The Biblical Feasts of Israel – 02 (First Feast – The “Feast of the “Unleavened Bread” and the “First Fruits”)
1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Lev.23:1-8 ~ “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places. 4 “These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
We looked last week at the first of the feasts of God’s people and specifically at Easter and we saw that Christ Jesus fulfilled the Passover.
Today we will look at the two sub feasts of Passover, which are part of the “First Festive Season”. These were the “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” and the “Feast of the First Fruits”.
3. THE “FEAST OF THE UNLEAVENED BREAD”:
During the first festival season of Passover, thousands of Hebrews went to Jerusalem to celebrate. There they killed and ate the ceremonial Passover lamb. We also saw that Jesus was investigated and crucified during the same festival. In fact, Jesus was crucified on the same day as the Passover lambs were slaughtered. What is even more phenomenal and amazing, is the fact that Jesus’ legs, as in the case of the Passover lamb and in contras, to the other crucified criminals were not broken. He was indeed the true Passover Lamb who died for of our sins and He had the Passover fulfilled, in full.
The eternal Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, was therefore sacrificed for everyone who believes in Him and therefore everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, has the right to be called, “child of God”. This fact is confirmed in John 1:12 ~ “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Each of us who were implanted into Christ is a child of God and has therefore been justified. We are now at peace with God. But God still wants to do more than that for us. He wants us to grow and progress on the path of holiness – be sanctified in other words. He wants us to become more and more like Jesus – He wants us to change into the image and character of Jesus Christ and He wants to start with this process right now (if He has not done so yet, or if you resisted this process previously). For this same reason, God has established two feasts, namely the “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” and the “Feast of the First Fruits”. God wanted to use these two feasts to show the Jews how He wanted to change their spiritual state as they were in a relationship with Him and walked with Him.
These two sub feasts which were celebrated at the Passover, lasted seven days
– from the 15th to the 21st of the month of Nisan (March / April). We can summarise these festivals during the Passover schematically as follows (Note: The new day according to our time schedule, started at 18:00, in other words Mondays started at 18:00 on our Sunday):
|10||Sun./Mon.||Lamb without blemish chosen on the 10th day of Nissan (5 days of investigation and preservance)||Jesus enters Jerusalem – interrogated for 5 days|
|11||Mon./Tues.||Day 2 of investigation and preservance||Day 2 of interrogation|
|12||Tues./Wed.||Day 3 of investigation and preservance||Day 3 of interrogation|
|13||Wed./Thur.||Day 4 of investigation and preservance||Day 4 of interrogation|
|14||Thurs./Fri.||Day 5 of investigation and preservance||Day 5 of interrogation|
|15||Fri./Sat.||“The Passover” – Lamb slain||Jesus crucified|
|16||Sat./Sun.||Commencement of “Feast of the Unleavened Bread”|
|17||Sun./Mon.||“Feast of the Unleavened Bread”||Jesus’ resurrection|
|18||Mon./Tues.||“Feast of the Unleavened Bread” and Feast of the First Fruits”|
|19||Tues./Wed.||“Feast of the Unleavened Bread”|
|20||Wed./Thurs.||“Feast of the Unleavened Bread”|
|21||Thurs./Fri.||“Feast of the Unleavened Bread”|
Let us turn to Lev.23:6-8 once again ~ “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
Bread without yeast is not sour, but the Jews had to eat unleavened bread during this feast. Yeast in the bread was symbolic of the Jews’ ancient way of life of bondage in Egypt. This “Festival of Unleavened Bread” was therefore a reminder of the people’s salvation and the break away from slavery in Egypt. God called His people out of Egypt in order to establish an autonomous and secluded nation for Him. This festival was intended for them, to be reminded that God had delivered them from Egypt and that their previous lives in Egypt are now part of their old life. Moses said in Ex.13: 3-8 ~ “Then Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’”
V.7 is very clear that no leavened bread shall be seen near any of the people, and that for 7 days from the 14th day of Nissan may not be eaten. The Jews took this matter so seriously (even the Orthodox Jews to this day) that for days and even weeks before the feast, would clean their houses to ensure no leaven could be found in their houses. Kitchen utensils and cutlery that might have touched leaven were cleaned properly in time, by even boiling it in water. One of the family members would scatter bread crumbs of leavened bread throughout the house to get the whole family involved in the process of cleaning. Everyone was looking for any possible crumbs anywhere in the house. At the end of the cleaning process, the father of the house would go from room to room to find the yeast. The family member who scattered the crumbs, would walk with a lit candle, guiding the father, helping him find the crumbs. When he found the leaven, he would be very careful not to touch it. Instead of picking it up with his bare hands, he would collect the crumbs by wiping it up with a feather into a wooden spoon. After all the crumbs were swept up, it was wrapped in a cloth, with the feather and the spoon, tied shut with a string. This package was then burned and buried. The family was now ready for the celebration of Passover.
This might sound very legalistic to us, but this action of the Jews should remind us of sin in our lives and the necessity of cleaning our houses, by abandoning sin from our lives.
4. JESUS FULFILS ALSO THIS FESTIVAL:
Jesus also fulfilled the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
We see in many places in the Word that yeast is used as a metaphor (i.e. as an example) to indicate sin because yeast has the ability to ferment and penetrate everywhere.
It also refers to Jesus Christ as the “Bread of Life” which came down from heaven. Jesus refers to Himself in Joh.6:32-35 as the Bread that came down from heaven when He said… ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (Joh.6:32-35).
In Joh.6:47-51 Jesus said ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
It is very important to keep in mind that Jesus was “bread without yeast.” He was in other words, without sin ~ “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 Joh.3: 5). He would not have been able to take away our sins, if He was also sinful (like us). He therefore, had to be the perfect Passover Lamb without blemish (as we’ve seen last week).
It is very clear that Jesus wanted to emphasise the fact that He is the “Bread of Life,” because through that, He demonstrated to us that he became “leavened bread” for us – “the leaven” (sin) ruled in our lives, but He, the “Unleavened Bread” took our “leaven” on Him and through His sacrificial death, our spiritual houses were cleansed of the “leaven.” He was also buried, like the burned leavened crumbs of the Jews.
When Jesus gathered with His disciples during the last Passover in the Upper Room, He also compared His body with broken bread. In Luk.22:19 we read the following of Jesus ~ “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The personal truth in regards to this “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” is that we as believers, constantly have to remove the “leaven” out of our lives – the “leaven” that was crucified and buried with Christ Jesus.
Through the “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” God demonstrated to His people how they must separate themselves and break away from their personal “Egypt”. We who have been saved from the world by the Blood of Jesus Christ, must also separate ourselves from the sin of this world. We should be in the world but not of this world, and this is done by our sanctification process.
Because Christ fulfilled both the “Passover” and the “Feast of Unleavened Bread”, we know that “Easter” to us indicates that we are justified in Jesus Christ. Christ now expects every one of His disciples to be serious about our sanctification process. We should, like Peter puts it in 1 Pet.2:11, abstain ourselves… ~ “…from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
What are these “passions of the flesh”? What are these idols of this world? Paul gives us the answer in Gal.5:19-21a ~ “…the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
When we read this passage, the question arises whether you and I are separated from this world? Did we stop to take part in the carnal desires of this world? Did we flee from the world’s idols?
Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 6:15-17 to separate ourselves from the idols of this world and resist that which is unclean, in fact he says that we need to do it quickly, because ~ “…we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” If vss.15-17 are true of us, there is a promise for us in the last part of vs.17 ~ “…then I will welcome you…” If we are obedient to this call of Paul, then Peter’s promise in 2 Pet.1:4 will be true of us ~ “…He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
God is not only interested in our justification (rebirth), or rather our position in Him, but also in our sanctification or our status. This is why Peter tells us in 1 Pet.1:16 the following ~ “Be holy because I am holy.”
5. THE “FEAST OF THE FIRST FRUITS”:
The fact that God is interested in our state, leads us to the “Festival of the First Fruits”. This festival is the third and final feast of the festive season of “Passover.”
The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” taught us to “clean our lives”, banish sin from our lives and to strive for holiness. The “Festival of the First Fruits” deal specifically with this sanctification process, or rather a holy life of devotion.
Let’s turn to Lev.23:9-14 and look at God’s command to the people with respect to this festival ~ “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest, 11and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. 13And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. 14And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
This festival was to be held on the day after the Sabbath, in other words, on the 17th day of Nissan and the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday according to our calendar. This is a very important fact, because it was on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath that followed the crucifixion of Christ, that He rose from the dead.
The purpose of the festival for the Jews was to dedicate the barley harvest to the Lord. The Lord not only gave the land to the people, but he also provided that the harvest grew. The nation was just stewards of the proceeds of the harvest. They thereby acknowledged that God is the True Giver of the crop and that the harvest actually belonged to Him.
6. CHRIST FULFILLED THE FEAST OF “THE FIRST FRUITS”:
In 1 Cor.15:20-23, Paul explains to us how Christ fulfilled the festival of the “First Fruits” ~ “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Jesus the “First Fruits” fulfilled this festival, the moment He rose from the dead. His resurrection heralded the beginning of the harvest of many souls who would be dedicated to God. Jesus was the “human sheaf” that God had chosen for the mission to conquer death and to provide eternal life to all who would believe in Him as Lord and Saviour – to such people He was the firstborn who was raised never to die again.
So, we see that Jesus was crucified and thus fulfilled the Passover. He died and was buried and thus fulfilled the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” Then He rose from the dead as firstborn, thus fulfilling the “Festival of the First Fruits”. Jesus would ascend to heaven, where he presented Himself as the Firstborn from the dead – this happened on exactly the same day, the first fruits of grain were moved before the Lord during the “Wave Sacrifice” or the “Feast of the First Fruits.”
Jesus was indeed the fulfilment of all the Old Testament feasts!
7. CLOSING AND APPLICATION:
When a wheat or barley harvest is ready to be harvested, the farmer investigates the grain and if the first sheaves are acceptable to him, then the rest of the harvest is ready and acceptable for collection. God the Father investigated the “First Sheaf” (Christ) and He was acceptable, therefore, we can be sure of the fact that He will accept us too. We, who have been implanted into Jesus Christ. Paul says in Rom.8:11 ~ “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” teaches us that we were crucified and buried with Christ, in other words, we are dead to sin and we must refrain and separate ourselves from this world – we have to lay down the old man and put on the new man.
The “Festival of the First Fruits” teaches us that our spirits were raised with Christ from the dead in similar fashion, our bodies will follow suit. We need to give ourselves to God as a living “Move Sacrifice” and in that way confirm that we belong to Him.