Passover During Hanukkah
Passover During Hanukkah
by Lonnie Lane
At the One New Man conference I met a woman whose name tag said she was from my city. We exchanged phone numbers and she called a few weeks later with a burden on her heart I could relate to. She wants to see a “One New Woman” fellowship develop. Later she called to ask me if I would come to speak to her women’s Bible study group about “communion” and what Yeshua had in mind when he instituted it at the Last (Passover) Supper. We set a date for what turned out to be the first day of Hanukkah.
The women wanted to have somewhat of a traditional meal to set the tone and asked me what was traditional for Passover. I explained that what is traditional in this generation might not have been traditional in Yeshua’s generation. Did they actually make matzo balls for chicken soup then? Weren’t they more likely to have had, you know, lamb? Isn’t that what Passover is about? Lamb? They actually did eat all those sacrificial lambs they brought to Jerusalem for the Feast, you know. Imagine what Jerusalem must have smelled like with thousands of roasted lambs permeating the air. Mmmmm. But chicken soup, I’m not sure.
Nevertheless, she informed me closer to the date, that she was making the above mentioned traditional chicken soup with matzo balls, and had bought not only a box of matzo for the communion but also a challah. The challah, a braided bread usually eaten on the Sabbath or holidays is NOT what would have been served, or even found, during Passover in Yeshua’s day or today either for that matter. All leaven would have been cleansed away altogether. Our Passover-during-Hanukkah event, however, was to be a bit of an eclectic affair anyway.
As I thought about these two mo’edim, the word meaning rehearsals (plural), as the Feasts of the Lord are called, I began to find a common thread winding through them both. Passover is a mo’ed (rehearsal, singular) that rehearsed or predicted the coming of a Deliverer far greater than Moses, and a deliverance even greater than that of the Jews being liberated from Egypt whose power was far too great for the Hebrews to be able to overcome themselves.
Passover is so called because the Angel of Death “passed over” the Israelites who obeyed God’s word to Moses to have them put the blood of a lamb over their doors. A lamb had to be killed. It was to be eaten, even hastily while they were dressed for travel as they were to finally and completely be released from their bondage to slavery. The blood was a sign to God of their faith that God had spoken to them, that He meant what He said and that His promise could be counted on. In other words, they had faith to believe the blood of the lamb would bring them God’s deliverance.
Passover also included hastily baked unleavened bread, as there was no time to let it rise. God still requires eating unleavened bread during the holiday as part of recalling the event each year. While matzo may not today look quite like it looked back then, what is traditional today is matzo that has stripes of tiny holes down each piece. Messianic Jews see this as symbolic of Yeshua’s suffering as the “lamb that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) because, “He was pierced through for our transgressions…and by His scourging (KJV: stripes) we are healed.” (Is 53:5) Additionally, as we know, the matzo had no leaven in it which is always symbolic of sin, which includes pride and boasting (as in puffed up like yeasted breads).
God commanded the newly liberated Hebrews to continue to “remember” the Passover every year on that date from then on “forever.” God even told them that they were to make this time the first month of the year. The deliverance of Passover was so significant in God’s mind that He told them it was to be “the beginning of months…it is to be the first month of the year to you.” (Ex. 12:2) That even the Jews have changed their calendar does not change the fact that God sees Passover as the primary event from which everything else in the year is to follow!
Even Jews who don’t do much else religiously will have a Passover Seder to remember the Exodus from Egypt. The Holy Spirit has kept the story alive in us ‘lo these many generations. Jews, and those Gentiles who came to dwell among them, were to remember the mighty deliverance God brought to their ancestors, without which the Hebrews would not have remained a people. The word “remember” is significant to Jews for many reasons. Passover is primary.
Let’s take a peek back at Yeshua in the upper room with his twelve disciples at His last Passover Seder: “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'” (Luke 22:19) Speaking about what we now call “communion,” He was saying in essence: “The deliverance I am about to bring to pass for Israel and for the whole world is the event from which all else in the Kingdom of God follows! In fact, it is in “remembering” My Body given for you on the cross, and My blood shed for remission of Your sins, that you, by faith in My body and blood, remain “in Me.”
The “do this” is the blessing that Jews said over bread and wine or juice not just during Passover, but at every meal, every day. “Remembering” Him and the deliverance He brought to us is to be as much a part of our day and consciousness as our daily meals. It is to be that sustaining for us as believers. The church says “grace” before our meals because the Hebrews did and the church inherited it from them as an ordinary part of daily life. The only difference is that the Jews bless God rather than blessing the food. They assume God’s already blessed it when He gave it to them. They bless God for who He is when they pray before eating: “Blessed are You O Lord our God, You have given us the fruit of the vine (and) bread from the earth.”
So if we are remembering Yeshua when we “do this,” perhaps instead of praying something like “Bless this food to our bodies and bless the hands that made it,” we should be praying, “Blessed are You, our extraordinarily gracious and all powerful and glorious God. You gave Your own body and shed Your own blood, You took upon Yourself our sins so we could be restored to God, and so that our bodies might be healed, so that our peace could be restored…..” I’m inclined to let praises for Him go on and on here, but you get the idea, right?
I can hear that some of you may be thinking that I’m making “communion” much too ordinary and an everyday sort of thing that loses its effectiveness in our lives when done daily. But if you consider the power and faith that the first Hebrew believers in Yeshua walked in daily, their awareness of Who He was far exceeded ours, and likely they “remembered” Him at every meal when they said their b’rachote, their blessings. Many people have told of powerful deliverances in their own personal lives as they take communion daily, “remembering” His deliverance from the power of a tyrannical master far greater than Pharaoh, and much too great for us to overcome ourselves – sin! Yeshua’s blood is the currency of heaven whereby we were purchased by God “from the domain of darkness and transferred…to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col 1:13) Just as we remember God’s mighty deliverance in the Passover yearly, we now are to remember God’s mighty deliverance from sin that enables us to be close to God every day. Even at every meal.
And lest you think that remembering Yeshua’s death at each meal might be a deterrent to good digestion, please keep in mind that Passover is a very joyful holiday, one of rejoicing and gratefulness to God for His goodness to Israel. It is customary to wish each other “Hag Sameach” at the holiday time. This is wishes for great joy, even cause for dancing that we’ve been set free from our enemies, like Miriam and the other ladies when “the horse and rider (were) thrown into the sea.” (Ex 15:20, 21) Communion is not a cause for sorrow and feeling morose because of His death. That is not His purpose in remembering it. It was for the “joy set before Him that He endured the cross.” (Heb 12:2) He’s giving us reason for rejoicing and being happily grateful at every meal – to share in His joy and accomplishment! That should set the tone for a delightful meal time.
Now, here’s where Hanukkah comes in. The events surrounding Hanukkah are extra-Biblical, that
is they happened during the 400 year period between Malachi and John the baptizer, around 165 B.C. Israel was under siege by the Syrians and yet another tyrannical leader named Antiochus who had the high priest assassinated so that he could put a man of his own choosing in his place. He then imposed Greek cultural customs upon the Israelites, including outlawing their religion entirely and replacing it with his pagan gods. You either abided by his law or you were executed. In addition, Antiochus had a statue of himself erected in the temple. (Could there be a clearer picture of Antiochus as an anti-Christ figure?)
The final blow was when he desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig so that that the blood of that which God called unclean was upon the holy altar. (It sounds entirely like what satan would want to do to ridicule God, doesn’t it? We needn’t ask who was the force behind all this.) That did it. A Levitical priest named Mattathias killed a Hebrew who was carrying out the profaned sacrifice along with one of Antiochus’ officials who oversaw the unclean sacrifices. Mattathias fled to the hills with his sons but Antiochus’ troops pursued them and slaughtered some Hebrew women and children on the Sabbath. One of Mattathias’ sons, Judah “Maccabee” (Maccabee meaning “battle hammer”), was joined by many outraged pious Hebrews who were known as the “Chasidim,” (the pious ones) and a full scale revolt began. Despite their limited numbers in comparison to the Syrian army, after three years of fighting against incredible odds, it could only be God who brought them the deliverance so that they regained control of the Temple and their land once again.
The major purpose of the temple was largely about sacrifices. That was a primary function in the temple, for the priests to have a holy place to perform the sacrificial sin-covering rituals that enabled Israel to come into God’s presence. That’s why the blood of a pig on the altar was such an offense. Nothing unclean could provide the cleansing of sin in order for the Hebrews to be acceptable to their God. Without God’s protection and provision they knew they were in very big trouble.
When the Temple was cleansed of all that had defiled it, they wanted to relight the “eternal” light that had gone out. But, as the story goes, they only had enough oil for one day, but miraculously the lamp burned for eight days while the consecrated oil was being prepared elsewhere that would keep it lit from then on. That’s why a Hanukkah menorah (lamp) is lit one candle per day for eight days – to “remember” what God did in delivering the Jews and their Temple from the Greeks. Remembering seems to have a lot to do with keeping in the forefront of our minds that God is about setting His people free to follow Him! Hanukkah became a part of Israel’s mo’edim and is known as the Feast of Dedication, in celebration of the Temple being rededicated back to God when the Maccabees overcame their enemies through another of God’s miraculous deliverances for Israel.
Now fast-forward to approximately 32 A.D. “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Yeshua answered them, ‘I told you and you do not believe…. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.'” (John 10:22-28).
We who are His sheep know who He is! We have been granted to hear His voice! And we can “remember” His words and by faith apprehend all that He has done for us so that we “shall never perish and no one shall snatch (us) out of (His) Hand.” In “remembering” that He is the sinless Passover Lamb of God, when His blood is on the doorpost of our hearts, just as Israel put the blood of a lamb on their own doorposts so that the angel of death “passed over” them, so we are granted eternal life and no longer are we tormented by the fear of death. And so also have we been set free from slavery to sin. Hallelu-Yah!
Whether we partake of a periodic “communion” service or we “remember” Yeshua daily, let’s not just “say grace” at meals, but let’s bring to our remembrance the sinless perfection of Yeshua, who despite great temptation to do otherwise as Gethsemane reflects, obeyed His Father to the end, and like a lamb who is led to the slaughter, neither defended Himself nor reviled. These are a few of the thoughts we might ponder as we take a few moments to remember Him. This time gives us opportunity to hold in our minds and hearts different aspects of His Person and His Gift to us each day. We might even want to ask the Holy Spirit to give us increased revelation as the days and years come to pass as we continue to meditate even briefly, “remembering” Him.
As we are each individually as well as collectively the temple of God, at Hanukkah time and any time, let us “dedicate” ourselves anew to Him and to seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. (Matt 6:33) Let’s be intentional about cleansing our own temple of anything that might in the least be defiling. Let’s continue to “remember” what His blood still brings to us – not just forgiveness of sins, but on-going cleansing from the power of sin and deliverance from a power that we could not fight without God having done it for us. Let us be sure that our own “eternal light” is well lit, as we remain filled with the Holy Spirit “oil” of anointing, so that we can be a light to the world and others around us to make His Kingdom visible.
As a parting thought that just tiptoed like a still small voice across my mind, what if we really took Yeshua’s words, such as this one, to heart? What increasing understanding of our God would a greater grasp of what His blood bought for us bring as we continue to do this daily, even for just a few moments? Considering that Yeshua was not one for rituals or religion, it’s unlikely He was instituting a monthly “communion” occurrence outside of relationships with one another. What if at our meals together we took a few minutes to go around the table and share what His atonement meant to us today? Or this week? Or even give some thought to it ourselves at the end of the day. Since we become like that which we focus upon, might the cumulative effect of this “remembering” serve to make us more and more like Yeshua? It may be worth considering.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.