She called it ‘Cricket Salad’. My friend Keallie, was determined to keep her family’s Easter and spring celebrations separate: Events and rituals welcoming the season, involving egg hunts, chocolates, marshmallow cheeps and bunnies, along with her green gelatin, fruity, nutty, whipped cream salad, filled her children and guests with delight. With that settled, it was time for their observance of the days leading up to the commemoration of the voluntary sacrifice of the Son of God for the redemption of Mankind. I loved Keallie’s equally creative Bible-based activities and stole a couple for my own family’s observances, especially since my offspring were past the age of ‘Resurrection Eggs’.
My children may have been past the Resurrection eggs but not our Jamaican Easter Bun & Cheese Tradition. Small round spice buns, usually paired with soft, tangy, cheddar cheese, was common lunch fare in my tropical homeland. However, in the weeks and days leading up to Easter Sunday, these transitioned into larger, heartier succulent loaves, glazed to a sheen and bejeweled with fruit protruding on top or garnished with a small swirl of white dough. Many Jamaican housewives now bake their own special versions, involving unusual raising agents such as stout draughts. Several national bakeries now have competing versions of Easter buns marketed even to Jamaicans overseas who are determined to maintain the Easter bun and cheese tradition.
Said to be a descendant of the British Hot Cross Bun, the idea traditionally was that this, ready-to-eat, sweet & savory sandwich, freed mothers and home-makers to have more time for spiritual reflection at this height of the church’s calendar, which usually involved fasting for adults. In actuality, it more likely allowed time for all the cleaning and cooking that ramped up towards the big Resurrection day’s celebration. I certainly remember my grand-mother and aunts, in their somber reflective modes—fasting, going to prayer meetings and such—but also their bustling excitement in the preparations for celebrating resurrection Sunday. This meal included a special meat such as goat, roasted beef or pork along with the ever-pleasing side-dish of rice and red beans patiently simmered in seasoned coconut cream to perfect flavor and texture. Other salads and vegetables rounded out the meal with possibly a cake or pudding for later evening dessert, making everyone thankful in heart and stomach that Jesus rose from the dead!
As satisfying as the Jamaican Easter dining tradition was, it must take second place at least to the Messianic (or completed) Jewish meal called the Seder, in the spiritual significance of its food associated with Jesus’ atonement. Their preparation is taken to unusual heights, as they observe the combined process that is their commemoration of both Passover as well as the celebration of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. The Jewish Seder meal is historic, even cosmic in its full meaning. Items on the representative platter trace God’s preservation of the Messianic line, via the ten plagues that released the Jews from enslavement in Egypt, including the lamb or goat’s blood placed on the doorposts that made the distinction between those first-born who fell to the angel of death and those who were spared.
The fulfillment of this, in Christ’s sacrifice as the Spotless Lamb, whose blood marks us as His, is today represented both in the bone from the lamb shank on the platter and in the three pierced unleavened breads called Matzah. The middle-third of this bread, representing the body of the Christ buried till the resurrection, is hidden for the young children at the meal to later seek and find for a reward. The diners’ palettes are taken through the full range of taste experiences—salty water, bitter herbs and harsh horseradish, bland hard-boiled egg, and the sweet charoseth, are all taken in turn between sips of tangy wine or grape-juice, drops of which recount the ten plagues. Each taste experience represents a vital part of the story in this ordered ceremony. In this the Jews’ gift of memory-making is unequalled and the launching into the hearty even lavish meal of celebration afterwards lends the occasion the fullness of appreciation that it’s Subject warrants.
While the religious observances of other ancient cultures were often related to the cycle of the heavenly bodies and the resultant seasons, the feasts of the Jewish people mostly focused on God’s dealings with them in His efforts to establish a trusting relationship with them. Feasting which commemorates reconciliation between God and Mankind has thankfully carried over from Judaism into Christianity in the Communion, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper—the revealed mystery of the New Testament message having been foreshadowed in the Old Testament rites.
“I have food to eat which you do not know of!” Jesus had cried triumphantly as the crowds had come spilling out of the gates of Samaria. The disciples looked disappointedly at the fare they had just offered Him, but quickly stored it away again as they waded with Him out into the ripened harvest field of hungry souls, drawn by the witness of the woman Jesus had spoken to at the well. To do the Father’s will, He insisted, was His meat and the Father’s work His food.
From the outset of His ministry the enemy sought to get Jesus to satisfy spiritual hunger with earthly fare, but failed. This no doubt helped Him to maintain His focus on why He had come to earth—not to fill people’s stomachs or His own; though He amply demonstrated His ability to do so on more than one occasion. When they tried to install Him as king on that basis, He was careful to drive the point home that the bread He came to feed them was neither the manna Moses gave to their fore-fathers nor the fish and bread of His miracles. His own broken body and poured out blood for the spiritual health that comes from reconciliation with God.
Despite that purpose of His as the God-man, Jesus did quite a bit of eating as He launched into His final week. His last days commenced with a feast in Bethany at the home of a wealthy former leper, Simon. This must have been a community affair, as Lazarus reclined at table as a guest, Martha was present to serve, and probably helped to cater too, while her more contemplative sister, Mary, was on hand to anoint the head and feet of Jesus with 300 denarii’s worth of spikenard in prophetic anticipation of His pending suffering, death and burial.
A feast like that at Simon’s house would have consisted of an animal fattened, slaughtered and roasted just for such occasions. Other items served would have likely been barley bread rounds, since they were at the height of the barley harvest. Fruit and fresh vegetables would have included cucumbers, celery, pears, pomegranates and dates, (figs not being quite ready till June); roasted nuts of all sorts, honey, cheese, raisin cakes and wines would have rounded out the meal.
It is somewhat surprising that Jesus, heading out of Bethany the next morning, did so without breakfast. He was probably energized to get on with the will of the Father, having already said His good-byes the night before. Equally strange, yet prophetic, was His searching the leafy fig tree for fruit, in His hunger, and not finding any, cursing the tree. His hunger was clearly metaphorical as well—a hunger for the souls of men—fruitless Israel had failed to fulfill its mission, separating themselves from and despising the Gentiles instead of accommodating and drawing them to the good news of the promised Messiah. (The Gentiles place for prayer in the Temple Court had long been commandeered for the sale and trade of animals for the sacrificial system). No wonder when Jesus finished cursing the tree, symbolic of His displeasure with Israel, He went straight to the court of the Gentiles and drove out the animal tradesmen and the money changers carrying on their lucrative business at the expense of the Gentiles whom they had displaced from their place of prayer. I am sure His physical hunger helped feed His spiritual hunger and righteous anger towards the hijacked, hard-hearted religious institution.
But Jesus was not at odds about how to come by meals during the remainder of His final week. On Wednesday He gave His disciples miraculous directions about how to prepare for their Passover Meal the next day, just as He had given them instructions about how to find the colt for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People seemed to have been prepared supernaturally to know that His disciples were coming and what they would need for the Master each time. The symbolic part of their Passover meal is believed to have looked much like the modern traditional meal without the elements representing the fact of Jesus’ Messianic fulfillment. The remainder was just as meaning-filled and sumptuous, with the required vessels of wine, the final one of which Jesus declined to drink until, He would drink it anew in the Father’s Kingdom. The disciples, minus Judas, would have been a physically satisfied, though mentally anxious crew, as they followed Jesus out to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, where they struggled to stay awake in support of the Savior at His Most Needy hour.
One can only marvel at the temerity which led Judas to dip his hand in the bowl at meal with Jesus a few hours earlier, knowing that in a moment He would leave this intimate feast of friends to betray his Lord to the persecutors. Yet when the traitor arrived with the Temple guards to arrest Jesus, even then, Jesus’ final words and act before arrest are to heal the ear of the evening’s one casualty and to rebuke His would-be defender, Peter, stating, “Must I not drink the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” His last drink before His death? No. In the midst of the cruelty, He was offered two more drinks. One a sponge full of sour wine mixed with gall, purportedly an analgesic, which He refused, and later another when He cried out “I thirst!”, offered in mockery to see if Elijah would come to save Him. Little did they know that ‘The Greater than Elijah’ was looking down in Divine pity on them from the cross.
Jesus truly demonstrated the Heavenly Father’s heart, to feed His rebellious creation a meal that is ‘food indeed’, as the Bible describes the eternal life offered in the Gospel. The world may have given Him rocks but He had returned them Bread. They deserved the serpent but He gave them multiplied fish. They followed Him for Manna, but He offered them Himself as that which satisfies eternally. His broken body, the atoning sacrifice. The solid Rock they struck on Calvary issued living water and His life’s blood for their redemption. “Ho everyone that thirsteth!” He still cries out, “Come ye to the Waters and drink! Come buy Milk and wine; come buy without money and without price!” The miraculous Easter meal, completely on Him. As often as we eat and drink this meal, we remember Him till He comes.
- Image of Homemade Easter Bun, https://gracefoods.com/recipe-a-z/recipe/1575-homemade-easter-bun, accessed April 3, 2021.
- Table Image is from the website Things To Do This Weekend in Nottingham: 20th – 22nd October – Visit Nottinghamshire, https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/blog/read/2017/10/things-to-do-this-weekend-in-nottingham-20th-22nd-october-b5560, accessed 3 Apr 2021
- All other images are from unsplash.com an internet’s source of freely-usable images.
- Information on the Messianic Jewish Seder in the article is from Christ in the Passover by David Brickner, Jews for Jesus, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVolBDlWloQ, posted 19 Apr 11
4 thoughts on “The Food of Easter”
Thank you Denise for the detailed explanation of the Jewish Seder meal. I have learned a lot from your informative, insightful and inspirational writing. Is this from a devotional book you have written?
If not I hope it is on its way. God bless you.
God bless you dear Aunty Cherry! So glad it blessed you! Help me pray towards that devotional publication! Much love!
I enjoyed reading this delightful and well researched, written article. You fed my spirit as well as my thoughts. I miss you.
I miss you too dear sister and the fellowship and prayerful worship which you bring to the Body. So happy to have served you by His gift in me! His grace is sufficient and will keep us! Fondly, Denise