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Yeshua Explored

Jesus and the Passover – Part 2

todaySeptember 1, 2012 18

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So the Exodus began on Nisan 15th and it is commemorated by a second festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which, for all intents and purposes, is generally seen as part of the Passover celebration. This festival, when only unleavened bread (Matzah), bread without yeast, may be eaten, lasts until Nisan 22nd.

“Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” (Exodus 12:17)

Unleavened bread plays a key role in the Passover service. It was certainly important for God because there were firm penalties for not eating it during this seven day period.

“And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel.” (Exodus 2:19)

What is all this about yeast? God makes it clear that yeast is a symbol of sin in our life.

“Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:8)

During the Passover service as it is conducted today, the unleavened bread provides us with an interesting picture, one that we already take on board every time we take part in Holy Communion. In this rite we eat the “bread”, which in the context of the Last Supper, really needs to be unleavened and is another example of how some Christian practices owe more to tradition than to Biblical principles and practices. Consider this the next time you take your communion bread – unleavened bread represents sinlessness, it has holes (Zechariah 12:10) and stripes (Isaiah 53:5 KJV) and, during the Passover service, it is broken, wrapped in a linen shroud, hidden (buried), then found again (resurrected). You can have your Easter eggs, bunnies and bonnets, in terms of meaning and symbolism I’ll take the matzah any day! Food for thought, eh … literally!

Biblical festivals also have an agricultural element and there’s a third festival that runs in parallel with the others, starting on Nisan 17th. It is called Firstfruits and it signifies the beginning of the harvest.

“The LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest’.” (Leviticus 23:9-10)

Of course living as we do today, divorced from the sources of life’s necessities, the provision of food from the ground has no significance other than price hikes in our local supermarket after a bad harvest, or difficulties with the food importer. But to many communities today and certainly to those living in Biblical times, the barley and wheat harvest is extremely significant to their daily lives. Firstfruits is concerned with the barley harvest, but there’s a spiritual significance too, because Nisan 17th was the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul even makes the connection in his letter to the Corinthians.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Knowing this gives us an insight into Paul’s mind when he wrote it, bearing in mind his background as a learned orthodox Jew. He would have known that Jesus was resurrected just as the firstfruit wave offering was being made in the Temple and would have seen the prophetic significance. In fact it wasn’t just the same day, but the same hour of the day. Jesus rose from the dead probably around sunrise, just as the high priest entered the Kidron valley, east of Jerusalem to harvest the first grain of the season, as a symbolic act. Just as the barley harvest was the first harvest, Jesus’s victory over death was also the first of all who have fallen asleep.

 Steve Maltz
September 2012

How do we see Jesus in the Passover service?

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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