Bible is not complete in every detail. We must remember the following statement to really understand what we tend to constantly look over in understanding the Bible.
Every Bible writer from Moses to John, beginning to end, assumed that the people to whom they were writing understood the language, the history, the geography and the cultural context of the day; and the people did.”
Why is it important for followers of Jesus to learn about the Passover Seder?
Those of us who are living in the present-day western world (or are taught by those from the western world) do not understand those rituals and cultural customs of that day and will not unless they are taught to us. Most Evangelicals in America fail to reckon with the reality that “The Bible is a Jewish book, written by Jews, to Jews and primarily for Jews.” This is why the Bible writers and especially the writers of the Gospels omitted the details of the rituals because they were common knowledge to the Jews of the first century and today. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are filled with “assumptions.” The writers simply did not state what was obvious to the audience and recipients of their writings.
The Passover was a memorial. It was given by God as an object lesson, illustration, or ordinance instituted to remind Israel of God’s miraculous redemption and deliverance from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. The “Lord’s Supper” that Christians observe today is the same, a memorial. It is an object lesson, illustration or ordinance given to remind believers that the Lord Jesus has redeemed us and delivered us from the bondage of sin and the slavery it brings to the human heart. It reminds believers that God is faithful. God will fulfill His promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and, that through Messiah, the people called Israel would be a light and blessing to all the earth.