MYSTERY OF THE APHIKOMEN
It’s fascinating that this age-old Passover ceremony is rich in so many details, and each one has a deep significance. In response to the ritual questions, each one is explained in terms of its historical origin and meaning. And yet, one of the main features of the feast is not well understood by most Jewish participants. They refer to the three matzohs in the matzoh tash as the Unity; but there is no agreement on what is united. And no one seems to have any idea why the middle one is broken, buried, and later brought back up.
Some rabbis teach that these represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; others say they portray the unity of worship — priests, Levites and congregation; still others say they stand for the crowns of learning, priesthood and kingship. But there’s no explanation for breaking and hiding the middle one. Christians have a better explanation; it involves the “bread of heaven,” spoken of in John 6:32-59.
A verse that is very holy to the Jews is the shemah of Deuteronomy 6:4-9,
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD thy God is one LORD. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children … and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
That word “one” in the Hebrew is echad, meaning a composite oneness, not just the number one. It’s the same word used in Genesis 2:24, where Adam and Eve are said to be “one flesh,” and in Ezekiel 37 to describe the two sticks becoming one. Here it is describing the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — the three persons of the Godhead, acting as one.
This is the true meaning of the unity of the three matzohs in the matzoh tash. And which of these is the middle one? That is obviously God the Son — Jesus the Messiah, our Lord. Let’s see how He could be represented by a piece of unleavened bread. Read John 6:32-59. Verse 35 says,
And Jesus said unto them, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
God subtly emphasized this truth in choosing the spot where His Son would be born. The meaning of the name “Bethlehem” is “house of bread.” (By the way, the name “Nazareth” means “branch.” That meaning clarifies the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1.)
But why isn’t the sacrificed lamb still used? And how did matzohs come to prominence? Deuteronomy 12:11-14 says that people were not to offer sacrifices except at the location that God chose. Other scriptures make it clear that He chose the Temple site on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. When the Roman army, under Titus, destroyed the Temple in A.D.70, there was no more acceptable place for sacrifice of the lamb. That’s why today’s Passover meals don’t include the meat of a lamb, merely a symbolic shank bone. The rabbis, in the second century A.D., instituted the use of matzohs to represent the sacrificed lamb. That practice still holds.
Now we can see why the middle matzoh is broken during the Passover, then hidden or buried. Jesus’s body was broken for us, He died, and was buried. But He didn’t stay dead — He came back to life, came out of the tomb! That is represented by bringing out that matzoh later in the ceremony. It is then broken into pieces, and passed out to each person. And this is the exact spot during the Last Supper, when Jesus said,
“This is my body which is given for you.”
The the very next item in the service is drinking from the wine-goblet known as the “Cup of Redemption.” That’s when Jesus said,
“This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
This is why we can say with confidence that Jesus is actually the central character in the Passover Seder. And, if that’s not enough, let’s look at the way His death, burial and resurrection fits the timing of the first three of the Seven Feasts of Israel. He was killed on Passover Day, was buried for three days during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and rose from the dead on the day of FirstFruits.
In John 1:29 John the Baptist announced Jesus’s approach by shouting,
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
And Paul, in I Corinthians 15:20, said,
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfuits of them that slept.”