It is often said (and I fully concur) that the cycle of Biblical Feasts presents a prophetic picture of Messiah Yeshua – his first advent in the Spring Feasts, and his second coming in the Fall Feasts. Seeing Messiah Yeshua in Chag Matzot, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, may not be quite as obvious as in some of the other Feast observances.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins immediately after the Passover celebration on the evening of the 14th day of Aviv (Nissan). Sometime during or following this Feast, and there is debate on the actual timing, is what is commonly called the Feast of First Fruits. We easily see the death of Yeshua in the Passover observance, and we can see his resurrection in First Fruits. But what is the prophetic significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread?
Does Leaven Represent Sin?
Perhaps the most popular teaching regarding this Feast centers around the idea that leaven is representative of sin. The traditional search for leaven is symbolically seen as self-examination, looking for hidden areas of sin in our lives, and the removal of leaven as the act of repentance and/or sanctification.
It is suggested, then, that the messianic significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is focused on the sinless life of Yeshua. But how does his living a sinless life fit into the prophetic pattern of the Spring Feasts?
Maybe equating leaven with sin isn’t really how we should view it. It is true that nothing leavened was to be placed on the altar. But bread baked with leaven was included with the “peace offering” even though it wasn’t burned on the altar (Leviticus 7:13), and two loaves of bread baked with leaven were waved by the priest on Shavuot as a first fruits offering (Leviticus 23:16-20). Presenting “sin” with your peace offering or waving “sin” in celebration before Yahweh doesn’t make any sense.
Yeshua even said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). Certainly he did not mean to say that the Kingdom of Heaven was like sin, and spreads until everything is sinful. The idea is absurd.
Leaven Is Alive
No, but rather Yeshua was indicating that the Kingdom of Heaven is alive and thriving. Think of a sourdough bread starter. The yeast spores spread. The leavening agent grows. You feed it, and it grows and spreads more until you have to divide it, then it still continues to grow.
In a similar passage, he warns his disciples to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). He wasn’t saying leaven equals hypocrisy. Again Yeshua is using leaven to illustrate something that is growing and spreading. In the first reference above to the Kingdom of Heaven, it is good. In the second here of the hypocritical teachings of the Pharisees, it is bad. But in both cases, it is alive, active, and spreading.
Leavened bread, at least before it is ultimately baked, is alive and growing. What started out as a lump of dough grows into something twice, maybe three or four times its original size. On the other hand, bread without leaven is dead. It doesn’t grow. When you bake it, it remains a hard, brittle piece the same size as it was when you started. Dead.
The removal of leaven in the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also in preparation for starting a new batch of leavening, which would be required for Shavuot. Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 5:7, where he says, “Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.” The old leaven is thrown out in preparation for the new.
The Dead Messiah
Now we can see the prophetic significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It represents the burial of the lifeless, dead body of Yeshua. Yet the Feast of Unleavened Bread goes for seven days, a limited period of time that comes to an end. After that, leaven is once again introduced, and life comes once again back into the bread. In fact, six or seven weeks later we have enough thriving, living leaven to make two huge loaves of bread for Shavuot.
The lifeless, unleavened “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3) is only temporary. Then the new leaven begins to grow. Likewise, Messiah Yeshua’s death was very real, but only temporary.
Paul summarizes the Gospel message in the letter of 1 Corinthians as the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). These Spring Feasts – Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits – picture it perfectly. In the Passover, we see Yeshua’s death as the Passover lamb. In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we see his lifeless body buried in the grave, but only temporarily. And at First Fruits we see his resurrection from the dead, restored to life and presenting himself before the Father.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.John 2:19-21 ESV
Celebrate The Feast of Unleavened Bread
In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we see the removal of leaven. It is the removal of life for a short period of time, and this is where we can see a picture of Messiah Yeshua. Following the Passover, his life was taken away for a short period of time. We can see in the Feast of Unleavened Bread the burial of the lifeless Yeshua, awaiting resurrection.
We can also see a direct application to our own lives.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.Romans 6:3-5 ESV
Certainly the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a reminder of how Israel left Egypt in haste, before the bread dough could rise.
And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.Exodus 12:17 ESV
The Feast of Unleavened Bread also illustrates, in a prophetic picture, the burial of Messiah Yeshua following his death seen in Passover and his resurrection seen in First Fruits.
So during this Feast of Unleavened Bread, throw out your old leavened bread. Feast on unleavened bread for a week. Then enjoy a fresh new loaf of fluffy, aromatic leavened bread or a delicious, sweet donut. And while you are at it, be counting UP (not down!) to the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, Pentecost.