Every year Passover comes to us in chocolate covered matzah and festive Seder plates with vivid reminders of our personal redemption. Every year we get to celebrate, we get to remember and we are allowed to clean out. Passover is a privilege that we are permitted to re-live. On the first Passover God emptied Egypt, by removing every individual Israelite. Israel who would rise up, and become a vessel of praise and a container for the holy seed of Messiah. Yes they were sinners, but they were still chosen and redeemed. And in regard to that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us all.”
I’m always inspired at this time of year to write, on the wings of dawn, before color has visited our dark world, as soon as I begin to open my cabinet doors to judge the contents. It’s not that my spaghetti is evil, it’s just infected with the one ingredient that God equates with hypocrisy, pride and sin.
As I read the labels and list of ingredients on boxes and cans I can’t help but say things like:
“Wow there are lots of ingredients that pass under my radar,” and “I didn’t know gelatin had leaven” and “I wonder how will my husband feel about no beer for a week” or “there are so many strange ingredients concealed in this tomato soup” , “how many sins are concealed in my heart”, and “what will I do with all this pasta?”
I’ve been taught that sin and leaven are second cousins , so they are practically synonymous when I clean out my cabinets. I might mumble something like, “look at all this sin that’s just been sitting here”, referring to some ritz crackers. Sometimes I think back to the year when I was so proud of my cleaning accomplishments until the second day of the feast of unleavened bread when I found a large unopened bottle of fast acting yeast tucked away in the back of the fridge. I wonder are there some sins like that in life, things we get so used to seeing that we just pass over.
Jesus said, “we try to pick out the speck in our brother’s eye and fail to see the log in our own eye.” Sometimes big sins are the easiest to overlook, justify or conveniently forget about. I mean how often have I brought all my leaven to the feet of Jesus on the Sabbath, then Monday I’m harboring hatred in my heart for my sister, and blaming her for it, “she deserves it , ” I mutter. Basically I’m committing an act equivalent to murder in Jesus’ eyes but just disregarding the whole bottle.
As I’m sorting and sifting food, I also says things like : “why is there such a big message from God regarding food.” Even Adam and Even weren’t immune to the significance of food. Why does God really care about what we eat? Isn’t it our heart contents that matter, not our pantry? Then I’m reminded he’s God not me, I don’t know everything, but he does, he doesn’t ask me to figure things out, just to trust and obey.
“In Leviticus 11 The Torah stresses the reason for kashrus: by observing these laws the Jew pulls himself up the ladder of holiness; by ignoring them he contaminates himself and builds a barrier that blocks out his comprehension of holiness. Just as someone who is constantly exposed to loud music and harsh noise slowly and imperceptibly loses his ability to hear fine sounds and detect subtle modulations, so too consumption of non-kosher food deadens a Jews spiritual capacities and lessens his opportunity to become holy. (Pg 266 commentary) and we are reminded also in Revelation 22 “let the one who is righteous still practice righteousness and let the one who is holy still keep himself holy.”
And as instructed in Deuteronomy “be holy for I am holy.” Note: not less redeemed, just less set apart nothing could be more true!
Cleaning out my cupboards for Passover makes me aware, hyper vigilant about what I keep and consume in my own space and self. And while I can never make myself Holy enough for God’s presence, I am given a certain amount of responsibility in keeping myself holy, just as the servants of the Lord are given talents and expected to multiply them in faithfulness. So God has given me a body and I am responsible for what I practice, not to be saved, but because I am saved. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you, even in the application of the blood Israel has a role to play in their own redemption, but the redemption itself didn’t rely on their works, but on Gods.
This year we don’t have a ton of food because I’ve been spending our grocery money on new furniture. It turns even shopping has been a blessing because with such scarce food around there’s not much leaven. This reminds me of the writer of proverbs in 10:19 he says this:, “when there is many words , transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Or the Passover version could be this: With much food leaven is unavoidable, but he who restrains his food is wise.”
I took a quick inventory today to begin thinking about preparation for the feast of unleavened bread which rides on the tails of the Seder meal, and it turns out there’s not much at all to get rid of, that’s when the pride snuck in: I guess I’m not that big of a sinner after all, I thought…and there’s the log.
I’m not sure why the church at large doesn’t encourage the keeping of Passover? I mean, the blood of Jesus has brought us into the commonwealth of Israel, grafting us into them, at least that’s what the bible says in Ephesians and Romans. Passover helps me focus on something I try to avoid all year -sin. And I don’t mean I try to stay away from it, anymore than I try to avoid chocolate cake, I mean I try to pretend I don’t have any, like a try to pretend chocolate cake doesn’t affect my waist line. I try to avoid the repentance of it, the awareness of it in the cabinets of my heart. During the Passover season, I’m not just thanking God that He died to take away the sin I ignore and deny, but I begin to look intently at what can I do to get rid of it, and where is it hiding in my life, and what do I need to bring it before the Master of the universe so that he can throw it as far as the east is from west.
During Passover preparations, I clean out my heart, evaluate and reflect on repentance, I dust my kitchen, I empty my fridge, and go through all the rooms in my house looking for the things God calls sin. We are encouraged to search for every sin, every crumb, even the ones we don’t think are sins, the hidden small discrepancies and transgressions, even the ones we don’t want to part with. What about what I’m watching on TV, what about what I listen to on the radio, what about the words I use when I am angry? Leaven is very small. Have you ever seen a single grain of yeast? And yet Jesus says it leavens the whole lump of dough. You cannot see it, but you certainly can judge the outcome. Leaven affects things even though it’s is virtually invisible once it’s all mixed in. The only real way to illuminate the leaven once it has infested the dough is to throw out the bread.
We all know muffins and cupcakes and bread have yeast, but what about, salad dressing, tomato soup, beer? We must be aware spiritually and sensitive that leaven and sin hides in areas of our lives that we are unaware of and yet it makes a big difference.
The greatest truth that we remember during Passover and the Seder meal is that Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the son of God, the Messenger in whom we delight, has come into darkness, into our night, into our Egypt- to begin the process to cleanse and redeem his people from slavery and sin. He has provided his own blood sacrifice, that the angel of death would pass over those destined for death. He purchased us with his own blood, being nailed to a cross so that every crumb of sin in my life could be found, erased, discarded, and I could be washed clean, so that I could be prepared. He freed us because he desires us. And for no other reason than He keeps his word, not because we earned it or work hard or look good or are holy, he died to teach us holiness, to bring us out, to set us apart and someday dwell among us.
But another great thing about Passover and all the Lord’s feasts is the routine, the numbering of our days, it’s a timeline of faith, a checkpoint, something to look forward to like Jesus returning. He came the first time in the dark to atone for our sins, the second time he comes riding on the clouds as the light of salvation. Hebrew 9:28 “So Christ also having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him.”
The Talmud Tractate Barachos says this: “the redemption took place in two stages with regard to the redemption from Egypt. Hashem took Israel out at night, it does not mean that they actually went out at night as it says, they left on the morrow, rather it teaches that the actual redemption started for them in the evening.” 9a5
Our redemption and total freedom happens in two stages, the death and life. The first and the second appearance of Christ, the suffering servant and the reigning king, the dark evening and the light of dawn, the cross and the empty tomb.
God says in Exodus: this shall become a remembrance for you and you shall celebrate as a festival for Hashem; for your generations, as an eternal decree shall you celebrate it. For a seven day period shall you eat matzos, but on the previous day you shall nullify the leaven from your homes; for anyone who eats leavened food – that soul shall be cut off from Israel, from the first day to the seventh day.
They won’t be sent to hell, but for that 7 day period their soul shall be cut off…from understanding and drawing near to the spirit of God. Why? Because God wants us to remove in preparation to move. The unleavened bread reminds us to remove the sin before the redemption can begin, just as Christ first removes the sin through the cross before returning and redeeming us from the earth.
What he did not say, is once you understand this concept, and know my son is the lamb of God then you don’t have to celebrate, he says a perpetual festival for Hashem an eternal decree and for the generations. Why? How else will we pass on the understanding of the process of redemption to our children and our children’s children. We celebrate for God and For the children, once we know Who are redeemer is we keep celebrating to remember. We celebrate for Hashem to praise him and to give understanding and the continual passing on to the generations after us.
“The festival of freedom is an eternal decree, as Maharal expresses it, the exodus made the Jewish people eternally free; from that time on, any servitude or oppression would be a temporary phenomenon that could not change the pure essence of the nation.” (pg. 162) Stone Edition, Tanach, commentary on Exodus 12.
if Christ, the lamb of God has died and his blood commands death to spare us -than all who apply that blood are eternally free and does this festival of freedom not prophecy of the festival of freedom, therefore both Jew and gentile have a great redemption to remember and celebrate and to look forward and hope in. For even so, the new heavens and the new earth have not been revealed yet, and our savior has not returned to claim his bride. So, we all wait, we all hope, we all look back and we all look forward to the same Redemption.
The feast of unleavened bread, the removal of sin, the deliverance from slavery and death all allow us to look forward to the receiving of the word of God. Only after being freed without merit, through grace, saved and rescued because of mercy and God’s lovingkindness are we able to receive the word which planted in us can cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Who then has been saved? Let him receive all the words of the Lord, as Israel received at Sinai saying , all that the Lord has said we shall do. The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we received him so that we can be with him.
So I prepare I prepare my home, my heart, my kitchen (which is the heart of the home), and my life to receive his word and be so that I too can be with the Lord forever.
“show me favor o God according to our kindness according to your vast compassion; erase my transgressions. Abundantly cleanse me from my iniquity and from my sin purify me, for I recognize my transgression, and my sin is always before me. create in me a clean heart, o God, and renew a right spirit within me, cast me not away from your presence o lord and take not your holy spirit from me, restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a willing spirit within me. Build the walls of Jerusalem.” Why build the walls after David asked to be cleansed from sin? Because after God redeems us it is for the purpose of dwelling with us. when the walls of the new Jerusalem are built then we will dwell with our God and King.