16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and at the Feast of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles). Deuteronomy 16:16 ESV
Each year, every male Israelite was required by the law of Moses to attend three feasts, as instituted by God. These feasts were the Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles and they had deep spiritual significance reminding the Israelites of God’s faithfulness and power as He delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
But we also learn from the New Testament that these feasts have deep prophetic implications regarding the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the planting of His worldwide church that includes all men and women with faith in Him.
Christ in the Passover
Jesus instituted Holy Communion during the Lord’s Supper as He and His disciples gathered to celebrate the Feast of Passover.
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 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.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:14-20 ESV
The first Passover meal was instituted by God as Moses prepared to lead the Israelites out from under the thumb of Pharaoh. The prescribed ritual involved the sacrifice of a lamb, whose blood was spread upon the doorposts as a sign and a spiritual covering for protection from the coming angel of death. This night of judgement upon Egypt broke their resistance to God while sparing the Israelite people under the covering of the lamb’s blood. The Israelites were able to walk out of Egypt the next morning in freedom. Each year, the Israelites were to prepare a Passover lamb for a feast in remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt under the loving hand of God.
Passover in Christ’s time was the feast where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Symbolized by the Passover lamb, Jesus became the Passover Lamb of God for us all as an eternal sacrifice for our sins. By His death on the cross, we come under the covering and protection of His blood. Through faith in Him, we can walk freely forward in a resurrected life because God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus told 120 of His followers to gather in Jerusalem to pray and to wait for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus ascended into heaven to be received by the Father, to come again in glory one future day as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, with complete dominion over all creation. This will be the culmination of the kingly genealogy of Jesus Christ.
4 And while staying with them he (Jesus) ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 ESV
The 120 people gathered and prayed and waited for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had directed them. In the meantime, many Jews were arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feast of Pentecost.
Christ in the Pentecost
Ten days after Jesus ascended, the New Testament church was born as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the crowd of Jewish believers gathered for the Feast of Pentecost. (We will take a closer look at the significance of the Pentecost in the next meditation.)
Pentecost came seven weeks after the Passover of the Lord’s Supper and represented the birth, or first fruits, of the global Christian church. By God’s design, the first harvest of Christian believers came from Jewish worshipers gathered in Jerusalem from all the known nations of the world to celebrate the Feast. Later, the church would spread like wildfire throughout the world to reach the Gentiles.
Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles
Before He was crucified, Jesus was met by Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus became covered with a radiant glory as Moses and Elijah brought Him comfort and encouragement regarding His coming crucifixion.
As this occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles, Peter offered to make booths for both in accordance with the law of Moses, a reminder of the years the Israelites had spent in the wilderness after being freed from Egypt. But the two saints had come to support Jesus, who is preeminent over the law, as the voice of the Father made clear to Peter. (Matthew 17).
Moses represented the Old Testament law, and Elijah the Old Testament prophets. Both the law and the prophets point to Jesus, and Jesus is the complete fulfillment of both.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:4 ESV
God emphasized these three annual feasts to Moses because of their deep meaning, short-term as a remembrance for the Israelites and long-term for all believers as they point to our great salvation, Jesus Christ.
Have you had an opportunity to celebrate the feast of Passover at a Jewish Seder meal? These are great celebrations of the rich, nourishing root of our faith, the Jewish nation, onto which the Gentiles have been grafted by the grace and power of God. The apostle Paul gave us an inspired reminder about our position as the mercies and mysteries of Christ are unveiled:
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Romans 11:17-18 ESV
Have you had an opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Supper by taking Holy Communion? If not, I strongly recommend that you spend some time at the table with Jesus our Lord and Savior. May our eyes be opened to Christ’s loving presence in the breaking of the bread. May we see the great love He has shown us by His sacrifice.