HaMatzoth – the Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Historic Meaning of Unleavened Bread
You will find the detailed description of this Feast of the Lord in Leviticus 23, verses 6-11.
Unleavened Bread extended from the 15th to the 21st Abib. (Remember, evening and morning make one day. So the day begins in the evening, immediately after sunset, and ends with sunset the next day.)
During the week of Unleavened Bread (Hebrew, haMatzoth), no bread baked with yeast is allowed. The word “leaven” (Hebrew, khametz) means yeast. All leaven was to be cleaned out of the house. The only bread allowed, even commanded, was matzah.
Why did the people of God had to celebrate Unleavened Bread (haMatzoth) immediately after Passover (Pesach)? Because they were commemorating the time when they were leaving Egypt, and had to depart in haste. They didn’t have the time required to put in the yeast, knead the dough and wait for the yeast to rise. In fact, they were leaving in such haste, that they slept that night with their belts around their wastes, and with their shoes on their feet, so they wouldn’t waste time getting dressed for the journey! You can read about this in Exodus 12:11.
In the middle of the night, there was a great outcry in Egypt, from the Pharaoh’s palace to the humblest home. Because of Moses’ prediction of the death of the first-borns of Egypt, every home was on edge, awake, to see what was going to happen. Then, mysteriously, every first-born suddenly dropped down, dead. Pharaoh was shaken. He summoned Moses at once, and pleaded with him to take the people of Israel out of Egypt. Meanwhile, the women of Israel made unleavened dough, and packed it, still unleavened, still unkneaded even, and the Israelites hurried out of Egypt. You can read this in Exodus 12, verses 8-11, 14-20, 31-39.
During that amazing time, unleavened bread was their food until they had crossed the Red Sea and stepped into the desert. Another reason why God told them not to mix their dough with yeast, was to prevent it going stale during that time.
The Prophetic Aspect
The Feast foretold the burial of Jesus. This was a very important part of the gospel. Jesus was buried. That means that He really and truly died. He didn’t rise again from a near-death experience. He rose from the dead. So important was Jesus’ burial that He Himself predicted it in Matthew 12:40.
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
How could Jesus be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth if He was buried Friday evening and rose on Sunday morning? If He were buried as Friday was ending at sunset and Saturday was beginning) and if He rose just after sunset on Saturday (as Sunday was beginning), that would be only one night and one day, not three days and three nights as Jesus said it would be.
Now let’s look at John’s account of Jesus’ burial. John sais that when Jesus died, the next day was a high Sabbath.
John 19:14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The day of Jesus’ trial before Pilate was the preparation of the Passover. So Jesus died on Passover. And verse 31 says that the next day starting that evening was not only a sabbath day but a high day. Every week had a sabbath (Saturday). But in addition, on the Jewish calendar, there were high sabbaths, which were observed like sabbaths (they would not do any work) even though these high sabbaths might not fall on Saturday. One of those high sabbaths was the 15th Abib, the first day of Unleavened Bread. (The first and last days of Unleavened Bread were high sabbaths.)
Leviticus 23:6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
As we can see, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a week long, starting on the 15th of Abib, and in the first and seventh day of the week the Jews were to do no servile work – in other words, these days were to be observed as sabbath days, regardless of what day of week these days fell on. This is what is meant by “high sabbath”.
In other words, the day after Jesus died was a high sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread (since He died on Passover).
Now we can get the correct picture. Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb just minutes before sunset on Passover which was Wednesday in that year. The first day of Unleavened Bread began at sunset, which was Thursday. Therefore He was in the tomb that evening (Thursday evening according to the Jewish way of reckoning, Wednesday evening according to our way of reckoning). The regular Jewish sabbath ends on Saturday evening at sunset. Sometime after sunset on Saturday, Jesus rose from that tomb, triumphing over death. It was the first day of the week (Rishon, in Hebrew, corresponding to our Sunday, but reckoned from what we would call Saturday evening.) This was the precise day on which the firstfruits offering of a sheaf of grain was to become a wave offering. So, the Feast of Firstfruits (haBikhurim) was God’s prophecy of Jesus’ resurrction.
You can see how meticulous God was about everything connected with the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus. He was buried on Wednesday before sunset, therefore He was in the heart of the earth on Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday. Exactly three days and three nights. Just as Jesus prophesied. It was the sign of Jonah.
It is important not to be argumentative about this. At a time when born-again Christians (who haven’t thought things through) are remembering the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the fact of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is more important than the exact days on which the events occurred. However, when you see how precise God’s Word is, you will have greater faith in God’s promises, including healing, deliverance, financial provision, etc.
The Personal Aspect
In the Bible, yeast (leaven)is a symbol of malice and wickedness. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Paul teaches us in Romans 6:4 that our old sinful nature (leaven) was buried with Christ in our water baptism. Just as the Israelites went down into the Red Sea with unleavened bread to emerge on the other side into a new life under Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-2), in the same way we go into the waters of baptism to emerge into a new life in Christ.
Therefore, the personal aspect of this Feast is the getting rid of malice and wickedness in our lives.
Passover stands for the fact that Jesus dealt with the penalty of our sin. Unleavened Bread stands for the fact that He is now continuing to deal with us in the matter of our practice of sin. The Wesleyans (also known as Methodists because they were so methodical about dealing with sin in their lives) called this “sanctification”. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul was telling his readers that they must personally experience in their lives the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
While salvation takes place in an instant, the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, sanctification is a process. You can see this in the fact that Passover is a day, and more specifically the moment of sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. But Unleavened Bread is a week.
You can see this fact from another scripture too:
Matthew 7:14 … strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
You pass through the gate in an instant, but travelling along the way is a process, and it takes time.
This process which takes time needs our cooperation. God works in us, and we work together with Him. Paul tells the Philippians to “work out” their salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who is “working in” them. We are to work out what God is working in us. (Philippians 2:12-13)
So the first thing to understand is that don’t cast out the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) as if they are the works of demons. God’s answer to the works of the flesh is for us to understand more clearly what happened to Jesus on Calvary. On the Cross, Jesus received God’s punishment for our sins. It was very painful for Him. Yet He took that punishment manfully because He loved us. The more we realize this, the less we will sin.
Calvary not only shows God’s love for us sinners, but also His terrifying wrath against sin.
Isaiah 52:14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
Jesus was the sin-offering taking on Himself God’s wrath against sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Calvary was not just play-acting, with Jesus acting out the role of our Substitute. He really suffered for our sins when He deflected God’s anger away from us. He really experienced God turning away from Him, as God saw on Him the sins of the human race.
Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
We have to see sin as God sees it: a hated thing. The more we understand this, the more we will flee from sin, the less we will sin, the more we will be sanctified.
Jesus broke the power of sin in our lives when He died on Calvary. That is why we say that we died with Him on Calvary. Therefore, we can confidently count ourselves dead to sin, consider it already accomplished, consider that we are no longer dominated by sin’s power. Then faith comes into action. We trust God that this fact stated in His Word will be experienced in our lives as we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Read Galatians 2:20. Also Romans 6:6-7,11.
As we contemplate Jesus’ Death and Burial in the tomb, let us cultivate the same hatred for sin and love for righteousness that God has. God has promised us salvation as a free undeserved gift of His grace. Now we should respond by not taking advantage of God’s grace to live in sin. Every time we are tempted, let us affirm that we are dead in Christ, crucified with Him. The only way to deal with a dead body is to bury it. Baptism by immersion in water is a strong symbol of the old nature being buried, and a new creation being raised in the likeness of Christ.
You might be wondering, how could we be dead in Christ 2000 years ago, when we were born physically much less than 100 years ago?
The Bible gives us a parallel when discussing how Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:9-10 states that the priestly tribe of Levi (descended from Levi, son of Jacob) used to receive tithes from the people of Israel by command of God. But Levi himself paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham, because Levi was in Abraham’s loins (potentially in Abraham’s seed) and therefore when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20), Levi did, and because Levi did, Levi’s descendants in the priestly tribe did. And because Jesus was declared a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), therefore the levitical tribe paid tithes to Jesus’ early representative Melchizedek. What the scripture is arguing is that the priesthood of Jesus is far superior to the priesthood of the Levites.
Now we apply the same logic to the question of how we died in Christ 2000 years ago. Just as the whole tribe of Levi was in Abraham when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, so the whole Body of Christ was in Christ when He died on the Cross. Because we were in Him, therefore, when He died, we died … when He was buried, we were buried … when He rose, we also were raised to newness of life.
So, let us live this new life, without malice or wickedness of any kind.
See Matzah (Unleavened Bread)
See Personal Blessings in the week-long festival of HaMatzot