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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, March 18 2021

What does the Feast of Unleavened Bread mean for Christians?

After the annual Passover and before Pentecost, during the months of March or April, the Bible mentions another biblical observance—the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:17-18).

by Vince Szymkowiak

The profound significance of the Days of Unleavened Bread is the story of the resurrected Christ living His life in those of us who have repented of sin and received the Holy Spirit.

Some might view the Exodus from slavery in Egypt, which took place immediately after Passover during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Numbers 33:3), as the greatest event to have happened during this festival season.

The crossing of the Red Sea, traditionally assigned to the last day of Unleavened Bread, is also regarded as another great historical event occurring during this time. It signified Israel was finally free from Egyptian domination. Later, after Israel entered the Promised Land, the miraculous conquest of Jericho also took place during the seven days of this same festival.

Other great events during Unleavened Bread involved the rededication of ancient Israel to their God. The second book of Chronicles records two examples. Chapters 29 to 31 describe the religious reform led by King Hezekiah, and chapters 34 and 35 tell of another reform by King Josiah.

But one other later event that took place during the Days of Unleavened Bread was much greater in its impact --- that was the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

John 19:31 tells us Jesus was crucified on the day before a Sabbath. Many assume this Sabbath was the weekly Sabbath day (observed Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), but John plainly tells us it "was a high day" — a term used for the seven annual Holy Days. A careful reading of the Gospels shows this "high day" was the first day of Unleavened Bread, which was a Holy Day (Leviticus 23:2and 6-7) that can fall on a weekday.

Jesus remained in the grave for three days and three nights, as He had prophesied (Matthew 12:40). Three days and three nights from His entombment, just before the beginning of the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, brings us to sunset at the end of the weekly Sabbath. This weekly Sabbath was still during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread and is the time when Jesus was resurrected. It is impossible to reconcile Jesus' statement in Matthew 12 with the idea of a Friday afternoon crucifixion followed by a Sunday morning resurrection. (See Jesus Wasn't Crucified on Friday—or Resurrected on Sunday!.)

This great event, taking place during the Days of Unleavened Bread, marked a turning point in the way this festival was celebrated. Christians would still recall the exodus as a type of redemption from sin, and unleavened bread would still be eaten as a reminder to become spiritually unleavened by removing sin from our lives. But at the very core of the significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the profound truth the resurrected Jesus Christ, the One who was raised during this spring festival, now lives His life in every individual Christian!

Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of His own resurrection, and during the last supper He promised His followers would not be left as orphans —that is, spiritually unprotected and vulnerable to Satan (John 14:18). He explained both the Father and He would live in the hearts and minds of Christians through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:20-26), giving us the strength to conquer sin.

The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:8, encouraged the mostly gentile church, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to "keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness [lingering sinful attitudes], but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"—a clear reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

As Paul said, "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1 Corinthians 15:17), and he added in Galatians 2:20: "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."

It is the resurrection of Christ, and His living again in Christians, empowering them to remove the leaven of sin from their lives, that gives these spring festivals—the Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost—such a deep and lasting meaning.