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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, April 25 2024

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

After God has forgiven us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, how do we continue to avoid sin? The answer can be found in the symbolism of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which follows immediately after the annual Passover observance. Jesus observed this festival (Luke 2:41; Matthew 26:17), as well as the early Church.

When God freed Israel from Egypt, He told His people that for "seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" (Exodus 12:14-16 and 13:6) and, in Exodus 13:7-8, the Israelites were instructed to teach their children about the miracle of the exodus: "Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt'" (Exodus 13:7-8).

In New Testament times, Jesus Christ's teaching about leaven expanded the meaning of this feast, when He warned His disciples: "...beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6). The disciples initially misunderstood and Christ had to explain he was referring to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12), who taught and practiced man made traditions contrary to God's law. As Jesus told them, " have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!" (Matthew 15:6-7).

Paul taught the same spiritual lessons Jesus did by comparing sin to leaven. He reprimanded the Corinthian congregation for its divisions and tolerance of sexual misconduct: "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven….For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

It is obvious the church at Corinth was observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Paul used their obedience in keeping the feast physically (removing leaven from their homes) to encourage them to celebrate this feast with proper understanding of its spiritual intent. Removing leaven from our homes for seven days reminds us that we, too, with God's help, must recognize and avoid sin. It is a time of personal reflection, when we should meditate on our attitudes and conduct and ask God to help us overcome our shortcomings. Paul spoke of this much-needed self-reflection in 2 Corinthians 13:5, when he told the Corinthian church: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.”

Observing the Days of Unleavened Bread aids us in realizing our need for Jesus' help in overcoming our weaknesses. He stated: "I am the bread of life.Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. ….I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6:48-51). We must accept Jesus Christ as the final authority in our lives, study His teachings and example, and make His priorities our priorities. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Paul exhorts us: "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). He did not view these annual festivals as outdated Jewish traditions, but considered them essential observances for Christians in all ages and cultures, and understood their relationship to Christ's role in God's master plan of salvation for humanity.

Since Paul commanded the Corinthian Christians—mostly gentiles (non-Israelites)—to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is clear that Christians from non-Jewish communities and cultures kept the Days of Unleavened Bread, setting an example for Christians today. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of God's annual festivals, represents the second step in God's plan for our redemption. Its main focus is on Christ as our Deliverer, our Savior, leading and assisting us in overcoming sin.

It reminds us that, after we accept Christ's sacrifice at the time of baptism, we must allow God's Spirit to help us grow spiritually (Ephesians 4:15 and Galatians 2:20). Leavened bread represents the wrong motives (malice) and sin (wickedness) that may still reside in our thinking. Unleavened bread represents having our hearts filled with sincere motives—an eagerness to apply the pure truth revealed in God's Word. Like the leaven, or false doctrines and teachings of the Pharisees, which Christ warned His disciples about (Luke 12:1), many false teachers today, substituted their own ideas and traditions for God's commandments (Matthew 15:3-9).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread reminds us that our deliverance from sin and our salvation are available only through a personal relationship with Christ, the "Lamb of God'' who took on Himself the penalty for our sins (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). We must strive to overcome our human weaknesses and sinful tendencies, which is symbolized by God’s instruction to eat unleavened bread during this feast. In 2024 the Days of Unleavened Bread are being observed from sundown on Monday, April 22 until sundown on Monday, April 29.