Unleavened BreadJust as a refresher, here is where we have been thus far in this series:

Part I: Lamb Selection Day
Part II: Passover Preparation
Part III: Passover Banquet
Part IV: Passover Sacrifice

Recently, we’ve also discussed Jesus’ use of remez while on the cross

Today, in Part V, we will be examining the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Timing

“Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. (Exodus 12:17-18)

” ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’ “(Leviticus 23:4-8)

On the Jewish Calendar, the Passover Festival is often a combination of 3 Festival celebrations, spread over a 7-9 day period (depending on which day Passover falls). These three festivals are: Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, while it lasted a week in total, was celebrated in sacred assembly on the first Sabbath after Passover – whether it was the day after or seven days after Passover. Firstfruits was then celebrated, per Leviticus 23:15, the day after the Feast of Unleavened bread (and then the Feast of Weeks – Shavuot or Pentecost – seven weeks later).

So, in the year Jesus was crucified, Passover was on Friday, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was on Saturday and Firstfruits was on Sunday – a sequence that only happened one out of every seven years.

Jesus’ Burial and Burial Customs

From the Gospel accounts, we know that Jesus was buried just before sunset on Friday.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31)

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

Tomb floorplanThe women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. (Luke 23:50-56)

The women were preparing spices and perfumes for Jesus’ body, because it would be the Jewish custom for them, beginning the day after the Sabbath, to sit in the anteroom of Jesus’ tomb (see #6 on the diagram at the right of a First Century tomb which some believe to have belonged to Joseph of Aramathea). Here, in this anteroom, they would be greeted and comforted by other mourners for up to a week after the burial.However, with the placing of the guards by the tomb and the sealing on the stone may have created a problem, unless Pilate had granted permission to open the tomb (though, with great celebration, we never had to find this out!)

After the period of mourning, the tomb would have been sealed for a year, during which the flesh on the body would decay or dessicate and slough off. After a year, the bones of the deceased would then have been placed in an ossuary (a bone box) in the tomb, so that the tomb could be used by more family members. In the Hebrew Scriptures, this ’second burial’, interring the bones of the deceased in an ossuary, was referred to as ‘resting with their fathers’ or ‘buried with the fathers’. This is most likely what is being referred to by the potential disciple in Matthew 8:21 and Luke 9:59.

It is also an important detail that no bodies had yet been laid in this tomb, as anyone who went into this tomb would become unclean if anyone had been previously buried there. Thus, when Jesus was resurrected, he would have been ceremonially unclean (and unable to go into the Temple, among other things, without sinning). However, because there had been no other dead bodies there, when he was resurrected, the tomb would still have been ceremonially clean – a detail we Christians may not fully appreciate, but many Jews would.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

This feast commemorated the giving of manna, the bread from heaven, by God to the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert, and it was a thanks to God for providing rain and a harvest – for providing food from the earth.

The main prayer for the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the same one as is spoken during the breaking of the afikomen during the Passover meal:

Baruch attah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Haoolom, hamotzee lechem min ha-oretz.

“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

So, imagine for yourself, somewhere between 500,000 and 3 million people (if we accept Josephus’ figures) in the Temple on Saturday calling out this prayer to God – Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.

During this time, who is buried in the earth? Jesus. Who is the Bread of Life? Jesus! Where was he born? Bethlehem (which means “House of Bread”!)

And so, whether they knew it or not, these people blessing God for bringing bread out of the earth would have their prayers answered in the most spectacular way ever. If you believe this is a coincidence, you must believe in a different God than I do – because my God is not a God of coincidence!

Jesus said:

I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. (John 6:48-50)

Grace and peace,

Chris

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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 at 12:01 am and is filed under Devotional, Original Articles, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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8 Comments(+Add)

1   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 22nd, 2008 at 11:21 am

Chris, you shame me. You make so many connections and write about so many things that have never seen or studied before. I am ashamed because I am responsible for teaching and preaching this stuff.

Thanks for all the good articles.

2   anonymousjane    http://anonymousjane.wordpress.com/
March 22nd, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I have so thoroughly enjoyed your series of articles. Thank you!

3   Dave Muller    http://blog.thewebsiteguy.com.au
March 22nd, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Hey Chris,

If Jesus was buried for three days, shouldn’t he have risen on Monday?

4   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 22nd, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Dave,

“Three days” = Friday (just before sunset) + Saturday (all day) + Sunday (early morning)

Any portion of a day = a day…

Christian P.,

I wasn’t smart enough to figure this out on my own – I had lots of help from RVL and Dr. Tim Brown…

5   Dave Muller    http://blog.thewebsiteguy.com.au
March 23rd, 2008 at 12:59 am

Hi again Chris,

you will need to excuse my ignorance, but in Matthew 12:40 Jesus says 3 days and nights. Is this related? Would it only be three days and two nights then?

Thanks.

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 23rd, 2008 at 1:59 am

Dave,

It still comes down to how you colloquially count days & nights – All four of the gospel accounts (including Matthew) have Jesus being buried just before sunset on Friday (Preparation Day, just before the start of Sabbath) and rising on the first day of the week (Sunday).

Hebrew writing (meaning the culture, not the language) is meant to convey pictures rather than abstractions – so while in a Western sense “three days and three nights” would equal about 72 hours, in an Eastern/Hebrew setting, “three days and three nights” (since the day begins at sunset and ends at sunset) can be anything from 25 – 72 hours.

7   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 23rd, 2008 at 2:11 am

One other thing to note is that Matthew and Jesus use numbers to convey pictures in several places, most notably in the genealogy of Chapter 1. In it, matthew shows 14 generations from Abraham to David and 14 from David to the Exile and 14 from the Exile to Jesus – even though this is not an exact match to the actual lineage. He does this for symmetry (with 2’s and 7’s), and to convey a truth about Jesus (via the numbers and the specific ancestors chosen).

One additional interpretation of his usage of “three days and three nights” is that three is the number of completeness, and so Jesus being buried three and three would suggest that he is completely dead and buried. (This would contradict the later accusations of the Romans that either he hadn’t been completely dead or that his body had been stolen.)

8   Dave Muller    http://blog.thewebsiteguy.com.au
March 23rd, 2008 at 3:19 am

ah of course that makes sense! Three days is properly dead! Thank you again very much for your help.