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Leonard: Jewish Christians

Does that sound weird?  It did to me the first time I heard someone say it many years ago. Is it an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp? Is it similar to calling a bald-headed guy “Curly?  Not at all. Allow me to explain. If you are reading this and you are Jewish, I’d love your feedback!

When I was working on my master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, the best chapel service I remember going to was about the Jewish Holy Days (aka holidays).  The speaker was on staff with “Jews for Jesus” and his 25 minute teaching blew me away. 

Why? Because I did not grow up in a Jewish household where the Jewish feasts were celebrated on an annual basis and I had no idea that Jesus had spoken about them or did something significant on those days. Having just celebrated Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) last week and having Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) this week, I thought it would be fun for both Jews and Christians to learn a little about the other’s traditions, beliefs, and how the two correlate to each other.

Essentially, the speaker talked about how Jesus not only came to “fulfill the law” but that he also did fulfill, and will someday fulfill, the Jewish Holy Days. 

Allow me to explain: let’s start with Passover (often times referred to as “Pesach” if you are Jewish). Israel’s history took a huge turning point around the year 1440 BC when the Jewish people were freed from their slavery to the Egyptians under the reign of Amenhotep II. 

What happened is recorded in the book of Exodus (from Greek word meaning “The way out”), chapter 12. Toward the end of the plagues, God told Moses to have each Jewish household bring a young lamb into their homes on the 10th of the month. For a few days they were to inspect it to make sure it did not have any defects or flaws (it had to be worth something, pricey, not the beat-up runt of the litter with three legs that would be worth much less). 

Then on the 14th of the month, after the lamb had passed the “inspection,” they were to be killed at twilight and some of their blood was to be put on the two doorposts and lintel above the door. Lastly, the Jewish families were to then cook and eat the lamb. 

Fast forward to Jesus’ day in the first century, in Jerusalem (about 1,450 years after Exodus 12). The Jews were still celebrating this (and they still do to this day) and Jesus, referred to as “the lamb of God” by his cousin John (the baptizer), just happened to be killed at twilight as the rest of the nation was killing their lambs.  

It was the blood of the lambs and the lamb in which salvation is found. The night before this happened was “the Last Supper” and Jesus implemented a new custom: communion/the eucharist. In other words, Jesus fulfilled Passover on Passover and Christians still celebrate this all around the globe.

Three days after Passover the Jews were celebrating “Reshit Ketzivchem,” the Feast of First Fruits (found in Leviticus 23:9-14). It was the time of the year that the Jews would take a sheaf of the first grains/crop to the priest who would wave it before the Lord. It was a “Thank You” to God for the harvest that was to come and that first sheaf was to represent the rest of the crops for that year. Until they did this the rest of the crop was not “kosher” (acceptable). 

As “luck” would have it (just kidding), the man formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, a first century Jewish religious leader of sorts (now commonly referred to as the Apostle Paul), wrote in his letter to the church in the city of Corinth (south central Greece), chapter 15 verses 20-23, “Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep …Christ the firstfruits, then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” 

Jesus’ resurrection (aka the first Easter Sunday) just happened to be (just kidding again) the day the Jews were thanking God for the crops they were about to harvest with the first of their harvest. To fulfill this, Jesus was raised first and the harvest of many souls/people would come later — such as the millions who have placed their faith in him since that first Easter/ Firstfruits Sunday). Drop mic! Did you catch that? Yet another Jewish holy day that became a Christian holy day because Jesus fulfilled it on that day. 

But wait, it gets better.  Just a little over a month later (50 days later to be exact) the Jews celebrated/remembered “Pentecost.” Also known as “The Feast of Weeks,” at Pentecost the Jews, according to Leviticus 23:16, were to “present an offering of new grainto the lord.” Seven weeks earlier they had their first crop, 50 days later their fields were ready to be harvested. 

If you know your Bible pretty well, you’ll remember that in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and the time of massive evangelization began, also known as the birth of the church. Do you see the trend: an extremely significant Christian holy day born out of a Jewish holy day.  The latter being the fulfillment of the former.

Those are some of the feasts that have been fulfilled but, as I said at the beginning of this column, there are still some feasts that Jesus has yet to fulfill. On Monday, Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, begins. It is the most important holy day for the Jewish people.  I’ll cover it and a few others in my next column so stay tuned. 


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