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From Passover to Pentecost

This blog has been brewing for while in my mind but I am sitting down now to start sharing it.

Jewish Festivals, unlike Christian ones, are mandated in the Scriptures. That said, Christian festivals often have their parallels in the Jewish Calendar.

Holy Week, for Christians is closely associated with and has its theological roots in Passover.

Pentecost, is rooted in the Jewish Feast of Weeks, Shavuot.

Like Passover, Holy Week is an eight day feast, that is comprised of:

  • Palm Sunday - Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey. Crowds were welcoming him with branches and laying cloths in the road as they would for a coming king, and they shouted out "Hosanna to the Son of David" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
  • Maundy Thursday - Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples in an upper room. Jesus washes the feet of His disciples, showing humility, he talks to them at length about what is about to happen to him over the next few days, and then he shares the Passover, picking on just two of the aspects, the bread and the wine, and giving them new significance of His Flesh and His Blood, broken and poured out for the forgiveness of sins and instructing the disciples to do this often, remembering His Body broken for us and His blood poured out for our Salvation. Christians still do this. After this Jesus went out to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed. He was betrayed by Judas, and arrested.
  • Good Friday - Seems a very ironic name for the day on which they crucified Jesus after three false and illlegal trials and terrible torture. He was crucified on a cross, between two thieves. He died, and was taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb. A great tomb, and a squadron of soldiers guarded the tomb.
  • Easter Sunday - Early on the Sunday morning, some women went down to the tomb to tend to the body according to the custom, but they did not find the body. The tomb was empty and it was announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus appeared in many different places and ways over that day and the next 40 days to show that He truly was alive.
Jesus went through this so that we, everyone who believes and puts their trust and follows Him, can be saved from the slavery/bondage of sin and to gain a victory over death.

Passover (Pesach) is feast that commemorates and celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage of slavery in Egypt. Jews celebrate this with a number of customs which I won't go into here, but one important custom and probably central to the Passover celebration, is the Passover meal that is celebrated on the first day of the feast. It is a meal that is more than merely eating and drinking, but conversation too. During the meal, which is comprised of 
a scripted dialogue takes place between the head of the family, usually the father, and a youth, usually a son, where the son asks why they do certain things and the father tells them the story of the Passover. This way, the REMEMBERANCE of what took place is passed on from one generation to the next. It is significant tht Jesus, at His last Passover told us to do this (eat the bread and drink the wine) in REMEMBRANCE of Him.
Like Holy Week, The Feast of Passover is an eight day feast, the first and last days of the feast and the day that happens to fall on the actual Sabbath are the most important days of the festival.

Fifty days after the start of Passover is the Feast of Weeks (Hereafter referred to by its Hebrew name Shavuot to distinguish it from the Christian Feast of Pentecost).
  • Shavuot commemorates the BIRTH OF JUDAISM when God gave them the Ten Commandments. 
  • Pentecost is when we remember the BIRTH OF THE CHURCH when God poured out His Holy Spirit on the 120 disciples. The people started prophesying and preaching and by the end of the day 3000 people had joined become Christians. Pentecost is from the Greek word for Fiftieth.(It was the Fiftieth day of the Omer - and the gift that God gave us was His Holy Spirit.
I entitled this blog "From Passover to Pentecost"

Well in one sense it is about the Very first Passover when the Children of Israel left Egypt to the First Pentecost where the Church was born, but I actually chose the heading because it speaks of the intervening period between Passover and Shavuot.and the significance of that time. According to Jewish tradition, they "Count the Omer" - Here is a better explanation of this:Judaism 101: The Counting of the Omer

In a nutshell, God, in Lev. 23:15 commanded that the days between Passover and Shavuot be counted. It reminds the people doing this that there is a link between what happened in the Passover - Jews getting their liberty from Slavery of Egypt to Shavuot, Jews receiving God's law. I think that we as Christians should also see the link between our Passover - Holy Week, to Pentecost - God giving us His Holy Spirit, to live in us and guide us.

For Jews, the Counting of the Omer, is more than merely, Echad, Shtayim, Shalosh... (1, 2, 3) It's a time to reflect on Who God is and who we are. There are seven "devine attributes, which, since we humans are created in God's Image have seven corresponding "emotional attributes" - or perhaps that should be aspirations, because I cannot claim to attain these but certainlt aspire to them.

WEEKDevine AttributeHuman Emotional Attribute
1.   Chessed - Love Kindness/Lovinng Kindness
2.   Gevurah - Strength   Restraint/Justice and Discipline
3.   Tifferet - Beauty  Harmony, Compassion
4.   Netzach - Victory   Humility, Endurance
5.   Hod - Splendour   Ambition, Humility
6.   Yesod - Foundation  Connection, Bonding
7.   Malchut - Sovereinty   Receptiveness, leadership
The above human attributes are taken from two different lists with alternate translations.
Forming a kind of Matrix, on each of the Seven days of the the seven weeks - representing 49 days, the Jews reflect on the personal attributes in this way: First day - Kindness in Kindness Second Day - Discipline in Kindness, etc.

That is for Forty nine days - what of Day Fifty? Well on the Fiftieth Day - Matan Torah - giving (gift) of the Torah.

To quote the Judaism 101 article
The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu'ot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.

In the Christian tradition there is nothing specific between Holy Week and Pentecost, but some traditions have a period known as Lent which like Sefirat Omer is a period for deep spiritual reflection and may involve a fasting usually of a particular type of food or drink, or it may be a pleasurable pastime. Lent starts 40 days before Easter and finishes on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. It starts on what is known as Ash Wednesday. Despite the different timings between the two religions, the similarities are worth noting too. Many churches run special programmes personal Spiritual reflection, etc. It is not as regimented as it is in Judaism, but I do believe that Christians could do well to take a leaf out of Jewish people's books and take time out of every year to give themselves a spiritual check-up. I noted that during the counting of the Omer, there is no let up of this reflection on the Sabbath, no suggestion anywhere on any of the website I looked up that they do not "Count the Omer" - including the reflection on some aspect of it. Likewise, in our walk with God, we should be persistent, keep at it, no matter what. Yes we may be tired, yes, things might threaten to throw us off track, but as far as what God is dealing with in our lives, we should keep going. Have you had to undergo physiotherapy for anything? I had to go to physio for a dodgy ankle, and the rhysio prescribed stretching exercises to be repeated several times a day. Failure on my part meant that the problem was not going to get better. Was it painful - yes, it had to be. But it had to be.

James 4:8
Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Just as there is a link in Judaism between Passover and Shavuot - so  in Christianity - there is  link between Jesus and Resurrection and Pentecost - The day of the Gift of His Spirit.

Feasts are for remembrance - mostly they are remembering the positive things
Freedom from slavery in Egypt
Freedom from the slavery of sin
Receiving the Gift of God's Law
Receiving the Gift of God's Spirit.
The defeat of the Egyptian oppressors in the Red Sea.
The defeat of death itself as Jesus rose from the dead.

But those positives also indicate negatives that we need to reflect on.

God's Law reflects that God has a purpose and plan for our lives. It is not merely a list of dos and don'ts. However much we'd like to live in complete obedience to every precept laid out in Scripture - there is only One who has that, and that is Jesus, and we must depend on Him, and on the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. The Jews did not suddenly start obeying God's law perfectly, indeed the Old testament is full of stories of how they missed it. If we are going to come anywhere near living towards God's purpose, like the Jews needed the law, we need God's Spirit, which He gives to anyone who asks. 

Luke 11:11-13
11“You fathers—if your children aske for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

I hope this blog blesses you in your reading as much as it has blessed me in writing it. Feel free to comment. 


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