Jewish Feasts
In the Old Testament, God instituted a religious calendar for the Israelites to follow. Within each year, there were seven specified feasts (Lev. 23), four in the spring and three each fall. Through these feasts, the Jewish people celebrated their history, their faith, and the blessings of God. Through Jesus’ life, the hope of each feast was fulfilled in a dramatic way.
Passover

Why
To remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, when God passed over Israelite children and killed the firstborn of every Egyptian family.

When
In the spring, on the 14th day of the 1st month

What Happened

Most Jews traveled to Jerusalem for celebration of Passover. Each family brought a spotless lamb to the Temple for sacrifice. These lambs reminded the Israelites of the lamb that was eaten on the night they were delivered from Egypt. The lamb also reminded Israelites of the blood price that must be paid for their sin.

Connection to Jesus

Luke 2 records the story of Jesus and his family traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Jesus slaughtered the family’s lamb, an action that meant he was recognized as a responsible member of the spiritual community. Later, Jesus died on the cross at the exact moment of the Passover sacrifice. Like the Passover lamb, none of his bones were broken, and his blood made the final atonement for the sins of the world.

Unleavened Bread

Why

To remember the escape from Egypt and God’s provision of bread from the earth

When

In the spring, on the 15th day of the 1st month >

What Happened

The feast began by offering the first sheaf of grain to God through a special ceremony in the Temple sanctuary (Lev. 23:10-11). Another aspect of this feast involved the baking of unleavened bread, called matzo. God commanded that the Israelites eat only unleavened bread for seven days after Passover as a reminder of their sudden deliverance from Egypt, when their bread literally had no time to rise.

Connection to Jesus

Jesus burial coincided with the offering of the first grain. During his ministry Jesus described himself as “the bread of life. In God’s faithfulness, he provided the true “Bread of Life” from the earth by raising Jesus’ body from the grave.

First Fruits

Why

To celebrate God’s gift of harvest

When

In the spring, 15th day of 1st month

What Happened

Israelites sacrificed the first part of their harvest, flocks, and earned money in recognition that God was the giver of every good thing. The people also acknowledged God’s ownership of the land by bringing seven fruits to the Temple. One of these fruits included the pomegranate, a crop easily destroyed by foul weather. By giving these first fruits to God, the Israelites expressed their dependence on him and their trust that he would provide the rest of the harvest.

Connection to Jesus

The Feast of First Fruits coincided with Jesus’ resurrection. When Jesus’ followers returned to the tomb on the morning of the celebration, it was open and empty. Jesus became the first fruits of those raised from the dead

Shavuot

Other Names

The Feast of Weeks

Why

Thanksgiving for the end of harvest and the anniversary of receiving the Law

When

50 days after Passover

What Happened

Joyful crowds gathered on the Southern Stairs, brought their offerings of wheat to the Temple, and celebrated the good harvest God had given. In Jewish tradition, true thankfulness to God was best shown by giving to others. So when the grain was harvested, the corners of the field were left standing to be gleaned by the poor. The people also celebrated the giving of the Law. This ritual paralleled Israel’s history, which began with deliverance from Egypt on Passover and concluded when they received the Law.

Connection to Jesus

Shavuot coincides with Pentecost. Some scholars believe that the arrival of the Holy Spirit may have taken place on the Temple’s Southern Stairs where the pilgrims gathered. Luke 24:53 states that the disciples remained in the Temple every day after Jesus’ ascension to praise God. Peter was enabled to speak many languages, which would have made the gospel understandable to the people of varying backgrounds who traveled to Jerusalem for Shavuot

Rosh Hashana

Why

To prepare for God’s judgment

When

In the fall, on the 1st day of the 7th month

What Happened

Rosh Hashana celebrated the beginning of a new religious year. The people celebrated by attending religious services and considering God’s sovereignty and his future day of judgment. The shofar was blown-a sound that reminded Jewish people of their ancient past, God’s great power, and their call for faithfulness in his coming judgment.

Connection to Jesus

Jesus, in keeping with this tradition, described a coming judgment that will be announced by the blowing of the shofar (Matt. 24:31).

Yom Kippur

Why

A day for the nation to seek forgiveness. God passed judgment of the people onto a scapegoat

When

In the fall, 10th day of the 7th month

What Happened

In preparation for Yom Kippur, the people fasted as a form of self-denial, repentance, and confession of sin before God. On the feast day, a priest entered the Most Holy Place and God appeared in a cloud over the ark of the covenant. Blood from sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the Most Holy Place and the altar to atone for the sins of priests. The high priest then placed his hands on the head of a scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. Subsequently, the scapegoat was taken out into the wilderness to die, symbolizing that God had forgiven the people’s sins.

Connection to Jesus

The New Testament describes how the Day of Atonement applies to the death of Jesus: Jesus’ blood, instead of the blood of the goat, now symbolizes atonement (Heb. 9:11-14). The death of Jesus fulfilled the ancient role of the scapegoat; through Jesus’ death, sins are truly forgiven.

Sukkoth

Other Names

Feast of Tabernacles

Why

To remember when the Jewish people lived in the wilderness before entering Canaan.

When

In the fall, on the 15th day of the 7th month.

What Happened

God commanded that booths be constructed to remind the Israelites of their history of wilderness living. The Israelites ate their meals and prayed in these booths for seven days as a reminder of God’s protective care. Succoth took place at the end of the dry season and was coupled with a water ceremony and fervent prayer for next year’s rains. Solomon dedicated the Temple during Sukkoth as a fitting picture of God coming to live among his people.

Connection to Jesus

In the context of Succoth, Jesus dramatically presented his message. On the “last and greatest day of the Feast,” in the midst of the water ceremony and prayers for God to send water, Jesus proclaimed, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37-38). Some scholars also believe Jesus was born around Sukkoth, which would be a fitting picture of Jesus “tabernacling” among his people.

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