Summary: A look at how Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread by his crucifixion and burial.
Note: This sermon was a joint presentation by our two Pastors.
This year Dana and I have decided to take some time to focus on some of our rich heritage as followers of Jesus Christ. As we’ve consistently pointed out, the Bible is, from beginning to end, the account of the reconciliation of man to God through Jesus, the Messiah. And one of the ways that God chose to reveal much about the Messiah was to establish seven feasts, or festivals. Although these feasts were prescribed by God in the Old Testament, each of these feasts foreshadowed both the first and second comings of the Messiah, Jesus.
So, we’re going to take a break from our normal sermon series throughout the year on the Sundays that are closest to these seven feasts in order to reflect on how each of them teaches us about Jesus and God’s unfolding purposes for His people – from the new birth found in the Passover to entering God’s final rest pictured in the Feast of Tabernacles.
The seven feasts are divided into three seasons that were scheduled on the Jewish calendar in a way that Jews would have to travel to Jerusalem three times a year in order to gather together with each other in order to worship God.
The first season was Passover, which was connected with the Spring harvest. It includes three feasts – the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Passover, and Firstfruits.
The second season contained one feast, which we know by its Greek name, Pentecost, but which is known to the Jews as Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks.
The third season, which was connected with the Fall harvest, also contained three feasts – Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets; Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement; and Succoth, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
As we will see, there is a reason for this pattern to the feasts. The three Spring feasts were all fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming. The three Fall feasts will all find their final fulfillment in the second coming of Jesus. And sandwiched in between is the church age in which we live, aided by the Holy Spirit, who first came to dwell permanently in the followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost.
The first three feasts, as we’ll see this morning, actually overlap somewhat and all three picture various aspects of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This morning we’ll begin by looking at the first two of these feasts – The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. And then next week, we’ll examine the Feast of Firstfruits in connection with the resurrection of Jesus.
I’m going to begin by sharing with you the Biblical background for these feasts from the Old Testament and then Pastor Pat will explain how these feasts relate to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and the implications for us as His followers.
Although Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two distinct feasts, they are so closely related that they are often treated as a single feast in both the Old and New Testaments. The overall instructions concerning the observance of both feasts are found in Leviticus:
4 ’These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them.5 ’In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. 6 ’Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
Leviticus 23:4-6 (NASB)
We see that the feast of Passover began at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month on the Jewish calendar – the month of Nisan. Since the Jewish calendar is based on a lunar cycle of approximately 30 days in each month rather than our solar based calendar of 365 days in a year, that date can fall in either March or April on our calendar.
Before we go any further, we also need to explain the way that the Jews define a day. For us, each new day begins at midnight, but for the Jews each new day begins at sunset and ends at sunset on the following day. So the Passover feast would begin at twilight on the 14th of Nisan and when sunset arrived shortly thereafter, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins on the 15th of Nisan would commence. So it’s very easy to see how these two feasts came to be considered to be one feast, since the Feast of Unleavened Bread actually began while the celebration of the Passover was still in progress.
Historically, both of these feasts find their origins in Israel’s release from captivity in Egypt. The detailed instructions for the observance of both of these feasts is contained in Exodus chapter 12.