In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes several references to leavening and to Passover. For many readers today, these references mean very little because so many Christian churches have left the roots of their faith, which Paul was referencing here. In order to really understand key passages of 1 Corinthians, we need to understand Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
I know some (perhaps quite a few) of you are Christians who don’t keep Passover, but I hope you’ll still keep reading today’s post. I think you’ll find it interesting and maybe it’ll give you something new to think about and study.
The Passover story begins in Exodus 12. We’re nearing the end of the plagues of Egypt, and the Lord is telling Moses what the Israelite must do to avoid the final plague — the death of the first born. In the first month of the year, on the evening that begins the 14th day (Hebrew days begin at sunset), Israel was to kill a young male lamb, paint the door posts of their houses with its blood, then roast the lamb whole and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:1-13).
This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever. (Ex. 12:14, WEB)
The Lord goes on to describe a festival of unleavened bread (matzah) that follows the Passover. For seven days, no leavening (hametz) is permitted in anyone’s house and whoever eats leavened food will be cut off from God’s people (Ex. 12:15-20). Later instructions in Leviticus clarify the timing of all this, stating that Passover is on the 14th and Unleavened Bread begins with a holy convocation on the 15th, then ends with another holy convocation on the seventh day (Lev. 23:4-8). The two holy days are Sabbaths of rest where you are not to work, much like the weekly Sabbath.
The New Covenant Passover
Moving into the New Testament, the gospels make careful note of Passovers that Jesus kept during his ministry. The first is recorded in John 2:13-23. The second is skimmed over, though Luke 6:1 probably references the last day of Unleavened Bread. John 6:4 mentions the third Passover, and Christ’s final Passover is recorded in detail by all four gospels because that was the day He died.
He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom.” (Luke 22:15-16, WEB)
He then proceeded to institute new Passover symbols for New Covenant believers. Jesus will not partake of the Passover again until the kingdom of God comes in the future, but He tells us to do so in memory of Him (Luke 22:17-20).
For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, WEB)
Honoring Jesus By Keeping The Passover
The passage we just read from 1 Corinthians 11 is part of the most obvious Passover reference in this letter. Paul goes on to share instructions on how we’re supposed to prepare for Passover, as well as warnings about the dangers of not keeping Passover the correct way. Read more