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Sunday of the Resurrection

March 31, 2024; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Unleavened Bread

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Easter Rising

The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately followed the celebration of Passover. Not only were the people of Israel to slaughter their lambs every year in remembrance of the blood of the lamb that caused the LORD to pass over their homes when He went through Egypt killing the firstborn in every house, but they were also to rid their homes of leaven every year. Get out all the yeast and rising agents for seven days after the Passover, and eat only unleavened bread (flatbread) for a week. This was to remember another aspect of their exodus from Egypt, leaving behind all the sinful pride of Egypt.


They were not just leaving behind slavery and bondage and forced hard labour, but even more. You see even if the people of Israel were living free in Egypt, with no slavery or hard labour, they would still have needed to be rescued. They would be living in a land of sin, a land where false gods were worshipped, a land of prosperity and pride, a land much like the one in which you live. You are not in slavery or bondage to hard labour here, but that does not mean you do not need to be rescued.


Our true rescue, which we celebrate at Easter, is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. It is our rescue from death, its hold on us, and what brought death upon us. It is the promise of our resurrection on the last day given by the one who proved He is able to do it. Death could not hold Jesus in its grasp. He broke free from its dungeon. And it cannot hold us in its grasp. It cannot hold our loved ones in their graves. It cannot rob us forever of life together with Christ.


But our rescue from death comes with even more benefits, like the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt. Our rescue from death is also our rescue from sin, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We are rescued from the root cause. It is our rescue from the pride of sin, and that is why the LORD had the children of Israel celebrate yearly not just with the Passover lamb, but also to continue with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.


Leaven is a rising agent that causes the dough to expand. Sinful pride is a rising agent that causes a person to expand in boasting, boasting of what he is able to get away with, what sins he can indulge in without adverse effect, how he can satisfy his own cravings at the expense of others. That is what life in Egypt was like. The prosperous and mighty empire lived smugly in their sin while they held the people of Israel in bondage. They thought they could do whatever they wanted: build the buildings they wanted built, worship the gods they wanted to imagine, kill the babies they didn’t want around, engage in whatever lifestyles pleased them best.


This is why the children of Israel, after their rescue from this land of bondage, more than once wanted to go back to Egypt. They wanted to go back when they got thirsty. They wanted to go back when they got hungry. They wanted to go back when enemies approached them. They wanted to go back when they no longer liked the bread that God gave them. They wanted to go back when they were not all allowed to be priests and prophets. They really wanted to live in the pride of sin, even though it would mean going back to slavery and death and forfeiting their place in the promised land.


Every year the LORD commanded them to remember that their rescue from Egypt involved more than a release from slavery. It was a rescue from sin and its punishment. It was rescue from the death that the Passover Lamb substituted. It was also a rescue from the pride of sin that the removal of leaven from their homes proclaimed. It was the promise not just of life, but of a new life, a life of holiness with God.


Unleavened bread is a bread of humility. It is the bread of those who do not have leaven, yeast, or another rising agent. It is a bread that is made when you are on the move and have no place to settle, no time or place to allow your bread to rise in the warmth of the sun. It is the bread of those who recognize that they have been deprived of the indulgences of prideful sin.


Sin is like leaven or yeast that will get into everything. Once a little bit falls into a batch of dough, you cannot get it out again. The dough will expand. The microorganisms will multiply and give off their gaseous byproducts. The bread will rise. It will become soft and fluffy. And then it begins its process of death, either drying into a hard crust or producing a toxic mould.


Unleavened bread is free from this kind of infection, and so when the LORD rescues His people, He wants them to be free from the infection of sin. He wants for you a greater deliverance than a temporary freedom from death to live in bondage again. He doesn’t want to give you a brief absolution that only provides holiness for a moment or two before you go back to the pride of living a sinful way of life, thinking that is the freedom that He has purchased with the sacrifice of His Son.


This freedom that has been given to you through the slaughter of Christ, our Passover Lamb, is a freedom from death and the sin that is its cause. It is a freedom in the forgiveness that was purchased when Jesus was killed in your place, when His blood was smeared upon the post and lintel of the cross. He is risen from the dead and He promises that resurrection to you. The Lord has brought you out of your slavery and you are on the move to the promised land of resurrection life.


The apostle Paul calls us to keep the feast of this deliverance (this Easter celebration of the resurrection) in sincerity and truth. That means not to go back to the slavery of sin and death. It is the appeal of the LORD to celebrate not only the deliverance of Passover, but the humble life of freedom represented in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. You are on the move to the promised paradise of God. Do not turn back to your life of slavery to sin.


We do not celebrate Passover or the Feast of Unleavened bread, which the LORD commanded the people of Israel to celebrate. We celebrate what those feasts were pointing toward. We celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, and through Him our own death to sin and rising again to new life in Him (Romans 6). We celebrate a deliverance greater than the physical freedom of bondage. In fact, if you ever find yourself in chains, you can still celebrate the freedom of Easter. We celebrate that this freedom from death is also a freedom from the slavery of sinful pride. And if you ever find yourself a slave to the economic hardships of life, you can still celebrate the freedom of knowing your sins are forgiven and you have been rescued and removed from the infection of immorality.


When St. Paul urges us to keep the feast in sincerity and truth. He is talking about celebrating Easter in such a way that we do not deny the deliverance and rescue that the Resurrection of Christ proclaims to us. It is not a celebration of ongoing forgiveness so that we can continue to live in sins.


The passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that tells us to keep the feast in sincerity and truth does not come from chapter 15 of the epistle, where he writes at length about the resurrection from the dead. It comes way earlier in chapter 5 where he is writing about how sexual immorality defiles, not just the people who indulge in such sin, but that it defiles the whole church. If anyone is living in sin, he puts the whole people of God in danger.


“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven (sin) leavens the whole lump (the whole church of God)? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” Remove from the church those who are living in sin, so that you may live the holy life that God has given through the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ is raised from the dead. Your sins are forgiven. He has made you holy. You have the promise of resurrection on the last day. This is not an excuse to continue to live enslaved in your sins. It is the source of a new life for you to live now.


Continuing in any kind of sinful lifestyle would be a denial of the resurrection of Jesus and the new life that He has provided for you. That sin is a leaven of malice and evil that will spread through the whole church. And that is what we witness. One member of the church starts to speak evil of another and then someone else joins in and everyone ends up gossiping and slandering. One member of the church moves in with a boyfriend or girlfriend so they can have regular sex without committing to each other in marriage, and then other members of the family feel it is okay to do the same. And the church tolerates it even as they see the leaven of sin spreading through the whole lump. And it goes that way with all sins: pride, hatred, envy, malcontent, as well as lying, cheating, and hoarding while others are in need.


St. Paul tells us not to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus without also living in the freedom that it gives. We think of the freedom to do what we want, but God reveals to us that is not freedom, that is your slavery to sin, you cannot stop doing it. True freedom is to live in the holiness that He has provided where the chains are broken for you to truly love God and to truly love one another without manipulation, coercion, pride, or the addiction to satisfy your own immoral cravings.


“Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Let us humbly receive the blessed gift of forgiveness and everlasting life that Jesus Christ gives on this Easter Day. Do not throw it in the trash on your way out. But continue in the feast, celebrating the holiness and purity that God gives in Jesus. Celebrate the peace that comes from knowing that your heavenly Father has reconciled Himself to you. Live in the joyous stability of a moral and upright life. These are the things that Easter gives to you. The resurrection of Christ from the dead gives you new life, freedom, peace, and joy. It is yours to live in the ongoing feast at His table.

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