Passover Blog

by Shannon Guthrie

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.”  (John 5:46)
Unleavened Bread

Happy Passover!
If you are like me, all your days, weeks and months have turned into a blur, so I am reminding you that this Sunday April 12th is Easter.  Did you also that know that Passover is this week? Passover begins today at sundown and goes through Thursday, April 16th at sundown.

Unleavened (without yeast) bread is an important part of both the Passover and Easter celebrations and will be eaten all over the world this week by both Jews and Christians. The importance of the unleavened bread is well-known to both religious groups.

There’s not much that’s appealing about the flat, bland crusts of bread that we are so accustomed to passing from person to person every Sunday. We call it communion bread while the Jewish people refer to it as Matzah or Matzo bread. It doesn’t have much taste or any other kind of appeal to it.  Most people if given a choice at their dinner plate would choose bread with yeast. Historically, unleavened bread has also been known as a “poor man’s bread” or the “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). Because it is Passover this week, you can buy a box of it at most grocery stores or on Amazon. You can also make it at home. The simple ingredients for it are listed in Exodus 29:3—flour, oil and water. I have included a recipe at the end if you want to try making some in your kitchen.

As a Jew, Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples on the night He was betrayed and arrested.  In that upper room, Jesus took the unleavened bread and shared it with His disciples.

And he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said “This is my body, which is given for you.” (Luke 22:19)
This same unleavened bread has a long history that precedes what we know as the Last Supper by thousands of years.  It has been mentioned in scripture since the time of Abraham (Genesis 18), but you are most likely familiar with it from the Exodus story when the Lord initiated the first Passover (Exodus 12).   You probably are knowledgeable about some of the symbolism involved, but there are a few aspects of this unleavened Passover bread that I find quite surprising, fascinating, and faith-building, and I hope it will be to you, too.  Before we get to that, let’s review some of the references to unleavened bread in the scriptures.

So, what’s so bad about leaven? The idea of leaven (yeast) being a symbol of sin, pride and corruption in the scriptures goes back to Leviticus and continues in Paul’s letters. Bread that has risen is symbolic of puffed up pride, while the flat bread made without yeast is symbolic of humility, simplicity, and purity.

“No grain offering that you present to the LORD is to be made with yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey as a fire offering to the LORD.” (Leviticus 2:11)
“Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough?”  (1 Corinthians 5:6)

The initiation of the Passover takes place in Exodus 12 (read the entire chapter for the full account).  God comes to Aaron and Moses and gives them very specific instructions on how to prepare the Passover lamb so that the angel of destruction will “pass over” the houses of the children of Israel and thereby “execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt” (vs. 12). In addition, they are given instructions about the bread they are to take with them as they escape Egypt.  Here it is known as the bread of affliction. It lacked luxury. It was bread eaten in haste as they fled slavery. It is also associated with redemption.
Now the Egyptians pressured the people in order to send them quickly out of the country, for they said “We’re all going to die!” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their clothes on their shoulders. (Exodus 12:33-34)
Here’s the part of all this I think is most fascinating. The Jewish people have been making Passover bread since the time of Moses.  They have handed down recipes in families and have pretty much done it the same way for literally thousands of years.  They don’t put yeast in the dough, but because there is some yeast in the air, the dough will start to puff up some on its own.  In order for it to maintain its flat shape, it must be made quickly (less than 18 minutes) and striped and pierced with a fork or other utensil. Did you catch that? It has to be striped and pierced. Once the bread is baked, it has a brownish or a “bruised” appearance where the small bubbles of dough rise between piercings.  The finished product is unleavened bread that has the appearance of being striped, pierced, and bruised.  This is how is has been made for generations.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
They pierced my hands and feet. (Psalm 22:16)
They will look on me who they have pierced. (Zechariah 12:10)
Think about that powerful symbolism that has existed for thousands of years!
There is another interesting tradition that was integrated into the Passover meal sometime around the time of Jesus.  It is called the “Afikomen” which is a Greek word which means “that which comes after.” It involves a piece of matzah bread wrapped in a cloth and hidden somewhere in the house. The children all scurry about trying to be the first to find the Afikomen to receive a reward.

Now that you understand this, it might be a fun activity to try to make your own unleavened bread according to Jewish tradition for your communion at home this Easter. Think about the symbolism as you pierce, bruise, and stripe the bread and teach that to your children.  I bet you will never look at the communion bread in the same way ever again!
Here is an example of one recipe, but there are many others online.  Have fun! I would love to see pictures of your unleavened bread on the CStreet Members FaceBook page.

Have a wonderful Passover week and a happy Easter!
- Shannon Guthrie

  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour for dusting*
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1/3 cup water, or more if needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or as needed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, or as needed (optional)

  1. Move an oven rack near the top of oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). Preheat a heavy baking sheet in the oven.
  2. Dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with 1 teaspoon flour, or as needed. Place 1 cup of flour into a mixing bowl; set a timer for about 16 minutes (18 minutes maximum). Start the timer; pour the water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, into the flour. Stir the water and flour together with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball, remove the dough to the prepared work surface, knead rapidly and firmly until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces; cut each piece in half again to get 8 pieces total. Swiftly roll each piece into a ball. Roll each piece of dough out into a 5-inch pancake, dusting the top and rolling pin with flour as needed. Gradually roll the pancakes out to a size of about 8 inches, increasing the size of each by about 1 inch, then letting the dough rest for a few seconds before rolling again to the finished size. Roll from the center out. The bread rounds should be very thin. Using a fork, quickly pierce each bread about 25 times, all over, to prevent rising. The holes should go completely through the bread. Flip the bread over, and pierce each piece another 25 times with the fork.
  4. With at least 5 minutes left on the timer, remove the hot baking sheet from the preheated oven, and place the rounds onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet onto the rack near the top of the oven, and bake for 2 minutes; turn the breads over and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the matzot are lightly browned and crisp.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Lightly anoint each matzah with olive oil, using a brush, and sprinkle generously with salt.

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