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Seven Holy Feasts of the Jews
1. THE FEAST OF PASSOVER (Leviticus 23:5)
Passover was established during the tenth plague, in which Pharoah was finally persuaded to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. God's avenging angel killed the firstborn in each Egyptian household, but he passed over the homes of the Jews. The Jews had been instructed to mark their door-posts with the blood of a lamb ("without blemish, a male..." Exodus 12:5). The blood of the lamb would deliver them from slavery. It was their mark of redemption.
This principle is also dramatically true in Christianity. The blood of Christ, our Lamb, delivers us from slavery to sin. Paul refers to the Lord as "Christ our Passover" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
It is remarkable that the Jewish nation missed this fulfillment of their feast. John the Baptist tried valiantly to communicate this truth about Christ when he introduced Him. John did not say "Behold the Son of God" or "Behold the Savior of the world;" rather, he said pointedly "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
This must have held quite a bit of meaning for the Jews present with John as he baptized. But many later missed the point.
Significantly, the Lord was crucified exactly on Passover day, 14 Nisan. The night before, while Christ was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, He lifted the wine and said, "For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
Those Jews, the Lord's own disciples, surely understood the imagery there, but most Jews today continue to celebrate Passover in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. Though this was perfectly proper before the Messiah's coming, it is tragically inappropriate now that the feast has been fulfilled.
Passover, then, is the first of the feasts, the first one given and the first one fulfilled.
2. THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD (Leviticus 23:6)
The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the day following Passover. Nisan, the first month (which contains the first three feasts), corresponds to late March or early April on our Julian caalendar.
God commanded the Jews to eat only pure, unleavened bread during this week, for leaven symbolized sin and evil. As sin corrupts and permeates the human condition, so leaven corrupts and permeates bread dough.
The Apostle Paul developed this symbol further when he urged Christians to "purge out the old leaven" by purifying themselves (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The Jews today conduct a ceremony of ridding their homes of leaven in order to sanctify the dwellings for Passover. The father of the house hides bread crumbs and cookie particles on bookshelves and window sills, and the children come running to find them. When they discover the hidden leaven they shout for father. He comes with a feather and a wooden spoon, sweeping the crumbs into the spoon with the feather and ceremonially throwing them out the window.
The fulfillment of this Biblical type in Christ emphasizes the Lord's body. At His Passover table He took the unleavened bread and called it His body, even as He afterward referred to the wine as His blood. The bread makes an excellent symbol of His body: it is striped, pierced, and pure. Because of the way the unleavened bread is prepared (without fat or any rising agent), it bears stripes from the grill, and it must be pierced to cook through.
During the actual Passover meal, the Jews perform a unique ceremony with the unleavened bread. They place three pieces of it in one little stack. Then they take out the middle piece (the Son in the triune Godhead) and break it. ("This is my body, broken for you"). Next, they wrap the broken piece in white linen and hide it or bury it.
They bring this broken piece out again and eat it while drinking the third cup of wine, the "Cup of Redemption."
Incredibly, most Jews have failed to see the gospel in this ceremony repeated every year on the anniversary of Christ's crucifixion!
God performed the exact fulfillment of this ceremony with the unleavened Bread of Life, giving to all of us the Cup of Redemption.
3. THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS (Leviticus 23:10)
The feast of thanksgiving for a bountiful land occurs on Sunday ("the morrow after the Sabbath") during the Week of Unleavened Bread. The Israeli farmers were to bring the initial yield of their spring barley crop to Jerusalem, where a priest would wave these firstfruits before the House of the Lord.
This was most clearly fulfilled by Jesus, who was resurrected on the Sunday during the week of Unleavened Bread. Paul explains: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive [resurrected]. But every man in his own order: Christ for the firstfruits, and afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:22,23).
Seven Feasts continued