Cleanse out the Old Leaven (1 Corinthians 5)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 3
- Hymns: LSB #457, 931, 488, 461, 480, 490
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. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
The day of Easter brings about the season of spring. And with spring comes spring cleaning. And that is what St. Paul charges the Corinthians to do at this early hour. “Cleanse out the old leaven.” Leaven is used to make bread rise. At the Passover, of which Good Friday and Easter are the fulfillment, leaven was completely cleansed out of the house. For seven days the Israelites ate unleavened bread with bitter herbs. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday, He used the unleavened bread of the Passover. From what He had instituted almost fifteen hundred years before, He created a new lump for them. This new lump happens because “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”
What leaven is Paul charging the Corinthians to purge from their lives? “The leaven of malice and evil.” The leaven of sin. During Jesus' ministry with His disciples, He constantly warned them against “the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” The leaven of contempt and pride and arrogance.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” It doesn't take much to completely destroy the righteousness God gives. Look back at our first parents. They allowed Satan's leaven to enter into their lives. Contempt that God was holding out on them. Pride in thinking that they could hide from God. Arrogance as Adam blamed God for the Fall into sin.
Since then, man has been completely corrupted with the leaven of sin. “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Through one man, death began to reign over all mankind. Even if your sin isn't a copy of Adam's sin. The lump of your flesh is totally and completely corrupted by “the leaven of malice and evil.”
It doesn't take much to spread that leaven. Contempt over the latest Facebook rant that doesn't align with your beliefs. Pride in your background in the faith and/or this congregation. Arrogance in your good works that you want God to take special notice and give you praise. The littlest, simplest things begin the expansion of malice and evil throughout our bodies and then out to those around us. It has become so ingrained in us that we don't even recognize it. It has just become a “natural part of life.” You are completely leavened in this life.
However, “you really are unleavened.” You are unleavened because of Easter. Jesus passed over death through His death. He has taken away the leaven from your lump of flesh. He has made you new again by burying your sins in His borrowed tomb. Unleavened because Jesus has taken away the eternal penalties of your sins. He has given you new life as He has passed over your death and brought you through the waters of Baptism. Therefore we sing our glad songs of “Alleluia!” “He has triumphed gloriously.”
Unleavened bread illustrates how Jesus has made you unleavened. The bread for the Lord's Supper isn't puffed up. Neither are you. The leaven of contempt, pride and arrogance doesn't control you. Jesus, “the firstborn of all creation,” has been put to death for you. You have been passed over. You have been brought through the water. Now, you live as a new creation. A new lump in God's sight.
Through Jesus' death and resurrection, you are cleansed of the old leaven of evil and malice. His sacrifice as the one, true Passover lamb has granted you this cleansing. However, you must continue to strive to keep the leaven out of your lump. You stand on the other side of your own Red Sea, singing with all the rest who have come safely through the water. Your alleluias drift far beyond these walls. They are joined with the alleluias of God's chosen people throughout the world. Filling the world with God's praise as you celebrate Jesus' resurrection.
“Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven … but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” As we celebrate the resurrection, both today and every day, it is with sincerity and truth. Jesus says the same thing to the Samaritan woman at the well. However, sincerity can be wrong. It isn't very difficult to be sincerely wrong. But this error comes from the old leaven still taking control of your life. When you stay with Jesus in the Scriptures, you find true sincerity that cannot falter.
Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of truth would come upon them, guiding them into all truth. Jesus is the truth that stands as the bar against which you will be measured. His truth must be understood as without error and unchangeable. He is the ultimate authority of truth. This understanding is given to you by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. He keeps you unleavened as He bears witness to Jesus' cleansing of the leaven out of your life. With His cleansing, you are able to properly celebrate the festival of Easter.
“I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously.” The gate of righteousness has been opened for you. Enter through it with sincerity and truth. Enter this gate like Mary Magdalene, Peter and John entered Jesus' empty tomb. While Peter and John went about their lives after seeing the empty tomb, Mary stayed around. She became the first witness to Jesus' resurrection. She witnessed with sincerity, even though she wasn't believed at first. Even though she was filled with fear. She witnessed to the resurrection because Jesus had shown her that she was unleavened. Her leaven had been cleansed.
Your leaven has also been cleansed. You are a new lump. Christ, your Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Celebrate the Feast with the sincerity and truth that He has given you through His death and resurrection. Amen.