Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread
Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.Luke 24:27
Today we will search for Jesus in the Passover ceremony and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, both found in Leviticus, chapter twenty-three.
As we find in the Old Testament, Passover is the first day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot). For Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, this feast lasts eight days. We know that as time passed from the original “Pass Over” meal in Egypt, the Jewish Passover became very ritualized, so much so that the Jewish Passover is now the Seder meaning “order.” The Passover meal includes unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, the Passover lamb, and the singing hymns, all intended to remind each generation of Jews how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
When God told Moses to get the Israelites out of Egypt, His message to Moses purposely didn’t give the Jews time to make “normal” bread for their “last supper” in Egypt. Did we just see Jesus? Yes, I think we did.
As believers in the Lamb of God (John 1:29), we can see the Jewish Passover lamb pointing directly to Jesus and His death on the cross. Many of the “foreshadows of Jesus” that we find in the Old Testament are not immediately apparent. The Passover is obvious. It is overt. You just can’t miss the Passover lamb pointing to the Perfect Lamb of God. With verses, such as the following, we clearly see Jesus in the Passover:
- John 1:36, “and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
- 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
- 1 Peter 1:19, “But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Feast of Unleavened Bread
“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.”Leviticus 23:5-6
When we look at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we find that it commemorates the Israelites’ affliction in Egypt (Exodus 3:7) and their journey through the wilderness. At the beginning of their exodus, before God provided them with manna, the Jews ate unleavened bread. By this change in the Jewish diet, we see the Jews leaving their sinful world (leavened bread) to live in a time of God-ordained preparation. God was purging worldliness from their lives (unleavened bread) and then entering into God’s provision (manna), sustained by Yahweh Jireh, the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14).
In God’s Word, leaven is commonly, but not always, associated with sin or worldliness. God uses the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remind His chosen people how difficult it is to get sin out of your house. Not only does “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9) but cleaning the leaven out of your house is almost impossible because yeast floats in the air. For England, in the 1500s, the cooks would place a bit of dough in a patch of weeds to capture the yeast in the air to create a “start” for leavening.
The Sinless Jesus
We find the unleavened bread points to the sinless Jesus, untouched by the worldliness which leaven represents. Also, leaven represents death and corruption. Leavened bread quickly becomes moldy and decays. The body of Jesus did not decay, for the Bible states in Acts 13:27, “but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.”
We read in Exodus 3:7 that unleavened bread is called the bread of affliction. Also, we read in Isaiah 53:4-5:
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Identified with Affliction
Photo credit: Sangjun Yi on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
The unleavened bread that the Israelites made would have brown splotches from being baked in wood-fired or dung-fired, portable ovens (uneven heat). These are said to represent Christ’s bruising and wounds. When we partake of unleavened bread during the Last Supper / Eucharist / Communion, we identify ourselves with the suffering and afflictions that Jesus took on our behalf. Notice that we do not work for our sanctification. It’s all about Jesus:
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:4-6)
More About the Feast
The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the Passover meal. Before the meal, all leaven (sin) must be removed. To get yeast (leaven) out of their homes, modern Jews vacuum their homes, wipe off all surfaces and take out of their homes all leavened bread. They do this in obedience to God’s command:
“Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory.“Exodus 13:7
In keeping with leaven being a “type” of sinfulness, we find that no sacrifices to God contain leaven.
“No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.“Leviticus 2:11
The Jewish tradition of cleaning their home of all chametz (leavened bread/yeast) is called kashering. They search their homes for any trace of chametz. This process usually begins several weeks before the Passover meal – it’s challenging to get sin out of our lives.
On the night before Passover, the whole family performs a ceremonial search for chametz by candlelight. This search is called bedikat chametz. Before the search starts, they recite the Hebrew blessing:
Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and commands us regarding the removal of chametz.
In a kind of “hide and seek,” families perform the old custom of hiding ten pieces of chametz around the home. The whole family searches for the hidden chametz. The ten pieces are symbolic of the ten plagues that God poured out upon Egypt. A feather and a spoon are used to sweep up the last crumbs of leavened bread. The following day, they burn the crumbs of leavened bread, the feather, and the spoon.
A fascinating sighting of Jesus in the Feast of Unleavened Bread has to do with the history baked into leavened bread. In ancient Israel, bread was made by adding yeast (leavening) and a bit of sourdough.
Sourdough is the starter for bread. Sourdough can be a hundred years old, or even more! The sourdough in San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread has existed since the 1800s.
We’ve read about the yeast, but we haven’t considered the starter, the sourdough. Ordinary bread always carried a history in it that comes from the sourdough used to get the bread to rise. As descendants of Adam, we carry the history of Adam’s sin within us; it’s baked in. However, when we turn our lives over to Jesus, we are born again and become unleavened bread – flour & water. We have no yeast (corruption), and we have no history of sin (sourdough). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash
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