FROM PASSOVER TO PENTECOST
Last week we looked at the origin of Pentecost. We investigated the time interval from the Jewish Passover to their arrival at Mount Sinai. We compared this Hebrew journey to the church’s journey, ‘in Christ,’ from His crucifixion to Pentecost. We saw that as the first covenant of the law was given on Mount Sinai, so the second covenant was given at Pentecost. The Israelites were established in the law at Sinai while we believers in Messiah Jesus were established in grace at Pentecost. Every event in the Old Testament, the first covenant, has its future completeness in the New Testament. The ‘shadow’ on the one hand becomes the concrete reality on the other. Heb. 10:1 states this clearly. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the worshipers perfect.” (See also, Heb. 8:5 and Col. 2:17).
Acting as ‘bookends’ for this 50 day interval were the two wave offerings. Christ was resurrected on the first day of the Jewish festival of Firstfruits. Paul explains this to us in 1 Cor. 15:20 when he states, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” At the very instant that the Jewish worshipers were waving the firstfruits of the barley wave offering, Jesus was resurrected as our firstfruits. This barley wave offering, termed “waving the omer.” This is the barley that was originally used in the making of the unleavened ‘bread-of-haste,’ or matzah that was used on the night of the first Passover in Egypt. This barley wave offering therefore speaks of Christ, unleavened, sinless, and resurrected. The wave offering rising up to the throne of the Father as the Firstfruits of our coming resurrection. Praise be to God!
Fifty days later, Pentecost, there is a second wave offering – the second ‘bookend.’ This is a wheat wave offering and is conducted by the waving of two loaves of bread made with leaven. We learned that this was the only offering presented before the priests that contained leaven. I am reminded of Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us reason together says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they will be as wool.” We approach with our leaven, our sin, and He performs the miracle of redemption. The two loaves speak of the two groups who approach the LORD – the Jew and the Gentile. And the leaven speaks of the sin nature one bears as they come to the LORD for forgiveness and grace. In the Jewish mind, the Gentile was ‘unclean’ and therefore one to be avoided. They were not to mix with the leaven of the Gentile. They were to remain distant and separated. Within the temple grounds there was the court of the Gentiles and the court of the Jew. But now, two loaves are mixed together resulting in “one new man.” Listen to Eph. 2, verses 15 and 19. “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of two, one new man, so making peace; now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints of GOD.” The two, Jew and Gentile, are become one new man! We Gentiles have been grafted into the vine and become one with the faithful Jew and are considered adopted sons of Abraham and sons of GOD. (Rom. 11 and John 1)
Today, I would like to present a premise joining together two 40 day intervals. For 40 days the Israelites journeyed from the day of Firstfruits to Sinai. Likewise Jesus spent 40 days from His Resurrection until His Ascension. What did Jesus do during this interval, and is there any relationship to the other 40 day interval?
Let’s review the former 40 day journey. On the morning following Passover the Jewish people left Egypt. They travelled about six days to the Red Sea where GOD delivered them. Following their passing through the Red Sea they journeyed three days to Marah where they found the bitter water. Moses cast the wood into the water and it became sweet. We discussed the significance of this ‘wood’ last week. Next was the giving of the manna, which we again addressed last time. Finally they arrived at Rephidim where they were attacked by their life-long enemy the Amalekites. After their victory they were given the law on Sinai. Most of these events were discussed last week and you may need to review some of that.
Let’s now draw our attention to the later of these two forty day journeys, the forty days Christ ministered from His resurrection up to His ascension. Here is an outline of His appearances to His followers.
He first appears to Mary, Jn. 20:11-13, then to the other women, Matt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:10, then to Simon Peter, 1Cor. 15:5, then to the two on the road to Emmaus, Lk. 24:13-35, followed by appearing to the disciples in Lk. 24: 36-43, John 20:19-25 and again with Thomas in Jn. 20:26-29, then to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias in Jn. 21:1-23, then to the group by the mountain in Galilee, Matt. 28:16-17 and1 Cor. 15:6, then to his half brother James as recorded in 1 Cor. 15:7 and finally at Mount of Olives where He gave the Great Commission before ascending.
Throughout this time Jesus was demonstrating the physical reality of His resurrection. He was demonstrating that our redemption was more than a spiritual awakening but also had a future physical awakening. He ate with them showing His physical nature; he walked with them and conversed with hundreds at one time. He allowed Thomas to handle Him to prove that He was not just a spirit. In fact He states to Thomas see, a spirit has not flesh and bone as I do. We read in 1 Jn. 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” Jesus demonstrated the physical reality of the firstfruits of the resurrection. Father God planted His Seed into a world of darkness in order that It may become the Firstfruits of a great harvest. As the Jewish people paused at Marah where the bitter water was turned sweet by the wood, so Jesus turned the bitterness of His followers into a sweet joy. The bitter water of Marah reflected the bitterness of the Israeli bondage under the slavery to Pharaoh, that was turned sweet by their deliverance by GOD. So too, the bitterness and sadness of the followers of Jesus were turned to joy, also due to the wood – the wood of the cross. His resurrection on the first day of the feast of Firstfruits released his followers of their bondage to sin and slavery. Isaiah 61:3, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
Eight days after His resurrection, eight being the number of a new beginning, He appears to Thomas to grant him a new beginning. Jesus stands before Thomas as the “Bread of Heaven,” and allows Thomas to confirm for himself that Jesus is indeed Life everlasting.
And just as the Jewish travellers congregated about the Mountain of Sinai, Jesus gathered His followers about the mountain in Galilee and about Mount Olivet to give evidence and instruction. And as the Israelis rested at Rephidim – a place of rest – so the followers of Jesus rested in the utter joy that He had risen! Most often when Jesus appeared during this time, He would begin with the words, “Peace be unto you.” Jesus infused His followers with His peace.
During these times about the mountain Jesus told them that He had been given all power in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:16-17) and that his followers were to tarry until they received power from on high. (Luke 24:49).
This power that He possesses and that the followers of Jesus would also have over the arch enemy the Devil, corresponds with the victory of the Israelites over the attack from the Amalekites. Near the Mountain of Sinai the Amalekites attacked Israel. As review, in Numbers 24:20 we learn that Amalek was the first nation to war against Israel. This fact was mentioned in the prophecy of Balaam after he refused to curse Israel as King Balak desired. Amalek was the son of Eliphaz, (1 Chr.1:36), and the grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:11-12). Esau of course gave rise to the Edomites, who possess an everlasting blood-lust against Israel. (Hebrew ‘Olam ebah’ Ez. 35:5 – “perpetual hatred”).
In the lineage of Amalek are, king Agag an evil king constantly against Israel; Haman of Esther fame, who tried to eliminate all Jews; plus the family of the Herod kings. Esau tried to usurp Jacob’s heritage and his descendants still do. Because Amalek’s hatred is deep, unrelenting and everlasting he is a just comparison to our arch enemy The Devil. So, as GOD defeated Amalek at Rephidim so too Christ instructs His followers at the mountains of Israel that they have power over their adversary. At the end of the 40 days that Jesus spent with His followers, He ends by assuring them that He will always be with them and that they will have authority over the efforts of the enemy.
He gives them and us the Great Commission. “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptised will be saved . . . and they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them . . .” (Mark 16:15-18) And again in Matt. 28:20 we read, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Besides strengthening us against attacks of the enemy, Jesus gives His final instructions. He gives us our ‘marching orders.’ This was also true for the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Moses ascended the mountain, and there GOD commanded him to tell the leaders that if they would obey the LORD and keep His covenant, then they would be the LORD’s “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation.” This is similar to our calling in Christ to be kings and priests. After delivering this message, the people responded by proclaiming, “Kol asher diber Adonai na’aseh” (“all that the LORD has spoken, we will do”). They repeated this proclamation on three separate occasions. And they did so BEFORE they had even heard what the LORD would say. They had yet to see or hear the words of the law. It seems to me that the soon to be spoken word of GOD was sufficient for them. They did not even need to know His words! This demonstrated faith in the Speaker not needing what He might actually say. Here we are with a great illumination. We have the written word before our eyes. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have 2000 years of faithful witness. And yet, can we say, “all that the LORD has spoken, or will speak, we will do?”
Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29 & 31, “Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen yet believe. But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that in believing you might have life through His name.” By the way, the word ‘might’ here does not mean maybe. That’s what ‘might’ has come to mean in English but here it means ‘definitely’.
From wave offering to wave offering the LORD demonstrated to Israel what He had already purposed. Redemption from slavery and sin, a turning of bitterness to sweetness, feeding from manna from heaven, water from a rock, The Rock, in the wilderness of thirst, a place of rest, deliverance from the arch enemy, and the establishment of God’s covenant in their lives. Jesus walked this out for that forty day interval, demonstrating the physical and spiritual reality of all that GOD had purposed. He fulfilled to the letter every detail of this purposed plan of redemption, a plan that reached beyond the borders of the nation of Israel out into the whole world. And as GOD ascended from Mount Sinai, Jesus ascended from Mount Olivet with the promise to come again, and in the meantime to leave us another Comforter, Who would come in ten days time at Pentecost. In this way He fulfills His promise to never leave nor forsake us.
And what of His final words – the Great Commission? Can we say with our whole hearts, “Whatsoever the LORD says, we will do?”
As you celebrate communion this morning, make it a prayer of consecration of your life to His.
Father GOD as we gather together in our twos and threes you have promised to be there in our midst. Come Lord Jesus oversee our celebration and our remembrance of the mighty work you have undertaken on our behalf. As we share our bread and sip our fruit of the vine let us draw near to you with our whole heart. Help us to continue to commit our lives to Your service. May you give us the courage to say, “all that the Lord GOD says, we will do.” Thank you for the wonder that is your word. It is rock-solid and cannot be moved. We thank you for the word’s power to reach down into our very depths and facilitate change. Feed us with the Bread of Life broken for us. As we break this bread this morning let us reflect upon your willing brokenness for us. Let us remember that you became sin – our sin, Who knew no sin. Let us ponder the time you sent the heavenly manna to sustain your chosen people. Thank you that there was sufficient for each person for each day. May we faithfully look to you for our daily bread throughout the days that lay ahead for each of us. We also thank you for the fruit of the vine which represents Your blood, shed for the remission of our sin. Thank you that you Who is the Firstfruits of the grave offers us this fruit of the vine to nourish and sustain us daily and provide The Way that we too will see resurrection. We are amazed at your Faithfulness and at your attention to the detail of our lives as we pay diligence to your word. We lift up those among us who have special needs this morning. Let the names of our loved ones and friends and fellow members of our church that rise up in our hearts at this time find spoken prayers upon our lips. Let us remember each other, not just at this time but over the weeks to follow. May you accomplish all that you desire for each one of us both individually and corporately. Create in us a clean heart O LORD, and renew a right spirit in us. May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight. Grant us wisdom and direction as we come out of this difficult season. May we cherish each other all the more for having been apart. Bless all those who give to our work here at Ohsweken and may we be worthy of their faithfulness. Let us be good stewards of all that is entrusted to us. Bless our coming in and our going out and may we have a part to play in the great harvest that lays about us. As you led Israel, day by day, giving protection through many dark nights, so too, lead us by your mighty outstretched right arm. Take us to new places, to new adventures. Stretch our faith even as you stretched out the heavens. Give us boldness and let us never fear what the enemy may threaten, for we serve a risen Lord, a victorious Lord, an all abundant Lord. Rain down your blessings upon us as we raise our praise and worship to you. Grant us Your peace in Jesus’ name, Amen.