Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

Pesaha in the New Testament Tradition

by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Pesaha is one of the most important feasts of the Jewish religion and the word 'Pesaha' literally means 'exodus.' Church historians are of the opinion that Pesaha must be the combination of two feasts, which existed before the time of Moses, one linked with the experiences of the time when mankind was herdsmen and the other linked with the experiences of the time when mankind was agriculturists. Whatever be the meanings and significance of the very ancient traditions and rituals, the exodus of the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt and the exemptions granted by the angel from slaughtering the first born of the Israelites gave a wide and vivid meaning and significance for the feast of Pesaha. Even after reaching the Promised Land, the Jews were very particular in observing the feast. The feast reminded the Jews that they are the selected tribe of God Almighty. (Refer Exodus 13: 14)

The Israelites not only celebrated the memory of the deliverance but also utilized the occasion to create a feeling that they were going through the same experiences of their fathers. This was a national festival as well as a homely festival. All the members of the family were supposed to assemble together at Jerusalem for the observance of this feast. They used to sacrifice a lamb at the Jerusalem Temple. They dedicated the blood on the table of sacrifice and cooked the meat for their consumption with the Pesaha food. In three occasions of the public life of our Lord, there are mentions about this feast. (Refer St. John 2: 13, 6: 4, and 12: 12)

Our Lord established the Holy sacrament of the Holy Eucharist during His celebration of the Pesaha with His blessed Apostles, prior to His crucifixion. This is the importance of the Pesaha in the New Testament tradition. (Refer St. Mark 14: 12-25) The reference in the Gospel according to St. John (chapter 18: 28, 19: 14) reveals that the last supper of our Lord and Savior took place on the previous day of the Pesaha of that year. St. Johnís version is that when the lambs of the Pesaha were slaughtered, the Lamb of God was also slaughtered. St. Luke makes it clear that our Lord took part in the last supper as the Pesaha of the year. (Refer St. Luke 22:7 ff)

The New Testament Pesaha denotes the exodus from sin and death. As the covenant was executed in connection with the Old Testament liberation at Mount Sinai, the liberation through the blood of Lord Jesus and the new covenant are revealed in the New Testament Pesaha. (Refer Jeremiah 31:31) St. Paulhas interpreted the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus on the basis of the Pesaha. (Refer 1 Corinthians 5: 6-8). The Jews were very particular to use the unleavened bread on Pesaha day. Our Lord, on the other hand, established the Holy Eucharist as the crown of all the sacraments, using the leavened bread.

The use of the unleavened bread immediately after the Holy Eucharist is not at all important and significant. Our forefathers used to bring unleavened bread to the Church from homes to share among the participants, soon after accepting the Holy Eucharist. The Jews were particular to offer the first fruit of their harvest, and from the offered sheaf the flour was taken to prepare the bread for Pesaha. In this context St. Paul explains that Lord Jesus is the first fruit. (Refer 1 Corinthians 15: 20-23).

We should not confuse the Holy Eucharist, the real flesh and blood of our savior and Redeemer with the Pesaha of the Old Testament. Let us accept the flesh and blood of our Savior for the forgiveness of all our sins and for our eternal life in and with Him.

May God bless us all.

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