During a Messianic Passover Seder, should children drink the third cup and eat the Afikoman, which parallel what is done in Holy Communion, if they have not yet professed their faith in Yeshua?
In preparing for Passover we are studying the Haggadah, and our small community would like to share a problem with you that has occupied our mind from time to time. It is a problem common to all messianic Haggadot we know and which doesnít seem to be easily solvable. (Read the full text of the email here.)
I understand your dilemma. I can see how you and your group perceive a conflict with children who have not publicly demonstrated their faith by baptism participating in a specific portion of a Messianic Seder, which recognizes the third cup and the afikoman as representing Yeshua's blood and body, respectively. You make some good points.
Although I attend a Passover Seder each year, I never have been the leader who opened the Haggadah and read from it during the ceremony. I have looked through a few Haggadot, but I have not considered before the point you are making about children. The only portion of the service that I recall is aimed at children is the searching for the Afikoman and the rewarding of the one who finds it. Therefore, since I personally am unfamiliar with the text about "child communion" in Messianic Haggadot, my answers may not effectively address your concerns.
I agree with you that Yeshua's Last Supper technically was not a Passover Seder. For one thing, it was the night before other Jews celebrated the usual Passover meal, which commenced the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Also, I do not believe that Yeshua and the disciples ate lamb, since the lambs for the meal were not to be slaughtered until the next afternoon (at the same time that Yeshua died on the cross, I believe). Essentially, Yeshua was the Lamb and the center of attention at that meal. (See more at How could Jesus and His disciples have eaten a Passover meal on Wednesday night? Do you think that lamb was eaten during their meal?)
In fact, I really doubt that the Last Supper was a full-fledged Seder at all. Rather, it was a time that Yeshua could get His disciples (and anyone who reads about this account in the Bible) to understand the fact that He was the ultimate Passover Lamb. His body was going to be broken for them and His blood was going to be poured out for them, just as Passover lambs were "broken" and their blood was shed for the remission of sins of those in Israel.
I agree that only those who accept the shed blood of Yeshua as eternal atonement for their sins, and who have made a public profession of faith in Him and in what He has done for them (by being baptized, for instance), should be able to partake in Holy Communion, when that is the sole activity being observed. This would seem to exclude anyone, including most children, who have not made a public declaration of faith.
However, I think I would make an exception for unbaptized, unprofessed people, including children, at a Passover Seder. I believe that the main focus of a Seder, even when believers in Yeshua do it, should be to learn about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, why they left, and under what circumstances they departed, only hours after eating the first Passover meal. After all, Passover primarily is about Israel, the original Olive Tree, and believers in Yeshua have been grafted into that Tree.
You said you tend to think that "the Supper and the Seder should be distinct celebrations." I agree. I would want children who do not understand why Yeshua suffered for us, in the ways that He did, to participate in every portion of the Seder, even if they do not yet partake of the Lord's Supper. As such, I feel that all children should be able to partake of the third cup and the afikoman of the Passover Seder. I see the Seder as being the perfect opportunity to teach people, particularly children, how the blood of the Passover lambs in Israel paralleled the blood of Yeshua on the cross.
For instance, families not having the blood of the slain lambs on their doorframes experienced heartbreaking tragedies when their firstborns died. Also, the blood applied to the top and sides of a home's doorframe corresponded to Jesus' blood on the top of the cross (via the crown of thorns) and His blood on the crossbeam of the cross (via the nails in his wrists or hands). Furthermore, Yeshua died at the same time that the Passover lambs were slaughtered. More details about this are in the Pesach or Passover section of my Good Thursday commentary, as well as on my Twilight page.
If I were the one leading a Passover Seder, I would let all children participate in all of it. I would use it as a very special opportunity to show them how Yeshua, the only person with no sin or flaw ever to live, mirrored the Passover lambs which were selected, having no blemish or defect. Just as the ancient Passover lambs saved Israel, Yeshua as the supreme Passover Lamb has saved us. If there is a "child communion" section in the Messianic Haggadah with which your congregation has a problem, then I simply would eliminate it from the service.
At another time, I would have a meeting with the children explaining how Yeshua's activities on and before Preparation Day of Passover essentially duplicated those of the Passover lambs. Among other things, He was found to be flawless by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin who questioned Him (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:23-46, 26:59,60; John 19:6c). His blood on the cross was in the same configuration as the lambs' blood on the doorframes (Exodus 12:7). A Passover lamb's bones could not be broken (Exodus 12:46c); likewise, none of Yeshua's bones were broken (John 19:31-33). He was led like a lamb to slaughter and did not protest what was about to happen to Him (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:63a). Paul even referred to Him as our Passover lamb who has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7). These and other parallels are described in my parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb section.
By all of these means, I would intend to prompt children to want to make a profession of faith in their Messiah, Yeshua, and then to demonstrate their faith with the public act of baptism. In this way, they would know that they would be welcome to partake of the elements whenever Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper, a reflection of the Lord's Supper, is observed by the congregation. Thus, I feel that a Passover Seder is a perfect way to arouse the curiosity and interest in children in Yeshua; accordingly, I would not miss the opportunity to utilize it as a valuable learning experience for them.
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