THE SCRIPTURES MAKE CLEAR THAT YESHUA is the true Passover Lamb of God whose sacrificial death and shed blood causes the wrath of God to "pass over" (pasach) those who trust in Him (John 1:29, 3:36; Acts 8:32-36; 1 Cor. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:18-20, etc.). Baruch HaShem: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! (Rev. 5:12). Likewise, the Scriptures also reveal that the offering of the Firstfruits -- "the Waving of the Omer" -- is a picture of the resurrection of the Messiah -- as well as our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23; Rom. 8:23; James 1:18). These associations are gloriously stated in the New Testament and are alluded to in the Jewish Scriptures. That said, what about the role of matzah and the "Feast of Unleavened Bread"? How are we to understand this as a fulfillment of Yeshua's ministry?
In Jewish tradition, of course, the eating of unleavened bread commemorates the original Exodus from Egypt. Since there wasn't enough time for the dough to rise when the Jews fled, the LORD memorialized the event with the commandment to eat only unleavened bread for seven days: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread (i.e., matzah), the bread of affliction (לֶחֶם ענִי), for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste -- that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt" (Deut. 16:3).
To fulfill this commandment, we prepare for Passover by removing all traces of chametz (leaven) from our homes. Leaven (i.e., yeast) produces fermentation, especially in bread dough, and is the result of natural processes of decay. We therefore vacuum the house, wipe down cupboards, and physically remove all bread stuffs from our dwelling places. This is in obedience to the commandment to "remove all leaven from our dwellings" (Exod. 12:5, 13:7, Deut. 16:4). On the night before Passover, we perform a ceremony called "bedikat chametz," and symbolically remove the last vestiges of bread crumbs from our homes.
So what's the problem with leaven? Again, it is a symbol of death and decay. The "rise of dough" is only possible by means of the natural processes of decay. In other words, were it not for the curse of death (i.e., the Fall of Adam and Eve), there could be no leavened bread. The sages identify leaven with the yetzer hara (יֵצֶר הָרָה), the evil impulse within us. When we purge the leaven from our homes, we are sanctifying ourselves by removing corrupting influences from our lives.
But what is the connection with Yeshua? First, unleavened bread is a picture of His holiness, purity and sinlessness. His life and sacrifice was "unleavened" -- without the taint of the curse of death, and therefore he was considered "a lamb without spot or blemish" for the ultimate Passover sacrifice (1 Pet. 1:19). Moreover, after He was buried, Yeshua did not suffer the natural process of corruption (i.e., decomposition of the body). His body did not "return to dust" -- the very curse given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:19; Psalm 16:10). As the Second Adam (Adam haSheni), His death "killed the power of death" by putting away sin through the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26).
Some have suggested that Paul's comment that followers of Messiah should "purge out the old leaven" (1 Cor. 5:7-8) means that we are to live in purity and separation from the corrupting influence of sin in our lives. Since we are made "unleavened" (pure) by the sacrifice of Yeshua, our lives should reflect holiness and devotion to the LORD. We must strive to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us" in order to be unhindered in our walk with God.
While this is certainly one application, I think it is equally important to recall that unleavened bread is called the "bread of affliction" (i.e., lechem oni, literally, "bread of humiliation" or "bread of humility"). Does this mean that we are supposed to flagellate ourselves in repentance? Are we to seek was to humiliate ourselves? No, partaking of this bread means humbly identifying with the suffering and afflictions that Yeshua performed on your behalf... As the prophet Isaiah wrote about the Messiah, our Suffering Servant:
אָכֵן חֳלָיֵנוּ הוּא נָשָׂא וּמַכְאבֵינוּ סְבָלָם
וַאֲנַחְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ נָגוּעַ מֻכֵּה אֱלהִים וּמְעֻנֶּה
וְהוּא מְחלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ מְדֻכָּא מֵעֲוֹנתֵינוּ
מוּסַר שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ עָלָיו וּבַחֲבֻרָתוֹ נִרְפָּא־לָנוּ
a·khen · cho·la·yei·nu · hu · na·sa · u·makh·o·vei·nu · se·va·lam
va·a·nach·nu · cha·shav·nu·hu · na·gu·a · mu·keh · E·lo·him · u·me·u·neh
ve·hu · me·chol·lal · mi·pe·sha·ei·nu · me·du·kah · me·a·vo·no·tei·nu
mu·sar · she·lo·mei·nu · a·lav · u·va·cha·vu·ra·to · nir·pa · la·nu
"Surely he has taken up our sicknesses and has carried our sorrowful pains;
yet we regarded him as stricken, beaten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our perversions;
upon him was the correction that brought our peace, and by his blows we are healed.
Notice that the word translated "blow" (i.e., חַבּוּרָה, "wound" or "stripe") comes from the same root as the word "friend" (חָבֵר), and therefore we can read this as "in His friendship we are healed." Yeshua gave up His life for us so that we could become his friends... As He later told us regarding his sacrifice: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Indeed of Yeshua it may truly be said, Yesh ohev davek me'ach – "there is a friend who sticks (davek) closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24).
We do not become sanctified, in other words, by afflicting ourselves, but rather by sincerely trusting in the afflictions that our Friend Yeshua endured on our behalf. Just as we are saved by God's grace through faith, so are we sanctified. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives just as miraculous as regeneration itself (1 Cor. 6:11). We do not earn merit before the LORD through performing "good deeds" (Titus 3:5-6), but rather by humbling ourselves and trusting in the Messiah for righteousness (John 6:28-29). Unleavened bread, then, signifies our identification with the Lord in his humility and afflictions, but it does not mean attempting to effect our own sanctity by means of self-styled affliction. We are sanctified by God's grace, not by outward shows of religion. Remember that all the "oughts" (i.e., commands) of the New Covenant are directed to the truth of who you are "in the Messiah," that is, by virtue of His connection to you, and not to your former life and identity as a slave in Egypt...
Let me make a few additional comments about unleavened bread. Unlike leavened bread that relies on an "outside" agency (i.e., yeast), unleavened bread is simple and pure: just add flour and water, mix and bake. Second, in ancient times, the leavening process usually involved adding a pinch of soured dough to the mix, but unleavened bread has no "history" that is brought into its creation. It's therefore a "new lump," not using material from the past.... It is free, in other words, from the effects of the curse of previous decay. Leavening therefore represents our connection with our past lives. Another way to say this is that unleavened bread represents an abrupt break with the past brought about through a lack of previous labor or human design.
After all, it was God's work that delivered the ancient Israelites, just as it was God's work that saves us from our sins. Eating unleavened bread -- the "bread of affliction" -- is really to eat the bread of His affliction – and therefore testifies to our own powerlessness to effect righteousness. It is eaten "in haste" - not the result of human ingenuity or planning. It is a commemoration that salvation is of the LORD - rather than a work of our own.
The idea that we can merit our own righteousness before God -- that we are self-sufficient and do not need a Savior -- is something Yeshua regarded as a form of "spiritual leaven." It is only when the ego is deflated (i.e., "unleavened") that we are able to discern the truth of our inward condition.
Likewise Yeshua warned us about the "leaven" (i.e., doctrine - διδαχή) of the Pharisees, the Sadducees -- and even of the politicians of his day (Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15). In Luke's Gospel, this leaven is defined as hypocrisy (ὑπόκρισις): "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1). But what is hypocrisy? The word might come from the Greek prefix ὑπὸ (under) combined with the verb κρίνω (to judge), and hence refers to the inability to come to a decision and exercise genuine conviction. It is a state of being "double minded," duplicitous, and insincere... Later the word connoted playing a part, "putting on a show," feigning righteousness, acting with insincerity, reusing "canned answers" or repeating the party line. Hypocrisy is therefore a form of self-deception. It is institutionalized prejudice dressed up as religion; it is counterfeit thinking that cheats the truth; it is ethnocentric nonsense that despises others who are different, etc. The "leaven of the Pharisees" is like old sourdough added to the community -- it "puffs up" and is based on human pride. The way of Yeshua was radical -- far too radical for the religious establishment of His day. In His time, as in our own, the call to walk in sincerity and truth, to see beyond common distinctions by loving others, to regard the status of women, children, and the oppressed, to abide in the love and grace of God -- amounts to eating the "bread of affliction," especially in a world filled with self-righteous and proud religionists. Partaking of this "unleavened bread" is to partake of the "bread of His affliction."
Leaven is not always regarded as a symbol of evil, however. Yeshua used the image of a woman adding leaven to a lump to signify the (invisible) spread of the Kingdom of God in the earth (Luke 13:20-21). Here leaven functions as an inward agent of change that is revealed when someone turns to the Lord in teshuvah (repentance). Likewise the presence of leaven actually signifies the culmination of the spring festivals. Shavuot (i.e., "Pentecost") is the only festival when leavened bread was to be brought and waved before the LORD at the altar (Lev. 23:15-20) -- even though offering leaven was forbidden in Torah (Lev. 2:11). There is a "rise" in the Spirit as opposed to the "rise" of the flesh, chaverim; there is old wine; there is new wine...
Chag Sameach, chaverim!