21 April 2016

Of Passover, Jesus and Spring Cleaning

Cleaning out the leaven
The Feast of Passover is upon us and many in Israel and around the world are in the process of 'cleaning out the leaven' from their homes.  There are many traditions associated with this particular season, but the physical removal of yeast from homes is something many take seriously.  It is a family event whereby the father will take a candle and search through all the cupboards for crumbs and bits of bread or other yeast based products, and carefully sweep them into a bowl.  The family then take these remains and any other similar leftovers outside, and burn them to ash, symbolically cleansing their homes and their lives as they enter into a week of 'leaven free living', in memory of the first Passover when God brought the Jewish people out from slavery in Egypt. But it goes further than that.  Many will do a 'spring clean', washing windows, bedding, scrubbing the 'hard to get to' places.  Some will even go so far as to buy new crockery and new clothes.  We can see some of that reflected in the Christian Easter traditions of spring cleaning and new outfits for Easter Sunday morning. In Israel, bakeries close for the week and grocery retail outlets even close off all their shelves containing any products that could contain yeast - and matzah sales sky-rocket!
Cleaning out the Temple
One of the biblical stories that is not usually linked to Passover is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 2.  Right near the beginning of Yeshua's (Jesus) ministry, and half way through the chapter, is the story of 'cleansing the Temple' - when He braided some rope together into a whip and started driving out all the merchants and money changers, rebuking them for making God's house a market place.  At face value, the anecdote can seem confusing and contrary to what we have come to expect from a Jesus 'meek and mild', 'loving and kind', 'forgiving and self-sacrificing'.  How many other times had Yeshua gone to the temple and seen all the busyness of buying and selling and money laundering?  As a good, practising Jew, he would have visited the temple in Jerusalem several times in the year, as commanded in the Law, in honour of the most holy Feasts of the Lord.  Why then did he not clean everyone out during one of His other visits?

Perhaps a clue is in an important piece of information that John, the writer, shares with us in verse 13 as he prefaces the occasion: "The Jewish Passover was near and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem".  The time of Passover was coming, the time to clean the house of all the yeast/leaven, to have a fresh start and make everything new.  By having a small understanding of the Jewish roots of Jesus' culture, it begins to make sense that at a time when families were cleaning their homes, preparing for a fresh clean start and to receive new things, Yeshua understood that a spiritual cleansing of His Father's spiritual home was not only necessary, but that it was a family duty to carry out.  Suddenly, His mission to drive out the merchants wasn't some arbitrary rampage that overwhelmed him, but an appointed act at an appointed time for an appointed purpose.

Time to clean!
We are also at a time when 'the Passover is coming'.  Perhaps it is a good season to take the opportunity and do some spiritual spring cleaning of our own, to cleanse the temple of our hearts, minds and bodies, and to have a fresh clean start - an appointed act, at this appointed time, for an appointed purpose!  It is an appointed time to draw near to our God during the Passover, the time when He provided Yeshua as the sacrificial lamb, so He can draw near to us.