Ma Nishma ?
Ma Nishma ?, Those are the first two words, the youngest child of a Jewish family asks at the start of the Pesach (Passover) celebration. It means: “Why is it ?”.
It is part of four questions, which the child, according to Jewish traditions, is expected to ask during the Seder, the meal on the first night of the seven day Passover celebration.
The child wants to know why this Passover night is so different to all the other nights.
The adult (usually the father) then goes on to explain the story of the first Passover, when Israel was led out of slavery and bondage in the land of Egypt, by reciting four answers concerning the Seder table and the Passover meal.
The four questions are:
1. Why is it that we eat Matzah (the unleavened bread) ?
2. Why is it that we eat Maror (Bitter herbs) ?
3. Why is it that we dip Karpas (green herbs such as parsley and radish) in salt water ?
4. Why is it that we Eat reclined at the table ?
These four questions and their related answers, each reflect a different aspect of the Passover story.
These four questions hold significance, not only in the Jewish Seder tradition, explaining the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from their bitter bondage in Egypt, to the next generation. Through Christ, they also reflect the liberation from the bondage to sin in this evil world, of all who believe in Jesus Christ.
Why is it…? Then becomes a question we should all ask ourselves,
Why is it, that at Passover we eat unleavened bread ?
Let us look at that closely in the Light of Jesus Christ.
When we look at today’s Pesach celebration, it is very different from the celebration we read about in the Bible.
In the Torah, God, through Moses, stipulated that the celebration would revolve around the offering of a sacrificial lamb. The blood of this lamb was put on the door posts of the Jewish houses, during the first Pesach, in Egypt.
On that night death passed the house with blood, but in the houses without blood, there was death.
The Jews continued the Scriptural Passover tradition of the sacrificial lamb, until the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Afterward, the traditional role of the unleavened bread took on a more prominent role, replacing part of the symbolism of the sacrificial lamb.
Today, at the Seder table, only a small roasted lamb's shank bone hints at the ones central role of the sacrificial Lamb.
Christ, our Passover Lamb
Jesus Christ is identified as the Passover Lamb in several accounts in the Bible. In John 1:29 John the Baptist is recorded saying: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. In the first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes that: “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”.
Like the with the first sacrificial lamb at the first Passover, the blood of Christ is a sign on the doorposts of our house, our spiritual home, our body (1 Corinthians 6:19) and it is His blood which keeps us from death (John 6:53 ; Matthew 26:28).
The prophets foresaw the Messiah, coming as a lamb to be slaughtered, as is written by the prophet Isaiah: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
Christ Jesus was hung on a cross the very day before Passover (John 18:28; John 19:14). He was like a spotless lamb, without sin (1Peter 1:19). On Him, God put the sin of us all (Isaiah 53:6) and in His death, forgiveness was granted to all who believe in Him who took away the sin of the world (Acts 10:43).
Death passes our houses, because of the sacrifice of an innocent lamb, just like was foreshadowed on that first Passover celebration.
No need for other sacrifices anymore
When we read the Bible and compare the Old Testament Scriptures with the New Testament teachings, we see that the tradition of the sacrificial lamb, installed by God, through Moses and kept by the Jews for many centuries, was actually a foreshadowing of Christ Jesus, who was the final sacrificial Lamb.
After Christ, there remained no more reason for the foreshadowing, because the fullness of Christ had arrived.
There was no more need for the temporary fix of the blood of a lamb, for full restauration has been established, through the Blood of The Lamb Jesus Christ.
Just a few years after the death of Jesus Christ, the second Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled from their land. The Passover sacrifice seized and it has not been re-instated until this present day.
The role of the unleavened bread took over as main symbolism and again, we see Christ reflected in Jewish traditions.
Why is it that we eat Matzah at Passover ?
In the book of Exodus, we can read the account of Moses, commanding the children of Israel the observance of Pesach by the baking and eating of unleavened bread.
In the Gospels, we can read that Jesus and His disciples, also held to the tradition of eating unleavened bread. (Matthew 26:17–29 ; Mark 14:12–25 ; Luke 22:7–38)
Ever since the second temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the original traditions surrounding sacrificial service could no longer take place.
The Jewish tradition evolved and the unleavened bread was placed as a central component of the Pesach celebration.
According to these new Jewish traditions, the matzah is prepared by putting three pieces in a basket and then covering them with a cloth.
The middle of the three matzah is broken in two pieces. The larger of the two pieces is called “the Afikomen” meaning “that which comes after” and is hidden away early during the Seder meal. The Afikomen is then revealed toward the end of the Seder .
Jesus Christ, the bread of life
On His last Seder, which we now refer to as the Lord's Supper, Jesus took the unleavened bread and broke it and said “this is my Body, which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of Me”.
Jesus Christ identified Himself, both with unleavened bread, and as bread to be broken, showing the way and reason why He would soon die.
A bread broken for us
When Jesus broke the bread and identified Himself with it, He pointed back to the time of Moses as to say: look at this story... All these thousands of years, you have been celebrating Pesach, sacrificing an innocent Lamb and eating the unleavened bread, and in doing so you have been proclaiming my coming into the world and my death !
It is amazing that, the Jews, in their traditions surrounding the Matzeh, now again proclaim not only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also His soon return !
The symbolism revealed
According to tradition, three Matzah are placed in a basket and covered by a cloth. This symbolises the covering of Christ in a burial shroud, in the grave for three days.
The middle Matzah in the basket is broken in two pieces, symbolizing that which Jesus Himself said “This is My Body, which is broken for you”.
The greater part of the two halves of the middle Matzah is called the Afikomen and it is hidden away until the end. The name “Afikomen” literally means: “that which comes after”, symbolizing that the greater part of (our life with) Christ Jesus is yet to come.
When we look further at the Matzah, we can see that it is striped and pierced, symbolizing that which is written of Christ Jesus by the prophet Isaiah: "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
Passover, a celebration of Christ
There are many things which we could further add, concerning the other three Seder questions.
Questions about bitter herbs, questions about dipping in salt water and questions about eating reclined.
We could speak of the four cups of wine and how the Lord used the Passover wine, to Symbolize His blood.
All these traditions, old and new, reflect aspects, both of the liberations of Israel from their bondage in Egypt and, to a greater extent, our own liberation, from the bondage to sin.
These things are worthy of celebration and through celebration, of remembrance.
Will you join with us, in the true Passover celebration ?