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Exodus 12:1-13, 21-39, Passover, first month, fourteenth day (seven days) (5/2/18)

According to Dr. Henry Abramson (and many others), the history of the Jewish people can be summarized as "They tried to kill us, we survived, letís eat." The Law of Moses gives attention to several major holidays, and the first one, Passover, certainly fits this pattern. The Passover festival centers on the lamb and the unleavened bread that played such major roles in Godís rescue of the children of Israel from the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:14-20, 13:3-4, 7-8; Deuteronomy 16:1-4, Leviticus 23:4-8, Passover, first month, fourteenth day (seven days) (5/3/18)

Iíll bet you can tell me exactly what you ate for dinner last Thanksgiving (or other holiday of your choice), because Iíll bet you eat the same thing every Thanksgiving (or other holiday of your choice). We often commemorate special holidays with special menus. When the angel of death struck down the firstborn of Egypt but passed over the children of Israel, Pharaoh sent them away fast Ė so fast that their bread didnít have time to rise. An important part of the celebration of the rescue of Israel from Egypt is the elimination of all yeast from the household. Only unleavened bread (which is flat or thin) may be eaten. (As near as I can tell, opinions differ about baking soda and baking powder.) The menu commemorating Passover is unique.

Exodus 12:4-6, 12:43-49; Psalms 34:20, Passover, Rules for the Paschal lamb (5/4/18)

Prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70, the paschal lamb was integral to the Passover feast. The lamb was sacrificed on preparation day, the day before Passover began, and roasted whole. Because the lamb can no longer be sacrificed at the Temple, most Jews do not eat lamb at all during the Passover meal, or seder (although some will apparently eat lamb if it is not roasted). The ritual for the Passover feast is called the Haggadah, which has been largely unchanged since at least the first century. The Haggadah contains the readings to be recited before and during each portion of the meal and gives instructions about washing of hands, reclining at the table, singing, and so on. Itís quite a celebration, and I encourage you to get yourself invited to one. Notice that the lamb had to be roasted whole, with no broken bones.

Leviticus 23:15-21, Numbers 28:26-29, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), on the 50th day after Passover (5/7/18)

Now, I want to say a couple of words about animal (and plant) sacrifices. In the beginning, anybody could build an altar anywhere and sacrifice an animal to God (e.g., Genesis 8:20, 12:7, 33:20). This wasnít working out (e.g., 2 Kings 21:3). Eventually, sacrifices could be made only where God decreed (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:13-14), and ultimately only in the Temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the Romans destroyed the Temple in the year 70, and it has not been rebuilt. Therefore, even though all the laws about plant and animal sacrifices are still on the books, modern Jews cannot make them (and all Jews agree on this); weíll read about sacrifices in more detail later in the study. Hereís a discussion of animal sacrifice and why itís no longer done by Tracey R. Rich.

Shavuot, on the 50th day after Passover, was originally a harvest festival (Leviticus 13:17, Numbers 28:26). It was a time for a day off from work and for sacrifices, which were mostly consumed by the worshiper and family. So how do you celebrate Shavuot without a sacrifice? Modern Jewish customs vary, but for the most part, itís a holiday of special meals (especially blintzes and cheesecake or other sweets [unless you are a Yemenite Jew {itís all very complicated}]), with special reference to the celebration of the giving of the Torah to Moses by God at Mt. Sinai.

Leviticus 23:24-25, Numbers 29:1-6, Rosh Hashanah, seventh month, first day (5/8/18)

Rosh Hashanah (head of the year ) is the first day of the Jewish civil calendar and the beginning of the High Holy Days of the Jewish year. The shofar, a trumpet made from a ramís horn, is sounded. A feast is eaten, because itís a day of celebration and rest. Originally there were also sacrifices, but as we learned earlier, these are no longer possible.

Rosh Hashanah is also a day for examining your soul. According to the Talmud, which is the authoritative body of Jewish tradition, this is the day that God opens three books, which I gather record your current record. If you are among the righteous, your name immediately goes into the book of life. If you are one of the wicked, you get blotted out of the book of life. If you are in the intermediate group (which I imagine includes the vast majority of us, neither shining saints nor heinous sinners), you get 10 days to repent and become righteous. (Is this a cool system or what? Wouldnít you just love to have 10 days notice that you are in danger of being blotted out??) Weíll talk tomorrow about what happens after the 10 days.

(Note that Rosh Hashanah is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. Itís like the Gregorian calendar vs. the Church liturgical calendar.)

Leviticus 23:27-32, 16:29-34; Numbers 29:7-11, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), seventh month, tenth day (5/9/18)

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. Also called the Day of Atonement, it is a day for fasting, repentance, and worship. Jews repent both of their individual sins and of the sins of the community. Traditionally, this is the day that God decides each personís fate for the coming year and reseals the Books of Life and Death. (Remember that they were opened on Rosh Hashanah.) During the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are expected to seek out people they may have wronged to ask for forgiveness, up to three times, if necessary. On Yom Kippur itself, only offenses against God can be forgiven.

Synagogue attendance on Yom Kippur is substantially higher than on most Sabbaths, as many secular Jews join their more-observant fellows. (Much like church attendance at Easter and Christmas.) I accidentally scheduled a meeting on Yom Kippur once. Only once, because I heard back instantly from every Jew on the committee!

The New Testament does not mention either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. However, when Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive someone who sins against him, Jesus puts no limit on the number (Matthew 18:22, Luke 17:4).

Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12-34, Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), 7th month, 15th day (7 days) and Shemini Atzeret, on the day after Sukkot ends (5/10/18)

The Jews have to go back to work for four days after Yom Kippur (which is on the 10th day of the 7th month), and then thereís another holiday, Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths, Tents, or Shelters). Sukkot begins on the 15th day of the month and lasts for seven or eight days, depending on where you live. The first and last days are Sabbaths, in addition to any ordinary Sabbath falling in the middle. Sukkot is purely a celebration, and it commemorates the years the children of Israel spent living in tents in the desert after God rescued them from Egypt. A temporary shelter to eat and sleep in is built and usually decorated with plant material. All observant Jews and some Christian denominations celebrate Sukkot.

Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16-17, Be at the Temple on Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. (5/11/18)

Three times a year, all Jewish men had to go to the Temple in Jerusalem: at Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Since there is now no Temple, the rule to be there is apparently in abeyance; however, the modern Passover Seder traditionally ends "Next year in Jerusalem!" for all Jews located outside the city.

Leviticus 25:1-7, 20-22, Sabbatical Year (4/19/18)

Maimonides found 18 commandments about Sabbatical and Jubilee Years. The sabbatical year is the seventh year; it is a time for the land to rest. Apparently the Jews observed it only intermittently before the Exile, because itís one of the things they were in trouble about (2 Chronicles 36:21). The law applies only to land owned by Jews in Israel; for a complete discussion of the rule in modern times, see this paper by Rabbi Bak. The New Testament does not seem to mention the Sabbatical Year.

Leviticus 25:8-18, 23-28, Year of Jubilee (4/20/18)

Every seven times seven years, plus seven months, that is, the fiftieth year, is a Year of Jubilee. Hebrew slaves were freed and purchased property was returned to the hereditary owners. The land was not cultivated, just as in the Sabbatical Year. Rabbi Bak also discussed the Jubilee (p. 194). He said that it is no longer practiced in modern times and may not have been practiced after the Babylonian exile. The New Testament does not seem to mention the Year of Jubilee.

Luke 2:41-52, NT: Jesus and Jewish Christians observed Passover. (5/14/18)

We learned last week that all Jewish men and boys had to go to Jerusalem for Passover. At least in the case of Jesusí family, the whole family went along. From the time he was a small child, Jesus knew that you went to Jerusalem for Passover.

John 2:11-23; John 6:1-14, NT: Jesus and Jewish Christians observed Passover. (5/15/18)

How long was Jesusí earthly ministry? Three years, right? One of the reasons we know this is that John takes particular care to point out the times that Jesus was in Jerusalem for Passover. The first time (not counting with his parents) was near the beginning of his ministry, shortly after the miracle at Cana. The second time was in the middle of his ministry, after he had developed a reputation as a miracle worker and a man to watch, but somewhat before open hostilities with the religious leadership. Notice the emphasis throughout Ch. 6 on bread. John loves pointing out the close connection between Jesusí actions and teaching and the Jewish liturgy.

John 11:54-57, 13:1, 19:14, 19:33-37, NT: Jesus and Jewish Christians observed Passover. (5/16/18)

The third Passover of Jesus ministry was, of course, the last. Notice that Johnís telling of the story starts in Ch. 11 and goes on through Ch. 19. All four Gospel writers devote much of their writing to the last week of Jesusí life. Remember that I mentioned yesterday how John loves to point out the relationship between Jesus and the Jewish liturgy? And remember that the Passover lamb must be roasted whole, with none of its bones broken? See vs. 36.

Acts 12:1-17, NT: Jesus and Jewish Christians observed Passover. (5/17/18)

The early Christians were all Jews, and they continued to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Although Christians are no longer required to celebrate Jewish holidays (see Acts 15), lots of Messianic Jews and some Christian denominations do anyway. Thereís certainly no rule against it, and I urge you to finagle an invitation to a Seder from a Jewish or Messianic Jewish friend.

1 Corinthians 5:6-13; Hebrews 11:24-28, NT: Jesus and Jewish Christians observed Passover. (5/18/18)

Whether they were writing to Gentile Christians (as in 1 Corinthians) or to Jewish Christians (as in Hebrews), the writers of the New Testament expected their readers to be thoroughly familiar with the history and traditions of Passover.

Acts 2:1-12, NT: Shavuot is now Pentecost ("fiftieth"); Jewish Christians observed Pentecost. (5/21/18)

A fellow-reader once asked what holiday the Jews were celebrating when everyone was in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and the answer is ... Pentecost. Pentecoste is the Greek word for fiftieth. Remember that in the Greek Old Testament Leviticus 23:16 tells us to count pentekonta / fifty days after Passover to celebrate our old friend Shavuot. After that first Christian Pentecost, it became an important holiday in the Christian liturgical calendar as well.

Acts 20:13-17; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9, NT: Shavuot is now Pentecost ("fiftieth"); Jewish Christians observed Pentecost (5/22/18)

Shavuot was known as Pentecost wherever the Jews spoke Greek, which was just about everywhere outside of Judea. Lukeís account in Acts and Paulís letter to the church at Corinth show us that the early Christians continued to celebrate Pentecost, although it was coming to have a dual meaning. Christians celebrate it as the day the Holy Spirit came to rest upon the infant Church.

John 7:1-18, 37-41, NT: Jesus, at least, observed Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). (5/23/18)

Jewish men had to travel to Jerusalem for three holidays, Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. We have one record of Tabernacles in the New Testament, when Jesus goes. At first he goes down privately, but after a few days he begins to teach in the Temple.

By the first century, the Feast of Tabernacles included a daily ritual of drawing water from the Pool of Siloam and carrying it to the Temple, accompanied by a crowd singing and dancing praises to God. At the end of the week, Jesus tells the crowd, "Come to me for real water!" Jews still celebrate Tabernacles with singing, dancing, and refreshments. (Methodists just have potlucks at any time of year.)

Note that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not found in the NT, although some Christians celebrate them.

Mark 1:21-28; Matthew 12:9-16; Luke 4:15-20, Jesus was also in the Temple or synagogue routinely. (5/24/18)

Just in case you think that Jesus and the early Christians only went to worship on the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, here are a few scriptures showing that it was his weekly habit to attend the service at the synagogue wherever he was. (Pay attention, travelers!)

While preparing for this study, I learned something interesting about Matthew 12:10. The law about the Sabbath was interpreted to mean that no work of any kind whatsoever was permitted on that day. By our own time, most branches of Judaism permit certain kinds of work; for example, doctors are permitted to heal, and in some cases to drive to the place of healing and even to take an elevator if necessary. (Ask your rabbi for the specific rules applying to you.) It turns out at that the first century was boiling with the debate about whether it is permitted to save life or heal on the Sabbath, so Jesusí question and comments in vss. 10-12 were part of an on-going debate. You can see which side he came down on.

Mark 12:41-44, 13:1-2; John 5:5-14, 7:14-15, 7:28-29, 8:2, 10:22-23, Jesus was also in the Temple or synagogue routinely. (5/25/18)

Jesus was in the Temple regularly, often teaching, whenever he was in Jerusalem. The Temple Festival Ė also called the Feast of Dedication, Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah Ė is too new to be mentioned in the Old Testament. It celebrates the rededication of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees, around 160 BC, after it was profaned by Greek general Antiochus Epiphanes. It was during this festival (see vs. 10:22) that Jesus brought sight Ė that is, light Ė to the blind man and refers to himself as the light of the world (Ch. 9, especially vs. 9:5).

More on the Law
Jesus on the Law, Nazirites, Dietary Law
Signs & Symbols, Civil Law, and Mixtures
Times and Seasons
Sacrifices and Offerings, Priests, and Firstborn
The Ten Commandments, 1 - 3
The Ten Commandments, 4 - 10
The Greatest Commandments

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