Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
In modern Judaism, Passover, and the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread are considered one holiday referred to as The Passover.* In the month before, Jews thoroughly cleanse the house of everything containing leaven (yeast). On the eve of Passover, a ceremony is performed to remove even the smallest crumbs. For a week, no leavened products are brought in or consumed outside of the home.
The holiday commemorates the hasty departure of the Israelites from Egypt thousands of years earlier. Before the first Passover, God had instructed Moses to tell the people to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. They couldn’t wait for dough to rise, so they were to prepare unleavened bread for the meal. They carried kneading bowls full of dough without leaven when they left.
God called the unleavened bread, the “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). He said this feast would be celebrated by generations to come forever (Exodus 12:14-20). The people were to remember not only the bondage they were leaving, but the freedom they’d received by “God’s mighty hand” (Exodus 13:3).
Furthermore, God wanted them to forget the pagan influences of the land. Leaven produces decay and decomposition. When added to flour and water, it causes it to become puffed up. Leaven thus represents sin and corrupting influences.
Only one person, Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless, uncorrupted life. His sacrifice as the unleavened Bread of Life was sufficient to pay for our sins (John 6:35). In death, His body didn’t suffer the natural processes of decomposition, returning to dust, even though He had borne our sins on the cross (Psalm 16:10). He therefore broke the curse of death placed on Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:19).
God calls Christians to humbly identify with what Christ has done and remove the sin and corrupting influences from our lives. Paul tells us we’re new lumps of dough, that is, new creations by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are not only to remove corrupting influences, but also replace them with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
What corrupting influences will you remove from your life today?
How is the word leaven used in Matthew 13:33? What is being influenced? Is this a good influence or a bad one? Some have seen it as good, but most see it as a bad influence. What do you think?
How did Jesus use the word leaven in Matthew 16:6-12 to describe the Pharisees? What examples of Pharisaic activities (sometimes called hypocrisy or double-mindedness) are present in your life?
For another devotion about pagan influences on the Israelites, see Ezra’s Prayer. How are the circumstances different? How are they the same? How can you replace corrupting influences in your life?
Nancy J. Baker
*Source for information and ideas: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays.