Dr. John B. MacDonald
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"I've read the bit about the Festival of First-fruits" she says, "but I don't get it – what's it got to do with me?"

"Well, let's walk through this together. I'm going to propose at least three things that can touch you at the core of your life." 

Before we get to that we have to lay some groundwork so we can trace the trajectory from an ancient Israelite harvest festival to Jesus Christ to the lives of followers of Jesus today. 

 

First, I'm skipping one of the festivals – but we'll come back to it in the next blog. The one we'll be coming back to seems to be anchored by the Festival of the Passover and this Festival of First-fruits. 

As the name implies, "first-fruits" is just that. It's the first sheaf of the spring harvest. It is the sign of the plentiful harvest yet to come. 

 

Institution

Second, let's look at how this festival was instituted. 

Take a moment to read the six verses of Leviticus 23:9-14

This festival was delayed until Israel had entered the land (23:10a). Until that time they were pilgrims and had no place or opportunity to grow a crop. 

Here are three other observations

  • What: A sheaf of the "first grain" of the harvest was to brought to the priest (v. 10b). The sheaf signaled that a bountiful harvest would take place. This action is full of promise.
  • How: It was the priest, acting as the representative of the people, who physically "waved the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf" (v. 11a). This action declares divine acceptance.
  • When: This celebration took place on "the day after the Sabbath" (v. 12) – that is, our Sunday, the first day of a new week. Thus, if the Passover fell on, say, a Wednesday, then the following Sunday would be the time for the Festival of First-fruits. This action marks a new beginning.

 

Fulfilment

Third, how was this festival fulfilled? 

Here's what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: 

 20 ... Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.[1] 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.   

As the Festival of the Passover has been fulfilled historically in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so the Festival of First-fruits has been fulfilled historically in the resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Festival of First-fruits was celebrated on the first day of the week following the Passover. Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week following his crucifixion. Here are some of the unanimous records of eye-witnesses as to when the resurrection of Jesus occurred: Matthew 28:1, 5-6; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1-6; John 20:19-20.

 

Significance 

Fourth, how is this significant for followers of Jesus today? 

Can you imagine how the followers of Jesus felt after his death? 

They had given everything to follow him. They had been convinced that he was the promised king – and that he would set up his kingdom any day. It had come to nothing – or so they thought. 

Three long nights and days of disorientation followed. Among other things, they experienced loss, confusion, grief, hopelessness, despair, fear, guilt, recriminations – a gaping void had appeared in their lives. 

And then, on the first day of the week, reports began to filter in

  • "The tomb is empty – his body is missing."
  • "Angels told me Jesus is alive."
  • "Jesus appeared to me!"
  • "Jesus appeared to us! He spoke with us, and we touched him." 

Of their responses, the dominant one seems to be joy

  • "afraid yet filled with joy";
  • "joy and amazement";
  • "overjoyed."[2] 

 

Here are three proposals for the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our lives today: 

  • It is full of promise. His resurrection signaled that all who are "in Christ ... will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:23) – every follower of Jesus will be physically resurrected when Jesus returns to the earth. 

Among other things the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides a tangible, historical foundation for enduring faith and hope in God. Here's what Peter says along this line: "Through [Jesus Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:21).

Jesus has been resurrected – he lives – and so shall we! 

  • It declares divine acceptance

First, all that Jesus did and said was accepted and endorsed by God, his Father. He was "declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 1:4).

Second, all those who are followers of Jesus are likewise accepted by God, our Father. We "who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:24-25). This "justification" is God's declaration of our acceptance in Christ. 

  • It marks a new beginning. Words explode from Peter's pen as he writes: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter1:3). 

Paul puts it this way: "if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

We've traced the trajectory from an ancient Israelite festival to its fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ to some of its significance in the lives of the followers of Jesus today.

 

Reflection

Take a moment to reflect on tangible ways in which you can embrace God's full promises, divine acceptance, and new beginning that flow from the resurrection of Jesus Christ into your life. 

You may identify and experience other significant benefits from this reflection. 

Express your gratitude to God for what you discover – and tell someone else about it so they can be blessed as well.   

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[1] Here "asleep" is an aphorism for bodies of God's people who had died. Their bodies, so to speak, had "fallen asleep" and (by implication) their bodies would be awakened at their future resurrection.

[2] Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:41; John 20:20. 

 

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

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