In this article, we will tell you a little bit about the main Jewish holidays, where in Scripture they’re mentioned and briefly how all by one has been fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah.
Passover (also called Pesach) was established by God (Ex 13:4, Ex 34:18) and is a time we are to remember the going forth of our forefathers from Egypt and when the Angel of the Lord “passed over” the houses of the children of Israel. We remember that when He saw the blood of the sacrificed lamb that was put on the doorposts and lintel of their houses, He spared their firstborn from death. We commemorate this feast yearly in a meal called a “seder” (for “order”). It is at the Passover seder that Jesus ate His last meal with His disciples. It was not “the Last Supper”, but “the Last Seder”.
The 7 days following Passover is the Feast of Unleavened Bread where we eat matzoh or unleavened bread instead of bread made with yeast, or leavening and was established by God in the same passages of Scripture as the Passover. We eat unleavened bread to remember “the great haste in which we left Egypt that we had no time to let our bread rise, but formed it into matzoh cakes”.
God commanded us in Leviticus 23:15-16 to count seven full weeks starting from the day after the first Sabbath after Passover (i.e. 49 days) and then to present offerings of new grain to the Him. We “count 7 weeks of days plus 1 day” from the first Shabbat (Sabbath) after Passover to arrive at the date of Shavuot (Pentecost), the “Feast of Weeks”. It is also called Pentecost ” because we count 50 days from the first Sabbath after Passover (“penta” meaning 50). We call this counting of days the “counting of the omer” (which is a reference to when the barley would be ripe in the fields) and we do this from Nisan 16-Sivan 5. During this feast, we commemorate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot. It is also the same feast on which the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) was given to the early Jewish believers who were gathered in the Upper Room.
The Feast of Firstfruits occurs 3 days after the beginning of Passover. It is also the day that Jesus rose from the dead — Him being the “firstfruits from the dead”.
The “High Holy Days” of Rosh Hashanah (head of the Year – civil New Year) which takes place on the 1st day of the month of Tishri, which is also called the “Feast of Trumpets” was also established by
God (Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6). It is also the one Jewish feast which has not yet found its fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah (more on that below). Like the wise bridesmaids, we wonder if this will be the year He returns to the “sound of the trumpet” – when the dead in Him will be raised. No one knows “the day or the hour” but many believe that quite possibly, it will be one of these Rosh Hashanahs.
The most somber day of our calendar — Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement occurs 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, on the 10th of Tishrei and is set out by God in Leviticus 16:8-34 and 23:27-32. It is a day of corporate repentance; repentance for the sins of the whole nation — and not simply for us, as individuals.
Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths) begins five days after Yom Kippur, and is commemorated from the 15-21 day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. It is set out by God in Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-40; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Ezra 3:4 and Nehemiah 8:13-18. On this feast we remember when we were wanderers in the desert, before God led us into the Land He promised beforehand to our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As Messianic believers, it is at Sukkot that were remember His incarnation – His coming to “dwell” (literally ‘tabernacle’) amongst us — however remembering His incarnation, is quite different than celebrating “His birthday”. More on that, below.
The Last Day of the Great Feast (of Sukkot) is called Shiminei Atzaret and was the day that the Water Drawing ceremony (Water Libation ceremony) that would take place during the time of the Second Temple. It was during that ceremony, that Jesus stood up and declared with a loud voice “If any many thirst, let him come to Me and drink for out of his belly will flow rivers of living water”).
Then there is Purim, the Feast of Lots which commemorates how God spared the Jewish people through the brave actions of Queen Esther Book of Esther 9:24).
Finally, there is the 8 day holiday that we celebrate around the time of Christmas, either just before or during it, depending on the Jewish (lunar) calendar. Chanukah (the Feast of Dedication) is not mentioned in the Old Testament because it took place during intertestamental times (after the Old Testament but before the New). Chanukah commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Temple that had been defiled by King Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greco-Syrian king who sacrificed a pig on the altar and spilled its blood on the holy scrolls of Scripture (Torah). The story is recorded in the Apocryphal book of First Maccabees and is mentioned in the New Testament in the book of John Chapter 10 verse 22. While commemorating it is not established by God in Scripture because it occurred after the writing of the Tanakh, the New Testament mentions that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, and so we also commemorate it .
We light a special candelabra called a “chanukiah” on this holiday, to commemorate the miracle of just a little bit of oil that was found by the Maccabee brothers burning for eight days, until a new batch could be made to re-institute Jewish worship in the Temple. We also eat fried foods such as doughnuts and felafel during the 8 day celebration.
Feasts of Israel – their fullness in Messiah
At the beginning of this article, we described the different feasts that God instituted and where in Scripture He did so and we think you may find it interesting to see how all but one of those feasts has been fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah.
Be sure, someday, that one too, will be fulfilled.
- Shiminei Atzaret – as we covered above, this was fulfilled in John 10:22 when Jesus declared if any one thirst, they should come to Him to drink – that out of their bellies would flow rivers of living water.
- Purim (the Feast of Lots) – the soldiers cast lots for His clothes. He is the one that saves us from a far worse fate than the (first) death Haman had planned for the Jews.
- Rosh Hashanah / “Feast of Trumpets” – the yet, unfulfilled feast when “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
What else do we know about that day? Read Zechariah 14!
After the nations of the world come against Jerusalem, it says
“Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east”
“On that day there will be no light; the sunlight and moonlight will diminish. It will be a day known only to Yahweh, without day or night, but there will be light at evening”
Sounds like Acts 2:20 (Joel 2:31) doesn’t it?
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.”
- Passover – He is the Lamb of God and it is His shed blood that spares us from death, just as the blood of the Passover lamb spared the firstborn sons of the children of Israel when the Angel of the Lord, passed over.
- Feast of Unleavened Bread – yeast, in Scripture signifies ‘sin’ (Gal 5:9) and He was without sin and like the unleavened bread (matzoh), He was bruised, pierced and striped (Isaiah 53).
6. Shavuot (Pentecost), the “Feast of Weeks” – Many theologians say it was the pre-incarnate Son that gave the Law to Moses .
Read Exodus 24:1-18;
“and they [Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and 70 of Israel’s elders] saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself. God did not harm these leaders of the Israelites; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.”
What did these 74 men see? Well, we know that they saw God.
We also know that the God they saw the feet of God (cf. v. 10) and the sapphire-like clear blue pavement under them (reflective of both Ezekiel 1:28 and Revelation 1:17).
Who but the Son, has feet?
- Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – He was our atonement – “not by means of the blood of goats and bulls, but He used his own blood, for the sacrifice. He went into the most holy place and offered this sacrifice once and for all to free us” (Hebrews 9:12). “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).
Finally, this brings us to Sukkot, the feast that is likely the one Jesus was born on.
8. Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths) – is when the Son came and dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us (John 1:14). 2 Corinthians refers to our bodies as “earthly tents” or “tabernacles” (literally “sukkahs”). Jesus came and tabernacled amongst us — laying aside the privileges of His deity and came and
“…made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!”
Given the evidence that He was born at Sukkot as we outlined at length in the previous article – do you see how different commemorating His incarnation in association with Sukkot is from celebrating His birthday?
It is not the celebration of the anniversary of His birth that we focus on — but the fact that He came!
It is God having come in the form of a man — taking on the same frail “tabernacle” (sukkah) as we have! It is His coming, in fulfillment of hundreds of Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that we commemorate.
And we wait…
…wait for His return. Wait for the fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah — when “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God”
1 Thessalonians 4:16
Even so, come.