Should Believers in Yeshua Keep the Jewish Feasts?
|Written by Sam Nadler|
I've been encouraged to see all the young people wearing WWJD wristbands. I was delighted to think that when they were going through their day, facing challenges or perhaps in a 'moral crisis', they would ask themselves, "What Would Jesus Do?" I prayed for them to have the courage to then follow through on their faith in those challenging moments.As time has passed I've seen fewer and fewer WWJD wristbands, and I figured another fad has come and gone. At my age, I've seen so many fads pass by, I feel like I'm at a NASCAR race! But I've thought about WWJD a bit more and realized how difficult it must be for people wanting to understand "What Jesus would do?", especially when looking at the New Covenant Scriptures outside of their natural Jewish setting. Perhaps it would be more helpful to wear a WWYD wristband... What Would Yeshua Do?
When we see Yeshua from a Jewish frame of reference it becomes easier to figure out just what He would do. Like on holidays, for instance, we know what Yeshua would do, and what He wouldn't. We know from Scripture that Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22,23), the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2,37) and Passover. In fact, the reason that we know Yeshua ministered for three + years is that John's Gospel records three Passovers that Yeshua celebrated (John 2:23; 6:4; 13:1). Which brings me to my point: celebrating Messiah's Resurrection in light of Passover.
Today in Christendom it's amazing how many churches expect a large turnout for Easter, and yet never expect those same people to return for the following week's service. For many, rather than a celebration of the empty tomb, Easter is a "religious" holiday with an empty message; but, it doesn't have to be this way. "What would Yeshua do?" at this time of year?
Can you imagine Him (or any of the Apostles) painting Easter eggs, "pigging" out on chocolate Easter bunnies, or trying on a new Easter bonnet: "with all the frills upon it"?! It seems that God's people are so preoccupied during this time of year that we've become distracted with man-made ideas, and forgotten the beautiful truths that our faith is founded upon.
Yeshua, the Apostles, and all the first century believers understood the resurrection in light of the prophetically central events of Passover and First Fruits. With the ultimate focus of our redemption being the "Lamb of God", Passover helps us understand the meaning of redemption, and the absolute necessity of "new resurrection life",in Yeshua (see John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19-21). In fact, in order to continually appreciate the new life that we have in the Lord, Paul expected all believers to keep the feast of Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7,8). Thus, "Passover redemption" is the foundation of our "First Fruits resurrection".The Feast of First Fruits?
For most Christians the "First Fruits" celebration is an irrelevant if not completely unknown occasion."And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." (Lev. 23:9-11).
The Scriptures state that the day following the Sabbath after the Passover, the priest (cohen) would present the first fruits of the harvest to the Lord so that the rest of the Harvest would be acceptable. The "day after the Sabbath" would be a Sunday. So, the Sunday after Passover would be the celebration of First Fruits. Our Messiah died for our sins on Passover, and three days later, just as the priest was raising the first fruits to God, Yeshua was being raised from the dead! This is why Paul proclaims that "Messiah has been raised from the dead, the First Fruits of those who are asleep. in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the First Fruits, after that those who are Messiah's at His coming." (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Yeshua was raised bodily from the dead on that Sunday because it was the day after the Sabbath of the Passover week. As Passover pictures that we were redeemed from bondage by "the blood of the Lamb", First Fruits pictures that we are now "raised up", as First Fruits, for God's use only.
First Fruits could not be celebrated apart from Passover; and Messiah's Resurrection can never be celebrated apart from His Passover sacrifice for us. You would be literally separating the root from the Fruit!Help! We've Been Robbed!
How and why are things the way they are? To understand this we have to go back a few years. Rather than ask WWYD? , or even WWJD?, many Christians have asked WWCCD?: "What Would Church Councils Do?"
In the 4th and 5th centuries many questionable decisions and decrees were made by various church councils to celebrate the faith apart from its Jewish roots, specifically to celebrate the Resurrection apart from Passover!
The Council of Nicea in 326 and the Synod of Sardica in 343, influenced by several powerful and anti-Semitic church leaders conducted a deliberate, and apparently quite successful effort to remove all Jewish expressions of the faith from "the celebration of the faith." This was done to supposedly demonstrate the "superiority" of Christianity over Judaism, and of the Church over the Synagogue. What was intended to be some sort of victory for the church, has instead been confusing at best, and devastating at worst. What this has actually accomplished is to:
1) Blind Gentile believers from the Jewish roots of their faith. These roots include beautiful, powerful illustrations of God's plan in the Tenach (Old Testament) regarding Messiah (see Romans 11:17, 1 Cor. 10:11)
2) So remove Yeshua's death and resurrection from its Jewish context it effectively hides from the Jewish community the fulfillment of the messianic hope that is found only in Jesus, and...
3) Make the Gentile Great Commission (see Romans 11:11) which was intended to make the Jewish people jealous of what Believers have in Messiah, an absurd and even malicious joke! And it continues on even to this day. Consider how much time, effort and money Christians put into celebrating Christmas and Easter, and how little time is given Passover and First Fruits study.Reclaim Your Stolen Goods!
What can be done? Let's begin personally, and congregationally, thinking WWYD! Its more than a Jewish novelty. You have a rich heritage and history of faith waiting to be discovered in the Scriptures. Reclaim what God has for you in Messiah! Have your congregation enjoy an annual Passover Seder (banquet) during Passover that would lead to First Fruits/Resurrection celebration! Let's go past the mere "traditions of men", (Matthew 15:3) and follow the truth, even doing as Yeshua did and would still do. Now, to all who are wondering what to do spiritually with the rest of their lives, wouldn't that kind of a celebration be a wonderful witness, even to the Jew
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