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During the spring of each year (March-April in the northern hemisphere), immediately after Passover and before the Feast of Pentecost, another biblical feast is observed—the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:17-18).
The Exodus from Egypt, which took place immediately after Passover during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Numbers 33:3), was one of the great events to occur during this time. The crossing of the Red Sea is also traditionally assigned to the seventh or last day of Unleavened Bread.
After Israel entered the Promised Land, the miraculous conquest of Jericho took place during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Other great events occurring during this time of year involved rededicating the people of God to their Creator. 2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 31 describe the religious reform led by Hezekiah, and chapters 34 and 35 tell of the reform by Josiah.
However, one other event that took place during the Days of Unleavened Bread had a much greater impact than any of these, and that was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John 19:31 tells us He was crucified on the day before a Sabbath. While most people assume this was the regular weekly Sabbath (observed Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), John tells us this Sabbath "was a high day" — a term used for the seven annual Holy Days. A careful reading of the Gospels shows this "high day" was the first day of Unleavened Bread, a Holy Day (Leviticus 23:2, 6-7) that can fall on a weekday.
Jesus remained in the grave for three days and three nights just as He had prophesied (Matthew 12:40), making it impossible to reconcile Jesus' statement in Matthew 12 with a Friday afternoon crucifixion followed by a Sunday morning resurrection. (See "Jesus Wasn't Crucified on Friday—or Resurrected on Sunday!")
Three days and three nights from the time of His entombment, just before the beginning of the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, brings us to the sunset at the end of the weekly Sabbath, during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the time Jesus was resurrected. There was no Sunday morning resurrection. On that Sunday, after His resurrection the day before, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18) and then to others.
These Days of Unleavened Bread marked a turning point in the way the spring festival was celebrated. Christians observing these annual festivals would still recall the exodus from Egypt as a type of redemption from sin and release from the bondage of Satan. There would still be an emphasis on eating unleavened bread as a physical reminder we are to become spiritually unleavened by removing sin from our lives. But the core meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is that Jesus Christ, the One who was resurrected during this time, now lives His life in every Christian.
Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of His own resurrection. During the last supper, He told the disciples that although He would soon be betrayed, He would live again: "Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19). He had just promised they would not be left as orphans (verse 18)—that is, spiritually unprotected and vulnerable to Satan. Both the Father and He would live in the hearts and minds of Christians by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (verses 20-26), empowering us to overcome "the sin which so easily ensnares us" (Hebrews 12:1).
The apostle Paul encouraged the church there to "keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness [lingering sinful attitudes], but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8) —a clear reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a festival that helps us focus on replacing sin with righteousness. We are reminded to "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), but the Apostle Paul was not preaching a works-based salvation. In verse 13 he explains "it is God who works in you both to will [that is, to have the desire to overcome] and to do [to act on that desire] for His good pleasure."
The Good News magazine (Mar-Apr 2006)