YESHUA AND THE SPRING FEASTS: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits
In my article “Should Gentiles Celebrate The Lord’s Feasts?” I provided evidence that the early Church celebrated the Feasts (Moadim) of the Lord. These Feasts 1 were largely lost to the Church for centuries, but are now returning, as the time of the Lord’s return approaches. While walking along the road to Emmaus, the risen Messiah, unrecognized by His own despondent disciples, strove to remove the blinders that prevented them from seeing His image portrayed throughout the Hebrew Bible. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Matthew’s gospel repeatedly uses the phrase “that it might be fulfilled what is written.” What was recorded in the Torah, prophets and Writings may have had an immediate application, but they had a consummate fulfillment in Yeshua, as well. The Seven Feasts of the Lord were given to Moses as holy convocations to be kept by Israel perpetually, “throughout their generations.”2 They were to be kept both as part of the agricultural cycle and milestones in Israel’s History, but also what we now know, to be portraits of the person and work of Messiah. 3
With this in view, I would now like to briefly examine the first three (Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits) of the four Spring Feasts, starting with Passover. According to G-d’s instructions in Exodus 23, on the 10th day of the month of Nissan each family was to take a lamb from its flock. This was to be a yearling lamb (young adult) “without spot or blemish,” pure, undefiled, and it was to be brought into the home, inspected by the community, and sacrificed by them on the 14th day. Furthermore, the blood of each lamb was to be smeared on the door posts and lintels of the house where it was to be eaten.4 That 1st Passover took place at the time of the 10th and final judgment of G-d upon the idolatrous and sinful world of Egypt. That night the Angel of Death would stalk its streets and homes, killing every firstborn man and animal, which was not found under that blood.
The lamb could not be boiled, but must be roasted thoroughly, without a bone broken. The Talmud explains how this was accomplished. The lamb was impaled on a wooden dowel and roasted upright. To assure it was thoroughly cooked the mouth was propped open with a cross-shaped piece of wood.5 The intestines, removed and wrapped around the head, was referred to as the “crowned sacrifice,”6 and the lamb as “His body of the Passover7.” Each family was to consume one lamb, along with unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. They were to remain indoors, under that blood throughout the night, but dressed and ready to depart at the Exodus.
What a strange ritual. Yet, more so, over the centuries the events in Exodus were memorialized by the Jewish people as a special ritual known as the Seder. There are 15 steps in this recounting of the Passover.8 The family is reclining around a table, with the elements of the seder (matzoh, bitter herbs, a lamb shank, etc.) set out on a ceremonial plate. Now, those first elements are joined by four cups of wine, each cup defined and consumed at the appropriate step. At the end of the table is a place set for Elijah the prophet, with his cup of wine.
Towards the beginning of the seder, the middle matzoh is removed from the remaining two matzot contained in a special bag called the “Unity.” The matzoh is held up to illustrate that it is unleavened, striped and pierced, and is now broken, with one half restored to the company of three and the other half wrapped in cloth, and hidden away, to be found at the end of the service and passed around as the final item to be eaten. The outside door is opened by a child to check if Elijah has come to herald the approach of Messiah.
In 30 A.D. the Son of G-d, heralded by John the Baptist, passed through the gates of Jerusalem on the 10th of Nissan, and fulfilled the events inherent in those Passover rituals. From the 10th to the 14th He was tested and examined, as that first Passover lamb was, by the Jewish authorities and later by the Roman procurator, and found to be pure and undefiled. At the seder table He took the matzoh and the wine and inaugurated the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah. Yeshua identifies Himself as the Lamb of G-d. The matzoh represents His body, broken for us. The wine is His blood, shed on behalf of all who flee to Him to escape the wrath of G-d’s judgment on a sinful world. The pure and Holy One is arrested, beaten and scourged (like the matzoh), a crown of thorns is pressed on His brow, and he is hung on an execution stake to take the punishment due us, while the judgment passes over our heads. That first Passover is fulfilled on yet a higher level on that night of Nissan 14, 30 AD.
But the revelation continues. The Lamb of G-d, having atoned for the sins of the world, is taken down from the cross, without a bone broken, wrapped in a burial cloth, and (like the broken piece of matzoh) placed in the earth just as the Feast of Unleavened Bread is about to start. We bless the matzoh at the seder with the words, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our G-d, Who brings forth bread from the earth.” Here, a deep saying of Yeshua is pertinent: “Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”9
On the Day following the Feast of Unleavened Bread, just as the sun was setting, G-d instructed His people to harvest a sheath of the barley which is the first crop to ripen, grind it and present unleavened barley cakes as First Fruits to G-d in His sanctuary. This sheath was offered back to G-d as a wave offering, and stood for the rest of the year’s harvest to come. In sanctifying this First Fruit unto G-d, He in turn, guaranteed His blessing on the Harvest.10 It was on this day that the Lord of Life rose from the dead as the First Fruits of the resurrection of the Righteous. In raising Yeshua from the dead, G-d acknowledged His acceptance of the atoning sacrifice, and secured the resurrection of all saints asleep in the earth.
There are many more allusions to Yeshua, but here we may see how G-d has sketched out, through the first three Festivals of the Lord, the outline of His first advent. Through these Moadim, as they are called in Hebrew, G-d inserts into His word a means of discerning the first appearance of the Messiah. The culmination of history, and the Hope to come is also to be seen in the remaining Moadim. These Festivals, faithfully preserved and kept by the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, stand as perpetual witnesses to the great hope of the Church, and for that reason alone, should be acknowledged and celebrated by Jew and Gentile alike.
- Lev 23:1-44
- Ex 12:14, Ex 31:13, Lev 23:21
- Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services at the time of Christ,( Shayna Press. Kindle Edition),
- Exodus 12:1-13
- Yaacov Culi, Maom Loez
- Talmud, Tractate Pesachim 7:2
- Talmud, Tractate Pesachim 3:10
- Wikipedia, Passover Seder, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_Seder#Order_of_the_Seder
- John 12:24
- Leviticus 23:10.