Christine Darg

By Christine Darg,

Jerusalem Channel

I invite you to follow this riddle wrapped in a mystery:

There is a “gentile” (Greek) word that has mysteriously been incorporated into the Passover ritual:

Afikoman {“that which comes after”} is a piece of unleavened matza bread broken off from the middle matza of the three matzoth set in a decorative cloth bag before the leader of a Passover Seder.

The broken piece is hidden by the leader and later searched for by the children, with the finder, usually the youngest, receiving a reward.

This 1-6 April 2018, we held a “Moveable Passover” tour going from Tel Aviv to Bethlehem to Nazareth to stay in various hotels because there was no room in the inns of Jerusalem!

Jerusalem was too crowded with Jewish and Christian pilgrims for Holy Week consisting of Passover/Palm Sunday/Holy Shabbat/Resurrection Sunday/First Fruits during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. While we were in Bethlehem, we were “refugees” with Canon Andrew White, who spoke to us from John 20: 6-7:

“Simon Peter… entered into the tomb [of Jesus], and beheld the linen cloths lying, and the napkin that was upon Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, having been folded up, in one place…”

Holding up a handkerchief, Andrew reminded us that Jesus’s resurrected body had passed through both his linen burial shroud and a linen facial napkin, and that Jesus had folded the facial napkin and left it separately in the tomb.

Andrew said the rabbis teach that after the Passover meal, if the napkin (British English=serviette) is left neatly folded, it means Messiah is coming again!

As a sweet and profound “souvenir” of the evening together in our worship service, Andrew gave me the folded handkerchief that he had used to illustrate his point.

Then, a couple of nights later, when we held our 21st PROPHETIC Passover seder, this time in Nazareth, I was inspired to use this same handerchief as the “burial” shroud/napkin in which to wrap the Afikomen, the broken second piece of matza from our Passover table, and to hide it somewhere in the banquet hall. The stripes and piercings in the matza bread represent the piercings and scourging of Messiah on the day he died to  crush out our sins. We make this important observation at every seder that we are privileged to conduct.

Afikoman is a Greek word that has evolved in the Passover seder’s liturgy to symbolize the meal’s “dessert” to be eaten after the traditional seder meal that commemorates and rehearses Israelite deliverance from Egyptian slavery.

In the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the night before he died to make Atonement for our sins, Jesus “upgraded” the ancient seder, which was his Last Supper, to the Eucharist meal, symbolic of our deliverance from the slavery of sin and to remember his sacrificial death until he comes again.

At a traditional seder, the children enjoy the game after the very lengthy Passover meal to find the Afikoman. This is a mysterious “game” that, though the centuries, has been incorporated into the Passover family experience.

The Jewish people do not know why they are searching for the broken matza bread, the second of three pieces of matza, wrapped in a shroud and hidden away [i.e. “entombed”], but it is a parable written by the Holy Spirit into the ritual—it’s a parable of the Messiah. Why? Because when [Jesus] is found, He truly is our dessert–we eat him (the eucharist: “do this in remembrance of me”—“O, taste and see that the Lord is good!”)

This year only adults were seated at our seder table in Nazareth. However, a pregnant Israeli guest was holding in her womb the youngest person at table, and because her baby was obviously not yet able to go on the search for the Afikomen, the baby’s father conducted the search instead. This on its own was profound–that the baby in the womb was participating in its first seder.

After searching for a while, the Dad-to-be found the Afikoman. The following day, he thanked me and told me how very much he had enjoyed our seder meal, but especially searching for the Afikoman. He said, “It reminded me so much of my childhood. I called my parents to tell them I had found the Afikoman!” Friends, isn’t this precious and profound?

Just like in Matthew 18, Jesus told his disciples to be humble and childlike in accepting His Kingdom in all its simplicity.

God says when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me.