As Resurrection Sunday approaches, we are in the midst of the “Christian Super Bowl,” the most important time of the year! In fact, today is Good Friday, at which time we remember the sacrificial death of Jesus to atone for our sins. On Sunday we celebrate the risen Christ, and if that were not true, Christianity would crumble. We base our celebration on the Biblical accounts of Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection, which is succinctly wrapped up in this passage:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
~1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Indeed, Jesus died, was buried and was raised on the third day…just as Jesus and the prophets said He would! But Jews celebrate differently. Leviticus details 7 major feasts that most Jews around the world still commemorate. Though much different in belief and celebration between Jews and Christians, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is inextricably linked to the Jewish feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, which are all wrapped up together and which begin tonight at sundown!
Because these Jewish feasts and Christian holy days coincide, we’ll focus today on those three Jewish feasts that correspond to Christian celebrations of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (also known as Easter).
Passover is the first of the 7 major feasts of Israel, and commemorates the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Having been enslaved for hundreds of years, God was about to bring His people out of Egypt. To do so, God sent plagues upon Egypt in order to persuade the pharaoh to let His people go. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn. In order to avoid that fate, Jews were commanded by God to smear the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts so that the death angel would “pass over” their home and spare their firstborn sons. Thus, the Jews were delivered from captivity, and they celebrate the Passover even to this day. (Exodus 12-13, Deuteronomy 16:1-7)
In the New Testament, John the Baptist, when He saw Jesus coming, proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, 36) The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, stated, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter described Jesus as an unblemished, spotless lamb, whose blood offered a sacrifice for sin. Indeed, Jesus was the Passover Lamb whose blood sacrificed for us causes our sin to be “passed over” (forgiven).
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Wrapped up in the 7-day Passover celebration is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of the 7 major feasts. During this celebration, Jews eat only unleavened bread with their meals and they carefully clear their homes of all leaven. In Scripture, leaven is a picture of sin. Thus, getting rid of leaven symbolizes cleansing lives of sin. God also wanted His people to remember the exodus from Egypt and how they had to trust Him to deliver them and sustain them during the wilderness wandering. (Exodus 12:14-20, Leviticus 23:6-8, Deuteronomy 16:8)
Israel is known to have incredibly good bread, known as “challah.” It will definitely sustain you! Unleavened bread, however, is known as matzah (bread of affliction). Notice the difference between challah and matzah.
- Matzah is frail, just as Jesus’s body was when He was crucified.
- Matzah is striped. By His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)
- Matzah is pierced with holes. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions. (Isaiah 53:5)
- Matzah appears to be bruised. Surely, after the beatings Jesus took, His body was bruised.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread! Jesus has delivered us from sin; has accomplished our salvation through His frailty, stripes, piercing and bruising. But even better, the Bible says Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:38, 45, 51)…He sustains us as well!
Feast of First Fruits
In Jewish history, the Feast of First Fruits was to commemorate the beginning of the harvest, and was celebrated by offering God the first of the harvest, declaring dependence upon Him for sustenance. It is a reminder that God is the giver of all things. The feast occurs at the end of Passover. (Leviticus 23:9-14, Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Numbers 28:26)
As only God could orchestrate, Jesus was resurrected on the day of the Feast of First Fruits! Christ is the first fruit of the mighty harvest of believers that God has planned to reap from the beginning of time.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Dear friends, Jesus died as the Passover Lamb, a sacrifice for our sins. He is our unleavened bread, able to cleanse the leaven (sin) from our lives and free us from bondage. On the third day He rose again, the first fruits of the harvest God will reap in His time. What a Savior…and what a Hope we have in Jesus!
Tomorrow we’ll examine even more connections between the Jewish Passover season and our holy week, culminating in the Resurrection of Jesus. See you then!
Have a blessed Passover!