The world is full of contradictions. It is an incredibly beautiful yet ugly place. There is much that is good and yet much that is marred by evil. Life has pain and suffering, and also happiness and pleasures, and sometimes the happiness is mixed with the suffering. Sometimes we feel good about ourselves and other times bad about ourselves. There is life and there is death. We live, and yet we die. Why is life in this world this way? In the beginning, the amazingly good and wise and powerful Creator made a magnificent, perfect creation. He created a particularly beautiful planet and filled it with an amazing variety of beautiful things, including an abundant variety of plants and animals living together in a complex and harmonious ecosystem. He made a special garden and placed in it the highest of the new creation – the first man and the first woman – made in the image of God, endowed with mind, emotion and will. But sin and rebellion entered the creation, and everything was marred. The physical order itself was marred. It was cursed. It no longer functioned flawlessly. Mankind became corrupted. We became marred in every aspect of our being – our mind, emotion, will, sexuality, body, soul, spirit. Humanity was alienated from God, who is the Source of Life and Happiness. Human beings are headed toward death, not life. The first death – physical death – is followed by the even worse death – the second death – which is Gehenna, Hell, the Lake of Fire.
But God did not leave corrupted humanity in this sad and hopeless condition. He provided temporary ways to cover over our sin and rebellion until the final redemption, the final atonement, the fullness of salvation could be accomplished through the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, the unique God-Man, fully God and fully man, the perfect, flawless divine Son of God and the Savior of the world! Only Messiah Yeshua – He alone and no one else and nothing else – is capable of overcoming our greatest enemies, the utterly destructive forces of Satan, sin and death. Money and possessions and politics and education and science and technology and philosophy and religion and being a good person can’t prevail over these deadly powers.
To help humanity overcome these overmastering forces of Satan, sin and death, the Lord created a special people who helped prepare the world for the Messiah, who would come at just the right time. To prepare the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah, and to strengthen us in our faith when He came, the Lord gave us laws and rituals, institutions like the Temple, sacrifices and special holidays. There are seven Torah holidays that take place during the year – four in the spring and three in the fall. The four in the spring are connected with the First Coming of the Messiah, who came the first time in humility, making salvation from Satan, sin and death possible. The three in the fall are connected to the Second Coming of the Messiah, foreshadowing His return with power and culminating in the final salvation of humanity. The holidays are connected to Messianic salvation. The spring holidays deal with salvation from our greatest enemies – Satan, sin and death. The fall holidays deal with other aspects of salvation, as well. Think of these first three spring holidays, which are connected to each other and complement each other, as revealing different aspects of salvation from our great enemies of Satan, sin and death. Humanity is fallen, sinful, corrupted, perishing. Humanity needs a new beginning. Passover, Firstfruits and Unleavened Bread take place at spring, at the beginning of the year, when plants come alive and animals enjoy new vigor. This is the time for new beginnings – new beginnings for nature, for Israel, for the Messiah Himself, and for us. I want to consider these new beginnings.
Let’s start with what the holidays themselves originally meant for the Jewish people. Passover is the celebration of the great saving power of the God of Israel, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt – the superpower of that day. It took mighty judgments and plagues to get the stubborn and sinful Egyptians to do the will of God and release us from our horrible captivity. Ultimately it took the death of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. But the Lord enabled our firstborn sons to be spared. A Passover lamb was killed as a substitute for our firstborn sons, and its blood was applied to the doors of our houses, and death passed over those sons and their families. That first day of Passover we escaped from Egypt. We became a new, independent nation of free people!
Starting with the beginning of Passover and going for seven days is the holiday of Matzah. Matzah is called the bread of affliction. When we eat the matzah, we remember our suffering in Egypt. By eating matzah we remember that when God saved us from our affliction, He saved us quickly, so quickly that there wasn’t even time for our bread to become fully leavened and rise. So, the holiday of Matzah is also a symbol of salvation for Israel. We eat matzah for another reason. Throughout the Scriptures, leaven is used as a symbol for sin. Just as a little bit of leaven will quickly spread and infect an entire batch of dough, so a little sin will quickly spread and infect an individual or an entire community. We eat Matzah to remind ourselves that the chosen nation that is meant to dwell apart from the other nations is to be holy. We are to be holy. We are not to worship their gods or embrace their sins. Holiness is part of our national salvation.
Some 40 years later, when we entered the land of Israel, the Jewish nation began to celebrate another holiday – Firstfruits. At the beginning of every year, in the spring when we would go to the Tabernacle to celebrate Passover, we would give thanks to the Creator for the beginning of a new harvest by bringing the priests the first sheaves of the new barley. The priest waved the sheaves of barley, showing the Lord that we were acknowledging that He was the One who made our harvests possible. He provided the plants bearing seed, the sun, the rains, a free people living in a free and good land, able to plant and harvest and benefit from our crops. No food means no life. Through the harvest the Lord would sustain us and keep us alive and thereby save us.
Passover – salvation from Egypt for Israel. Matzah – salvation from Egypt and the need for Israel to be holy. Firstfruits – the beginning of a new harvest that would keep Israel alive and save us. Now, let’s consider how each one of these holidays was designed by God to point us to Messiah and the greater salvation that He alone brings. Passover was a prophecy of a greater redemption, a more profound Exodus, and a more excellent Lamb who was to come. Passover was a prediction that God would one day send His Son into the world to be the ultimate sacrifice, to shed His infinitely precious blood on a cross, so that God can “pass over” the sins of those who know and believe in and trust and serve the Messiah. His one sacrifice and His blood that shed is infinitely superior to all the bulls and goats and rams and pigeons and Passover lambs whose blood was ever spilled. It is infinitely more powerful and effective to accomplish full and final and ultimate atonement. John the Immerser may have understood this when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Rabbi Paul certainly did when he wrote about “Messiah, our Passover Lamb, who has been sacrificed for us”.
How does the holiday of unleavened bread point to Messiah? During the holiday of Matzah, at His last Passover Seder, Yeshua took the unleavened bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples; and He gave this matzah new meaning when He said, “This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” Yeshua was declaring, “I am the fulfillment of this unleavened bread; I am the first and only human being who has lived in this world who never sinned, and by doing so I have overcome the terrible power of sin that has destroyed humanity. The Bread of Affliction represents Israel’s suffering and hasty departure and salvation from Egypt – Egypt being a symbol for sin. But I, too, am the Bread of Affliction. I am a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering. And I provide a greater salvation; I provide the way to overcome sin, which alienates humanity from God. And I give My body, and My sinless life, to make atonement for all of humanity’s sin. I offer a cleansing from sin and a fresh start and new beginning for humanity”.
The holiday of Firstfruits was also a prophecy that pointed us to another aspect of the salvation provided by the Messiah. The sinless Messiah, who died, needed to come back to life. Death could not permanently claim the life of the Sinless One. It seems likely that Messiah Yeshua was raised from the dead on the Holiday of Firstfruits. It is likely that the very same day the High Priest was offering the first fruits of the barley harvest, God was raising the Messiah from the dead as the firstfruits of redeemed humanity. The holiday of Firstfruits is the Biblical Resurrection day.
The Messiah is the beginning of God’s harvest of humanity. He is the first to be raised from the dead. He is the first to be resurrected. The first to get a glorified, perfected, resurrection body, designed to live forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth that God will create. And, we very much needed the Great Passover Lamb to rise from the dead so He could be the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (see 1 Corinthians 15:20).
Let’s review: Passover – Messiah’s death. Matzah – Messiah’s victory over sin. Firstfruits – Messiah’s resurrection. Now, what is true of Israel and of Messiah must become true for us. Each one of us must have our own individual Passover. We must die. We must experience a kind of death. We must have our own personal holiday of Matzah. We must overcome sin. We must have our own experience of Firstfruits. We must rise to a whole new kind of life. We must have a new beginning, a new life, a fresh start. We must be born again.
We must have our own personal Passover and we must die – now. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. We must die to sin. We must die to the lusts of the flesh. We must die to the attractions of the world. We must die to greed and materialism. We must die to the desire for more and more things. The Son of God did not need to die. He came to die for us to accomplish the will of God for our salvation. Like Messiah, we must pick up our cross and head toward crucifixion. We, too, must die to self; we must die to self-living; we must die to self-goals, to self-agendas; we must die to self-priorities. We must die to our own will.
We must become unleavened bread and have victory over sin, now and ultimately forever! In ancient times, before a batch of leavened dough was baked into bread, part of the dough was pinched off and set aside. Later, that piece of leavened dough was added to a new batch of flour, leavening the new batch. This symbolizes the generational cycle of sin, which began with our first parents, Adam and Eve, who alienated themselves from God. Their sin was transmitted to each ensuing generation.
We must break this cycle of sin that has been transmitted from generation to generation. We must remove the leaven of sin from our lives. We must clean out the old leaven that we may be a new unleavened batch of dough. Messiah, our Passover Lamb, also has been sacrificed. We need to live in such a way that we are removing the old sins like hatred and wickedness, and living lives full of sincerity and truth. We must not allow sin to rule in our lives, fulfilling its desires. We must search our hearts, asking God to reveal and remove all the wrong things from our lives, in order that we break the cycle of sin.
We must experience the Fruitfruits of resurrection. We must rise from the dead now, and live a new life now and be alive to God in a whole new way now. We need to experience new life and resurrection power, new power to live a new and God-centered, sin-rejecting, self-rejecting, world-rejecting life. If we do, one day we will rise from the dead and live forever!
How? How do we die the way we need to, overcome sin the way we need to, and rise to new life the way we need to? By getting to know God and His Word. The more we hear, read and learn about God and His Word, the more faith and confidence and trust we will have in God and His Word, and the more ability we will have to die, overcome sin and rise to new life. By talking to God, by praying and asking for His help to die and overcome sin and rise to new life. By receiving the Holy Spirit of God, who will live in us and empower us to live for God and overcome sin. Ask the Lord to help you. Ask Him to save you! Ask Him to reveal more and more truth about Himself and Messiah. Ask Him for more faith in Him. Ask Him to fill you with His presence, to fill you with His Spirit, who will powerfully live in you and help you to die, overcome sin and rise to new life!