Jesus in the 3 great Festivals (Exodus 23:14-19)

There are a few points of reference to salvation in these 3 great festivals. The first festival, the passover/feast of unleavened bread celebration we are told is to remember the month Israel came out of Egypt (Exo. 23:15).  This is essentially about redemption and the cost incurred in establishing the salvation of a nation.  Paul draws a clear parallel between this festival and the work of Christ in his letter to the Corinthians.

Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1Corinthians 5:7)

The spiritual meaning of the feast along with its prohibition on eating bread without yeast is clear.  Christ is our salvation, and we should live as a people freed from sin.

The second festival, known to the Jews as Shavuot, is known to the Christian as Pentecost.  At Shavuot, the Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah, the laws of God, at Pentecost Christians celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit who writes the law on our hearts.  Ezekiel writes,

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

And since this festival is to occur 40 days after Passover/Unleavened Bread and the book of Acts clearly portrays the giving of the Spirit during the Shavuot, we can see that Christ’s spirit and empowerment to live a life of holiness was part of this festival.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3)

Finally the third festival mentioned is the festival of Tabernacles.  It is the time when the harvest is gathered in, but it also is the time the Jews remember the 40 years of wandering in the desert.  It is a remembrance of how God was present with his people providing for all their needs.  The Word declares,

For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. (Nehemiah 9:21)

Again this is a story spiritually fulfilled in Christ who came and lived among his people in order to provide them the real food, the manna from heaven, that they required.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. (John 6:58)

Three Festivals, three pointers to Christ and his ministry.  But what about the random laws attached to this section.  We find a reference to all men appearing before God, not offering blood and yeast, not allowing fat to be kept overnight, bringing the best of the offerings and not cooking a goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:17-19).  The blood and yeast parallels should be obvious from the Passover/unleavened bread discussion above.

Likewise the first fruits best showed to display the immense value the Spirit of God would be to the believer and refusal to allow any fat to be left serves as an indication that the sacrifices would be complete and total in their effect.  Thus there is not a partial completion of any of these festivals in Christ, they are total and completely efficacious in exactly what they were intended to perform – the saving and empowering of people to the service of God through Christ.

And that is why the festivals were to apply to every male.  For the men were the symbolic heads and beneficiaries of the families.  I wish I had a good idea about the goat in its mother’s milk and how that relates to Christ but I don’t.  Maybe God will enlighten me later.

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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