Leaven

 

The Remembrance of the Lord’s Supper is just three days from now. It’s a time for proclaiming the Lord’s death until he returns. And it is terrible that He was killed because of our sins and we should feel deep remorse for that fact. However, He wants us to also rejoice because he has set us free. If we fail to rejoice in our freedom then what did he die for?

 

We know that Jesus died towards the end of Passover day and so the next day was a yearly Sabbath and not a weekly Sabbath. John tells us it was a “High” or “Special” Sabbath.

*   (John 19:31 NIV)  Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

But what does that mean, “A special Sabbath”? It simply refers to one of the seven yearly Sabbaths explained in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. Since Passover is always the 14th day of the first month then that special Sabbath was the 15th day of the first month or the first of the seven days of unleavened bread. Let’s take a look at a few of the scriptures that talk about those days.

*   (Lev 23:4-11 NIV)  "'These are the Lord's appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: {5} The Lord's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. {6} On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. {7} On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. {8} For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.'" {9} The LORD said to Moses, {10} "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. {11} He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.

We know that Jesus was raised from the dead late on the weekly Sabbath following the Wednesday He was crucified because he was in the grave for three days and three nights. Sunday morning when the women went to the tomb He was of course not in the tomb. That Sunday our Lord was the “Wave offering” just mentioned in verse 11. Now let’s look at some more verses.

*   (Exo 12:14-20 NIV)  "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD--a lasting ordinance. {15} For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. {16} On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat--that is all you may do. {17} "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. {18} In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. {19} For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. {20} Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."

So what’s the deal with this leavening thing? At the time these Holy Days were instituted it was a reminder of how Israel left in haste on the day after Passover, the day they had been saved and set free. But leaven is also symbolic of sin and thus the command to get it out of our houses and lives.

*   (Mat 16:5-12 NIV)  When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. {6} "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." {7} They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." {8} Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? {9} Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? {10} Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? {11} How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." {12} Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

*   (Luke 12:1 NIV)  Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

*   (1 Cor 5:6-8 NIV)  Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? {7} Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. {8} Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Strangely, leaven is also used to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven.

*   (Mat 13:31-33 RSV)  Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; {32} it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." {33} He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

In the context of the current season leaven, or yeast, typifies sin and thus this is a very good time for us to examine ourselves. Search the hidden recesses of our hearts and our minds for sin. Sherry each year gets rid of all leaven in our home for the seven days of unleavened bread, that is to say anything that has the effect of causing things to puff up. And being puffed up is of course a sin. We are not under a compulsion to observe the Old Testament Holy Days as Israel was before Christ. Indeed if we were to observe them as written we would be rejecting Christ’s sacrifice that put an end to sacrifice. Nevertheless, I encourage you to observe the days of unleavened bread by physically finding all of the leaven in your home and living without it for a week. Most likely you will find it a very difficult task. That’s exactly why you should do it! Getting sin out of our lives and living without sin is not an easy task This observance each year will help each of us to become more aware of our need to be ever diligent in finding sin and disposing of it.