by Bill Risk
The Last Week Of The Life of Christ
The Feasts of the Jews
We get the word Easter from the name of the Babylonian goddess of
fertility, Ishtar . In
the Spring, as the weather was getting warmer and the days were getting
longer, people would see nature renewing itself--the plants would begin
to flower, trees would put out new leaves, animals would begin to have their
babies. In a world so entirely dependent upon agriculture for its survival,
where children were essential as cheap labor, it is perhaps no great surprise
that people did whatever they thought necessary to ensure the fecundity
of their domestic livestock, the fertility of the soil in which their crops
would germinate, and their own ability to reproduce. In the Spring, the
people would celebrate the fertility they saw all around them in great festivals.
Since the trees were putting on new clothes, so would they. They would celebrate
symbols of fertility--the egg, the extremely procreative rabbit. It is from
these traditions that many of our own Easter rites derive--the decoration
and discovery of Easter eggs, the legend of the Easter bunny, the adornment
of ourselves with new and colorful outfits.
Perhaps it is not surprising that amid these faint echoes of Babylonian
paganism, the true reason to celebrate in the Spring has largely been lost.
Easter is about new life, but not about the transient life of this world
that must perish and renew itself annually. Easter is about the coming to
this world of true New Life--life everlasting, life reclaimed and resurrected
from the dead, life redeemed from the curse of the Fall, life in the perfect
and longed-for union with God through Christ our Saviour.
To most of the world, however, this truth is nonsense. It is fantasy no
less ridiculous than the notion that a giant bunny clutching a straw basket
of decorated eggs hops through the world leaving them to be found by delighted
children. I recently read an article written by the famed astronomer Carl
Sagan describing his struggle against a particularly pernicious disease
called "myelodysplasia," a disorder of the stem cells found in
bone marrow. When Sagan was told that, if left untreated, the disease would
kill him in six months, what was his response?
"I would love to believe that when I die I will live
again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue.
But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide
cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest
that it is more than wishful thinking."
I won't disagree with Dr. Sagan that the world is exquisite, nor will I
argue that love and moral depth are to be found here--although I would claim
that where love and morality are found, they are notable chiefly because
they are rare, and because they shine in stark contrast to what is found
nearly everywhere else in this wide world. However, what Dr. Sagan sees
and prizes so highly is no more than the dim reflection of what God originally
created and intended for mankind to enjoy. Dr. Sagan perceives the faint,
dying glimmer of a past perfection and magnifies it to entirely fill his
vision, enabling him to rejoice in the glory of the natural world that is
his god. I perceive that same faint, dying glimmer and grieve for the loss
of the majestic glory of which it is a wan remnant, lost through man's willful
disobedience and self-exaltation. Dr. Sagan, like many others today and
throughout history, so revels in the Creation that he cannot see past it
to the Creator.
"The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that
there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which theres
little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability,
is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but
magnificent opportunity that life provides."
Mankind has a sad genius for taking what has been established to glorify
the Creator and perverting it to glorify the Creation instead. So it is
with these Spring festivals. When God led His people out of slavery in Egypt
and prepared them to enter the Promised Land, He instituted seven sacred
festivals to remind His people of His goodness and provision for them. These
festivals were clustered in three groups around the three principal harvest
times in Israel (Spring, Summer and Fall). The first such cluster of festivals,
taking place approximately two weeks after the first new moon of Spring,
celebrated the goodness of God in bringing life out of the ground once more
in a new year and a new harvest season. It is not hard to see how mans arrogance
and unwillingness to acknowledge the sovereignty of God led to a perversion
of this celebration--one in which fertility itself and its residence in
false gods became the thing worshipped.
These festivals had both a commemorative and a prophetic function. Commemoratively,
they pointed back in time to God's provision for His people in the past.
For example, the first cluster of festivals included Passover, the Feast
of Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened
Bread pointed back in time to God's redemption of His people from bondage
in Egypt. First Fruits reminded them of God's provision for them when they
came into the Promised Land.
Passover commemorated what the Rabbis later referred to as the "Egyptian
Passover"--that particular historical event in Ancient Egypt when,
as instructed by God through Moses, the head of each Jewish household selected
a lamb or kid of a goat that was without blemish, sacrified it, and applied
its blood to the lintel and doorposts of his house so that the angel of
death would pass them by. In fact, the Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach,
comes from a root that means "to step over" or "to overleap."
 The sacrificial animal was roasted and
eaten by the family. Thus was the family prepared for the journey out of
Similarly, the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the haste with which
the Jewish people left Egypt. So sudden was their departure that they were
instructed to bake bread without yeast (leaven), because they would not
have time to wait for the bread to rise. Thus fortified with the flat, dense
unleavened bread, the people were led out of Egypt. The leaven became symbolic
to the Hebrews of their old way of life in captivity, which was to be put
off as they entered the new life to which God was delivering them .
Finally, First Fruits was commemorative of God's provision for the people
of Israel as they entered the Promised Land to dwell there and live off
its bounty--ceasing to be slaves and learning to be farmers. Each year they
would bury seeds in the ground and, sometime later, crops would rise up
out of that same ground. They were to offer to God the very first portion
of those crops to acknowledge their dependence on Him and to thank Him for
God prescribed these commemorative festivals as part of the ongoing worship
of His people. In the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, he proclaims:
"These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations
which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. In the first month,
on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD'sPassover. Then
on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened
Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the
first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious
work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD.
On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel,
and say to them, When you enter the land which I am going to give to you
and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits
of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD
for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave
it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb
one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD. Its grain
offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil,
an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its libation,
a fourth of a hin of wine. Until this same day, until you have brought in
the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain
nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations
in all your dwelling places.' "
Not only did these festivals have a commemorative purpose, but they had
a prophetic function as well. Not only did they point the Jewish people
back in time to what God had done for them in the past, they also pointed
forward to what God would do for them in the future. These festivals pointed
the way toward the Messiah--to work that He has already accomplished in
the past, and to work that He will do in the future.
Jesus was a good Jew. He read the Hebrew Scriptures, and He must have been
well aware of the both the commemorative and the prophetic significance
of these feasts. The Gospels record many instances where Jesus observed
the feasts, travelling to Jerusalem to celebrate them in the Temple, as
He was required to do. He could not have been unaware of how His own death,
burial and resurrection would mesh perfectly with both the chronology of
these feasts and their spiritual significance. This realization must have
heightened his expectation and added to the poignancy of the moment as He
travelled to Jerusalem for that final Passover.
here to see a diagram showing the calendar of Easter week]
See if you can, in your mind's eye, place yourself in First Century Jerusalem.
Imagine yourself to be part of Jesus's coterie of followers. It is Spring,
the month of Nisan, two weeks after the first new moon of that season. In
Judea, where you are now, they reckon the day to start at dusk, with the
appearance in the sky of the first three stars. Three blasts from the shofar,
the trumpet made from a ram's horn, from atop the Temple wall, would announce
the start of the new day. But in Galilee, where you are from, people reckon
that the day starts at dawn. So, standing with Jesus on Thursday morning
on the Mount of Olives at about 9 a.m., you reckon that the 14th of Nisan
has already started, and that at dusk you will celebrate the Passover. However,
those from Judea reckon that the 14th of Nisan does not start until dusk
tonight, and thus the Passover would be celebrated on Friday evening. Your
religious leaders are also divided--the Pharisees side with the Galileans,
the Saduccees with the Judeans. What to do? The compromise is obvious--observe
Passover in two celebrations, one on Thursday evening, one on Friday evening
This dual celebration gets around another problem: the logistics of sacrificing
over a quarter-million lambs in one afternoon .
And so, on that Thursday morning, you watch as
Jesus sends Peter and John into Jerusalem to make ready the upper room,
to buy the spotless lamb, take it to the temple for inspection, and sacrifice
it. Let's imagine ourselves ascending the Temple Mount and entering the
imposing and beautiful Herodian Temple with Peter and John:
"As at about half-past one of our time the two Apostles
ascended the Temple-Mount, following a dense, motley crowd of joyous, chatting
pilgrims, they must have felt terribly lonely among them. Already the shadows
of death were gathering around them. In all that crowd how few to sympathize
with them; how many enemies! The Temple-Courts were thronged to the utmost
by worshippers from all countries and from all parts of the land. The Priests'
Court was filled with white-robed Priests and Levites--for on that day all
the twenty-four Courses were on duty, and all their services would be called
for, although only the Course for that week would that afternoon engage
in the ordinary service, which preceded that of the Feast. Almost mechanically
would they witness the various parts of the well-remembered ceremonial.
There must have been a peculiar meaning to them, a mournful significance,
in the language of Ps. 81, as the Levites chanted it that afternoon in three
sections, broken three times by the threefold blast from the silver trumpets
of the Priests." 
Psalm 81 is a powerful recitation of Israel's history, perfectly appropriate
for this festival celebration. "Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout
joyfully to the God of Jacob," it begins. "Raise a song, strike
the timbrel, the sweet sounding lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at
the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. For it is a statute for
Israel, An ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it for a testimony
in Joseph, When he went throughout the land of Egypt." God had been
faithful to His people. He had heard their cries for help and rescued them:
I relieved his shoulder of the burden,
His hands were freed from the basket.
You called in trouble, and I rescued you;
I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;
I proved you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
Let there be no strange god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
I, the Lord, am your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
But My people did not listen to My voice;
And Israel did not obey Me.
So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices.
Oh that My people would listen to Me,
That Israel would walk in My ways!
How Jesus, reading and meditating on these words, must have grieved for
Israel, which, in Him, had been given the ultimate revelation of their God,
but refused to accept it.
Let us rejoin Peter and John:
"Before the incense was burnt for the Evening Sacrifice,
or yet the lamps in the Golden Candlestick were trimmed for the night, the
Paschal-Lambs were slain. The worshippers were admitted in three divisions
within the Court of the Priests. When the first company had entered, the
massive Nicanor Gates--which led from the Court of the Women to that of
Israel--and the other side-gates into the Court of the Priests, were closed.
A threefold blast from the Priests trumpets intimated that the Lambs were
being slain. This each Israelite did for himself. We can scarcely be mistaken
in supposing that Peter and John would be in the first of the three companies
into which the offerers were divided; for they must have been anxious to
be gone, and to meet the Master and the brethren in that 'Upper Room.' Peter
and John had slain the Lamb. In two rows the officiating Priests stood,
up to the great Altar of Burnt-offering. As one caught up the blood from
the dying Lamb in a golden bowl, he handed it to his colleague, receiving
in return an empty bowl; and so the blood was passed on to the Great Altar,
where it was jerked in one jet at the base of the Altar. While all this
was going on, the Hallel (Ps. 113-118) was being chanted by the Levites."
Have you ever been in a situation where you saw or heard something, knew
that it had some special significance, but just couldn't piece together
what it was? I wonder if Peter and John felt this way that Passover day.
I am sure that as they heard the Hallel being chanted they remembered where
they had heard a portion of it only a few days before: they heard the crowds
shouting it as Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a colt, in fulfillment of
the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Matthew records the event this way:
"And the multitudes going before Him, and those who
followed after were crying out, saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed
is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest! '"
Hosanna means "save, we pray" and this quotation comes
directly from Psalm 118: "O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the
name of the Lord." Those who uttered these words upon Jesus's entry
into Jerusalem hoped He would save them from Roman oppression; little did
they know that within days He would make possible true salvation--freedom
not from the tyranny of Rome, but from the captivity of sin.
While Peter and John were in Jerusalem preparing the Passover lamb, Jesus
and his disciples began their descent from the Mount of Olives across the
Kidron Valley into Jerusalem. Let the words of the 19th century theologian
Alfred Edersheim paint the picture in your imagination:
"It was probably as the sun was beginning to decline
in the horizon that Jesus and the other ten disciples descended once more
over the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. Before them lay Jerusalem in
her festive attire. All around, pilgrims were hastening towards it. White
tents dotted [the] sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or
peered out from the gardens or the darker foliage of the olive plantations.
From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble
and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the
smoke of the Altar of Burnt-offering. These courts were now crowded with
eager worshippers, offering for the last time, in the real sense, their
Paschal Lambs. The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the
flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with
a first sight of the sacred City for which they had so often longed, or
else once more rejoiced in view of the well-known localities. It was the
last day-view which the Lord could take, free and unhindered, of the Holy
City till His Resurrection. Once more in the approaching night of His Betrayal,
would He look upon it in the pale light of the full moon. He was going forward
to accomplish His Death in Jerusalem; to fulfil type and prophecy, and to
offer Himself up as the true Passover Lamb the Lamb of God, which taketh
away the sin of the world." 
Jesus entered Jerusalem and celebrated the Passover with His disciples.
This story is so familiar to us, that we need not dwell further upon it
here. We know how He led them to the Garden of Gesthemane to pray, how He
was betrayed by Judas, arrested, and taken before Caiaphas and Annas that
night, before the whole Sanhedrin in the morning; we know how He was shuttled
from Pilate to Herod to Pilate again, how He was mocked and scourged, crowned
with thorns, crucified.
John tells us that it was "the third hour" of the day when Jesus
was crucified, and "the ninth hour" when he died. These times
correspond to about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in our reckoning. Between the sixth
hour and the ninth, darkness fell upon the land, an unnatural darkness,
since it was the middle of the afternoon. At 3 p.m., when Jesus uttered
the cry "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit," and died,
the veil in the Temple, separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the
Temple, was rent in two, the ground shook, and rocks split. If you had been
in Jerusalem at this time, it certainly would have gotten your attention.
And if you had been in Jerusalem at that time, what would you have been
doing? Very likely, you would have been at the Temple sacrificing your Passover
Lamb. Remember that according to Judean reckoning, this day, Friday, was
the 14th of Nisan, and precisely at the time that Jesus died the second
round of sacrifices was taking place at the Temple.
Perhaps for you, as a follower of Jesus, staring up at your Lord on the
cross, this is the moment that things came together for you. Perhaps it
was at this moment that you recalled the utterance of John the Baptist as
he beheld Jesus coming toward him, at that one moment in history when commemoration
and prophecy came together: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away
the sin of the world!" Perhaps you stood there as the Roman centurion
broke the legs of the man crucified to Jesus's right, then those of the
man crucified to his left, but did not break the legs of the Lord. And perhaps
you remembered the prescription for the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12: "...nor
are you to break any bone of it." Perhaps this got you to thinking
and you remembered how the Passover Lamb was to be selected on the 10th
day of Nisan, and watched over until the 14th, to assure its purity. You
count back...and realize that the 10th of Nisan this year was the day Jesus
entered Jerusalem, offering Himself up for sacrifice. You remember how the
Pharisees and Saduccees challenged and quizzed Him, looking for a flaw,
trying to catch Him in a trap--and you remember how perfectly He responded,
how blamelessly He answered. Even Pilate declared, "I find no guilt
in this man."
You remember that Peter and John were the ones Jesus sent into Jerusalem
to sacrifice the lamb for your last Passover with your Lord. You wonder
if Peter and John have realized what you have just realized. Years later,
perhaps you would read what Peter had written: "...you were not redeemed
with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life
inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished
and spotless, the blood of Christ." And still later, John would receive
a vision of the glory of this Lamb: "And I saw between the throne...and
the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain...and I looked, and I heard the
voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the
elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of
thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and
blessing.' And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and
under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and
glory and dominion forever and ever.' " It is fitting--is it not?--that
the only two apostles who wrote about Jesus as the Lamb are the very two
He sent to prepare the Passover lamb that day. The powerful significance
of the Passover feast was not lost on Peter and John.
After Jesus had died, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pontius Pilate to ask
for His body. Pilate was surprised, Mark tells us, to hear that Jesus had
died so quickly. Part of the humiliation and agony of crucifixion was that
it generally took two or three days for a crucified man to die. Jesus was
a young man, accustomed to the strenuous walking required to travel by foot
around Palestine. How is it that He died in such a short time?
Looking at the feast calendar we can see that according to Judean reckoning,
the 15th of Nisan would begin at sundown on the day that Jesus died. Beginning
at dusk on Friday and continuing until dusk on Saturday, this day would
normally have been a Sabbath. But this year, in addition, it was the first
day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23 stipulated the First
Day of Unleavened Bread as a day of rest regardless of which day of the
week it fell upon. When it fell upon a Sabbath, the Sabbath was considered
to be a high Sabbath, all the more holy. If Joseph of Arimathea was anxious
to get the Lords body down and buried before the start of the Sabbath, how
much more anxious was Jesus not to break the Sabbath, even in death! Jesus
indeed rested during this Sabbath, His body remaining undisturbed and undecaying
in the tomb.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is commemorative of the haste of Israel's
flight from Egypt. It reminded them that they were God's chosen people,
that they were set apart by Him for His purposes. Leaven became a symbol
of the evil, corrupt world they had left behind in Egypt. We can see why
this was so. If you have ever baked bread, you know that a very little bit
of yeast has a profound effect on a very large batch of dough. The process
of fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas that causes the dough to rise.
To the Jewish mind, this fermentation was
a form of decay, and decay suggested uncleanness and corruption. This, for example, is why the Levitical priests were
forbidden from offering any leaven or honey--both are capable of fermenting
. We can see why
it was particularly scandalous and infuriating to the religious leaders
of the day when Jesus said "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the
Pharisees and Sadducees." 
The Jews celebrated this feast by abstaining for seven days from eating
leavened bread. In fact, the presence of leaven in the house was not to
be tolerated during the week of Unleavened Bread. Alfred Edersheim offers
"Then the head of the house was to search with a lighted
candle all the places where leaven was usually kept, and to put what of
it he found in the house in a safe place, whence no portion could be carried
away by accident. Before doing this, he prayed: 'Blessed art Thou, Jehovah,
our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments,
and commanded us to remove the leaven.' And after it he said: 'All the leaven
that is in my possession, that which I have seen and that which I have not
seen, be it null, be it accounted as the dust of the earth.' The search
itself was to be accomplished in perfect silence and with a lighted candle....Jewish
tradition sees a reference to this search with candles in Zeph. 1:12: And
it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles."
If you had been one of Jesus's followers, contemplating the Feast in this
year, your mind might have gone back to the last Feast of Unleavened Bread
you celebrated with your master the year before. On that occasion, a crowd
some five thousand strong had followed Jesus, and He had fed them all miraculously
from five barley loaves and two fishes. The next day, He taught them saying:
"'Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has
given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the
true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down
out of heaven, and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life; he
who comes to Me shall not hunger...' " 
On that last night you shared together, during the Passover meal, Jesus
had taken some of the unleavened bread used in the ceremony and declared:
"This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of
Me." Perhaps it did not strike you until now that not only was He the
Passover Lamb, but that He also was Unleavened Bread--His body was pure,
without sin, unleavened, now broken that the leaven might be removed from
your own life. Years later, the Apostle Paul would write to the sin-riddled
church at Corinth, exhorting them to put the old life behind and live in
the reality of the new, saying:
"Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole
lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump [of
dough], just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover has
been sacrified. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven,
nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth." 
Christ's death broke the power of sin to compel us to do evil. His sending
of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us enables us to live righteously. Thus
we are able to lay aside the old self and put on the new self, in the words
of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Throughout his letters, Paul exhorts
us to search out the sin (leaven) in our own lives and rid ourselves of
it. Would that we were as diligent in this task as the Jews of old were
in expunging leaven from their households!
If you had been a follower of Jesus's you would have rested on Saturday,
the 15th of Nisan. This year, as we mentioned, it was both the normal weekly
Sabbath and the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was observed
as a day of rest. On Sunday, the 16th of Nisan, you would be permitted to
do work again. Indeed, you'd have needed to, since you were required to
harvest the first sheaf of your barley crop and bring it to the Temple as
a wave offering. Leviticus 23 reads:'
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the
sons of Israel, and say to them, "When you enter the land which I am
going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf
of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the
sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath
the priest shall wave it. '"
When the Hebrew people came into the Promised Land, they had to learn to
be farmers. They were dependent on God for their survival. God instituted
this feast in order to remind them of His goodness to them and their dependence
upon Him. They were to take the very first portion of that which was raised
up out of the ground and offer it in worship to God, demonstrating His position
of pre-eminence in their lives.
Early the morning of that particular First Fruits, Mary Magdelene and the
other Mary came to Jesus's grave. Because Jesus had been hastily placed
in the tomb at around dusk on Friday in order to avoid violating the Sabbath,
His body had not been fully anointed and spiced in the Jewish custom, and
Luke tells us that it was for this purpose that the Marys came to the tomb.
We all know the glorious story, told at every Easter service around the
world, of what they found-or rather, didn't-when they arrived at the tomb.
The body was gone--Jesus had risen from the dead!
How could you be a Jew, how could you be one of Jesus's followers, and not
catch the powerful symbolism? Jesus had predicted His own death, foretold
that He would rise again in three days, and promised to bring eternal life
to all who believed in Him. He told His disciples that He would be the first
to rise from the dead, and that those who believed in Him would follow.
And rise He did, the First Fruits of a great harvest to be brought up from
the ground, on the very day which God had decreed to celebrate new life
and give thanks for it.
On this day, as we had said, every Jew was supposed to offer the first portion
of what had been planted and raised up out of the ground. Jesus was not
a farmer in the business of raising crops, but He was in the business of
raising up something else that had been planted in the ground--namely, people.
Thus, in Matthew 27 we find this fascinating statement: "...the
tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were
raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered
the holy city and appeared to many." To others, this might seem
a strange occurrence indeed--but to you, a disciple of Jesus, you recognize
it to be the First Fruits offering of the Resurrected Lord.
Later, you might read the words of Paul on this subject and look forward
with confidence to your own harvest:
"But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first
fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man
also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also
in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the
first fruits, after that, those who are Christs at His coming."
So far, we have seen the fulfillment of the prophetic nature of three
of the feasts of Israel. What about the other four? Briefly, the next feast
in the sequence is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. On Pentecost of the
year that Christ died, the Holy Spirit was sent, as Christ had promised,
to indwell those who believe in Him (Acts 2). Historically, the Law was
given by God on Mt. Sinai on the day on which Pentecost was later celebrated
. In fulfillment
of this feast, the Spirit was sent so that the Law might be written on the
human heart (Jeremiah 31), rather than on tablets of stone.
The remaining feasts will be fulfilled when Christ comes again. The Feast
of Trumpets corresponds to His return, when He will descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.
The Day of Atonement corresponds to Christ's judgment of the sins of the
world. Finally, the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) corresponds to Christ's
millenial reign when He will dwell with His people .
The festivals that God established so that His people might honor Him were
perfectly observed by and in His Son. Although God's ordinances have so
often been perverted by man's tendency to focus on form over substance,
as Paul wrote to the Colossians:
"Let no one act as your judge...in respect to a festival
or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is
to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." 
That which the festivals suggested symbolically Christ has given true substance,
and accomplished on our behalf in history and in the future to come. And
that is a glorious reason to celebrate in the Spring.
1. . W. E. Vine,
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Old
Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1981), Vol. 2, 14-15.
2. Carl Sagan, "In
The Valley Of The Shadow," Parade Magazine, March 10, 1996,
3. Alfred Edersheim,
The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson,
4 /A>. Richard Booker,
Jesus in the Feasts of Israel, (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing,
5. Harold W. Hoehner,
"Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Part IV: The Day of Christ's
Crucifixion," Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 131, No. 523, 241 (1974).
6. Josephus comments
that in a Passover celebration shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem
(70 A.D.), the number of Paschal lambs sacrificed was recorded as 265,000.
7. Alfred Edersheim,
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, (Hendrickson Publishers,
Inc.: 1993), 810.
8. Ibid, 810-811.
9. Ibid, 811.
10. The fermentation
process is now known to be caused by an enzyme in the yeast. In fact, the
word enzyme comes from the Greek for "in leaven".
11. . Merrill F. Unger,
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 766.
12. Leviticus 2:11
13. Matthew 16:6
14. Edersheim, The
15. John 6:32-35
16. 1 Corinthians
17. 1 Corinthians
18. Edward Chumney,
The Seven Festivals of the Messiah, (Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House,
19. To quote Ron
Ritchie, "This is a deep well, and I have a small bucket and a
short rope." The study of the typology of the Feasts of Israel is a
fascinating one, and if you are interested in seeing how Christ's return
will fulfill the remaining feasts in the calendar, I recommend the books
listed in the notes, and, in addition: John (not Ron) Ritchie, The Feasts
of Jehovah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1982), C. W. Slemming, Thus
Shalt Thou Serve, (Ft. Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade,
1966), and Zola Levitt, The Seven
Feasts of Israel, booklet and tape.
20. Colossians 2:16-17.
http://www.artidzo.org/ (Bill Risk's Web site)
May 29, 1996.