Summary: We must deal thoroughly with our sin.
We've looked at Passover. Now we'll look at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These two feasts are tied together. Passover is on the 14th of Nisan and this feast is on the 15th and lasts 7 days. So they're often blurred together, being called "the eight days of Passover." In Jesus' day, they called all 8 days "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Luke 22:1). They both remind Israel of God's deliverance. The command for both was given before leaving Egypt (Ex. 12:1-13; Ex. 12:14-20).
This feast is the first of 3 pilgrimage feasts (Unleavened Bread, Weeks or Pentecost, & Tabernacles) (Exodus 23:14-17). This was in the month of Nisan - known as "Abib" before the Babylonian captivity. Jesus would have observed these feasts. It is recorded in Luke 2:41-50 that when He was 12, He went to Jerusalem with His parents for this feast and got separated from them. When they found them, He was in the temple discussing the law with the religious scholars.
1. The practical significance of this feast for Israel.
There were three instructions given for this observance:
A. Special sacrifices were to be offered in the temple each day of the feast - v. 8a (Numbers 28:17-25).
B. The first and seventh days of this feast were sabbaths in which the people were to do no regular work - vs. 7a; 8b
C. Leaven was strictly forbidden - v. 6b There are 5 other places in the Bible where this is repeated (Exodus 12:14-20; 13:6-8; 23:15; 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:3, 8). Not only is eating food with leaven forbidden but so is the presence of leaven.
"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." - Exodus 13:7 (NIV)
Why so pervasive? Because of what this feast symbolizes for the Jews.
"Eat it with bread made without yeast. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, as when you escaped from Egypt in such a hurry. Eat this bread - the bread of suffering - so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt." - Deuteronomy 16:3 (NLT)
A. It was a reminder of their suffering in Egypt. This is why the unleavened bread is referred to as "the bread of suffering."
B. It was a reminder of the swiftness of God's deliverance. There was no time for their daily bread to rise, so it had to remain unleavened.
C. It reminded them of the completeness of their deliverance. Though slaves, they didn't leave empty handed.
"The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. For otherwise,' they said, 'we will all die!' So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold
and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians." - Exodus 12:33-36 (NIV)
D. It was a reminder of the need to live in purity before the Lord.
Rabbis said "leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart." Jesus used leaven to represent sin (Matt. 16:6, 11; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1). It's suited to symbolize sin because it rapidly permeates the dough. The Jews were taught through this feast that we must be vigilant to remove sin from our lives. Sin is like a pet python. It might be cute when little, but it will eventually grow to where it can squeeze the life out of me. We need to love God and hate sin!
"Let those who love the Lord hate evil." - Psalm 97:10a (NIV)
Weeks before Passover everything is cleaned and leaven is stored for removal the night of Nisan 13. Communities create bonfires to burn leavened bread removed from homes. At evening, the father does the "Search for Leaven" ceremony, purging the last bits of leaven from the home. Earlier, the mother places some bread in corners or window sills of the house so there will be some leaven to be found. After a prayer, the father begins the search. He has a wooden spoon and a feather. By candlelight, he searches each room to find any scraps. The kids follow him as he uses the feather to sweep the bread he finds onto the wooden spoon. Finally, the bits of bread, wooden spoon, and feather are placed in a bag. This is tied up and set aside to be burned the next morning.
2. The prophetic significance of this feast for Christians.
The first 3 feasts relate to Christ's crucifixion, burial & resurrection. Remember, a Jewish day starts at 6 PM and ends at 6 PM the next day.