I’ve been looking for respite for months, but my entry into Jerusalem was hectic. First a wedding (fun and picturesque). Then an interview. Then a funeral (more on that later). Then a move to a new room. Then Passover. Please forgive me for my lack of posting. Hoping to manage the backlog of blog posts in my head soon.
We’re in the last days of the Passover holiday in Israel. What is now called Passover is actually three festivals over eight days: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and Feast of First Fruits. I had a friend tell me, “You’re always talking about the feasts and I don’t know what you mean.” So I felt this was a good time to give a review.
Before that though, I want to address Colossians 2. There Paul tells us, “Don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with the eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or [New Moon] or Shabbat.” (Col. 2:16 CJB). Later he says, “If, along with the Messiah, you died to the elemental spirits of the world, then why, as if you still belonged to the world, are you letting yourselves be bothered by its rules? … and they are based on man-made rules and teachings.”
The key phrase here is “man-made rules and teachings.” The feasts and Shabbat are not man-made. By the same token, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1 NIV). We have liberty to be persuaded in our own minds. (see Rom. 14)
I list the feasts for you because they are important to Jesus. Jesus — Yeshua — the Messiah of Israel, a Jew — kept the feasts while he walked the earth (see the Gospels). And, on closer inspection, you will see every feast speaks of Him.
The complete list of festivals appears in Leviticus 23.
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. (Lev. 23:1-2)
“These are my appointed festivals.” Very personal to God.
The first festival is a surprise. It is weekly. It is the Sabbath. Yeah, the one from the Ten Commandments.
Shabbat means rest. So what does this mean to the believer in Jesus, particularly gentiles? It’s all explained in Hebrews 4.
Really, you need to read and meditate on the whole chapter. The gist is that Jesus is our Shabbat. He is our rest — from futile works-based salvation, from toil, from wandering. So we honor Him by resting, by setting aside the day He set aside for rest.
Spring feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits
These are three distinct but related festivals in the spring. Today, when you hear “Passover,” more than likely, they mean the whole of these three festivals.
Passover and Unleavened Bread both remember the exodus from Egypt during which Israel was transformed from a people of slavery to and a nation of heirs (Exodus 6, etc.). God told them to be ready to leave in a hurry, so the bread had no yeast, no time to rise. So to remember this, God commands that unleavened bread be eaten for seven days (Lev. 23:6).
First fruits is related in that its date is set by Passover: “the day after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:11 NIV).
What is remarkable is that something happened in the life of Jesus during these three feasts. He was crucified on Passover Eve, placed in the tomb just before Passover started and rose again on First Fruits. He is the bread of life who has no sin (blood offerings could not be offered with leavened bread — Exodus 23:18)
There’s more on Passover and how it points to Jesus’ death and resurrection in the blog post “Christ in the Passover,” from which you can download an mp3 and notes in PDF.
Festival of Weeks (aka Pentecost)
From First Fruits, one counts 50 days to the next festival, Shavuot (literally ‘sevens’ in Hebrew). Greek speaking Jews called it Pentecost because of the 50 days (now the Pentecost label is used primarily by Christians).
So, here’s another feast on which something happened, as recorded in the New Testament. Acts 2 records that “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem.
Hmmm. A pattern. Something significant concerning Jesus and his followers has happened four of the seven yearly feasts of the LORD. Important?
Check out Chuck Missler’s article for more thoughts on the Festival of Weeks (provocative; always test any teacher against the Word and the Holy Spirit).
Fall feasts: Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles
I’m going to be honest here. I don’t understand the Feast of Trumpets. It’s detailed twice in Scripture (Lev. 23:23-24 & Num. 29:1), but I have yet to really study it out. Today it is celebrated in conjunction with Jewish New Year and starts the introspective Days of Awe leading to the Day of Atonement.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is still the most solemn day on the Jewish Calendar. “When the Temple still stood,” Koinonia House writes, “it was on this day — the only day — that the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies, and then only after elaborate ceremonial washings, offerings, and associated rituals.” To this day, it is a day of fasting, as dictated in Leviticus 23.
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, is quiet festive after the seriousness of Yom Kippur. It is eight days long. Every one is to make outdoor shelters and live in them. It is the only of the seven feasts that the Bible mentions will be celebrated in the Millennial Kingdom and it concerns the nations.
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. –Zechariah 14:16-17 NIV
I hope to write more as I learn more about the Feasts. Shavuot (Pentecost) is next in a few weeks.