As the Seder nears its conclusion, the anticipation and excitement grow. Attendees each pour a bit of their wine into a cup, the Cup of Elijah the Prophet. The front door is opened. The cup is set in the middle of the celebration table. The children gather around the table and watch the Cup with eager anticipation. They watch for some stirring in the wine, a sign that Elijah has come to visit, that he has tasted of the Fifth Cup.
The Cup of Elijah is not included in the Seder celebration by all Jews. It does, however, have very important symbolic significance when it is included.
As discussed in a recent blog, Passover: The Four Cups of the Seder, the first four cups of wine are consumed in remembrance and celebration of the Israelites’ delivery from slavery in Egypt. According to scriptures, Elijah the Prophet will appear before the Messiah comes.
Christians, of course, believe that this has already occurred in the form of Christ Jesus. Most Jews believe that the arrival of the Messiah is still to come.
That event is beyond human capability. To the Jew, the coming of the Messiah will be an intervention from God. So, the stirring of the wine in the Fifth Cup, the Cup from which only Elijah may drink, is a reminder, a symbol of the final and complete redemptive promise of God.
The Fifth Cup also marks the sharp distinction between Christians and Jews. As Christians, we await the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior. The Cup of Elijah, reminds the Jews that they are still waiting for the first.
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