Pastor Greg Scott guides us through some of our Hebrew Roots that connect the events of Passover, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. This is part three of a three-part series.
The Feast of First Fruits is known by two different Hebrew names, Reshit Katzir (which means Beginning of the Harvest) and Yom Habikkurim (The Day of First Fruits).
“And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “ – John 12:23-24
This, of course, was Yeshua prophesying His death and resurrection. He IS the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, but then later springs forth in new life and as He bursts through the soil again He bears much fruit. You and I are some of the fruit of His labors. The Apostle Paul used similar terminology in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
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 will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
Paul calls Yeshua “the FIRST fruits.” The first fruits of any harvest were just that, the choicest and best, harvested first. These first fruits were to be given to God as an offering, acknowledging that all things belong to God and we are just stewards of His universe. We talked about that a lot in our Money Matter’s series last month. That reminds me of a story where God was once approached by a scientist who said, “God, we don’t need you anymore. We can do everything you can do.” God says, “Really? Do tell.” The scientist says we can now clone humans, make human life just like you did.” and God said “Wow, that’s great. Let’s both make a human being with nothing but the dust of the earth right now. You go first.” So the scientist agreed and reached down to grab a handful of dirt and God stops him and says, “Whoa not so fast, use your own dirt.”
When we read the Old Testament, we see that when it came to animals, the firstborn of every animal was to be sacrificed to God as a first fruits offering. All the other offspring of the animal the person could keep. But the firstfruits belonged to God. This was true of humans as well. The firstborn male offspring belonged to God. However, when this law applied to humans, because God is opposed to human sacrifice, He allowed for an animal to be substituted for the firstborn human male of each family.
It was referred to as being redeemed or purchased back from God. Your life, as the first fruits of your parents, belonged to God but He allowed that life to be purchased back, redeemed, by the blood of a sacrificed animal. This same principle applied to plant harvests as well. The first fruits always belonged to God and He allowed us to keep the rest, even though it really ALL belonged to Him. When you get that, it really changes your mindset about tithing. It stops being an obligation or a burden and you realize it is actually an opportunity to worship and glorify God and to become more like Him, a great giver.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the first harvest of the Jewish year and it was the barley harvest. Like all harvests a first fruits offering was required for this harvest but this was the first harvest of the religious year so this first fruits offering got it’s own feast distinction. Even though it has it’s own distinction as it’s own Feast, it actually occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So, you’ve got Passover preparation day, the passover event sedar meal, starting the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then on the Sunday that fell within the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, that was this day, the Feast of First Fruits. The year Yeshua was crucified and resurrected, Sunday just happened to fall on the second day of unleavened bread, the third day of the overarching 8 days of passover. I’ll say a little more about the Third Day in a minute. That’s why over time the Jews eventually came to think of all three of these feasts as one continuous feast they now call Passover, but originally, they were three separate but very closely linked divine appointments, dress rehearsals.
When we remember that all these festivals were mo’ed, divine appointments, dress rehearsals for the revealing of their ultimate meaning, it doesn’t surprise us that this one occurs related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua. Let’s look at Leviticus 23:9-14 where God gives the command for this particular festival to be observed.
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. 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 drink offering, 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. – Leviticus 23:9-14
So, God tells Moses to “bring in the sheaf of the first fruits to the priest.” The priest will wave this sheaf around in the air, much in the way we might wave our hands in worship. He waves it in all directions to show that God is the King of the Universe and everything, in all directions, belongs to Him. Now, what is a sheaf? Well, a sheaf is just a group of grain stalks, as small as a handful or a big group of stalks, as big as a person or bigger, that are bundled together, like a bouquet of flowers but this is kind of a bouquet of grain.
When we read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, we see that he had a prophetic dream one time where he was a sheaf of grain. In his dream all of his brothers were also sheaves of grain and they all came and bowed down to him. So this is just one example from Scripture where sheaves are used symbolically to represent people. Just like matza, we will see that this Feast of First Fruits sheaf has always been a symbol for Yeshua as well. How many of you may remember the old hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves?” The chorus goes: Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves; The song talks about sowing seeds of kindness for the Master and then as the seeds grow and the harvest is ready, we bring in the sheaves to the Master. It was written by this guy Nowell Shaw who was inspired to write the hymn by Psalm 126:6 which says:
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. – Psalm 126:6
So this is ultimately talking about planting the seeds of the Gospel and seeing a harvest come from that planting. Just like Yeshua’s parable of the sower right? Some of the seed fell on good soil and produced a great harvest. Yeshua says the seed represents the Word of God and the harvest is a harvest of souls for God, people who are granted eternal life. So, back to this festival God-ordained called the Feast of First Fruits.
He says no one can continue to harvest, prepare or eat any of the barley grain of this harvest until after the sheaf of firstfruits is waved before the Lord. Let’s talk for a few minutes about how this wave offering was historically practiced by the High Priest. As the Sabbath Day was ending, Saturday night at sunset on the Sabbath and the Day of First Fruits was beginning, the High Priest would send out a delegation into the nearby barley fields and they would grab a sheaf of barley grain and bring it back to the temple in preparation for the wave offering which would happen at 9am the coming morning, during the daily morning sacrifice on the Feast of First Fruits.
Now, remember, the Jewish day starts and ends at sunset. I know this can be a little confusing, so I want to go slow and make sure you really get this. Let’s say sunset is 6:40pm, that’s about when it is happening here this time of year. So, at 6:39pm Saturday, it is still the Sabbath day, what we would call Saturday. Then the sun sets at 6:40pm and NOW it is the day after the Sabbath Day, it is the first day of the week to the Jews. We call it Sunday. Even though, at 6:41pm we would say “It is still Saturday night.” But for the Jews it is viewed as the first minutes of Sunday, the first day of the week. You follow me? So, technically, anything after 6:40pm, after sunset, on that Sabbath day, is considered the Feast of First Fruits and is considered the first day of the week. Now, when was Yeshua resurrected? Most people tend to answer at dawn, at daybreak on Easter Sunday morning. That’s our tradition in the church right?
That tradition of the resurrection happening right at dawn, including the idea of a sunrise watching for the coming dawn, actually comes from the merging of the resurrection celebration with the pagan festival that worshiped the fertility goddess Eostre, the goddess of the dawn. That’s why our secular celebrations include bunnies and colored eggs too by the way. That ancient pagan feast to Eostre was scheduled to begin at sunrise on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurred on or after the Spring equinox. Sound familiar? That’s when Easter appears each year on our Gregorian calendar. So, as a result, sometimes we celebrate Easter, the resurrection, a month before we celebrate Passover, the crucifixion. Isn’t that crazy?
The same thing happened with Christmas when the Roman empire and Roman church merged the pagan feast of Saturnalia with Christianity. Saturnalia was a festival of lights in honor of the Roman god Saturn held in the days leading up to the winter solstice where they celebrated the birthday of the Unconquerable Sun (spelled s.u.n.) on December 25th when the darkest, shortest day of the year turned and light began to increase again towards spring. This pagan feast was merged with Christian’s desire to honor the birth of the Messiah, the unconquerable Son (s.o.n.) of God, the light of the world who shines in the darkness. I’ve shared many times Yeshua was NOT born on December 25th and his birth had nothing to do with evergreen trees, holly bushes, mistletoe, etc. He was actually born on the first night of the Feast of Sukkot which occurs on September 20th this year. I say a lot more about this in my Divine Appointments series on the website.
To merge the pagans into the new religion of the Roman empire, things were mixed together to try to make everyone happy. That happened with Easter and the resurrection as well. Dawn was a big deal in the worship of Eostre but is that when Yeshua resurrected as well? What does the Scripture actually SAY about WHEN Yeshua was resurrected? Last Sunday we looked at the Gospel account of the women going to the tomb on the day we would call Easter Sunday. Does it say what TIME the resurrection occurred? Does it SAY it happened at sunrise? Would you be surprised to learn that NONE of the four Gospels tells us? In fact, all four give a slightly different description of the events surrounding the arrival of the women at the tomb.
Matthew says “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.” And Matthew mentions one angel who announces Yeshua has risen. Mark says “ Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” Mark also says there was an angel inside the tomb who announced to them that Yeshua was already risen. Luke says “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” Luke mentions two angels being present when one of them gives the announcement that Yeshua has risen. Finally, John says “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark.” And John doesn’t mention an angel at all. So, when we put all four accounts together, what we know is this. The women arrived at the tomb AROUND sunrise.
However, sometime before the women arrived an earthquake had occurred and at least one angel showed up and rolled the stone away from the tomb and sat on top of it. The guards who witnessed this were terrified and evidently passed out in their fear. We don’t know specifically at what time this occurred. We only know that it had already happened by the time the women arrived at the tomb. When the women arrive, they see two angels in the open tomb and one of them speaks to them and tells them Yeshua has already risen, He is not there.
Again, John tells us the women left home while it was still dark and the other gospels tell us they reached the tomb right at sunrise. Maybe a few minutes before. Maybe a few minutes after. Maybe right at sunrise. That doesn’t matter because one thing is certain according to all four accounts. By the time the women arrive at the tomb the reports of the angels is the same. Yeshua has ALREADY risen sometime BEFORE they arrived. Did he rise five minutes before they arrived? An hour before? Five hours before? It doesn’t specifically say. We do know that He rose “on the first day of the week,” but as we’ve just said, the first day of the week, for the Jews, started at sunset on what we would call Saturday night. So, all we really know for certain by the Scriptures account is that Yeshua rose from the dead sometime AFTER Sunset on Saturday night and sometime BEFORE Sunrise on Sunday morning. As Gentiles who use the Gregorian calendar and a midnight to midnight clock system, we want to rule out the hours between Sunset and Midnight on the day we call Saturday. We argue, that is Saturday, not Sunday. However, the Bible doesn’t say Yeshua rose from the dead on Sunday. It says He rose on the first day of the week.
For Yeshua’s Jewish culture, those hours between Sunset and Midnight were counted as part of the first day of the week. So, think about this, if Yeshua rose from the dead say, at 7pm on what we would call Saturday night, He still rose from the dead in the early minutes of what the ancient Jews would have called the first day of the week. I know this is a little confusing but if you can keep this straight in your mind, it makes a big difference in understanding our Hebrew roots. Yeshua made MANY predictions that He would rise “On The Third Day.” Now, there is one troubling passage that differs from all the rest. In Matthew 12:40 Yeshua says
For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. ~ Matthew 12:40
I’ve shared how ancient Jews counted any part of a day as a whole day. So Yeshua was dead part of Friday day, all that night, all of Saturday day, and some part of Saturday night. That’s two days and two nights. Even if we assume He rose AFTER sunrise on Sunday, which, by the way, I will argue that He actually rose BEFORE sunrise in a minute, that’s still, AT BEST, three days and two nights, STILL NOT three days and three nights. So what do we do with that problem passage? Well, when Luke records this same conversation it goes down differently. He writes:
For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation. ~ Luke 11:30
Here, Yeshua doesn’t spell out the three days and three nights. He just refers to the sign of Jonah. Which, actually could refer to several things but we presume it means swallowed up by a fish (or the grave in Yeshua’s case) and presumed dead, only to appear alive days later. So Yeshua may have just been being poetic, using a turn of a phrase, a figure of speech, and Matthew wrote it down while Luke skipped it. However, because Luke records the conversation without the days and nights reference, and other than Matthew, every reference is just to “On the Third Day” and the obvious problem with the number of days and nights not working out anyway, some scholars say – and I agree – Yeshua probably only mentioned the sign of Jonah. Then Matthew – or some later scribe – tried to help fill in the blanks with the extra details of three days and three nights. Perhaps they embellished, even though Yeshua never said that. Again, our understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture is that it is inerrant in its original manuscripts. While 99% of the copies we have are identical over the many years they were copied by hand, there are a few differences and discrepancies. Other than this one problematic account in Matthew 12:40 that makes no sense, in EVERY OTHER PLACE of Scripture, Yeshua never said “I will be dead for three days.” Instead, He always said “On the third day I will rise.” He DID in fact do THAT.
He’s not dead for three days and three nights but He DOES rise on the third day of the Feast of Passover. That third day also happened to be the Feast of First Fruits that year. If First Fruits (the Sunday that occurs during Unleavened Bread) if that Sunday had been several days later that year after Passover, I think Yeshua would have said “On the fifth day I will rise, or on the sixth day, I will rise.” You follow me?
That is the TRUE meaning of His prediction that He would rise on the THIRD DAY, not I will rise 72 hours after I die. Now, with all that in mind, remember again that we’ve said Yeshua fulfilled the true meaning of the Passover Dress Rehearsal not only to the exact day but also to the exact hours. We’ve talked about how He entered Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan through the Messianic Gate at the same time as the other passover lambs were entering through the Sheep Gate. On Passover preparation day, the 14th of the month, the day the lambs are to be slain, we’ve talked about how He was sent to be crucified at 9am at the same time the morning sacrifice occurred. We talked about how the sky turned dark at noon at the same time the noon prayers were happening at the temple. We talked about how he died at 3pm, the same time the evening sacrifice was happening at the temple.
We talked about how he was buried and sealed in the tomb just before the start of the 15th. They wanted Him buried before sunset when the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. So, while it isn’t specifically spelled out for us in Scripture, here is something that makes sense to me. It’s an intuitive thing. I know this is kind of complicated so let me hit it again for you. We know that the High Priest would send out his delegation just after Sunset on the weekly seventh-day Sabbath that occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, what we would call Saturday night. So, since it happens after sunset, by Jewish Calendar reckoning, this is in the first few minutes of the day AFTER the Sabbath, also known as the first day of the week and in this case it is the day of the Feast of First Fruits as well.
This group of priests would go out into a nearby field and reach down into the soil and pluck up a barley sheaf, a few handfuls, the firstfruits wave sheaf. By getting there after sunset right in the early part of the Feast of First Fruits Day, while it was still dark, they could be sure this was indeed the FIRST Fruits of the harvest. So, think about this possibility for a moment. Doesn’t it make sense for this to also be the same time God the Father reached down into the soil of the tomb and plucked Yeshua, the First Fruits, from the soil, from the tomb? Paul tells us clearly Yeshua IS the First Fruits of the harvest of God. He fulfilled the exact time and day of the Passover. He would fulfill the exact time and day of First Fruits as well. Shortly after Sunset on the Sabbath, in the early moments of the First Day of the Week, of the Day of the Feast of First Fruits, on the THIRD DAY of Passover, Yeshua is resurrected.
I can’t prove it of course, but no one can disprove it either. It makes sense to me and it still fits with what Scripture ACTUALLY SAYS, that Yeshua rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on the THIRD DAY. That’s all true. Then, several hours later, 10-12 hours later, at sunrise, around 6am probably, the women arrive at the tomb and find that the stone has already been moved away. The body is already gone and the angels tell them they shouldn’t be looking for the living among the dead, that Yeshua isn’t here, He has already risen from the dead. Now, John’s Gospel also tells us that soon after her encounter with the angels in the tomb Mary also encounters Yeshua. She mistakes him for a gardener at first but then He helps her recognize Him.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” – John 20:16-17
Mary was evidently so overjoyed to see Him that she was hugging him and holding Him, not willing to let go of Him or lose sight of Him again. The last time she saw Him He was dead and she doesn’t want to lose Him again. Now, remember that the High Priest is to take the barley sheaf of the first fruits that was harvested from the ground just after sunset the night before, and wave it before the Lord during the morning sacrifice at 9am. He is also supposed to offer an unblemished lamb, oil, flour and wine at this sacrifice. This collection of sacrificed items is very different from the normal morning sacrifice but all these symbols are familiar to us now yeah?
The unblemished lamb? We know that represents Yeshua, the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. The flour of course reminds us of matzo bread. We’ve studied how Scripture often calls Yeshua the bread of life. He is the unleavened bread. He is the showbread. The bread of the presence. The manna that came down from heaven. He is the afikomen, He that is to come, that is served as broken bread at the end of the Passover, the bread Yeshua used when He said this is my body broken for you. God said in Leviticus 23 in His instructions for this Feast offering, that oil is to be mixed with the flour. Oil is often used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit throughout scripture. The Holy Spirit descended upon Yeshua at His baptism.
We know that Yeshua is full of the Holy Spirit and is going to send His Holy Spirit to the disciples soon. Fifty days from the resurrection day, Pentecost. Finally we have wine being offered. Remember the third cup of wine at the Passover, the cup of redemption, the wine Yeshua used when He referred to it as His blood, the blood of the new covenant. So, put all that together, the lamb, the wine, the flour, the oil, the sheaf of firstfruits, at this special morning sacrifice at 9am on the Feast of First Fruits and it all just SCREAMS Yeshua doesn’t it?
The priest waves the first fruit sheave of the harvest before God, that’s Yeshua! The sacrificed lamb is offered to God. That’s Yeshua! The unleavened flour mixed with oil is offered to God. That’s Yeshua, full of the Holy Spirit! And the wine is offered, that’s Yeshua’s blood of the New Covenant! The New Covenant has now begun. Now, remember, sometime shortly after sunrise, Mary finally encounters Yeshua and He tells her not to cling to Him, because He has to go somewhere. He still has to ascend to the Father. Why? And why hasn’t He already done that? Again, it isn’t expressly stated in Scripture but when we properly understand our Hebrew Roots, that all of these feasts, these Mo’ed, were all dress rehearsals pointing to Yeshua HaMaschiach, Jesus the Messiah, it is SO clear! He was waiting to ascend to the Father until 9am, the time of the morning sacrifice, the time of the First Fruits offering.
At the SAME TIME the Jewish High Priest was presenting the Wave Offering of the First Fruits before God in the earthly temple, that’s exactly when Yeshua, our First Fruits, our Permanent High Priest, would present Himself as the first fruits wave offering of the B’rit Chadisha, the New Covenant, the fulfillment of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, to His Father in the heavenly Temple. YAY GOD! WHOOP GLORY! So, let me say this again. At the SAME TIME the priests were plucking up the firstfruits offering in the field, in the first moments of the first day of the week, on the Third Day of Passover, Yeshua, our first fruits was plucked up out of the tomb by the Father. AND at the SAME TIME the high priest was waving the sheaf of the firstfruits offering in the earthly temple Yeshua was waving Himself before God the Father in the heavenly temple. That’s a WHOOP GLORY moment for sure!
Yeshua fulfilled Passover to the Day, to the very hour. Yeshua fulfilled Unleavened Bread to the day, to the very hour. And Yeshua fulfilled First Fruits, to the day, to the very hour! All three of these feasts, these divine appointments, these dress rehearsals that had been rehearsed for 1,500 years before Yeshua were now finally ultimately fulfilled by Yeshua. And it keeps getting better and better when you looking at the other four feasts of the Lord. Yeshua fulfilled Shavu’ot (what we call Pentecost) to the day and the hour as well. Yeshua will fulfill Yom Kippur, Yom Teruah and Sukkot to the very day and hour of the dress rehearsals as well when He comes again in the future.