Resurrection of Our Lord
I Corinthians 5:6-8
April 5, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of + Jesus.
This past Thursday, the Church marked the last Passover when our Lord Jesus Christ instituted a new Supper that is a New Testament in His blood. The Passover is familiar to most Christians who have learned the story of the Exodus, but in the ritual life of Israel, the Passover feast was also the beginning of a greater, weeklong festival—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or, literally, the Feast of No Yeast.
The first evening of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (recall that the Jewish day began at sundown and not sunup) was the Passover supper with the sacrificial meal and the symbolism and the remembrance of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt to the Promised Land. The first and last day of this festival were both appointed as special Sabbath days when the Israelites were prohibited from work, as they were on regular Sabbaths on the seventh day of the week.
In addition to the Passover sacrifice and meal, and the irregular Sabbath observances, another ritual act was part of the Feast of No Yeast. On the day following the regular Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the priest of Israel were required to raise up the sheaf of the firstfruits of the spring harvest in offering to the Lord. Here’s God’s command from the book of Leviticus:
On the fourteenth day of the first month, in the evening, is the LORD’s Passover. On the fifteenth day of that month is the LORD’s festival of bread without yeast — for seven days eat bread without yeast. On the first day you are to have a holy meeting. Don’t undertake any regular work. Bring the LORD a sacrifice by fire for seven days; on the seventh is a holy meeting; don’t undertake any regular work.”
The LORD said to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you come to the land I’m giving you and you’re cutting its grain, bring the priest a bundle of the first grain you cut. He will wave the bundle before the LORD to have you accepted. He will wave it on the day after the Sabbath. The day you wave the bundle bring the LORD a perfect male lamb, a year old, as a burnt offering. And with it bring a food offering of three quarts of flour mixed with olive oil as a sacrifice made by fire to the LORD with an aroma pleasing Him, and with one quart of wine as a drink offering. Don’t eat bread or roasted or fresh grain till this same day when you’ve brought the gift to your God. It is a law forever for your descendants in all your homes (Lev 23:5-14 AAT).
Not only were the Israelites to eat bread without yeast, but they were also required to remove all yeast from their houses. Since it was the first month of their year, the Feast of Unleavened Bread functioned both as sort of a fresh, new beginning as well as spring cleaning. If you’re familiar with fermentation, you know that yeast are finicky little creatures. Once a yeast starter gets infected, there’s no removing the offending critters without a full and sanitized chemistry lab. Best to just start fresh.
But God doesn’t ordain feasts to be celebrated for all generations simply for practical purposes. There is also a spiritual aspect to this Feast of Unleavened Bread. Throughout Scripture, leavening, or yeast, is symbolic of sin, death, and corruption. Once it’s used in a positive sense in a parable of the kingdom of God, but that’s simply to illustrate the hiddenness of the kingdom. Otherwise, yeast means sin. Jesus tells His disciples, Watch and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 16:6). St. Paul writes in today’s Epistle in regards to boasting, Do you not know that a little yeast ferments the whole dough? (v 6), a warning he repeats to the church at Galatia (Gal 5:9).
Our bodies are also a bit like bread dough. Just as dough is simply hydrated flour, our bodies are not much more than hydrated dust, for from the dust the Lord created man. But it didn’t take long for the leavening of sin and malice to settle into man’s heart and began to ferment him with evil. Infected with sin, man then became puffed up with arrogance and boasting in his own works and abilities instead of trusting in the Word of his Creator. The Prophet Habakkuk says of man, Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him (Hab 2:4 ESV). This is also a warning that St. Paul gives to newly converted Christians, especially those who aspire to the Office of the Holy Ministry. [You] may become puffed up and fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim 3:6). His condemnation is to wallow in the dust; his kingdom is that of death. So also you, O man, are dust, and to dust you shall return. Sin is the corruption of the flesh, and this corruption is death. Who will rescue you from this body of death?
The old food and drink, the festivals and Sabbaths of the Jews, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the thing itself is of Christ” (Col 2:17). The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread are but dim signs that point toward the substantial fulfillment that is found in Christ. “For Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed,” (v 7).
Christ, Our Passover Lamb, Was Sacrificed; Now He Is Raised as the First Fruits of a New Creation
It’s as easy to extract sin from human flesh as it is to remove yeast from fermented dough. You can’t pick it out piece by piece. You need a new starter. And your new start is found in Christ. He is the true Passover and He is the true Feast of Unleavened Bread.
It begins with His sacrificial death. The sacrifice of Christ, the Passover Lamb of God, initiates the cleansing of all sin from the lives of all people. The death of the first Passover lamb was in place of the firstborn sons of Egypt, but the death of Christ is in place of all sons and daughters of Adam. He is humanity reduced to one, a new and greater Adam who suffers Adam’s punishment. By this sacrifice, God gets Himself glory, and sets you free from your captivity to sin, death, and the devil.
And just as the Passover sacrifice and meal began a period of cleaning out the old yeast, so also the death of Christ has begun a period of cleansing our lives from sin. Because of Christ’s death, the old leaven—the leaven of malice and evil—has been cast out, and with it death and corruption. Clean out the old yeast, writes St. Paul, so that you might be a new batch of dough, as you really are without yeast. For Christ our Passover was sacrificed. Therefore, let us feast, not on the old yeast—the yeast of malice and evil—but on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Christ our Passover, was sacrificed (not coincidentally) on the Passover. His bodily was hastily taken down before sundown because the next day was a high Sabbath day, according to St. John, which we heard on Friday night. That is to say that it was the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And by Levitical law, the next day the priest in the temple offered the required offering of the first sheaves of grain from the early harvest. New yeast for new grain. Levitical law required him to raise up this sacrifice of the first fruits of the land.
As the priest raised up this offering of firstfruits, Jesus (not coincidentally) was also raised up. St. Paul also writes to the Corinthians, Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came by a man, resurrection from the dead has also come by a Man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then those who are of Christ in His coming (1 Cor 15:20-23).
This is the power of Christ’s resurrection and where your new start is found. This new life is begun in you, an unleavened life. The same Spirit that regenerated and renewed the body of Jesus on the third day after His death also regenerates and renews you. You are, after all, washed with the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. You are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and as you share in His death, you also share in His resurrection.
So today we celebrate. The life of the Church is an ongoing feast of unleavened bread, a feast of sincerity and truth. The Lamb who gave Himself as a Sacrifice also gives Himself as a meal. Body under bread. Blood under wine. Every Sunday is like a little Passover. And as we partake of the Supper of the Lamb, given with bread and wine, the old leaven is driven away. You really are unleavened. You really are forgiven.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In + Jesus’ name.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard