From Captivity to Freedom: The Lesson of the Feast of Unleavened Bread

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From Captivity to Freedom

The Lesson of the Feast of Unleavened Bread

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The Mossad, Israel’s secret service, captured one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals, Adolf Eichmann, on May 11, 1960.

Eichmann, head of the Nazi concentration-camp system, was “the man whose crimes set the standards of Nazi barbarism,” wrote Peter Malkin (Reader’s Digest, February 1991).

“He was the one the survivors talked about, more than Himmler or Göring, more even than Hitler. Newspaper articles appeared. Eyewitness accounts were recorded. In the public mind, he soon took on mythic proportions of evil; a contemporary Satan, the one who had organized it all.”

Eichmann was the organizer and executor of the final solution-the extermination of the Jewish populace. Millions died, carrying their unspeakable pain and suffering with them to the grave. Survivors recounted the hell they had endured. We have heard the stories from those who lived to tell the tale.

This is not the first time history has recorded man’s inhumanity to man. Yet, in sheer numbers alone, these atrocities have seldom been paralleled in the annals of history.

In the Bible, we see similar heinous acts perpetrated by men against other humans. In Exodus, we read that the Israelites were persecuted, brutalized and killed by the Egyptians (Exodus 1-6). God had to soften Pharaoh’s cruel heart through several miserable plagues, finally taking the lives of the firstborn in Egypt, both man and beast. Only then was Pharaoh temporarily convinced to give the Israelites leave to go to the desert to worship their God.

The time of Israel’s departure was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was no coincidence. It was divinely planned, for the meanings of this special feast are inseparably linked with deliverance from bondage. God’s deliverance of an enslaved Israel out of a powerful, domineering Egypt serves as the prototype of our supernatural deliverance from sin today. This is the dramatic essence and meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Bondage and sin

The Bible speaks of sin’s hold on people. Sin holds its captives-human beings-in its grip until they can be delivered by God through Christ.

Paul described sin’s hold on the human mind and heart as a kind of slavery: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear…” (Romans 8:15 Romans 8:15For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
American King James Version×
). The Christians Paul addressed were once captive to a spirit of bondage that caused them to live in doubt and fear.

Then Paul foretold events that are guaranteed to happen, in time, and will affect all humanity. The creation itself, he said, “also will be delivered from bondage of corruption…” (Romans 8:21 Romans 8:21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
American King James Version×
). This is the condition of humanity today, under the bondage of corrupting sin. But Jesus Christ will release everyone from this bondage at His return, when He incarcerates Satan (Revelation 20:1-3 Revelation 20:1-3 [1] And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. [2] And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, [3] And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
American King James Version×
).

To the Galatians, Paul explained that “we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3 Galatians 4:3Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
American King James Version×
). Here Paul linked a childish perspective to the rudimentary and captivating traditions of the world, which, as we mature and gain wisdom, we are able to leave as we abandon our former worldly outlook.

Returning to captivity

Paul then chided the Galatians: “How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9 Galatians 4:9But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage?
American King James Version×
). Paul spoke plainly. He told his friends not to turn back to the disreputable ways of the world, warning them that they would then think and act as they had before they knew God’s truth, as destitute, cringing beggars.

The point is clear. Before God freed us to follow Christ, we were in bondage to sin, just as Israel had been to the Egyptians.

Israel’s enslavement was physical and ended in physical death. Our captivity to sin can end in a far worse fate, an everlasting death, with no hope of any future. Spiritual slavery brings an infinitely more negative effect.

Responsibility to avoid sin

Paul explained our responsibility to avoid sin, which reflects our part of God’s conditional covenant with us: We must do all we can to remain free from our former sinful habits.

“Therefore,” Paul clearly stated, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin” (Romans 6:12-13 Romans 6:12-13 [12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. [13] Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
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).

Then the apostle warned the disciples who were already freed from sin through Christ by asking them: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 Romans 6:16Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?
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).

Even though God the Father releases us from sin through Christ’s sacrifice, His plan to keep us free from sin requires our constant, vigilant efforts to remain free. We are expected to avoid sin and the temptation that can lead to wrongdoing (James 1:14-15 James 1:14-15 [14] But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. [15] Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
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).

Paul equated our daily resistance to sin to a life-and-death struggle. First he stated the ultimate result of continuing, habitual, unrepented-of sin: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is [eternal] death” (Romans 6:21 Romans 6:21What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
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).

Later he warned, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13 Romans 8:13For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
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). Only by God’s Spirit and with Christ’s help can we terminate those old sinful habits so firmly ingrained in our minds and hearts.

Paul doesn’t forget that Christ freed us from eternal death through His perfect sacrifice. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” (Romans 6:11 Romans 6:11Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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). But with that thought in mind, notice that we are reminded to continue to act on that gift: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12 Romans 6:12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
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).

Clearly, we have a direct hand in keeping ourselves free from the bondage of sin. We are told to turn from “sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1 Hebrews 12:1Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
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), because, if we don’t, then our sins will work in our lives as yeast or leaven does in bread dough: It will eventually take us over and again hold us in bondage. This is another lesson of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Two kinds of bread

Jesus used an everyday food, bread, to teach us important spiritual lessons. Bread smells good, tastes great and can sustain life. But we need more than bread. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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). He compared God’s Word to spiritual bread and nourishment, which we also need to sustain us and give us spiritual life.

The bread we most often eat is leavened. Years ago, when I helped my mother bake bread, the one ingredient we invariably used was yeast. Today virtually everyone knows that yeast makes bread dough rise. Certainly the people in Christ’s day understood that unusual property of the leavening ingredient, yeast.

Little wonder, then, that Jesus likened leaven in bread dough to the fermenting or corrupting process of sin. His listeners could identify with yeast as a leavening agent; they knew it would spread to puff up bread dough.

Lesson from leavening

Jesus said: “ ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’” (Matthew 16:6-7 Matthew 16:6-7 [6] Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. [7] And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
American King James Version×
). Jesus’ followers failed to realize that Jesus wasn’t talking about physical bread, but the unacknowledged sins-pride, arrogance and false doctrines-of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

“Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12 Matthew 16:12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
American King James Version×
). Jesus used physical leaven to teach a spiritual lesson: how to avoid certain kinds of sin.

The apostle Paul carried this lesson further. He told members of the Corinthian church that they were “puffed up” (1 Corinthians 5:2 1 Corinthians 5:2And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
American King James Version×
). “Your glorying is not good,” he wrote them. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 [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:
American King James Version×
).

Paul used the analogy of leaven’s effect on dough to illustrate the effect of sin within a congregation of God’s Church. One Corinthian member was involved in a sinful relationship (1 Corinthians 5:1 1 Corinthians 5:1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
American King James Version×
). The others had grown tolerant of this sin, much to Paul’s dismay. He commanded them to remove the sinner (1 Corinthians 5:3-7 1 Corinthians 5:3-7 [3] For I truly, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that has so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. [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:
American King James Version×
) so that unrighteousness would not spread to affect other members, who were to become “a new lump” of dough-unleavened and free of sin.

The sin-free state that Paul referred to is made possible because “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us,” Paul explained (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×
). That sacrifice cleanses the Christian and removes his sin (1 John 1:7 1 John 1:7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
American King James Version×
).

Understanding the spiritual

Continuing in 1 Corinthians, Paul then encouraged the Corinthians to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread with a better understanding of its spiritual intent. “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore 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×
).

He showed the Corinthians the lesson they should have learned from these feast days in the spring: the need to remove their old, habitual sins, as well as sins of malice (evil intent) and wickedness (evil behavior), and to observe the feast with the spiritually unleavened bread of sincerity (pure motives) and truth (right knowledge and understanding).

Paul used leavened and unleavened bread to demonstrate two diametric opposites: sin and righteousness, evil and holiness. Symbolically, the Feast of Unleavened Bread demonstrates these eternal truths to New Testament Christians.

God’s holiness in us

Unleavened bread pictures the holiness of God, which must reign in the lives of Christ’s disciples. The apostle Peter admonishes us: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 1 Peter 1:16Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.
American King James Version×
). God demands holiness from the sinners and the repentant.

We can see what God wants us to be like by reading about Christ’s sinless life while He was alive in the flesh and when He was accepted by His Father as the resurrected Son of God. We see however, that when God resurrected Jesus from the dead, Jesus instructed His disciples not to touch Him before He ascended and was accepted by the Father (John 20:17 John 20:17Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
American King James Version×
).

We see what God wants in us when we read that the apostle Paul revealed that we are accepted by the Father only through our holy Savior and High Priest, Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:4 Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory.
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).

Finally, we read that the Father doesn’t bring heavenly Jerusalem to earth until all human beings are resurrected to spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 [24] Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. [25] For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. [27] For he has put all things under his feet. But when he said all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. [28] And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
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and Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 21:1-4 [1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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; Revelation 21:24-27 Revelation 21:24-27 [24] And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. [25] And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. [26] And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. [27] And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
American King James Version×
).

Holiness through Jesus Christ

The Scriptures are clear: God demands holiness. However, we couldn’t make ourselves righteous or holy through our own efforts, even if we could live a thousand lifetimes. The Word of God shows us that we are made holy and righteous through the death of Jesus and His living in us, as well as through His ministering to us as our High Priest (Colossians 3:3-4 Colossians 3:3-4 [3] For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory.
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; Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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; Hebrews 2:17-18 Hebrews 2:17-18 [17] Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. [18] For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
American King James Version×
).

Paul explains how this transformation is accomplished: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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). Jesus Christ’s life is holy, and we are accepted as holy through His life.

Unleavened bread also represents the life-giving and life-sustaining power of Jesus Christ. “I am the bread of life,” He said (John 6:48 John 6:48I am that bread of life.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus imparts and sustains life in many ways: through His Passover sacrifice for the sins of all humanity; by reliving His life in His followers; with His intercession on our behalf as the ever living Christ; and as the personification of God’s written expression to mankind. The Feast of Unleavened Bread represents all these aspects of Christ’s life and work on our behalf.

The world is in bondage to Satan, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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, King James Version), and to sin (Ephesians 2:1-3 Ephesians 2:1-3 [1] And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; [2] Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: [3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
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; Romans 6:17-20 Romans 6:17-20 [17] But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. [18] Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness. [19] I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness. [20] For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness.
American King James Version×
). Satan and sin once held us captive, but now we have been delivered from this captivity.

God released Israel from the bondage of Egypt. God through Christ has released His begotten sons and daughters from slavery under Satan, just as God freed the Israelites from slavery under Pharaoh. Israel was freed from Egyptian domination, just as Christians are freed from domination by the world. As the Israelites were loosed from serving their Egyptian taskmasters, so are we loosed from the deeply ingrained sins that held us captive and ruled us.

The last thought reminds us of Paul’s imagery in Galatians 4:9 Galatians 4:9But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage?
American King James Version×
, which pictures people in bondage to sin as weak, impoverished beggars. We need to thank God that He promises to rescue and deliver us and mankind through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Rejoice in freedom

Adolf Eichmann and the Nazi concentration camps of World War II help to bring this horrible context closer to home. In 1945 the Allied armies finally freed the camp inmates from their terrible bondage and horrendous sufferings. Those who remained alive in the final days of the war rejoiced at being free from their captors.

New Testament Christians can rejoice in a similar way. We, too, have been set free from captivity, from our merciless and relentless former taskmasters, no longer to serve Satan and sin.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread represents complete freedom from sin and also allows us the privilege to worship our unleavened, pure, perfect, holy Father and His holy Son, Jesus Christ. It depicts for the New Testament Christian a time of fleeing from sin while actively seeking God.

That is why Christians are told to “keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore 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×
). 

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