Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Jewish Seder

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

Passover

Previously, we found the Passover in Exodus, chapter twelve, and the Day of Atonement in Leviticus, chapter sixteen both foreshadowing the coming Messiah, Jesus. Now 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 has become very ritualized, so much so that the Jewish Passover is now called 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 obvious. 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 a time of God-ordained preparation, 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 and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is used by God 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 leaven out of your house is nearly impossible because yeast floats in the air.

We find Jesus in the unleavened bread for He is sinless, 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

unleavened bread

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 no work in 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

Since the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the Passover meal, all leaven (sin) must be removed before the Passover. 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. This is in obedience to God’s command in Exodus 13:7:  “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.

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).

Chametz

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 difficult to get sin out of our lives.

On the night before Passover, a ceremonial search for chametz is performed by candlelight by the whole family. This search is called bedikat chametz. Before the search starts, a Hebrew blessing is recited:

Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the removal of chametz.

In a kind of “hide and seek”, there is an old custom that ten pieces of chametz are hidden 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. Then the next morning, the crumbs of leavened bread, the feather, and the spoon are burned.

Sourdough

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 by adding a bit of sourdough. 

Sourdough is commonly used as a starter for bread. The 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. Common bread always carried a history in it and that history comes from the sourdough used to get the bread to rise. We, as descendants of Adam, carry the history of Adam’s sin within us; it’s baked in. However, when we are saved, 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)

Next Time

Next time we move on to the book of Numbers.

Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash

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