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THE MESSENGER—PART 10: Mystery of the Afikomen Established by Christ, Himself

The Jews tried to suppress it as best they could, and certainly their efforts were marked with some success as Christians have largely no idea what Christ was pointing to when He took and broke the Passover afikomen and likened it to His body. But, one might say that none of the Jewish rulers of that age understood it; if they had, they may not have attempted to suppress the feast of the Lord of Glory.

Follow this trail:

  1. If afikomenos was being used, by Christians, to refer to the Messiah shortly after the Ascension in the area of the world Jesus walked, this tells us that Jesus became the Afikomen to those Jews who believed in Him, since Christianity stemmed from Judaism. It means that the now-Messianic Jews had to rebrand the word (and the custom) that was familiar to them already. It always meant “Messiah,” but this shift was from future tense (“that which comes after”) to past tense (“He that has come”).
  2. And if the Jews had a longstanding Messianic custom within their feasts, as we have shown herein to be the most likely scenario, then Jesus would have known about it as well.
  3. And if Jesus knew about it, then, when He, a Jew of the orthodox kind, conducted His own Passover with His disciples, He would have participated in this important, Messianic, bread-breaking custom as well.

But wait. You might be thinking the similarities aren’t exact. Jesus never hid anything, or released children to go hunting, or…

We’re aware. It’s another layer that blows the mind, actually. Jesus, Himself the Promised Messiah, was telling them He was no longer hidden. No one needed to ever again go on a search for this Man, this Afikomen.

He had come.

At this Passover meal, when Jesus took and ceremoniously broke the afikomen, the matzah representing Himself, He went straight to the end, passing by the search. Why would He do anything but that?

He was revealed.

He then explained in no uncertain terms that the afikomen He broke was His body, that which would be broken and traded as ransom, as the Messianic fulfilment of the “Promise of the Father.” He instructed His followers to partake of it in remembrance of Him, the Paschal Lamb, just as the Jews instruct their youth to partake of it in remembrance of the paschal lamb.

And then, just like the Jewish child who would pass the afikomen to the “father of the household” in exchange for a prize, Jesus became that Child, willingly submitting His Afikomen, His body, to be the ransom to the Father: a symbol of the completion of a promise. The Father acknowledged the handing over of the Great Afikomen and gave redemption to all.

A few days after Christ’s Resurrection, two followers entertained His company unaware. These men were not in attendance at the Last Supper. They also didn’t recognize Jesus by His robe, His scars, or anything supernatural as they walked alongside Him on the road to Emmaus. Ironically, they continued lamenting the loss of their Savior—who joined them on the walk. And then, the Word says, they recognized Him only by how He broke bread.

Observe:

And it came to pass, that, while [the two men] communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”

And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”

And he said unto them, “What things?”

And they said unto him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.…”

And beginning at Moses [Genesis] and all the prophets, he [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.…

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. (Luke 24:13–35; emphasis added)

Jesus walked and talked with these two men personally, long enough to tell them “all” of what the Scriptures said regarding Himself, and in all that time, they didn’t know they were in the presence of their Risen Messiah. They became comfortable enough to invite this Man into their house for a meal during Passover week (when unleavened bread would still be the rule), yet they did not know His true identity. That revelation only came as a result of His breaking bread.

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But how could a simple act of breaking bread divulge identity so immediately? It’s not that hard to believe that His disciples might have spread the word that Jesus had established Himself as the Afikomen at their Passover meal. It’s actually more likely than not that those in the intimate circle of followers would have heard all about how much emphasis the Messiah placed on the breaking of the afikomen and the subsequent announcement that it was His body. Later on, in the home of those He shared a roadside with, Jesus blessed the unleavened bread, and then didn’t say another word as He broke it and handed it straight to them. He never hid it or proceeded to talk about a search for the Messiah. He bypassed the search and hunt. That act alone made the statement: The Afikomen is no longer hidden. Therefore, He made Himself known “by the breaking of bread.”

Then, forty days after Christ’s death, on the day the children of Jewish homes redeem their prize for discovering the hidden matzah, Jesus ascended to be with His Father, whom He was one with, which was an immense gift for Christ, indeed. The promise of the Father was fulfilled for all.

It all fits.

The puzzle is put together, all pieces in the rightful place, and the picture is clear. At this point in our reflection, it’s harder not to believe that the search for the afikomen was the first Communion. When we pass those pretty, artificial-gold communion plates around the sanctuary every few Sundays with those already-broken crackers in a stack, many of us don’t know how deep and how beautiful the final image of our Savior really is. The days leading up to His death feel, to us today, so lonely, tragic, and sad. And there are moments that capture that for certain, such as His prayers in the garden just before His arrest. But there are other moments we miss, like the one when He broke bread, and in so doing broke the old custom with a triumphal roar in the unseen realm. We authors can only imagine that the angels sang a praise so loud as to deafen human ears the second that unleavened cracker’s surface first sounded its prophetic, splintering snap.

It was a small noise. But, like many scholars who have fine-tooth-combed this subject, these authors believe that the tiny cracking vibrations, by the power of Jesus as the Supreme Afikomen, signaled a sacrament that, no matter who tries to suppress what, will stand until He comes again. That small ripple echoed irreversibly that Afikomen now means “the One who came…and who will come again”:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Final Thoughts: Our Unleavened Attorney

Let’s take a look at a few mentioned yeast/sin parallels:

  • A) Yeast is part of the nature of bread dough, since it has been on the grain from the beginning. B) Sin is part of the nature of man, since it has been within man since the Fall of mankind in Genesis.
  • A) Leavening bread dough makes it “puff up.” B) Sin is “puffed up” (Proverbs 28:25, Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 11:21, 1 Corinthians 4:6, 18–19, 5:2, 13:4; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:4).
  • A) Bread that has become too puffed up (over-proofed) will fall (collapse). B) An overly puffed-up believer will fall to the enemy (1 Timothy 3:6).
  • A) Yeast might be hidden within the dough, but the effect it has inside the bread can never be hidden from the baker. B) Sin might be hidden within mankind (John 3:20), but its effect inside of people can never be hidden from God (Romans 1:18, Jeremiah 16:17, Isaiah 29:15).
  • A) Leaven presents the bread to be more than what it is, when truthfully, there’s nothing but hot air under the surface. B) Some, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, present themselves to be more spiritual or holy than they are, when truthfully, the Lord knows there’s nothing but hot air under the surface (“Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” [Matthew 16:6, emphasis added]).

More than anything else in that bullet list is the obvious parallel that yeast, whether natural or added, once activated, spreads uncontrollably throughout the dough. Looking to the New Testament and the New Covenant through Christ, Paul also used the ingredient as a metaphor to explain that sin can expand and spread, leading to more sin in one’s life, or even causing us to influence others to participate in sin, just like one lump of leaven or yeast can affect a whole lump of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6–8).

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If you think about how far that could go, the reach is actually limitless. Just as one example: Here at SkyWatch Television, Defender Publishing, and Whispering Ponies Ranch, one of our highest priorities is to underwrite the rescue of and directly minister to sex-trafficked children, youth, and women. We have learned since the beginning of this venture that traffickers are supported by countless avenues that most people don’t consider, like Internet pornography (and many others). Websites that produce content with these victims are accessed all the time by browsers belonging to folks who had no idea who or what they were supporting when they clicked. Follow just this one cycle with us for a moment. In the case of a criminal site like those developed in the human-trafficking rings:

  1. Certainly, accessing a pornographic website is a sin in the first place, whether or not the viewer knows what kind of abuse may be occurring on the other end of the site.
  2. The criminal behind the website continues in this profitable arena, supported by those who browse where they shouldn’t. As his pockets increase in jingle, more children, women, and teens are kidnapped to expand his pornography business. Without a doubt, kidnapping and sex slavery are sin.
  3. Drugs play an enormous role in sex trafficking. It is administered to the victims for pain after abuse, to keep them numb and emotionless during the abuse, and for those who are addicted, it keeps them reliant upon the drug and therefore willing to do whatever it takes to get their “next fix.” (Drugs are also the reason many of these sites look like they involve willing participants; they have been instructed to act like the event is consensual, and the appearance of willingness—or even instigation—is an easier feat when a person is numb.) Obviously, making addicts out of these victims is a terrible sin.
  4. The criminal abusers in the ring are frequently (some would say “always”) addicted to drugs as well, which makes the sin of illegal drug use a bigger part of this chain.
  5. Drug cartels and all the unimaginable crimes they are linked to (including murder, rape, violence, money laundering, etc.) are now also supported, which makes the spread of sin even wider.
  6. Repeated defilement and illegal drug administration to and upon children, teens, and women—even upon an unlikely rescue and release—contributes to psychological damage that makes these victims far more likely to struggle in their faith and commit further sin against God in their hurt and pain. In some tragic cases, the victims may feel that further abuse of their body is all they know how to do to make a living. In the worst of cases, a victim may believe he or she is outside of God’s grace, or even outside of the realm of His concern. Now that the effects of psychologically numbing drugs has been experienced, there is a high possibility that a victim would turn back to that “friend” as comfort later in life. Relationships these victims make down the line will be further hurt by these complications, possibly leading to more abuse even outside the trafficking ring. All of these “future” factors feed a cycle of sin all its own that is heartbreaking to God!
  7. And finally, it all circles back to that first person browsing the Internet: He or she has put images in his or her mind that are hard to forget. Haunted by such deviant imagery, this person slips back into the computer chair when nobody is looking and returns to the site that funds all the above-listed twisted evils all over again. The power of porn sticks with the person, taunting, drawing in, weakening his or her resolve to refrain until addiction to that world takes over. What was a titillating enough picture or video yesterday is not enough today, and something even more deviant or disturbing is clicked on in order to satisfy the curiosity of the mischievous mind, making the trap worse. Eventually, the addiction can lead to a destroyed marriage, a broken home, and even a person’s abandonment of faith. The sin seemingly never ends…

Of course, we don’t intend to suggest that every pornographic site is related to human trafficking. This example is close to our heart after hearing our ministerial associates (like “Eight Days Ministries” founder Jaco Booyens) explain how oblivious most people in our society are about just how much of the porn industry traffickers have taken over. This is even more clearly illustrated in the astonishing details uncovered in the groundbreaking new documentary, Silent Cry: The Darker Side of Trafficking. But we also know that people who click around the World Wide Web in private, thinking they are only affecting themselves, quite often unknowingly support these criminal rings. (But even if they don’t support this kind of heartbreaking victimization, they contribute help to those who are willingly in the pornography industry, who make their money by selling bodies, which is, biblically speaking, prostitution of the worst and obscenest kind. We wonder how many people who have visited porn websites liken themselves to one who hires a prostitute…)

Using only one illustration, we can more appropriately appreciate how sin (leaven), once activated and allowed to take hold (like yeast), can spread to the entire person’s heart and life (to the whole lump of dough), and its effects can’t be stopped or removed by the sinner’s own efforts. Paul understood the use of leaven as a representation of sin very well.

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The fulfillment of the Passover was a once-and-done act by Christ, remembered through a sacrament (Communion), which is a physical acknowledgment of a spiritual work. Communion, especially when taken with unleavened bread (though we wouldn’t judge those who take it with regular bread, as Christ replaced the matzah), also fulfills the Feast of the Unleavened Bread in acknowledgment of Jesus’ redemptive work. However, the Feast of Unleavened Bread with its corresponding Bedikas Chametz (“Search for Leaven”) ceremony represents a search for all sin in our lives, including that which is hidden in tiny nooks and crannies, followed by the quick removal of it, the cleansing from it, and the casting of it away. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a time to acknowledge a continual, conscious abstinence from sin. The fulfillment of the feast through Christ requires more than just a casual “thanks” for what He’s done. We celebrate Christ’s work/fulfillment with a daily choice—a faith-through-works relationship. What He did for us should never be smeared by our taking it for granted, and we can never miss what that means in the light of eternity.

Consider it like this: Passover looked forward to the Crucifixion, which was the event in which we were forgiven of all our sins and became new through acceptance; The Feast of the Unleavened Bread, as fulfilled through Christ, marks what our responsibilities are in continuing to accept His sacrifice and separating ourselves from sin as the Jews separated themselves from leaven.

God loves us, but He cannot love sin, so our sin, prior to Christ, separated us from Him. Jesus came so we might reach the Father, and that He accomplished in spades without a doubt, but not so that we might continue to sin to spite His grace!

Paul refuted this detestable concept: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1–2). The NLT phrases this passage: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”

What Christ did for us by becoming the Lamb was a legal move in the spiritual judicial system.

We must have at least a basic comprehension of the following information in order to appreciate the separation between God and sin, and how that requires our involvement: For us, for you, and for all the world, in the courtroom of the unseen realm, Jesus became an Attorney…one that a good friend to us SkyWatch folks, John McTernan, calls “the best Jewish Attorney that you could ever imagine.”[i]

McTernan is a Christian evangelist, teacher, and author of multiple books, as well as one of the founders of International Cops for Christ. As a profoundly successful criminal investigator in practice since 1972, he has spent countless hours in court, observing our justice system at work firsthand; therefore he has a unique insight as to how the justice system of God works. When Tom invited him to come on SkyWatch Television to share about his book, When Jesus Sets You Free, You Are Free Indeed, a book that uses the United States court methods as a way of explaining the legal action Jesus took on our behalf, McTernan shared:

In our society, we have a penal code. And doesn’t that penal code direct what we can do and what we can’t do? And there’s all these penalties for the penal code. Well, God has a penal code…. If you break [the human law], you have, you know, felonies, there’s misdemeanors and violations, some are “A to B to C” type felonies. But God has sort of like one felony, and that is separation from Him for eternity because He is holy.

In our system, if you commit a crime, we do an investigation, and there is evidence presented in court. In God’s government, you could say there’s an investigation, there’s evidence presented: The Bible says, “For by your words you shall be justified, for by your words you shall be condemned,” [and,] “Every action, whatever we do in darkness, in the Day of Judgment it will be brought out to the light.” In God’s system, He has evidence procurement. In fact, if you look at Revelation chapter 20 and the Great White Throne Judgment, there are books that are open that contain the deeds that people did. All of it will be brought out.

In our system, there’s a court.… And we provide an attorney. “If you can’t afford one, one will be provided for you.” You know, we have the rights, the Miranda rights we read to people. Well God provides an Attorney: Jesus Christ the Righteous. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous. The difference is, in God’s system, the Attorney is willing to pay the price.… Let’s say you owe fifty thousand dollars in penalties for some crime you’ve committed, and I say, “Well, you’re honor, [the convicted person] can’t afford it, but I’m going to write the check on [his] behalf.” That’s what the Lord did, in a physical sense to pay the penalty for our sin.

See, the key to all of this is: God is holy. He’s holy. And sin is a great offense to Him, so He has to separate Himself from sin, but He also has love. He has a tremendous amount of love. So that’s why He sent Jesus Christ to bridge His holiness and His love, so that whoever will receive the Lord as that person’s Savior, no matter what they have committed, He will forgive.[ii]

The fulfillment of the Passover in Jesus Christ removes the separation between us and God. It obliterates the eternal sentence we earn in being found guilty of sin. We are, though we committed the crime, found “not guilty.” This spiritually legal act carried out on our behalf is called “justification.” Remember what Paul said about justification in Romans and Galatians, and note how he, too, uses a parallel of legal terminology between Christ’s redemptive act and the Mosaic Law of his day:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, “I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:23–28)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Redemption isn’t just about doing something wrong and being forgiven (although that is certainly part of it). More than anything else, it’s about God, in His holiness, being naturally and characteristically incapable of joining Himself with us in our sin, even while He loved His creation and yearned for our company. Therefore, we needed a Passover Lamb Interceder-Attorney to present our criminal case to the Father, then to take our sin, remove it from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), and cast it “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

The only cost we are responsible for is placing our faith in Jesus and accepting His redemptive work on the cross as our Savior. We are “justified” before God by faith alone, as Martin Luther so correctly insisted upon in his Sole fide doctrine of the Reformation.

However, James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, also had a thing or ten to say about faith. He made it clear that his outwardly observable life decisions revealed his faith without him having to pitch it to others, and that just believing in God was a feat even the demons could accomplish, yet they tremble (James 2:18–19). He drove home the point that continually resisting temptation and removing any potential sin in a believer’s life is necessary for living out the faith that a Christian claims to have.

The fulfillment of Passover celebrates the work of the Lamb in the past, which freed us from the bondage of sin and granted us access to a new life in Him. The fulfillment of the Bedikas Chametz (“Search for Leaven”) ceremony during the Feast of the Unleavened Bread observes the going forward of believers into that new life with accountability to Christ, just as the Israelites left Egypt to enter a new life with accountability to God. Our spiritual matzah requires effort on our behalf. We must repetitiously carry our chametz tools through the rooms of our lives, discovering the leaven of our choices, acknowledging/confessing the ugly yeast we have scattered, and, through the sin-removing blood of the Lamb and body of the Supreme Matzah, be considered completely cleansed.

Responsibility now goes beyond what happened on our behalf in court and follows us home to where we live. In a contextually relevant, modern rewording of Paul’s berating in Romans 6:1–2: “Well then, should we keep on ending up in the courtroom of God’s justice system so that our Attorney can show us more and more of His wonderful defense skills? Of course not! Since we have died to that old life of crime, how can we continue to be criminals?”

UP NEXT: The Mystery Of “Firstfruits”

 

[i] This moniker was coined on an episode of SkyWatch Television early in the year 2016. The rest of the episode can be viewed here: “Donna Howell & John McTernan—God’s Mercy and Redemption,” YouTube video, 16:39–16:43, uploaded by SkyWatch TV on February 8, 2016, last accessed April 22, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ookNb5am1M.

[ii] This was shared on an episode of SkyWatch Television late in the year 2015. It can be viewed in its entirety here: “Donna Howell & John McTernan Discuss Redemption, When Jesus Sets You Free,” YouTube video, 2:19–5:02; 9:23–9:50, uploaded by SkyWatch TV on December 23, 2015, last accessed April 22, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIC7rKgDBrY.

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