Chag Sameach חַג שָׂמֵחַ
Passover is a prominent Jewish holy day, but did you know that it also begins a countdown? Passover is observed on Nisan 14 and immediately following on the first Sunday is the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:9-14). From that Sunday, we count seven weeks to Shavuot. Shavuot literally means “weeks” and it is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus. Followers of Jesus may know this festival by its New Testament fulfillment: Pentecost. Pentecost includes the prefix “pente,” which means 50, specifying the number of days since the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:16). Following this final spring holiday on the Jewish calendar, we take a lengthy intermission until the Fall feasts.
But why should we care about Jewish holidays, and specifically why Shavuot, which Jews around the world will observe at sundown tonight? What meaning does it hold for us as followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile?
On a very special Shavuot at the time shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims brought their first fruits to Jerusalem when the events of Acts 2 took place. We read:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” (Acts 2:1-8)
The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost! Hallelujah! Those early followers of Jesus were given His power to live a new, transformed, dynamic life in Messiah, as mentioned earlier in Acts:
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5, 8)
On Pentecost we read that those present were “cut to the heart” and wondered, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter responded:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39)
When God proscribed the feasts of Israel in Leviticus 23, He also planted a powerful message of repentance, redemption, and rejoicing in Messiah! The spring feasts were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus and the fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled in conjunction with His second coming!
So now you know the one holiday both Jews and Christians have in common! Pentecost or Shavuot. Some say that God gave the Torah on stone tablets on this same day of the year. Now those who follow Jesus have the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wrote the law of God on our hearts!