Acharon Shel Pesach: A Feast for the Messiah
Deuteronomy 14:22–16:17; Numbers 28:19–28:25; Isaiah 10:32–12:6
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
In Chasidic Judaism in the Diaspora (outside Israel), a final feast will begin tomorrow before sunset and continue until after nightfall. This final festival meal on the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (eighth day of Passover) is called Seudat Moshiach (Feast of Messiah). It was initiated by the founder of the Chasidic movement, Rabbi Yisrael (Israel) ben Eliezer, also called Baal Shem Tov or Besht, a Jewish mystic (ca. 1700–1760).
This traditional Feast of Messiah, held in anticipation of the future redemption by the Messiah, includes songs, matzah (unleavened bread), and the four cups of wine typical of the Passover Seder.
Why did the founder of the Chasidic movement institute a custom dedicated to the Messiah?
Just as the first days of Passover focus on Israel’s redemption from Egypt, explained the Baal Shem Tov, so too should the last days center upon the ultimate redemption that is to come; therefore, at the close of the holiday of Pesach (Passover), a festive meal is dedicated to His coming.
Throughout the festival of Passover, we are made aware of our need of redemption. As well, this holiday is a wonderful reminder in this world troubled by natural disasters, wars, famine, pestilence, injustice, and corruption that with God there is always hope.
At the Seder on the first night of Passover, we use the Haggadah (The Telling) to recount the Exodus. This retelling fulfills the Biblical injunction (Exodus 13:8) to tell each generation the story of our enslavement in Egypt and how, against all odds, God delivered us as a nation.
Since the Seudat Mashiach is only celebrated by Jewish people in exile, outside the land of Israel, the last day also celebrates the hope of a future deliverance from exile and a promise of a better world.
The irony here, of course, is that, at this time, the door remains open for a Jewish person of any nation to give up their place in exile and come home to the nation of Israel—and yet, so many remain in their comfort zones outside the Land. Sometimes, the reason given is that they are awaiting the rebirth of Israel as a spiritual nation that bows to God.
The celebration of this Messianic Feast helps to raise Jewish awareness of the very concept of the Messiah, of which many are quite uninformed.
Raising this eighth day from the mundane to the level of holiness can be a way of bringing a segment of the Jewish population to think about and rejoice in the coming of the Messiah.
Prayer for the Coming of Messiah
Some Christians and even some secular Jews are unaware of the fact that the Messiah is a fundamental ancient concept in Judaism.
Indeed, it has been said, half in jest, that when Yeshua returns, the one question that will be asked of Him by the Jewish People is whether or not it is His first or second visit to earth.
When Yeshua returns, they will see and know that His coming was preceded 2,000 years ago as the Passover Lamb of God who was slain for our personal redemption.
Belief in the coming of a Messiah is one of the thirteen foundational principles of the Jewish faith, according to Rambam (Hebrew acronym for “Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon”), one of the most prolific and well-respected Torah scholars of the Middle Ages.
Also, in a prayer called the Shemoneh Esrei (also known as the Amidah—Standing Prayer), one of the things Jewish people pray for three times a day is for the coming of the Mashiach:
“Speedily cause the offspring of your servant David to flourish, and let him be exalted by your saving power, for we wait all day long for your salvation. Blessed are you, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.” (Excerpt of the Amidah)
The Hebrew word mashiach משיח literally means anointed one, from the practice of anointing the Kings of Israel with oil; therefore, the Mashiach will be the one anointed as King of Kings in the end of days.
This word is closely related to the word Moshiah, which means to save; therefore, the Messiah is both the Anointed One and Savior.
Still, the Christian concept of the Savior and the Jewish concept of Messiah differ in many ways.
What Will the Mashiach Do?
According to Jewish traditions and beliefs, the Messiah will come after a time of war and suffering (Ezekiel 38:16), and at that time, there are several things that the genuine Messiah must accomplish:
- The Messiah will bring the Jews home to Israel and restore Jerusalem, bringing about their spiritual and political redemption (Isaiah 11:11–12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4–5; Zechariah 8:12–14; Ezekiel 37:23).
- The Messiah will rule from Jerusalem, which He will make the center of world government for Jews as well as Gentiles (Isaiah 2:2–4; 11:10; 42:1).
- The Messiah will rebuild the Holy Temple and re-establish Temple worship and sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:18; Ezekiel 44:15).
- The Messiah will restore Jewish law as the rule of the Land and establish a religious court system (Jeremiah 33:15).
- The Messiah will bring peace to Israel and the world (Isaiah 11:6–11).
Most Jewish people do not believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah because He did not fulfill these expectations.
In addition, a Savior who is both human and Divine and who dies for our sins is a foreign concept in traditional Judaism. Therefore, many believe that considering Yeshua to be the Messiah is unacceptable. Yet, many Jewish people still look to mere men to fulfill the Messianic role.
“Yeshua answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many.’” (Matthew 24:4–5)
Throughout Jewish history, many people have either claimed to be the mashiach or had followers who claimed their leader was the mashiach; for example, Shimeon Bar Kokhba, Shabbatai Tzvi, etc.
Many were imprisoned, killed, or converted to various religions to escape punishment or death.
Even today, all over Israel, posters and signs proclaim a certain man as Melech Mashiach (King Messiah): Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe or just the Rebbe among his followers.
Rabbi Schneerson was born in the Soviet Union on April 5, 1902 and became a prominent Chasidic rabbi—the seventh and last Chasidic leader (Rebbe) of the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of Judaism. After the death of his father-in-law in 1951, Schneerson became the leader of the Lubavitch movement until he died in 1994.
Although he worked to promote traditional Judaism and moral values and contributed greatly to the worldwide Jewish community and beyond, he never announced himself as the Jewish messiah, as some of his followers claimed. In fact, Rabbi Schneerson is said to have discouraged all such talk as foolish and unfounded.
In contrast, Yeshua clearly and openly proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah that the Jewish People were eagerly anticipating, patiently waiting and passionately longing for.
When Yeshua met the Samaritan woman at the well, he spoke to her about the living water of the Spirit that would quench her thirst forever.
“The woman said, I know that Messiah” (called Mashiach) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Then Yeshua declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.” (John 4:25–26)
Yeshua also publicly proclaimed His Messianic mission in the synagogue, which He customarily attended.
When He was called to read from the prophets in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, He read the well-known Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19)
To everyone’s amazement, this simple carpenter, son of Joseph, then rolled up the scroll and sat down, saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
Indeed, what the Bible has to say about the Messiah is quite different than what traditional Judaism commonly believed about the Messiah.
With so many false Messiah’s out there, how can we recognize the true Messiah? How can we be sure that Yeshua is truly the Mashiach or know that someone like Rabbi Schneerson is not?
Yeshua Himself has warned us to beware of numerous false Messiahs and false prophets that would arise in the last days, performing signs and wonders to deceive people, even the very elect.
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!‘’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:23–25)
Jewish people have looked for centuries for a Messianic deliverer who would bring world peace, but the fact that so many people in Israel and around the world believe that the late Rabbi Schneerson is the Messiah is one more sign that we are truly in the end times.
Revealing the Real Messiah
“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? … What is His name, and what is the name of His son? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)
How can we distinguish the real Messiah from all pseudo-messiahs? Thankfully, we don’t have to guess: the Bible provides the answers.
His entire ancestry, birth, character, teaching, ministry, life, death, burial, and resurrection had already been written by 25 Jewish writers up to 500 years before His birth.
There are at least 333 Messianic prophecies that complete the description of the real Messiah in Jewish Scriptures—far more than the Haftarah reading for the eighth day of Passover (Isaiah 10:32–12:6) reveals.
The following is a list of just a few of the prophecies that point to Yeshua as Messiah and disqualify Rabbi Schneerson and other false messiahs.
- He will be born to a virgin and will be called God With Us (Immanu-El) (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
- He will be born in Beit-Lechem (House of Bread—Bethlehem) (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1)
- He will be despised and rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; John 5:43)
- He will suffer terribly (Isaiah 52:14)
- He will be pierced and wounded for our sins (Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 22:16; Luke 23:33)
- He will take upon Himself the punishment that we all deserve (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)
- He will not open His mouth in His own defense (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12–14)
- He will die a premature death (Isaiah 53:8,12; Luke 23:46)
- He will die with the wicked but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57–60)
- He will be raised from death to life (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:29–32; Matthew 28:5–6)
- He will sit on the throne of His father, David, ruling forever (Isaiah 9:6–7; Luke 1:30–33)
All of these prophecies except the last one have already been fulfilled in the true Messiah, Yeshua.
His everlasting rule on the throne of David and other prophecies remain to be completed at His second coming, which we eagerly await during these last day when so many end-time prophecies are being fulfilled.
Remembering the Lamb
As this Feast of Passover comes to a close, and especially on the last day when the Feast of Moshiach is celebrated, let us remember the Lamb of God, whose blood saves us from all sin and judgment.
“This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
Israel has such a great hope of redemption, restoration, and deliverance in God’s Word.
As the Jewish people around the world read the Messianic prophecies in the Haftarah reading and look forward to a glorious future Passover and the complete spiritual redemption He brings, let’s pray that they see that Yeshua is the Messiah who came as the Passover Lamb, and will come again as the ruling Mighty King Messiah.