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.
Linked with the Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It began on the fifteenth day, lasted seven days, then ended. This feast again looked back to Egypt, to the command God gave then that the Israelites clear all leaven from their houses. To this day, orthodox Jews meticulously do this in preparation for the Passover season.
Leaven is yeast. It is an apt symbol of that which in human lives tends to puff us up. That is what yeast does in bread — it makes it swell. There is something at work in us which makes us swell up, puff up. A doctor once told me, The strangest thing about the human anatomy is that when you pat it on the back, the head swells up.
Why is that? There is a principle at work in us which drives us to be self-sufficient. You know how universal that tendency is. Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself! We don’t want any help. We don’t even want to tell people our problems, to let them know that we are not sufficient in ourselves. We all have this tendency within us to want to protect our images and to look as if we’ve got it made and don’t need help. If someone makes us mad by offering aid we tell them to: Get lost! Drop dead! I don’t need you! That is leaven. It can take all kinds of forms. Jesus often spoke of leaven. He said, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), i.e., pretending. We Christians do so much of that, don’t we? Pretending we don’t have any problems when we do. Pretending we’re spiritual when we’re not. Pretending we’re joyful when we’re unhappy and filled with misery inside. Pretending we tell the truth when we don’t. That is hypocrisy, leaven which comes from this detestable aversion to admitting that we need some help.
Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Sadducees, which was rationalism, the denial of the supernatural, the feeling that everything can be explained by what you can see, taste, touch, smell, and feel, that there is no power beyond man and that man is sufficient to himself (Matt 16:5-12).
Our Lord spoke of the leaven of the Herodians (Mk 8:14-21), who were materialists. They lived for pleasure, for comfort and luxury, and for status and prestige and the favor of people. They had their ear to the ground to be able to manipulate and maneuver politically and thus to advance themselves.
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That is what this feast is all about. Preceding it, through the Passover, God begins his work with the blood of the Lamb to protect us from his just wrath in order that we might learn to be freed from leaven.
Father, thank you that you are working in me through the death of Jesus, the Passover lamb, to rid me of leaven.
Leaven is symbolic of attitudes which are antithetical to every aspect of a God-pleasing, fruitful discipleship. Are we open to identifying them, eager for renewal of mind and heart?