In Part I of this series, we examined Lamb Selection Day, and in Part II, we examined the preparations for Passover.
In Part III, we will examine the banquet traditions of Passover as practiced in the first century – in very similar manner as is done today – with the intention of examining some significant details relevant to Christianity. It is not my intention to give an all-encompassing look into what is now referred to by faithful Jews as the Seder (which is most likely not the name used for this meal in the first century). If you want to see all of the parts of the service, there are a number of Christian and Jewish websites which document this.
Unlike the traditional Christian “Lord’s Supper”, this meal was a four-course banquet, each with a specific cup of wine to symbolize it. While we are certain that this was practiced in the First Century, we do not know whether Jesus and his disciples each had four cups or if only Jesus had the four cups (there is evidence of both, though the synoptic accounts seems to indicate that Jesus shared from one cup for at least the third cup), which also signified where they were in the meal. We do know, though, that the tradition of the cups of wine began some 200 years before Jesus and his disciples met in the Upper Room.
These four cups, according to Jewish tradition, are given their meaning from Exodus 6:6-7
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will deliver you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
The four cups are (sometimes the English translations for the names differ, but the meaning is consistent):
- The Cup of Blessing/Thanksgiving (I will deliver you)
- The Cup of Judgement (I will free you)
- The Cup of Redemption (I will redeem you with an outstretched arm)
- The Cup of Praise (I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God)
Each of these four cups symbolized one of God’s promises, and it is believed, from numerous early Jewish sources, that wine was representative of life/blood, and that God was promising on His own life that He will keep His promises (more on this tomorrow, if it seems a little “odd” to you).
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