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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits

Yeshua (Jesus)
Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples, saying that he had eagerly desired to eat this Passover with them before He suffered and that He would not eat it again until the kingdom of God comes. (Luke 22:7-16) After the Passover meal, they sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30) The hymn sung during Passover is the Hallel which includes Psalm 118:22; "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." Jesus is the capstone that the builders rejected. (Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7) Jesus was crucified as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) The Lord's Supper is a remembrance of His sacrifice as the perfect Passover Lamb and the fullfilment of the new covenant between God and man. (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 5:7; Eph 2:11-13) Prophecy of this sacrifice is found in Psalm 22. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah also spoke of the sufferings and sacrifice of the Messiah, and how that sacrifice would be the ultimate atonement for the sins of God's people. (Isaiah 53)

Matzot is plural for matzah. Unleavened bread (matzah) is a symbol of Passover, Leaven represents sin. (Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:8) Matzah stands for "without sin" and is a picture of Jesus, the only human without sin. Jesus said that the "bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" and tha He (Jesus) is the "Bread of Life," the "bread that came down from heaven," the "living bread" which a man may eat and not die. (John 6:32, 35, 41, 48) While leaven is a symbol of sin, the Messiah is "unleavened" or sinless. He conquers the grave with His resurrection because He is not a sinner under the curse of death. Jesus was scourged and pierced at His crucifixion. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, "By His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) All of the festivals instututed by God, including Passover and Unleavened Bread, are "shadows of thing to come." (Colossians 2:17)

Yom HaBikkurim is a picture of Jesus' ressurection, Jesus rose on the third day of Passover season, Nisan 16, the day of Firstfruits. That event gave new meaning to this agricultural holiday. The apostle Paul, a Jewish believer and rabbi, wrote, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him." (1 Cor 15:20, 22, 23) Jesus' resurrection is the promise of the future
resurrection of believers. (John 5:28, 29) Although most believers in Jesus have never heard of Yom Habikkurim, they celebrate it as Resurrection Day or Easter.

The Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits

In a Nutshell
The Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread commemorates God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Pesach (PAY-sahk) means to literally "pass over." The Passover meal, seder (SAY-der), commemorates the Israelites' deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The LORD sent Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. When first confronted by Moses, Pharaoh refused to let the people go. After sending nine plagues, the LORD said the firstborn males of every house would die unless the doorframe of that house was covered with the blood of a perfect lamb. That night, the LORD "passed over" the homes with blood on the doorframes. The tenth plague brought death to the firstborn sons of Egypt, even taking the life of Pharaoh's own son. Finally, Pharaoh let the children of Israel go. Passover was to be a lasting ordinance for generations to come. In Leviticus, the LORD said that on the fourteenth day of the first month (of the religious new year) the LORD's Passover was to begin at twilight.

In Leviticus 23, Hag HaMatzot (Hawg-MAHT-zot) or Hag HaMatzah, also known as the "Feast of Unleavened Bread," is mentioned as a separate feast on the fifteenth day of the same month as Passover. Today, however, the feasts of Pesach, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits have all been incorporated into the celebration of Passover, and reference to Passover means all three feasts. Passover is celebrated for eight days, Nisan 14-21. The LORD said that for seven days the children of Israel must eat unleavened bread. This bread, made in a hurry without yeast, represents how the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt in haste. In Scripture, leaven also represents sin. Orthodox Jews believe that not only is eating bread with leaven unlawful during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but even having leaven present in one's house or apartment is forbidden. Today, cleansing the house before Passover is often a symbolic search to remove any hypocrisy or wickedness. Unleavened Bread is one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to go to Jerusalem to "appear before the LORD." (Deut. 16:16)

On Yom HaBikkurim (Yome Hah-Bee-koo-REEM) people offered the first ripe sheaf (firstfruits) of barley to the LORD as an act of dedicating the harvest to Him. On Passover, a marked sheaf of grain was bundled and left standing in the field. On the next day, the first day of Unleavened Bread, the sheaf was cut and prepared for the offering on the third day. On this third day, Yom HaBikkurim, the priest waved the sheaf before the LORD. Counting the days (omer) then begins and continues until the day after the seventh Sabbath, the 50th day, which is called Shavuot or Pentecost (the next feast on the calendar). Jewish people rarely celebrate Yom HaBikkurim today, but it has great significance for followers of Jesus as the most important day of the year, the day of Jesus' resurrection.