The meal eaten during the Passover celebration is called the Seder meal. The Seder meal is to help the Children of Israel remember where they came from, and the circumstances from which God gave the Children of Israel their freedom. God saved these people. God alone saved these people when they did not have a prayer of saving themselves. But the salvation came at a terrible cost.
Many of us are familiar with the phrase the ten plagues of Egypt. However, most people don’t know very much about the ten plagues. I doubt there are very many in this room who can name all ten plagues. I think to understand the plagues and their significance we need a better understanding of the situation and why these plagues are so important – especially tonight as we celebrate Maundy Thursday.
First, Jacob’s family moved to Egypt as a means of last resort. Jacob’s family had been happy living in the land God promised them, but now a great famine had gripped the land. Water and grain were very very scarce. God provided for God’s chosen family – the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The family God named Israel. God provided a means for the family of Israel to come and live in the land of Goshen which was under the dominion of Egypt. The Children of Israel took care of sheep and goats, far away from most Egyptians. And while Israel lived in Egypt God caused their number to grow until the Egyptians became nervous.
Some 400 years had passed. An Egyptian Pharoh came to power who did not remember how an Israelite had saved Egypt from a time of tremendous drought and famine. This Pharoh was nervous and scared of the Israelites. Pharoh put the Israelites to hard labor building cities and making bricks from mud and straw. Egypt was no longer a land of peace and prosperity for the Israelites. Egypt was now a land of misery for God’s chosen family. The people cried out to every god they could think of, but none of the gods made with wood or stone could answer. None of the Egyptian gods could answer or help because they were made with human hands. Finally, Israel remembered the God of their fathers, and called out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God heard their cry and remembered God’s promise to Abraham.
“Now The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’”(Genesis 12:1-3).
God sent Moses to draw God’s people out of Pharoh’s hand and out of the land of Egypt. Through Moses God set ten plagues upon Egypt. The first three plagues harmed every man, woman, child, and beast. The waters of Egypt were turned to blood. The land of Egypt was infested with frogs. All the land was infested with gnats. These plagues harmed Egyptian and Israelite alike. The Israelites needed to learn there is no other God but the Lord God Almighty. I wonder how many here tonight need a reminder of that simple fact. The next six plagues fell on the Egyptians only. There was a plague of flies; the death of Egyptian live stock; a plague of boils; massive hail stones fell from heaven; locusts over ran Egypt and darkness covered the land for three days. However, the tenth plague was the most horrific. God would strike down all of the first born of Egypt. There would be no distinction between Israelite or Egyptian. The only ones to be saved would be those who did what God commanded.
God’s instructions to the faithful were clear. On the appointed day kill a male lamb without blemish; a sheep or goat, and roast it at twilight. Take some of the blood and put it on the door posts of the house. None of the lamb shall remain until morning. Because on this night the Lord shall Passover the faithful and spare their children. However, all of the rest of the first born of Egypt will be killed; both of humans and of live stock regardless of race, creed or color. What a terrible price.
I cannot imagine it. I cannot imagine the pain of it. I could not give up my first born. I couldn’t give up either of my children, nor the child in my wife’s belly. Could you? Could you give up your first born to die? Would you be willing to let your neighbor’s child die so you could be free to do what you want? This is the terrible price that was paid. The cost was terrible.
So to remember that cost we spend the first part of this service talking about the seder meal which remembers the price that was paid the night God passed over the house of Israel in the land of Egypt.
These are the parts of the seder meal.
• Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
• Charoses: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, serves as a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of buildings when they were slaves
• Beitzah: a roasted egg, as a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence.
• Karpas: a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, representing hope and redemption; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed.
• Zeroah: traditionally a piece of roasted lamb shankbone, symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering
• Wine: four glasses of wine are consumed during the service to represent the four-fold promise of redemption, with a special glass left for Elijah the prophet.
This is the Seder Meal of the Passover celebration. Every bit of it is a reminder of what the Jewish people went through as slaves in Egypt. Perhaps they should be a reminder to us today of the bitterness of living chained to sin and doubt. Perhaps this meal should remind us the of the tears we shed over fears which are not ours to carry. Perhaps this meal should be a reminder that no matter how dificult life becomes God still loves us and wants more for God’s faithful than a life of bitterness and tears.
In the Name of Jesus Christ – Amen.