Passover: The Unleavened Bread

This is part 2 of 3 about Exodus 12:8. The first part was about the lamb. This time, we will cover unleavened bread.

Exodus 12:8 (NASB)
‘They shall eat the flesh [from a lamb] that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Review: the Lamb

Exodus 12:8 gives three instructions:

  1. Eat the Passover lamb.
  2. Eat unleavened bread.
  3. Eat bitter herbs.

In part 1, we presented that the Passover lamb is a picture of the Messiah. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day the Jews selected their Passover lambs. The next four days, the Pharisees tried to find fault with Jesus and failed to do so. Yet, it was still their intent to kill him. Even Pilot declared that he could not find any fault with Jesus. On Passover, Jesus was crucified. He died at 3PM which is the same time the Jews were killing their chosen lamb for the Passover meal. What a beautiful picture-to-person showing Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

Now for some more picture-to-person depictions.

Unleavened Bread

Unleavened bread is bread baked without using yeast. Yeast and substances like it are referred to as leaven. Leaven is used to produce fermentation in dough. The fermentation process produces the tiny gas bubbles that give bread its fluffiness.  Unleavened bread was often served to guests because it was quick to make (Gen. 19:3; Judges 6:19–21; 1 Samuel 28:24).  The eating of unleavened bread took on special significance through the Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated in conjunction with Passover (Exodus 12:8,15,20; 13:3, 6–7).

Nugget: The manna that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness is a form of unleavened bread. It helped sustain them both physically and spiritually.

Leaven in the Bible is almost always a symbol of sin.  The putting away of all leaven is a picture of sanctification of the child of God.  Being cleansed and redeemed by God’s Lamb (Jesus), the true believer must put away the sinful leaven of the old life.

The Hebrew word for leaven is chametz (חָמֵץkhaméts), also spelled chometz or hametz, meaning bitter or sour.  It is the nature of sin to make people bitter or sour.  Leaven causes dough to become puffed up so that the end product is more in volume, but not more in weight.  The sin of pride causes people to be puffed up, to think of themselves as far more than they really are.

When God shines his spiritual candlelight on our shortcomings (our sin nature) such as bad behavior or wrong attitudes, we state, “I’m only human.” We are commanded to master our shortcomings (Genesis 4:7).  Jesus spoke of leaven or yeast, as false doctrine and hypocrisy (Matthew 16:11–12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 13: 21).

1 Corinthians 5:6–8 (NIV)
6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7Get 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. 8Therefore 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.

Here, apostle Paul spoke of leaven as malice and wickedness. But, in order to work towards holiness, we need to move away from malice and wickedness and strive for sincerity and truth.

Removal of Leaven

The removal of “all leaven (yeast)” was important during biblical times. It is still important for Jewish people today. Since the destruction of the temple in 66 AD, new customs and traditions have been added by Rabbis.

Let’s enjoy two of these modern Jewish observances. This first one is mostly from The Feasts of the LORD on page 67.

Observant Jewish households begin their painstaking preparations weeks before the arrival of Passover.

Passover preparations:

  1. Walls are washed and painted.
  2. Cooking utensils, pots, and skillets are washed and scalded.
  3. Clothing washed with pockets turned inside out.
  4. Carpets are cleaned.
  5. Vacuum bags are discarded.
  6. Floors swept, polished, and dust discarded.
  7. All food containing leaven, yeasts, are thrown away.
  8. Special china dishes are brought out for the feast.

This is very serious work. Everything is scrubbed, scoured, cleaned, aired, or discarded in preparation. [Mom: Sorry, but have to mention this. I wonder who does all of this hard work of cleaning? Hmm…]

On the night before Passover eve, after evening prayers in the synagogue, the father of each household will perform the Bedikat Chametz, or “Search for Leaven” ceremony.

This ceremony purges the last vestiges of leaven from the house. Earlier that evening, each mother [hmmm…] will place a few bits of bread (leavened bread) in several corners or on window sill of the house so that there will be some leaven present to be found.

After reciting the benediction for the occasion, the father begins the search. He uses an old wooden spoon in one hand and a goose feather in the other hand.

By candlelight, he searches from room to room to discover the distributed bread scraps. The children follow behind with great excitement as he carefully uses the feather to sweep the bread into the wooden spoon.

Finally, the bits of bread, the wooden spoon, and the feather are wrapped in a cloth. This is tied with a thread and set aside to be burned the next morning. This is a beautiful picture of Jesus, the Passover Lamb, removing the sin from our lives.

Proverbs 20:27 (NIV)
The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man;
it searches out his inmost being.

We need to take the candle of God’s Word to search our lives. Every corner, every crack and every window sills in our lives must be scrutinized in God’s light.

The Dessert Bread

We been saving the best for last. For the next Jewish modern observance, we need to understand some words.

Hebrew words at Passover:

  1. Seder: Hebrew for “set order;” the ritual Passover meal that is observed in specific order. The Passover order of service.
  2. Aphikomen (afikomen): Hebrew translations for Greek derivative, epikomios. That which comes last, the hidden Passover bread eaten at the Seder. The broken piece of matzo hidden and found during the Passover Seder.
  3. Matzo (Mahtz-zah): Hebrew for “without leaven;” a flat wafer of unleavened bread. Unleavened bread, or crackers, used during the Passover Seder and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  4. Matzo Tash: Yiddish for a bag like fabric contained used for three ritual wafers of unleavened bread at the Seder.

Nugget: The modern matzo is machine-made and squared, measuring about seven inches. These flat, cracker like wafers are marked with even rows of tiny holes. The perforations are made to prevent excessive bubbling of the dough. This causes an uneven browning which produces a striped appearance. A picture of Jesus’ striping and piercing.

The markings represent:

  1. With his (Messiah’s) strips we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
  2. “They (Israel) will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him” (Zechariah 12:10).

We will skip over the order of Seder to specifically examine the Matzo ceremony.

The leader or host places the three matzah into the matzo tash. Next he removes the middle matzah from the linen bag to break it half. Half is replaced, and half is carefully wrapped in a linen napkins and hidden away in the house. The children eyes are covered while it is being hidden.

Nugget: Read Mark 15:46. Jesus, our Bread of Life, was wrapped in linen cloth and hidden away in a tomb for three days. Mary, the other women, and the disciples were happy find him again. Alive!

This buried or hidden wafer of unleavened bread now has a name, aphikomen. With dinner at an end, the host notice something is missing–the aphikomen “that which comes last.” Or, it can be called the dessert bread.

The children search now for the missing aphikomen, making a little game of it. The finder will receive a reward for it–a small gift or sum of money.

The host unwraps the aphikomen and distributes small pieces of the hidden wafer to everyone. All partake of it with quiet reverence.

The symbolism behind his breaking ceremony is the triunity of the Godhead–the three persons: Father (first wafer), Son (middle wafer), and Holy Spirit (third wafer). Just like three matzahs are in the linen bag.

The second person, Jesus, came to earth as the Messiah. He was broken (died), wrapped and hidden away (buried) and brought back at the third cup of wine (resurrected the third day). What a beautiful picture.

Remember the second blog entry and the Jewish people doing a dress rehearsal about Jesus’ coming? Well it is still going on with the Jewish people, today.

Here is something very interesting. Afikomen is the only Greek word (the common language of Jesus’ day) use at the Passover observance. Everything else is Hebrew. It is the second aorist from of the Greek verb “ikneomai.” This translation is electrifying. It simply means, “I came.” That is the way the word is used in Passover Seders all around the world today. But in the time of Jesus the word was actually phrased slightly differently. The name was not in the past tense. It was phrased in the future as in “I am coming.”

So, essentially, “afikomen” seems to mean, “I came and I am coming!” Hmm, this sure sounds similar to Exodus 3:14. “I AM and I WILL BE!” And now, “I came and I will come again!” Amazing. Thank you LORD!

Please pray for our Jewish brothers who have yet to find Jesus as their Messiah. Next, we will cover the third part of this series, the bitter herbs.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)