Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover.?” Matthew 26:17
Feast of Unleavened Bread - Today Christianity celebrates Easter as the day of the resurrection. Undoubtedly, you will too, or have done so in the past. You might even realize that Easter is a pagan festival imported into the Christian church very early, sometime around the fourth century. Of course, the pagan festival of Easter is much older, dating back to pre-Babylonian times. It has always been a celebration of a false god or goddess – until the Church brought this pagan festival inside the cathedral. If you want to see some of the background on this, click here.
Perhaps you’ve read the story dozens of times in Scripture, but you never noticed that all of the circumstances surrounding the death and resurrection of Yeshua are Jewish. In this verse in Matthew, we are specifically told that the beginning of these events was on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That reminds us of the prescribed feasts of the Lord. They’re not our holidays. They are His. We would do well to pay attention to the plan behind them. Each one is part of God’s progressive revelation of His redemptive acts. Every year the feasts remind us that God is our God and He knows what He has been doing for a very long time.
It might seem as if this verse causes a problem with the prescribed sequence in Exodus 12 because the first day of the Feast is the day immediately following Passover, but we must understand that by the first century, the entire event – Passover and the Feast – was commonly referred to by a single name. Moreover, the details of preparation, the meal content and the time of the meal all fit the Jewish requirements of strangers in Jerusalem in the first century. A detailed explanation of this in relation to the Synoptics can be found in R. T. France’s, Matthew, in the NICNT series if you are really interested in the relationship between the New Testament accounts and actual Jewish practices. But this is all theological background.
So, what does this mean to us? Well, the first thing we confront is that Easter is thoroughly pagan. Proclaiming it as Christian does not make it so. The event of the death and resurrection occurs according to God’s calendar (the Jewish one), not our Roman calendar. Consequently, God’s timing for the death and resurrection follow and fulfill a pattern that was put in place with Moses. When we depart from this pattern, we do violence to God’s revelation of His eternal plan. We simply cannot declare another day to be God’s sacred day of atonement. In spite of all that you have probably been told, celebrating the resurrection on Easter means that you are technically worshipping a false god. (Ouch!)
Secondly, we learn that God’s plan developed over centuries and centuries so that the events of the Passion all have deep meaning within the life of the community that practiced these symbols from generation to generation. When we cut ourselves free of this pattern, we fail to see how connected it all is. We rob ourselves of its deeper magnificence. We fail to honor the sovereignty of God.
Finally, because we have adopted pagan practices within Christian worship, we become victims of our own syncretism. Without realizing it, we slip away from God’s prescribed way of living, worshipping and celebrating. We become another version of the world’s system, conformed to the patterns of this world. Paul would turn over in his grave. Easter eggs, bunny rabbits and gift cards might be acceptable for fertility cult worshippers, but they hardly have any place in Christian worship. How can we make a difference if there is no difference?
I’m not trying to rain on your Easter parade . . . at least, not a lot. But I am concerned how blindly we follow the traditions without ever asking for the Biblical truth. When Matthew tells us that all of this happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and we have no idea what he is talking about, we are the losers here. In spite of what you might have been told, the Christian practice of worshipping on Sunday has nothing to do with the resurrection (I know, I know – all of this is really difficult).
It’s time. It’s time to go back to God’s way – in everything, including our calendars. By the way, this year Passover was April 9, so the resurrection actually falls on the Jewish day that begins on April 11 after sundown and concludes on April 12, when Christians celebrate. We are almost aligned with God’s feasts, this year. But next year, Easter will be determined once more without regard to God’s plan. Next year you’ll have to decide which pattern you choose to follow.
Topical Index: Passover, Feasts, Unleavened Bread, calendar, Matthew 26:17, Easter, pagan