What's the Origin of the Passover Afikomen?

This year, the Jewish holiday of Passover begins on the evening of April 14. Since I'm the "token Jew" for many of my friends, I tend to get a lot of questions about holidays like this. And I'm happy to try to help.

Here's a question I got from a good friend of mine, who was a part of a leader training for a church-led Passover Seder, through Grace Church's Children's Ministry:
"I have a question about the afikomen -- the piece of matzah that's broken, wrapped up, and hidden. So, before Jesus, and in the regular Jewish passover, this has different meaning for us. Where did that come from, and what does it mean to non-Messianic Jews?"
She was referring to the part of the Passover Seder where one of the three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread) is broken, hidden away, and later found. In the Messianic Jewish perspective, the afikomen points to Jesus.

For non-Christian Jews, the afikomen is mostly used as a distraction for children, giving them a game of hide-and-seek when they finish their dinner. The finder gets a reward. (PS -- my Jewish grandfather used to always hide it under the pillow he was sitting on. ALWAYS.)

When Did the Afikomen Tradition Begin?

The funny thing about the Afikomen is that it probably wasn't in the original (before Christ) Seder. At the least, we don't see it in any Old Testament passages.

Afikomen is a GREEK word, not Hebrew. More than likely, it was brought in by Jewish Christians (who lived in a world that was predominately Greek-speaking), and the non-Christian Jews later adopted it.

I forget what most non-Christian (or, non-Messianic) Jews today say it means. Some say the three pieces of matzah represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Others say the Priests, Levites, and Israelites. Some say other things.

Afikomen means "that which comes after." But it's not just a dessert (unless you can find the honey and spice matzah -- that's good stuff!).

The three pieces of matzah represent the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle (the Son) is broken, as Jesus was on the cross. It is wrapped up and hidden, as Jesus was prepared for burial and place in a tomb. Later, it is rediscovered, just as God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus is "that which comes after." He is the promised Messiah, and the early church added the afikomen to celebrate this truth.

Now for a Funny Story . . .

Years ago, we did a Passover Seder with some other families from our church. Besides helping to lead the Seder, I was in charge of getting the reward. I forgot to get something, and didn't realize it until we were at their house.

I had to run to the local convenience store to pick up ice, and thought about getting some candy for a reward for the child would would find the afikomen. But I had a better idea. I bought a lottery ticket.

The other co-leader was fine with this, but another guy's head was about to explode. Oh, well.

The child who found the afikomen was the son of a pastor at Grace Church. (Un)fortunately, the ticket was not a winner. I would have loved to see this boy interviewed by the news:
News Person"How did you get this ticket, young man?"
Boy:  "Well we were doing a Passover Seder with the church where my Dad is a pastor. And this Jewish guy who is a deacon at the church, he gave me this lottery ticket as a prize for finding the matzah, which is like Jesus' body."

People would have been so confused.

What about you? Does this explanation help? Or do you have any more questions? Let me know in the comments.

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**First image: photo credit: Avital Pinnick via photopin cc
**Second image: photo credit: doncav via photopin cc 

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