THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS
THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS
The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil-an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma-and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. Leviticus 23:9-14
The LORD (Yehovah) commanded that the Israelites were to bring an annual offering on the first day of the week (the day after the high Sabbath) each year as they celebrated the Passover in the Promised Land. This celebration of Firstfruits included an offering which focused upon the first grain harvested in the spring. Every adult male was to bring a sheaf of the barley harvest as a wave offering. This sheaf was waved in six directions: north, south, east, west, up and down, to signify the omnipresence of God. This act was to recognize that the God of Israel was the author and sustainer of life.
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:23-24
The winter is the season when annual plants die and the land looks barren. Spring, on the other hand, speaks of new life. Jesus used this symbolism to illustrate death and resurrection. The New Covenant was instituted at the Passover. Jesus was entombed during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The third Festival of the LORD – The Feast of Firstfruits, not only was a time for thanking God as the sustainer of life, but also foreshadowed the resurrection of the Messiah of Israel.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words. Luke 24:1-8
The seventh day of the week is the regular weekly Sabbath. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is an additional or high Sabbath that is observed during Passover. Crucified on the weekly Sabbath, Jesus was raised from the dead on the day after this special second Sabbath. The women went to tomb on the day after the high Sabbath which was first day of the week. Jesus arose on the Feast of Firstfruits. The apostle Paul recognized that the Messiah (the Christ) was the fulfillment of this ordinance that was given to Israel.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
While Jesus of Nazareth was not an Essene, the Passover before his crucifixion apparently occurred in an Essene community. The literary evidence is found in the gospels of Luke and Mark. Both state that on the day of the slaughtering of the Passover lambs, which would have been Nisan 14, Jesus instructed Peter and John to enter Jerusalem, presumably through the Gate of the Essenes, and to look for a man carrying a pitcher of water (Luke 22:8-10, Mark 14:13). They were to follow him to where he entered a house and there to inquire of the owner of the house about the guest room where Jesus was to eat the Passover with his disciples.
Jesus said "He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there" (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12). In this ancient culture, the carrying of water in jars to homes was the chore of children and women, not Jewish men. However, an Essene man, typically a celibate monastic, would carry water as a chore since an Essene conclave would have been absent children and women to perform this menial task. The two made final arrangements for the Passover Supper.
In order to reduce the power of the High Priesthood, Herod the Great appointed and dismissed many High Priests, ignoring the hereditary nature of the post. From then on, the High Priest was nothing more than a Roman underling, owing allegiance to Herod and the Roman government. Consequently those appointed priests were not true descendants of the Zadok line and therefore held in contempt by the Essenes.
The Essenes used a solar calendar so that the holidays would always fall on the same day of the week in the same month. The Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem, who were opponents of the Essenes, used a lunar calendar, with holidays falling out on different days of the week, each year. By using a different calendar from the Essenes the Priests would celebrate Passover on a different day from the Essenes.
Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover according to the Essene reckoning, which was the day before the Priests and the rest of the Judeans did.
We know Christ came to die as the Passover Lamb. Matthew 27:46 says that Jesus died at the ninth hour, which is three o'clock. He died at the exact moment when the slaughter of the Passover lambs began in the Temple. The Passover is later eaten that same evening on Nisan 14 at twilight. Since every 7th day is a weekly Sabbath on the Hebrew lunar calendar, the 14th day would be the 2nd Sabbath of the month. Therefore, Jesus was crucified on a weekly Sabbath (Saturday on the Gregorian calendar).
First Corinthians 5:7 says, "Even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us." Jesus died on the day and time the lambs were slaughtered that He might fulfill every prophecy to the letter.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour-when darkness reigns." Luke 22:52-53
The first day of the month on the Jewish calendar is when there is a New Moon. By the 14th day (Nisan 13 at twilight) there is a Full Moon. Although there was light from both a Full Moon as well as the torches of those who came to arrest Jesus, He proclaimed that there was darkness. Darkness symbolizes both sin and death. It wasn’t physical darkness but spiritual darkness that was reigning that night.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7
It was the next day (Nisan 14 – weekly Sabbath) when Jesus was flogged and crucified.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. Matthew 27:45
At 12:00 noon, the brightest hour of the day, darkness came over the land. At 3:00 pm when the lambs were being slaughtered, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and placed in his tomb.
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Matthew 27:57-59
The body had to be taken down before Saturday at twilight (Nisan 14) because the next day was a special Sabbath. There were two Sabbaths at the Passover. The seventh day Sabbath followed by first day of the seven day observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a special or high Sabbath.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40
According to Jewish custom any part of a day, however small, is included as part of a full day. Since the Jews reckoned part of a day as a full day, the "three days and three nights" could permit a crucifixion on the 7th day of the week. Jesus was placed in the tomb on the weekly Sabbath and that period was reckoned as a full day. He remained in the tomb for the entire second day during the high Sabbath. Finally, Jesus spent the evening and then rose early on the first day of the week which was reckoned as the third full day.
This phenomenon is exemplified in Scripture in the book of Esther:
"Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way," Esther 4:16
Then, in Esther 5:1 it says, "Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace."
We can see that even though the three days and nights had not been completed, Esther went in to see the King on the third day even though she said to fast for three days and nights. We see that "on the third day" is equivalent to "after three days."
The LORD'S Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD'S Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Leviticus 23:5-7
The Jewish day does not begin and end at midnight as does the secular calendar day. Midnight is not a distinguishable astronomic event. In the era before the modern clock, a specific hour of the night could not be precisely known, whereas an hour of the day was easily determined by sighting the location of the sun. Thus, the day had to begin by precise, simple and universally recognized standards. This meant that the day had to be reckoned either from the beginning of night or the beginning of day.
In Jewish time, the day begins with the onset of night (the appearance of the stars) followed by the morning (which technically begins with the appearance of the North Star). According to some Jewish teachers, night and morning begin with sunset and sunrise respectively. For that is how the Torah describes it: "And there was evening and there was morning, the first day." For this reason in modern times, the Sabbath begins on Friday night and ends with the appearance of the stars on Saturday night. The same is true for the major holidays.
The day of the Passover marked the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread. By holding a sacred assembly and doing no regular work meant that the day was to be observed as a special Sabbath. Jesus and his disciples took of the Passover meal according to the Essene calendar on the evening before the rest of the Judeans. He was crucified and placed in the tomb on the weekly Sabbath. That part of the day in the tomb was counted as a full day. He was entombed the entire day of the high Sabbath marking the 2nd full day. From the high Sabbath at twilight through the morning of the 1st day of the week was counted as the third day of Christ's death and burial. Jesus arose on the third day. Therefore, with an understanding of the Hebrew calendar and Jewish customs of Jesus' day, Scripture does not contradict itself when it declares that Jesus suffered three days and nights, yet He rose on the third day! Jesus is the Firstfruits of the Resurrection. He rose from the dead on the Day of Firstfruits.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— Romans 6:4-6
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us assurance that we who are born again by the Spirit, just like Messiah Yeshua, will be resurrected to eternal life!