“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:7-8).
As we continue to prepare for our Passover Seder, there is a very strange looking root on the table. God commanded us to eat this meal with bitter herbs, and these days the horseradish root has gotten the job. Freshly grated, horseradish will really clear your sinuses (we call it Jewish Dristan) and bring tears to your eyes.
It is appropriate to cry tears of bitterness at Passover. With tears we remember our people who slaved under a yoke of oppression for 430 years. And all that time, they cried out for a deliverer. And we sit here today, free from oppression, the blessed recipients of deliverance. It’s hard to cry when you are so blessed. So, the horseradish. Properly eaten as a nice big bite on a piece of matzoh, trust me, you’ll cry.
It is much the same with Jesus. We know the gospel so well that when we contemplate the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced for us, we should cry, but often can’t. We know the ending and have become immune to the pain. We risk taking His sacrifice for granted. Perhaps a nice big bite of horseradish will remind us of the tears that are shed over death.
But while we are crying those tears, we notice another odd-looking but very tasty mixture on the table before us. After unleavened bread, parsley and horseradish, this food is a delightful surprise. Called charoseth, it is a mixture of apples, honey, nuts and cinnamon ground together almost into a paste. Though not a food commanded to be on the table in Scripture, it is part of the Jewish Passover celebration nevertheless.
It is another reminder of bondage. The charoseth is to remind us of the mortar that the Israelites used to build Pharaoh’s cities. The question is often asked, “Why do we use something so sweet to remind us of something so bitter?” In the words of Tevya, the Jewish father trying to preserve tradition in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, “I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But its a tradition.” The charoseth is eaten together with the horseradish during the Seder, and perhaps it was done first to make the horseradish more palatable. Rabbi Hillel, a great Jewish teacher who died in 10 A.D., instructed his students to make a “Hillel sandwich” out of the horseradish, the charoseth and the matzoh. Rabbi Hillel would say that “even though life is bitter, with the promise of deliverance, it is also sweet indeed.” I think the Hillel sandwich is a picture of life. Even life following Jesus.
On the path we have walked together, there have been sweet times and there have been bitter times. Life is like that. During the bitter times we are comforted by the sweetness of the Gospel as we are assured that we are children of God, saved by faith, and that Jesus carries our burdens. During the sweet times, we thank God and are reminded that there are many who do not know the sweetness of God’s love and live bitter lives apart from His love and salvation.
Prayer: My Lord, I praise you for carrying me in those times that I am most challenged to see the good you have for me. Help me to learn from bitter times, and praise you for sweet times. And in those times, so often I take the death of your Son for granted, as I go about my blessed life. Forgive me Lord, and make me truly thankful for the gift you have given me. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.
Ponder the path: As this Holy Week goes on, focus on the real pain that Jesus suffered for you, that you will truly appreciate the cost he paid to deliver you. As we take the bitter with the sweet, let it teach us to thank God at all times.