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Celebrate the Festival

Ryan Joy

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March 31, 2024

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“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For 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 Cor. 5:7,8).

As Paul rebukes the Corinthians for tolerating sin in their midst (1 Cor. 5:1-5), he commands them to “celebrate the festival” (1 Cor. 5:8). But what festival should we celebrate? The context doesn’t reference the Lord’s Supper, though the Supper is deeply rooted in the Passover (Mark 14:12-25). He isn’t talking about Easter, which Scripture never mentions (though the Old KJV mistakenly translates the Greek word for Passover as “Easter” in Acts 12:4). He certainly isn’t telling Christians to go back and start celebrating the Jewish festival, slaughtering a lamb in the temple and feasting on the fourteenth of the first Jewish month, since Paul later called such a “festival” a “shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). In the festival, Paul commands, WE are the unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:7a)! And the Passover lamb has already been slaughtered in Christ’s death (5:7b). There’s no set time or location for our feast. But there is a sacrifice, a commemorated redemption, a community, and a celebration. So what other name could we use to describe this festival? It’s called the Christian life.

How can we “celebrate the festival“? What is the appropriate New Testament observance of this beautiful “shadow” the Passover presents? What is the application? Here are five ways to observe our Passover every day.

Cleanse

A critical part of Passover was the purge, eliminating all the leaven from the house and burning it. God separated Israel from Egypt by their obedience, by the blood on the door, and ultimately by His merciful choice (Cf. 2 Chron 30:18). According to Paul, for us, this is not about the shadow of leaven but about the little lumps of evil that can creep into the pure loaf of God’s people (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Have you cleaned your house of malice and evil and filled it with sincerity and truth? Are you pure in your speech, dress, recreation, and thoughts? Tolerance for false religion and false teaching is the opposite of “truth.” Are you honest and honorable in every aspect of your life? Cleanse your house!

Celebrate

Passover wasn’t a day for fasting but for feasting! Paul says, “Celebrate the festival,” not to spend one calendar day rejoicing over God’s deliverance, but to celebrate it EVERY DAY! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). Everyone has bouts of sadness and anger, but if God’s deliverance becomes our life’s theme, hope and gratitude set the prevailing tone of our days.

Passover wasn’t a day for fasting but for feasting!

God introduces the Passover by resetting His people’s calendar: “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you” (Exod. 12:2). His redemption creates a new beginning, a new identity for us. What a thing to celebrate! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Commune

Like the Passover, we share our celebration as the people of God. A feast eaten alone isn’t much of a festival. It was a time of fellowship with one another and the Lord, marveling at God’s favor toward us. No outsiders could participate in the Passover (Exod 12:43,45). Foreigners (even Gentile slaves) could partake, but only after initiation into God’s covenant community through circumcision (Exod. 12:44,48). But it wasn’t just a communal meal with God’s people; it was a time of sharing with your closest friends and family. Each house could slaughter only one lamb. They then shared it (cf. Exod. 12:4) as Jesus celebrated with his disciples. The one-lamb-per-house rule reminded them of the lamb that brought salvation to everyone finding refuge in a house during the tenth plague — when death came to the firstborn in each home not marked by a lamb’s blood on the doorposts (Exod. 12:21-32).

Commemorate

The festival’s theme is remembrance of God’s deliverance. It’s a “memorial day” (Exod. 12:14) because “on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:17). If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Lord’s Supper’s theme is remembrance, too (1 Cor. 11:24-26). In fact, it’s the theme of our lives! To quote a William Cowper hymn, “Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.”

How often do you reflect on your salvation?

May we, like Israel, tell our kids and grandkids (Exod. 10:2) and everyone else what God has done (Ps. 78:5-8, 11, 35, 42)! How often do you reflect on your salvation?

Confidence

Exodus 12 starts with the Israelites still “in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:1), setting the context for what follows. Slaves ate the first Passover before God brought them to the promised land. Despite the many years their parents’ parents had lived in those slave houses, Israel believed it would all change soon. God wanted them to eat like it was their last meal in Egypt. Consider it “go time!” They would make unleavened bread when there wasn’t time for fermenting leaven or rising bread. “Eat it in haste,” God said, with walking sticks in hand and feet shod with traveling sandals (Exod. 12:11). We, too, rejoice while looking forward to the new life we’ll have in the promised land. This twin focus — looking backward and forward — is fundamental to the Christian life and the Lord’s Supper. Paul said, “We proclaim his death UNTIL HE comes,” pointing backward to the redemptive event of the cross and forward to “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-25) at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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