Beyond Hanukkah: The Jewish Holy Days Every Christian Should Know About

by | Oct 28, 2022 | Nov-Dec 2022

In the Torah we are given the foundation for the Lord’s appointed holy days. Leviticus 23:4 says, “These are the appointed times of the Lord.” People often think of these as Jewish holidays—and they are—but they do not belong to the Jewish people only. First and foremost, they are God’s holy days. These holy days were first given to Israel, but their significance goes beyond the Jewish people. As Messiah was promised to Israel but was given through Israel to the whole world in order that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), so too these cherished days have significance for all God’s people, Jew and Gentile alike.

While many Christians today treat the Jewish holy days as if they are a mere historical footnote, their significance to Yeshua’s entire ministry cannot be over-stated. Every single one of the redemptive acts Yeshua accomplished in His death, burial, Resurrection, and ascension and the sending forth of His Spirit were all strategically aimed to take place during the spring holy days as outlined in God’s Word. Yeshua was crucified on the Feast of Passover, was buried during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and rose during the Feast of Firstfruits. Then, after Yeshua’s ascension, the Spirit of God came on Shavuot (the Hebrew word for Pentecost).Each of these feasts directly culminates in Messiah and prophetically tells the story of His life and mission.

The Holy Days of the Messiah to Come and Jesus as the Lamb of God

The first of these feasts is Passover. This is the springtime holy day that commemorates the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In Leviticus 23:5 we read, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover.” In its original context the Passover story is about how the Lord used the blood of a Passover lamb to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.

Each family would take the blood of an unblemished lamb and apply that blood on the doorpost of its home. When the angel of death, which was God’s judgment, passed through the land of Egypt that fateful night, the judgment passed over every home that had been marked by the blood of the lamb.

The New Testament focus is that a new Passover Lamb has come. As Yeshua was about to begin His ministry, John the Baptist saw Him coming toward him and cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is book-ended in the Book of Revelation—the book of last things—where Yeshua is referred to as the Lamb of God 31 times.

There are other references to Jesus in John’s Apocalypse—such as “Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16, NKJV), “the Lion…from the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5), and the descendant of David (Rev. 22:16)—but overwhelmingly, the emphasis on Yeshua is as the Lamb. He is the Lamb who was slain, the Lamb who is worthy, and the Lamb who sits upon the throne. Indeed, the people of God ultimately overcome the powers of sin and death through the blood of the Lamb. Yeshua’s role as the Lamb of God is central to understanding who He is and what He came to do.

John records for us in John19 that Yeshua was crucified on Passover. There were times in the Gospels when the religious leaders wanted to seize Jesus, hoping to kill Him, but they could not because it was not yet Passover.

When Yeshua celebrated that last Passover meal with His disciples, He lifted up the matzo and wine to tell them that His own body was about to be broken and His own blood shed, as He was going to give His life for their salvation. Paul wrote, “Christ our Passover…has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). He was their Passover Lamb, and He is yours as well.

Passover remains a remembrance of how God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians through the blood of their ancient Passover lamb, but this first spring holy day is ultimately fulfilled in Yeshua, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This is why Paul says Christ has become our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).

Jesus as the Resurrected King

The Feast of Firstfruits carries us into His Resurrection. We find this feast described in Leviticus 23:10–11: “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted.’”

Each individual farmer—each worshipper—was to bring the first sheaf of the spring harvest to the priest, who would then lift it up and wave it before the Lord. The Lord would then deem the farmer’s entire harvest acceptable and dedicated to Him.

Now consider again that this spring feast corresponds to the first fruit of the spring harvest. As I write now, it is still winter. I look outside my window to a gray and cloudy sky. There are no leaves on the trees. There are no splashes of green; there are no flowers; there is no fruit. The ground is all brown. It truly looks dead. But in a few months, when the spring comes, when the weather warms up and April showers water the earth, this dead-looking ground is suddenly going to be made alive. That which looks dead right now is going to come back to life. The grass will be green again; small, hopeful leaves will sprout from those dead-looking trees. Yellow, orange and purple flowers will spring up from the ground, and fruit will grow on the trees anew. It will be like the earth has come back to life from the dead.

This all takes on new meaning when we see that Yeshua—who was crucified and died and was supernaturally raised from the dead—comes back to life on this holy day. Then He ascended to heaven as the firstfruits of those raised from the dead. Yeshua said in Revelation 1:17–18, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.”

As the ancient Israelites’ sheaf was lifted up and waved before the Lord by the priest in order that the farmers’ harvest would be accepted, so too Yeshua, the firstfruit of those raised from the dead, ascended and then presented Himself to the Father for us to be accepted. Just as in ancient Israel God accepted the whole harvest through the firstfruits offering, so it is today—we are accepted by Father God through the firstfruits offering of Messiah! Yeshua rose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, both fulfilling it and bringing it to its capstone.

The Day the Spirit Was Poured Out

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high,” (Luke 24:49).

“Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,’” (Acts 1:4–5).

Leviticus 23:15–16 says, “You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count 50 days to the day after the seventh sabbath.” Simplified, 50 days from the resurrection of Yeshua is when the day of Pentecost was being celebrated in Acts 2.

Pentecost was originally an agricultural feast day, but over the years, traditional Judaism associated this day with the day the Lord gave the Law at Mount Sinai. During Shavuot we remember how God appeared in glory to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, giving them His law on tablets of stone over 3,300 years ago. Every year at this time, religious Jews renew their acceptance of God’s gift, the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).

But a time would come when the Law and the lawgiver would draw nearer and become much closer. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” Ezekiel also anticipated this time when he wrote that Yahweh would give His people a new heart and put His Spirit within them (Ezek. 36:26). The Law that was once written on stone would become etched in our hearts. This was fulfilled in Acts 2, where we find 120 of the first believers in Yeshua gathered together in the Upper Room celebrating Shavuot. As they were there recalling once again how Yahweh appeared in fire on top of the mountain and gave Moses His commandments on tablets of stone, suddenly this same living God appeared to them afresh and anew—up close and personal!

As He did on Sinai, God appeared in fire there in the Upper Room. But it wasn’t just one fire this time; rather, an individual tongue of fire appeared over each of the 120 who were there. This encounter inaugurated the time when the Lord would no longer speak to His people primarily by the writings on the tablets of stone. Instead, He was fulfilling the prophecies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah by communicating to His people from within them.

This living tongue of fresh fire filled each of them. They had received the Ruach HaKodesh that the Lord Jesus had promised them.

Jesus is the Occasion to Celebrate

I believe that in remembering and honoring these holy days, which the Lord calls His appointed days, we participate in a channel of blessing. In seeing how Yeshua has exclusively fulfilled the spring feast days in His first coming, our faith is kindled and quickened, causing us to anticipate and look for His return, when He will climactically fulfill the fall holy days. All of us, Jew and Gentile alike, who are in relationship with Yahweh through Jesus have been grafted into the common-wealth of Israel as well. Thus, these days are now for all God’s people!

Rabbi Kirt A. Schneider is the host of the TV and radio broadcast Discovering the Jewish Jesus. For over 30 years Rabbi Schneider has been teaching people how Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy and completes the unfolding plan of the Messiah. Schneider is the author of several books, including Rivers of Revelation, The Lion of Judah, The Book of Revelation Decoded and Awakening to Messiah.

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