Day 30: Elijah’s Cup

Day 30: Elijah’s Cup

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. Malachi 4:5

And if you are willing to accept it, he (John the Baptist) is the Elijah who was to come. Matthew 11:14

Often there is a fifth cup on the table, called the Elijah cup. Of course this is not part of the original feast, but it is part of the messianic expectation that is still present in the celebration of Passover. An empty plate and full cup of wine await the coming of Elijah, who is to herald the coming of the Messiah. At some point in the evening a child is even sent to the door to look and see if Elijah just might be there.

Like many of the later add-ons to the feast, there are different interpretations of the purpose of Elijah and his cup. Besides the messianic connotation, Elijah plays a role in the circumcision ceremony, so some people believe he is represented in order to assure that only observant Jews take part. Another reason presented for his inclusion in the observance is that his wisdom as a prophet is needed to help them understand those things that are still not clear to them.

When Elijah does not come, they pour away the wine in his cup with disappointment. It was a long time from the promise in Genesis, that out of a woman would come the light of the world, to the coming of Jesus (such as is celebrated in the candle lighting in the beginning of the ritual), but it is longer still for those who have rejected Jesus as the Promised One. How hard it must be to maintain hope! But for those of us who have believed he is the Messiah, we have been waiting a very long time for his promised return. We can relate to that sense of the ebb and flow of expectancy.

• Year after year the celebrants of the Seder go to the door and look, and go away disappointed. While you believe he’s already come, are you even looking for the return of Jesus—his second coming?
• What do you think you can do to stir up expectation in your own heart and in your family for Jesus’ triumphant return?
• Ask the Lord to stir up hope in your heart, and open the eyes of his people, Israel, to the fact that He already came to them.

Lord, you often told us to watch and be alert. I don’t want to be one of those who fell asleep while waiting. Enable me to stay alert and watch with hope!

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries