Deuteronomy 16:3-4, 16-17
2 Chronicles 35:16-19
Mark 14:1-2, 12
1 Corinthians 5:8
First Covenant Application:
getting rid of leaven (a symbol of sin) in preparation of Passover
New Covenant Application:
committing to yield to the Holy Spirit in repentance of sin in response to the redemption of Passover
water baptism of the God-worshiper
Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMotzi)
Mandated appearance before God (together with Passover)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is an eight-day mitzvah (commandment) that is kicked off by Passover. Since the two events are concurrent, they are often referred to as one feast; however, the texts where this feast is first mentioned are clear that Passover and Unleavened Bread are separate--and they have separate purposes. The main edict is simple: all persons belonging to the family of God are to rid their homes of yeast and must not eat anything containing yeast for seven days--from the evening of the 14th to the evening of the 21st Nisan. Why?
Leaven, or yeast, is nearly always symbolic of sin in the Bible; and as you will often hear me say, sin is really defined as self-worship. What God was asking (and is asking) of His people here is to cast off any hint of self-worship and acquiesce to His Lordship. Denial of yeast is a reminder of our commitment to live as citizens of a holy nation, a kingdom of priests consecrated by the blood of the Passover Lamb.
Traditionally, in the Passover Seder, the head of the Jewish household pronounces a disowning of any leaven that they had missed in the cleaning of their home; this is very much a picture of what happens in the partnership of Law and grace: we commit to ridding of ourselves of sin in response to the Law; but we see our failure to live up to the Law's standard, and so we are driven to depend on God for our salvation and help. As we do so, in His mercy He gives us grace--He forgives us and gives us His presence, His strength, and the power to be holy despite the sinful nature with which we still struggle. (See my post called Paul Misinterpreted? for the relationship between Law and grace.) The pronouncement goes like this: Any leaven that may still be in the house, which I have or have not seen, which I have or have not removed, shall be as if it does not exist, and as the dust of the earth. And we add, just as you have removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and remember it no more. The wonderful thing is that the LORD does not leave us there, sort of with our sin simply swept under the rug and ignored. The Holy Spirit is responsible for the scrubbing away of our sin through the process of sanctification; it is our job to yield to this process and simply say, “Yes, Lord,” knowing that the blood of Jesus has paid the price for it.
The other part of this feast is to remind us that this new beginning is an immediate affair. The Jews were not afforded the luxury of waiting around to take advantage of God’s redemption; in the same way, when we are afforded God’s grace, we must seize it. There is no ‘riding the fence’—waiting for some future event to happen or keeping some area of your life ‘hidden’ for yourself. If you have not fully committed your life to God-worship instead of self-worship, say ‘Yes’ to Him today. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed on your behalf, but you may not be afforded a tomorrow. You must take His life for your life—cast off the ‘leaven’ of your old self-worship and commit yourself to God.
This is illustrated by water baptism. John the Baptist, Jesus’ second-cousin and forerunner for Jesus’ ministry, told people to repent and be baptized in anticipation of the kingdom of God. Christians have been taught that baptism is a symbol of personal identification with Christ: that our old life is ‘buried’ with Him in the water, and that we are ‘raised’ up out of the water as a new creation. This is absolutely true—make no mistake; however, there is another shade of meaning that becomes clear when we consider the Jewish roots of baptism. It was called the mikveh in Hebrew and was required on a number of occasions including when a priest took his shift in office. It was a ritual of consecration—the idea that the priest was committing himself to God-worship for the purpose of ministry. This is why Jesus was baptized in obedience to the Law, though He had no sin: He was preparing Himself for ministry. For those of us who are sinful, however, this involves the casting off of the old self in order to commit ourselves to God’s agenda, just as we cast off our leaven in anticipation of redemption by the Passover Lamb.
The other component of Unleavened Bread, beyond the obvious, is that daily priestly offerings were required during this time. Unleavened Bread is one of the three 'mandated' Levitical Feasts: every male in the family of God was to come to Jerusalem and present offerings every day during this feast (Numbers 28:19-24). With the exception of the goat offering for sin and the Firstfruits grain offering, these offerings were burnt offerings--the purpose of which was an act of worship. No one was to appear before the LORD empty-handed; in other words, Unleavened Bread was a time to stand up and be counted as a God-worshiper.
There are no more blood and priestly sacrifices required in the New Covenant; so applying this portion of the Feast is metaphoric. Whereas Passover is about what Jesus did for us as the Passover Lamb, Unleavened Bread is about our part: saying "Yes" to God, accepting His sacrifice, His process, and His agenda; being baptized in water as a symbol of our commitment to be a priest of God's kingdom; and to worship God unreservedly where it counts. King David said, "I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” He was committed to the cause. The LORD was certainly committed to us; with what will we be willing to answer? Nothing less than our lives is sufficient.