This is a question a number of Christians ask today. To fully understand the symbolism and significance, Believers must examine the Jewish roots of the faith.
Passover, also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, begins this year on Friday, March 30th at sundown, and ends April 7th at sundown.
“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”—Exodus 12:14-15
As you may know, the origin of this feast dates back to the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt. But why does the Lord instruct His people not to eat leaven?
Passover is described in Exodus 12 as “the beginning of the calendar.” It is a time modern-day Believers can look back on the past year, learn from their trials, bring in a new and fresh beginning, and look forward to blessings in the new year.
When searching the scriptures, we find yeast, used as a leavening agent, symbolizing sin, bondage and slavery. While this is the most common symbolism of the flattened bread, there are also other noteworthy attributes for unleavened bread during this appointed time.
Made for a quicker exodus
The Israelites had to leave Egypt quickly. They did not have time to allow bread to rise, so they made it without yeast. God’s Word is clear that haste was a factor in the unleavened bread of the first Passover.
“You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.”—Deuteronomy 16:3
In Hebrew the words ‘unleavened bread’ are derived from the word matzoh, which means bread or cake without leaven. In the Hebrew language matzoh also means, ‘to drain out in the sense of greedily devouring for sweetness.’
It is likely the flattened bread was sweet, therefore signifying the sweetness after the bondage of sin is removed.
The Lord’s instructions to remember
The Lord continuously reminds His people to commemorate and remember. Just as the feasts are a time to remember God’s work in our lives, He also desires for us to recall each part of provision and protection to be remembered. This allows His faithfulness to impact our mind, will and emotions. As a result, our trust in Him grows.
Leaven spreads throughout the entire loaf
Yeast is almost always associated with sin in the Bible. When there is sin in the camp, it spreads throughout the people. It overwhelms, enslaves, plants bitter roots, and can take over more than just a single person… it influences the whole community.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”—Galatians 5:9
“…Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”—1 Corinthians 5:6-7
Yeast is a picture of Egypt
Did you know Egyptians were among the first people to discover yeast as a leavening agent for bread? Beer and bread, both made of yeast, were staples in the Egyptian diet. Therefore, taking away the yeast represented taking Egypt and the bondage of slavery out of the Jewish life.
The Lord wanted His people to remember the bondage they experienced, remember the redemptive freedom He provided, and to keep their eyes on Him, to not allow the roots of slavery to enter in again.
A work of the Holy Spirit
Cleansing out the yeast after it has permeated the entire loaf is impossible. Therefore, this act Paul references in 1 Corinthians to “purge the old leaven” is the work of the Holy Spirit. Passover is a time of reflection and it allows the Holy Spirit to wash over you and cleanse you from within.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”—Ephesians 2:8-9
While we cannot through our own efforts purge sin, we can partner with the Holy Spirit in remembering and renewing our minds.
“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.”—Exodus 12:14
How can you celebrate Passover?
If you aren’t joining us in person for Passover, you can join us LIVE STREAM on March 30, 2018 at 7:45 CT. We want to encourage you to download our FREE Haggadah and host a Passover Seder meal in your home with friends and family. Does your congregation want to host a Passover Seder meal? You can purchase a number of printed Haggadahs to keep year after year. Here is what you will need:
- Horseradish (One teaspoon per person is ample)
- Charoset (We make enough for a heaping tablespoon per person)
- Parsley (Just enough for everyone to have a sprig)
- Saltwater (Enough for people to dip their parsley into)
- Grape Juice or Wine (Enough for each person to have 4 sips—you will also need 4 small cups or glasses per person)
- It is also traditional/symbolic to have a roasted lamb shank bone and a boiled egg on the table
God reminds us to observe the Feast of Passover forever and the importance of us passing the story onto our children. He wants us to partner with Him to remove and keep out the “yeast” in our own lives. It is a time He appoints annually to remind us of this truth.
As modern-day Believers, we should be alert and aware of any time there is the “yeast” of doubt, fear and unbelief in our lives. These seeds spread and impact our surroundings and others.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any yeast that is spreading throughout your life. Pray and ask Him to cleanse you of it during this important time of Passover. Humbly ask Him to remind you of His power and promises as we move forward through the year 5778/2018—a time to advance—a time of new beginnings!