by Dr. Robert R. Seyda




Verse 26: As they continued eating, Jesus took some flatbread and thanked God for it. He broke off some pieces, gave them to His followers and said, “Take this bread and eat it. It is my body.”

This verse suggests that the Lord and His disciples had started eating sometime before this incident took place. As a matter of fact, in verse 21 we find they had already been eating. We can see what the Jews said concerning the meal that only included the flatbread. Rabbi Maimonides says this: “At present, one eats a small piece of matzah and does not taste anything afterwards, so that, after the completion of the meal, the taste of the meat of the Paschal sacrifice or the matzah will [remain] in one’s mouth, for eating them is the mitzvah.1

During the regular Seder meal, three flat loaves of matzah bread were laid one on top of each another. The black threads on the matzah represent the stripes the Israelites received as slaves in Egypt. Matthew tells us that Jesus thanked God for the bread, just like He did the five flatbreads and two fish.2 According to Jewish custom, after lifting up the bread, the host of the meal then offers this prayer, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the eating of unleavened bread.3

Pictures of the three pieces of Matzah used in the Seder meal.

We are not told by Matthew if our Lord prayed this exact prayer verbatim seeing that He was praying to His own Father in asking God’s blessing on this bread for His disciples. But our Lord does follow the custom of not breaking the bread until it is blessed. In the Babylonian Talmud, we read, “The law is as laid down by Raba, that one says the blessing first and afterward breaks the loaf.4 In his instructions on the eating of the bread, Rabbi Maimonides adds: “The host should recite the blessing “hamotzi.” When he completes the blessing, he should break bread.5

Another aspect we should mention is that this bread was called the “Bread of Affliction.” And since Jesus mentioned that it represented His body, we can see how the two are melded together. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Maimonides makes this observation: “…he recites the blessing: ‘Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the eating of the Paschal sacrifice,’ and eats from the body of the Paschal sacrifice.6 In other words, even though Jesus was holding the bread, He said that it represented His body. And that body is none other than the body of the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the death angel to pass over us because our bondage to sin and slavery has been broken and we are free to live and worship our God and King.

Verses 27-28: Then He took a cup of wine, thanked God for it, and gave it to them. He said, “Each one of you drink from it. This wine is my blood, which will be poured out to forgive the sins of many and begin the new agreement from God to His people.”

When our Lord took the cup and blessed it, the factors involved in which blessing our Lord cited all depends on which cup Matthew is talking about. In the Seder Meal, there are four cups which are raised. A fifth is also raised called the “Cup of Elijah,” but it is not consumed. The four cups are tied to God’s promises: “I am Adonai. I will release you (cup one), from the forced labor of the Egyptians, I will rescue you (cup two) from their oppression, and I will redeem you (cup three) with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will receive you (cup four) as my people, and I will be your God.”7

According to the Jewish Haggadah, the first cup is called the “Kiddush,” or “Sanctification.” This signifies the first part of Exodus 6:6, “ I am Adonai. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.” After the pouring of this cup the host recites Genesis 1:31-2:3, and then prays a prayer that begins, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, creator of the fruit of the vine.”8 After this first cup is consumed while reclining, then the host takes the middle loaf of the three matzah loaves and breaks it in two. He hides the one-half to be searched for later. Since Matthew has indicated that Jesus already broke the bread, then this cup he is referring to here must be the second cup.

The second cup is called the “Cup of Deliverance.” This reflects the second part of Exodus 6:6, “I will rescue you from their oppression.” As the cup is raised the participants recite a blessing. The part that I like goes as follows, “Then shall we give thanks to You with a new song, for our redemption and the liberation of our soul. Blessed art thou, O Lord, Redeemer of Israel.” Then the prayer, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, keeper of the fruit of the vine,9 is said before the second cup is consumed in the reclining position. If in fact, this is what Jesus said, I’m sure the disciples were reminded of what Jesus told them before: “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener.”10

The third cup that is poured is called the “Cup of Redemption.” This relates to the last part of Exodus 6:6, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” The blessing that is said at this time is for the food that was already eaten. Today we call this “Table Grace.” It is important to notice that such grace is said “after” the meal. The Host begins by saying, “Gentlemen, let us say the blessing.” Then the participants’ reply, “May the Name of the Lord be blessed from now unto eternity.” The host then says, “Let us bless Him our God of whose food we have eaten.” The participants follow with, “Blessed be He our God of whose food we have eaten and through whose goodness we live.” The third cup is then consumed while reclining.11

Finally, comes the fourth cup. The fourth cup poured is called the “Cup of Hope.” This cites Exodus 6:7a, “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.” After the cup is filled the Hallēl12 from Psalm 115 is then recited. I like the way it begins, “Not to us, Adonai, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your grace and truth.” This is followed by Psalms 116-118. We note that even the Jewish rabbis saw the suffering of the Messiah in these psalms. In the Talmud we read, “Now since there is the great Hallēl, why do we recite this one? Because it includes a mention of the following five things: The exodus from Egypt, the dividing of the Red Sea, the giving of the Torah, the resurrection of the dead, and the anguish of Messiah.13

1 Mishnah Torah, Sefer Zemanim, Tractate Chometz U’Metzah, Ch. 8, Halacha 9

2 Matthew 14:19

3 The Passover Haggadah, Nahum N. Glatzer, Schocken Books, New York, 1953, p.65

4 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Zera’im, Masekhet Berakhoth, folio 39b

5 Mishnah Torah, Sefer Ahavah, Tractate Berachot, Ch. 7, Halacha 2

6 Mishnah Torah, Sefer Zemanim, Tractate Chometz U’Metzah, Ch. 8, Halacha 7

7 Exodus 6:6-7, Complete Jewish Bible

8 Haggadah, ibid, pp. 19-21

9 Ibid, pp. 63-65

10 John 15:1

11 Ibid, pp. 63-65

12 From Hebrew hallēl, meaning to praise. It is the term given to Psalms 113-118. It serves as the first part of the word hallelujah, which means: “praise the Lord.”

13 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Pesachim, folio 118a

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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