Discover the Biblical festival that was observed by the earliest Christians as chronicled in the New Testament.
[Gary Petty] There is a legend about a Russian czar who was strolling around the palace grounds and saw a guard standing in a neglected part of the garden. He approached the guard and asked him why he was standing alone in a field. The guard said it was orders.
The czar called the captain of the guard and the captain said that there had always been orders to post a guard at that spot. No one knew why. A search of the army archives showed that at the time of Catherine the Great a prized rose bush grew in that part of the palace grounds. A guard had been posted to keep people from picking the roses.
The problem was Catherine the Great and the prized rose bush had died many decades before. Year after year, a guard was posted in a meaningless spot and no one knew why. It had become tradition.
Traditions can be good and traditions can be bad. Do you practice some religious traditions that may be diverting you from what God actually wants in your life?
Prepare to be challenged as we look at: “The Biblical Alternative to Easter.”
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[Gary] Like the sentry in the story of the czar and the rose bush, are you diligently standing guard over religious traditions that have no real spiritual meaning?
Traditions can be very beneficial part of life—I mean, family traditions, community traditions, religious traditions. Traditions can create a sense of belonging and bring people together. They can remind us of what is really important amid the clutter of everyday life.
Traditions can also trap us into a wrong way of thinking that simply accepts, “well, we don’t know why we do it this way, it’s just the way it’s always been done.” Like the guard and the rose bush.
Some religious leaders came to Jesus and asked Him, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:1-2 Matthew 15:1-2 1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
American King James Version×).
This tradition of the Jewish elders had nothing to do with hygiene. It was a religious ceremony concerning ritual purification. It was a ritual designed to help people remember their need to be good and pure before God.
How do you think Jesus would answer their question?
Well, He said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3 Matthew 15:3But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
American King James Version×).
Now think about what Jesus just said. He said that it is possible for religious traditions—no matter how well meaning—to lead people to disobey God. This is why it is important for all of us to explore our religious traditions to see if they are in accordance with what the Bible teaches.
Now, Jesus went on to explain: “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother…’” This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. He continued, “’He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’” Now, this is another law found in the Torah.
“’But you say,’”—Here’s what the elder said—“’Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made” Jesus said, “the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:4-6 Matthew 15:4-6 4 For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me;
6 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
American King James Version×).
Now this tradition was called Corban. Corban was a freewill offering given to God at the Jewish temple. Corban seemed like a wonderful tradition. Who could argue that a special free-will offering to God wasn’t a good and righteous action?
Jesus taught that this tradition was being abused. See, here’s what was happening. People were pledging money and assets to the temple as a way of ignoring the needs of their parents. It made them feel very religious—but were actually breaking the Fifth Commandment.
Jesus is very dogmatic in His condemnation as He called these religious leaders: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9 Matthew 15:7-9 7 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
American King James Version×).
Well let’s face it. What Jesus clearly teaches is that it possible for a religious tradition, even one that seems to honor God, to actually separate us from God.
Well today, we’re going to compare one traditional religious holiday with a biblical festival. One is a tradition that most Christians observe without much thought—like the sentry standing guard in the Russian legend. The festival is one observed by the earliest Christians as recorded in the New Testament.
Have you ever wondered about the Easter tradition?
The reality of Jesus Christ’s death and His resurrection three days and three nights later is absolutely central to Christianity. I mean, let’s face it. Without those events, there is no Christianity.
Jesus said that the sign that He is the prophesied Messiah would be, here’s what He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40 Matthew 12:40For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×).
So there we have it. The Easter tradition is based in Christ’s prophetic sign that He would be in the grave three days and three nights. So He died on Good Friday and was resurrected on Sunday morning. Right?
Now think about this for a minute. Think about it. He died on a Friday afternoon. So let’s count this as a day. Here’s a whole day, even though he died later in the afternoon. He was put into a tomb. He was in the grave then all Friday night. So one day, one night.
He’s in, once again, the grave all day Saturday—second day. He now is in Saturday night—two days and two nights. It’s interesting that when Mary went to the tomb, Jesus was already gone before sunup, while it was still dark. But for the sake of the tradition, let’s go ahead and say, okay we’ll count all day Sunday as the third day. So we’re trying to stretch this tradition into what Jesus said.
I’m sorry. You still only come up with three days and two nights.
Now you might be thinking, well come on! You’re making a big thing out of nothing. But let’s reread what Jesus said. Now this is what He said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40 Matthew 12:40For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×). And you know, this is the only sign He gave to prove that He is the prophesied Messiah.
The Good Friday-Easter tradition doesn’t fit the very sign Jesus gave that He is the Messiah!
Now do you realize that there is no place in the New Testament where the earliest Christians observed Easter?
But they did observe a festival that is firmly rooted in the Bible. This festival is more than tradition. It is holy time established by God.
Now we’ll take a look at that festival in detail in a moment. But first, let me tell you about today’s free Bible study aid offer: God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.
This Bible-based publication has been written to help you firmly grasp what I’ve covering so far about human tradition. It also clearly explains the true, God-ordained, Bible alternative to humanly-developed ideas and concepts. To obtain your free copy of God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind, call: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or you can also read it on our BeyondToday.tv website or write to us at the address shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
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The Biblical Alternative to the Easter Tradition
The Gospels describe in detail the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The rest of the New Testament records the story of Jesus’ followers for the next 60 years or so. The apostle’s letters give us insight into churches that sprung up in Judea, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome.
In all of these accounts there are no examples of any Christian congregation observing the Easter tradition.
Among those earliest Christians there was no tradition that tried to fit Jesus’ sign of three days and three nights into an impossible Good Friday-Easter Sunday timetable.
But, we do know of a festival observed by the earliest Christians that commemorated Christ’s death and God’s involvement in their lives. It was a festival that provided a profound connection between an Old Testament festival and the Messiah. And most importantly, it was a biblical festival not a human tradition.
Now, one of the places we find this festival mentioned is in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Look at this map of ancient Corinth.
Now notice the location of Corinth. It is a city in Greece. Now we have copies of two letters written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth in the mid-first century.
We know from those letters that the Corinthians were primarily Greeks who had converted to Christianity. Paul tells them to stop being involved in the traditional worship of pagan idols and other issues that would not have applied at all to the Jewish Christians.
Now there is one spring-season festival Paul does tell this non-Jewish congregation to observe in 1 Corinthians 5—and it’s not Easter. To put Paul’s words in context, let’s begin with verse 6.
He wrote: “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6 1 Corinthians 5:6Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
American King James Version×).
You know, this statement may seem a little strange to us, but in a world where baking of bread was a common activity, it made perfect sense. A person would make dough and bake it into bread. Adding yeast to the dough would cause it to rise—to fluff up, to become fluffy. A small amount of yeast would work its way through the entire batch of dough until it was completely leavened.
Here Paul used yeast in bread as an analogy of how pride and boasting makes us sort of puffed up, full of hot air.
Now let’s read what he wrote in verse 7: “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×).
You know, Paul expected his non-Jewish converts to know a lot about the Hebrew Scriptures—what we call the Old Testament. His statement about Jesus being the Passover Lamb would have little meaning if they didn’t know about the events of the Exodus.
And then Paul explains, “Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×, NIV).
“Therefore let us keep the Festival…” Paul expected these non-Jewish gentile Christians to observe a festival. And this festival isn’t the Easter tradition.
So what is it? The clues are in what Paul wrote. Now, he talks about Jesus as the Passover Lamb, yeast and unleavened bread. This is the biblical observance of Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread given to ancient Israel by God and we can see in the Scripture, was observed by Jesus Himself. It is held at the same time of year as the Easter tradition, but it is the correct, Bible-based festival.
Paul instructs this Corinthian church of gentiles to participate in holy, religious festivals based in biblical teaching and not human traditions. Now this doesn’t mean that the early Christians observed the festival in the exact same manner as the Jews. The Christian Festival of Unleavened Bread was imbued with new spiritual understanding about Jesus Christ as our Savior, as our Passover Lamb.
Paul’s declaration of Jesus as God’s Passover Lamb sent to save all humanity was unfathomable to many first century Jews, unfortunately, as it is today. But for the Christian, it should infuse the Christian Passover with spiritual passion and understanding of God that transcends even the wonderful events and the miraculous events of Exodus.
The Festival of Unleavened Bread involves the removal of yeast and foods containing leavening agents from the home and eating unleavened bread for seven days.
In 1 Corinthians, we have insight into the symbolic way leavening was used in the early Church—the Christians. Paul knew that physically a very small amount of leavening affected the entire lump of dough. Paul calls spiritual leavening malice and wickedness. Malice involves the selfishness that drives our thoughts and our motivations, our emotions while wickedness involves actions. Wickedness is just another word for sin.
Listen to this. You will never be a true follower of Jesus Christ until you understand malice and wickedness. Repent of the spiritual influence of spiritual leavening and allow God to replace sin in your life with His “unleavened” ways of “sincerity and truth.”
Paul’s use of the symbols of the Festival of Unleavened Bread to teach about God’s work in His followers is profound. And this is the context of him telling them to what?—Keep the Festival.
You see, God wants to free you from the slavery of addictions, broken relationships and a foggy way of thinking that leads to what, constant failure in your life. These consequences in your life are the result of malice and wickedness.
Malice and wickedness separates you from God. It permeates every aspect of your life just as leavening changes every particle of dough until it’s puffed up with gas bubbles.
Let’s be honest. When you refuse to face the reality and consequences of sin, well, you either believe that God doesn’t care about your actions or that He has no right to tell you what to do.
I know this is difficult to hear. It was difficult for me to accept when I came to God. And to have God change your life, you must first understand the hidden work of spiritual leavening.
You see, God wants to perform a miracle in your life. When you add yeast to dough, you can’t stop the process. You can’t de-leaven leavened bread. Paul uses leavening as a symbol for malice and wickedness that permeates our lives. God wants your life to be filled with sincerity and truth. God wants more than just a profession of belief and some human traditions. He wants to do a miracle! He wants to spiritually de-leaven your life.
Easter can feel like a wonderful tradition, a time of Easter baskets filled with candy, a time for friends and family, a time to attend a religious service. But you’ve got to understand something. Easter is a non-biblical tradition that actually comes from ancient paganism.
The Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread is a biblical observance ordained by God, given to ancient Israel, observed by Jesus Himself, taught to gentiles in the early Church and then imbued with the Christian gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Paul’s message rings across the centuries: “Therefore let us keep the Festival…”
This festival is “The Biblical Alternative to Easter.” The Christian Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, its filled with rich and meaningful symbols of Christ’s death, resurrection and present work to spiritually de-leaven, to spiritually heal those who turn to God. It’s more than human tradition. It’s God’s revelation to humanity.
Okay. So, knowing this, what must we do? What must you do this coming spring when everyone else is celebrating Easter? Well, we’re going to talk about that with fellow Beyond Today presenters, Steve Myers and Darris McNeely.
Before we get to that, don’t forget to request your free copy of our helpful Bible study aid, God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. In this free study aid, you will learn how God has mapped out His plan of salvation through His Holy Days—so you can better understand what your ultimate destiny is and how you can secure it!
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To order your free copy of God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind and Beyond Today magazine call: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or, write to us at the address shown on your screen throughout the program. Of course, you can read God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind and Beyond Today magazine right now online at BeyondToday.tv .
We’ve been discussing how sometimes human religious traditions, no matter how well meaning, can separate us from what God actually wants for us. We’ve shown how the Easter tradition is non-biblical and how the earliest Christians observed the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread.
Joining us now are Darris McNeely and Steve Myers.
You know, each of us have actually given up the Easter tradition to go to the observance of a Christian Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread. How has that changed your life?
[Darris] Well, it was a major change. I was a young man when that happened—I actually was taught that we were going to be doing that one year when my mother made that change in our household, but to give those traditional signs up, of eggs and the egg-rolling and the chocolate bunnies and all of that, with the symbols that Christ and the apostle Paul talk about in the New Testament, was a major change. But, year by year, as we have kept those and I have, it’s made all the difference in actually defining and understanding of God and especially Jesus Christ who is at the center of the spring Festival—the Passover and the Days of the Unleavened Bread, and in such ways that nothing from those traditional methods could ever begin to teach. So it’s been everything! And it is anchored and grounded in relationship with Jesus Christ unlike any other.
[Steve] Talk about a change, not too long ago, my mom and I were sitting down and we were looking through some old photo albums. And here were all of us kids and our family—we’re all dressed up, suited up. We had hats on, ties, little coats and the whole thing—all dressed up for Easter services. And it was a big deal in our family. We used to decorate eggs and the kids would make the kitchen an entire mess with all the coloring and all these different things. It was an exciting time when we grew up.
But after growing up, I kind of put away those childish things like the apostle Paul talks about and really got to answer that question, “What would Jesus do?” And when I really started to read about it as an adult, I realized He wouldn’t be doing these things. These really had nothing to do with His death and resurrection. And so it affected everything. When you really get down to the truth of God and how He wants to be worshiped.
[Gary] You know, “What would Jesus do?”—my memories of Easter are very warm and we would go to church and worship God and be with the family, but the realization that Jesus on the night that He was betrayed, sat down and said, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” and what He said for them to do. And then they kept them—the early Christians observed that Festival of Unleavened Bread that symbolized sin coming out, Christ coming in—has really affected my personal relationship with Christ in a very profound way, a connection that I wouldn’t give up for anything in the world.
[Darris] And I think exactly what anyone else would find as they begin to keep the festivals that Christ taught and placed within His Church, they would discover the same thing.
[Gary] But you know, I think a lot of people, they struggle with—they believe if you somehow keep the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread you’re keeping a Jewish festival and you’re actually denying Christ and His resurrection. But that’s not true at all.
[Darris] No, no, not at all. In fact, you are coming to a deeper understanding of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by keeping these festivals. And by doing so, you’re going to be opening up a whole new area of knowledge and understanding there.
[Steve] It’s interesting, if you look at history, the Christian church tried to separate itself from Judaism by worshipping on Sunday by keeping Easter instead of Passover. And so you see that in history in the Christian religion and yet, real Christianity keeps the New Testament Passover. It’s not a Jewish Passover; it’s the Passover that Christ instituted. It’s the Days of Unleavened Bread. It has deep spiritual meaning, and so if you really want to do what Jesus did, you would do those days that honor Him and worship Him and really celebrate the things that He thought were most important.
[Darris] And it’s really a myth when people think that by doing this, that they’re doing something Jewish. They miss the teaching that the apostle Paul had. The apostle Paul taught the gentiles, as you quoted the…
[Gary] Corinthian scripture…
[Darris] …scripture from Corinthians that they didn’t have to become a Jew to be a Christian—they bypassed all of that. He basically said you become a Christian by observing these and letting Christ live His life within you. He bypassed that, which is why he had such a pushback from the Jewish community. And people today thinking that you’re becoming Jewish by doing these things—no, you’re doing it exactly like the apostle Paul taught people to do, and that was to worship God and to emulate Jesus Christ through these festivals.
[Gary] You really see that with the Passover, where in the Old Testament, they killed a lamb.
[Gary] Jesus is the Passover Lamb. We take the symbol of His blood and His body, and we take it. So the symbols have changed, the meaning has been fleshed out, the Messiah amplified the law, He amplified those teachings, so no, we may honor and look back towards the Old Testament observance, but we keep it in a profoundly Christian way.
Don’t forget our free offers today, God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind , and a subscription to our Beyond Today magazine. Call: 1-888-886-8632 or go online at BeyondToday.tv for your copies. Or you can write to us at the address on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254]. This study aid will show you the truths of God’s biblical festivals, and His plan for you. Please call or write us, or go online at BeyondToday.tv . We’d love to hear from you.
[Steve] Hi, I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor here at the United Church of God Cincinnati East congregation. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Click on the “Congregations” tab to find a church near you. We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well as fellowshipping with each other.
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[Gary] We began the program with the legend of the tradition of a lone sentry, standing in a field, guarding a bush that no longer existed. You find yourself feeling that way about the Easter tradition? If the tradition of Good Friday to Easter Sunday isn’t ringing true in your life, then it’s time to follow the apostle Paul’s instructions to “keep the Festival.” The Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread are for Christians. This God-ordained holy time connects us to God’s intervention in the great Exodus, and to Jesus as the Passover Lamb. It reveals the great miracle of spiritual de-leavening.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come”. For Beyond Today , I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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