Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Introduction, Passover, Unleavened Bread

Today is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  I am not Jewish, so you may ask, why is this important?  Let me start at the beginning (and I'll try to be brief).

I began to have interest in the Jewish roots of my Christian faith several years ago.  It began slowly, but then it began to pick up momentum as I kept gaining new insights.

A number of years back, I began to ponder why Christmas seemed to be of more importance to Christians than Easter.  Wasn't it Easter that represented the very culmination of our faith?  And why did the celebrations of these holidays leave me with an empty feeling?  Where did that word "Easter" come from, anyway?  The Lord put it upon me to go look up the origins of these holidays.  That I was surprised at what I found would be putting it mildly.  Our most important holiday of the year gets its name from a Babylonian goddess?  Really?

I discovered that virtually every holiday that we celebrate as Christians has its roots in paganism.  The ancient church, led by Constantine, removed the biblical celebrations (even making them illegal), and creating new "Christian" holidays based on the pagan celebrations of ancient Rome.  Christmas, Easter, Lent, All Saints Day, even Valentine's Day, for crying out loud!

So my question then became, "Is God ok with all this?"  A thorough study of scripture shows Him to be a jealous God.  The Israelites were warned over and over again to keep themselves pure and not mix in pagan customs of the nations surrounding them.  It made God angry.  They faced consequences every time they adopted the customs of the nations.  Does it still make Him angry today?  We claim that God is the same from glory to glory, never changing.   So did He change, or did we?

I began studying the ancient feasts of God, given to Israel in scripture (the Lord God says, "These are MY feasts... Leviticus 23:2).  And I have found a deep, beautiful, ever-unfolding picture of His love, mercy, and amazing plan for all of humanity.  All these feasts point to Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah our Savior, in such a detailed way!  There is such depth to His amazing word that I am constantly discovering new insights. 

Whether you decide that it is right or wrong to celebrate Christmas and Easter, you simply cannot glean these awesome truths from the man-made customs of decorated trees with stars on them, advent candles, plastic resurrection eggs, and chocolate bunnies (delicious as they may be).

So if you are still with me and haven't clicked the red X in extreme annoyance, let's take a brief look at Passover and Unleavened Bread.  Leviticus 23 is a good place to start studying.  The seven feasts of the Lord, as well as the Sabbath, are outlined here.  Passover and Unleavened Bread are the first two of the seven.  The first three (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits) take place over an 8-day period and are often lumped together as one feast. 

Jesus fulfilled Passover by becoming our perfect sacrificial Lamb.  His Passover seder took place the eve before he died, as Passover was beginning.  Although he wasn't crucified until the next afternoon, it was still Passover because the Jewish day begins at sundown the night before.  When he died at 3:00 pm, that was the very hour that the Passover lambs were being sacrificed at the temple (which were to be eaten at the second seder.  Even today Jewish people celebrate first seder and second seder).  Can you imagine the furor at the temple when that curtain ripped from top to bottom the moment Jesus died?  The temple would have been very crowded at the time.

Jesus, the Bread of Life, was laid into the tomb just as the Feast of Unleavened Bread was about to begin.  His life had been perfect; free of sin, so that before God he could pay the price of sin for us.  Throughout scripture, leaven represents sin.  Our Bread of Life was born in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread" in Hebrew.  On the cross, he became sin for us and took the penalty that we deserved (See 2 Cor 5:21)   The disciples wanted to bury him before the Sabbath, and this was not the regular weekly Sabbath.  John 19:31 tells us that this was a high Sabbath; that is, the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread.

1 Cor 5:7-8 tells us, "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  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."  This scripture refers to both Passover and Unleavened Bread, and the fulfillment of them by Jesus.
Do these insights of the biblical feasts, and how Jesus perfectly fulfilled them, excite you as much as they do  me?  If so, then you'll want definitely want to keep reading.  My next post will highlight the Feast of Firstfruits.  If you are like me, you'll say somethng like "Wow!!"

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