Next week begins Passover, an ancient biblical festival which commemorates the Lord’s redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12). Alongside Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be observed as well. For seven days, Jews will only eat “matza”, a dry, salt-less, cracker-like bread containing no yeast. Beyond the dietary restrictions, all forms of fermenting leaven must be removed from the premises of the Jewish people. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and scoured. Even now, here in Israel, stores are making preparations for removing all products that are suspected of having fermenting agents—from breakfast cereals to condiments.
The Bible also calls this unleavened bread, “lehem oni” which is often translated as “bread of affliction (Dt 16:3).” “Oni” (עני) is a Hebrew word which can have a range of meaning, encompassing poverty, need, weakness, and humility. Here in the Bible, this bread is a symbol, a reminder of Israel’s skeleton in the closet—their Egyptian slavery. For Christians, the unleavened bread recalls our former enslavement to sin. When we forget the abyss from which we were rescued, all too quickly we can revel in our righteousness. This bread, broken for us, pierced for our transgressions, and purified of wickedness, is a perpetual reminder of humility.
With the advent of Passover season, may we be reminded to search our hearts and remove any scent of smugness that could sour the freedom we proclaim to the world. Let us walk humbly before our God.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Cor 5:6-8)