The Spring Holy-Days: Passover, Unleavened Bread And Firstfruits: What They Mean For Israel; How They Point Us To Messiah; And What They Mean For Us Today
The world is very confusing. There’s so much in it that’s good and right, and yet so much that’s dangerous and evil. It’s incredibly beautiful, yet marred by ugliness. We experience happiness and pleasure, and also pain and misery. The good can die young and the wicked can live to a comfortable, old age. God has set eternity in our hearts. We want to live forever, but are unable to live forever.
Of all the world’s ideologies and religions, only one tells us the truth. It explains why this world is so confusing. It tells us how to end the confusion.
The Word of God tells us that in the beginning, God, who is good and wise and powerful, made a perfect world and filled it with an amazingly variety of living things. He made a garden, and placed in it the greatest of His creation – a man and a woman, made in His image, and with the ability to produce others in His image – so that multitudes of human beings could come from them who could know God, love and enjoy Him and be loved and enjoyed by Him, and become His beloved sons and daughters who will live with Him forever. How amazing is that?
But something horrible happened that ruined everything. After being warned not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve disobeyed.
That one act of disobedience changed everything. By sinning, they joined the rebellion of the fallen angels.
Sin and death were able to not only enter this world, but dominate it.
Satan became the god of this world.
Human nature was ruined. Every aspect of who we are was negatively affected – our mind, emotion and will; our body, soul and spirit.
Our relationships with one another and with the creation were damaged. And, worst of all, our relationship with God was ruined.
And we forfeited life. All human beings die the first death, physical death, and have been condemned to the second death, eternal death.
Nothing that we can do can reverse the damage caused by the Fall of man in the garden of Eden. Better politics and politicians, better education, more science and technology, all of our good deeds and best efforts are incapable of enabling us to overcome the control of the fallen angels, the control of sin and our sin nature. Nothing we can do can prevent us from dying and going to Hell. Nothing we can do can end our alienation from God.
Only the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, can overcome the catastrophic consequences of the Fall and reconcile us to God so we can live forever. That’s why knowing Yeshua, having faith in Yeshua, becoming loyal to Yeshua, being united to Yeshua, having the Spirit of Yeshua living in us – is so important, so essential.
The Word of God tells us that, after the Fall, the Lord created a chosen people and prepared us for the arrival of the Seed of the Woman. To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us prophets, priests, kings – because the Messiah would be the ultimate prophet, priest and king.
To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us holy men whose lives pointed us to the Messiah – men like Malkee-Tzedek, the mysterious priest-king of Jerusalem who was greater than Abraham; men like Moses, Joseph and David.
To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us prophecies that told us what He would be like and what He would do and what He would experience – like Isaiah 53.
To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us events like the Flood and how Noah’s family was saved by the ark; and Jacob’s dream about a ladder connecting Heaven and Earth; and after we were bitten by poisonous snakes, a bronze snake on a pole so that all who looked at it would live.
To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us the temple and the priests and the sacrifices and the items in the temple – all of which pointed us to the Redeemer.
To prepare us for His arrival and to help us identify Him when He arrived, the Lord gave us seven annual holy-days. Four take place in the Spring and three take place in the Fall. The Spring holy-days are connected to the arrival of the Messiah. The Fall holy-days are connected to the return of the Messiah.
Three of the Spring holy-days are connected to the Exodus from Egypt. This morning I want to focus on those three: Passover, Matza and Firstfruits. And I want to focus on them in three ways: what they mean for Israel; how they point us to the Messiah; and what they mean for us today.
Leviticus 23: The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelis and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.’”
Let’s begin by considering what these holy-days mean for the Jewish people. When our nation had less than 100 people, God allowed a devastating, seven year famine to occur in our part of the Middle East. The descendants of Israel migrated to Egypt, where God had previously arranged for Joseph to be. The Lord elevated him to be the prime minister of that nation. Joseph used his wisdom and authority to store enough food during the seven good years which enabled the Egyptians and the Jewish people to survive the seven years of famine.
In Egypt, we began to multiply. Many years later a new Pharaoh came to power who did not remember Joseph and all the good he had done, and instead of showing gratitude towards Joseph’s people, he enslaved us; and to control our growing population, he began killing our newborn sons.
God sent us Moses, who avoided death, and was raised as a prince of Egypt in the home of the king. The king who hated us raised the one who would deliver us. When he was older, after he fled Egypt because he killed an Egyptian, the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush on Mount Sinai and told Moses to return to Egypt and confront the king and demand that the Chosen People be released from slavery. Moses did so, but Pharaoh refused to let us go – time after time after time.
After each refusal, God poured out a devastating plague on the land of Egypt. These plagues not only humbled the Egyptians, but also demonstrated the superiority of the God of Israel over the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped various animals, men like Pharaoh, the Nile river and the sun; and when their gods were affected by the plagues, the God of Israel was shown to be superior to all the gods of Egypt. These plagues were painful, but also redemptive.
The tenth plague was the worst of all – death for all the first-born sons throughout the land of Egypt – the first-born of Israel and the first-born of the Egyptians, and even the first-born of the animals.
There was only one way a first-born son could survive that first Passover night. The family had to kill an unblemished year-old male lamb and put some of the blood on the two doorposts and the top of the door of the home.
That night there was a great outcry throughout Egypt, because every home experienced the death of the first-born son. But as He promised, on each door where He saw the blood of a spotless lamb, the Lord passed over that home and spared the first-born son from death.
After experiencing the miraculous power of the God of Israel and the death of his first-born son, Pharaoh finally released us from enslavement.
Passover was so important and so educational that the Lord instructed us to observe Passover every year, and remember how He rescued a nation of slaves from a much more powerful nation, using a great prophet, and signs, wonders and miracles, and the death of many lambs.
Like Passover, Unleavened Bread reminds us of salvation from Egypt. Starting with Passover we eat matza for seven days.
Matza is called the bread of affliction because it reminds us that the Lord saved us from great affliction, from slavery, hard labor and mistreatment.
We eat unleavened bread to remember that the Lord saved us so quickly there wasn’t time for our bread to become leavened.
And we eat matza because leaven is used as a symbol for sin. Just as a little yeast can spread throughout an entire batch of dough, so sin can spread and ruin the life of an individual, community or nation. We remove all the yeast from our homes and eat unleavened bread to remind ourselves that we are to remove sin from our lives; to remind ourselves that the holy nation is to be holy.
40 years after our exodus from Egypt, when we entered the land of Israel, we celebrated another holy-day – Firstfruits. In the Spring, at the beginning of the year, when we went to the Tabernacle to celebrate Passover and Matza, we would thank the Creator for the beginning of a new year’s harvest by waving sheaves of the new barley crop.
The meaning of Passover for Israel: salvation from Egyptian slavery. The meaning of Matza for Israel: a quick salvation from Egypt and the need to overcome sin. The meaning of Firstfruits for Israel: thanking God for the beginning of the harvest.
Now, let’s consider how these holidays point us to Messiah.
Passover points us to the greater salvation provided by Messiah’s death. Yeshua’s sacrifice of Himself, on Passover, is superior to the millions of passover lambs whose blood was spilled over the centuries.
Yeshua’s death provides ultimate salvation from things worse than slavery in Egypt: Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.
Matza points us to Messiah’s sinless life and His afflictions. During His last Passover Seder, Yeshua took unleavened bread and said: This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. By connecting the matza to Himself, Yeshua was declaring: “I’m the fulfillment of the unleavened bread. I never sinned. I’m the fulfillment of the bread of affliction. I’m man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Because of my afflictions, the salvation I provide will happen quickly.”
Firstfruits points us to Messiah as the first of a new humanity. The sinless, afflicted and crucified Messiah would come back to life. Death could not dominate the Sinless One! And it’s likely that Messiah fulfilled Firstfruits on the day of Firstfruits: the same day the priest lifted up and waved the firstfruits of the barley harvest, Yeshua rose from the dead, the firstfruits, the beginning and the best of a new humanity.
Let’s review how the holidays point us to Messiah:
Passover points us to the greater salvation provided by Messiah’s death.
Matza points us to the salvation that Messiah provided; and His sinless life and His suffering and death.
Firstfruits points us to Messiah’s resurrection and the beginning of a new humanity.
Now, let’s consider what these holidays mean for us today. Each one of us must have our own Passover experience. Just as the Jewish people in Egypt applied the blood of a spotless lamb to the doors of our houses, each one of us must apply the blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, to the doors of our hearts. We do that by knowing who Messiah is and transferring our loyalties to Him. Then God will passover us, freeing us from Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.
Is that you? Have you applied the blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, to the doors of your heart? Do you know who Messiah is and are you become loyal to Him? Do you know that God has passed over you, saving you from the things you need to passover?
When we are united to Messiah, our Passover Lamb who died on Passover, like Him, we will die. We will die to self and selfish living. We will die to sin and sinful living. Sin will be more and more unattractive to us and we will turn away from it. We will die to the world – the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. We will die to excessive and illegitimate pleasures; die to the desire for more and more possessions, never being content with what we have; we will die to the desire to have the worlds’ approval, and fame, honor, position and authority over others.
Is that you? Have you died to self? Are you living for God? To serve God, not yourself? Have you died to the world and the things of the world?
Each one of us must have our own holiday of Matza experience. When we are united to our Messiah, who is the fulfillment of the unleavened bread; when He is living in us and we are living in Him, we will hate sin like He does. We turn from our sins. We will remove the sin from our lives.
Is that you? Have you turned away from your sins? Are you trying to remove the sin from your life?
Like Messiah, we become the bread of affliction. Like Messiah, we become a man or a woman of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We won’t be surprised if we suffer. We won’t become angry with God if we suffer. We won’t turn away from God if we suffer. We will understand that God uses suffering to correct us, and purify us, and improve us so that like Messiah’s suffering benefitted others, our suffering benefits others.
Is that you? When you suffer, do you do so in a way that honors God, cooperates with God who allows you to suffer?
Each one of us must have our own holiday of Firstfruits experience. When we are united to our Messiah, who is the Firstfruits, we rise from the dead. We receive new life. We receive a new nature.
We receive the Holy Spirit, who unites us to the Father and the Son and to the other sons and daughters of God. We become part of a new united humanity.
Is that you? Is there evidence that you are a new person? With new values and a new desire to live for God? Do you have a new love for your brothers and sisters? Is there any evidence of that?
Have you become part of the new, united humanity, the one new man? Do you love your brothers and sisters? Do you love Messiah’s Community enough so that you are actively involved and doing something to build it up?
Lord God, may this week of Passover and Matza and Firstfuits be very meaningful to us. As we have removed the yeast from our homes, may You help us remove the sin from our lives.
As the Jewish people applied the blood of a spotless lamb to our doors, may we truly apply the blood of Messiah, our Passover Lamb, to the doors of our hearts. May we truly be loyal to Him!
As the Jewish people left Egypt, may we turn our back on self and sin and the world.
As the Jewish people were clothed for travel and left Egypt, help us walk through this world in newness of life, clothed with Messiah’s resurrection life and power.
As the Jewish people sang a joyous song on the other side of the Red Sea, put a new song in our hearts!
And, please bring us, and many more, all the way to the gates of the New Jerusalem.
And Lord, if we know that Yeshua is the Passover Lamb who enables us to passover the things we need to passover, things we can’t passover on our own; and if we know that Yeshua is the Matza whose sinless life and suffering and death helps us to be saved and cleansed from sin; and if we know that Messiah is the Firstfruits who enables us to rise from the dead and be united to God and a new humanity – help us summon the courage to boldly tell others about Yeshua.