Most of us in the USA probably know that April 15th is tax day, but it is also Passover. Isn’t that a consolation! And the best part is, for Christians everywhere, Passover day is every day.
The story of the Passover and the beginning of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is found in Exodus. The Passover celebrates “the passing over” of the Israelites during the Final Plague. In other words, the firstborns of all the Egyptians were killed so that the Godless people would see who was boss. But the Israelites were spared.
“You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed down and worshipped.”
You may have already known this, but the symbolism of the Passover is woven throughout the Bible. That means you, fellow Gentiles.
Why is the Passover still relevant? For two reasons: 1) God is passing over us 2) unleavened bread is symbolic of genuine, unpretentious faith. These two points are actually very closely related, so we will see both of them in the following passage:
Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
-1 Corinthians 5:6-8 NRSV
Here is a powerful image that explains so much about the Bible. Christ is compared to the Passover lamb! The rituals of the Old Testament still carry meaning. That is why they are God’s Word and that is why we read them, not because we need to learn how to sacrifice livestock and wage war against the Philistines, but because of “aha!” moments like these (there are other reasons to read the OT of course). This is probably one of the reasons God emphasized the Passover so much. That’s right, our God can see the future.
We are supposed to celebrate the sacrifice and give thanks that Christ died for us, in the same way the Israelites celebrated every year because God saved them from the plague. He passed over their bodies; He passes over our sin. They ate the flesh of the lamb. We eat the flesh of the son of the Living God (Matthew 26:26).
The other image that we get is that of unleavened bread, which symbolizes truth. It really is an ingenious metaphor.
Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gatheered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees! Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
My dad and I were just talking about this the other day. Isn’t it amazing that God wanted us to understand Him so much that He handed down parables and symbols? He could have left is as “be the real deal; don’t come up with unnecessary rules and don’t be a hypocrite.” But this makes it more interesting, doesn’t it?
Yeast gives bread its puff, it’s chewiness, its elasticity. It does not change the nutritional value. It is aesthetic and sensory, not substantial. The teaching of the Pharisees was based on rules and earthly authority. It was “puff.” Bread doesn’t need yeast like it needs flour. In the same way, we don’t need yeast in our lives either. Yeast is exaggeration, deciet, worldliness, form-over-substance. But the bread of Christ’s body is unleavened, it is truth.
Just as Jesus brought up, it’s not the bread that is important. It is just an analogy. Eating leavened bread is not a one way ticket to Hell. The important thing is sticking to the truth. It is valuing God’s word above all else, and being wary of things that deviate or detract. The important thing is being grateful for the sacrifice, the most poetic and beautiful human or otherwise sacrifice ever made. Happy Passover!