Celebrating the Spring Feasts

The feasts are next week! And we get to celebrate them together (and apart). We've already talked a lot about Passover but here are some ideas for the feasts that follow it as well. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the day after Passover and continues for seven days (April 11-18). The Feast of Firstfruits occurs in the middle of that week. We are going to observe it on the day after the weekly Sabbath (on Sunday, April 16).

This year the spring feasts overlap with the church’s celebration of Holy Week and Easter, which I think is so cool!

Our Messiah has come! He has died. He is risen. He will come again. And next week we get to intentionally celebrate Him.

In the blurring rush of winter turned spring, I’ve nearly lost sight of Him these last few weeks. Ironically, the very things that should be pointing me to Him have turned my eyes away.

And I think maybe Jesus is sitting at the table waiting for me to take my seat. Maybe He’s waiting for you too? Maybe we’ve rushed until we are ragged, and He’s waiting for us to rest—to come and enjoy the Friend who has set a place for us at His feasts.

I may have nearly missed Him, but I’m slowing down. Next week, I plan to linger longer with the only One who’s worthy.

Passover

Monday, April 10: Have a special meal on Monday night. Whether you follow the Passover Seder guide or do your own thing, gather some people you love (or set aside time for a quiet dinner alone) and enjoy the fellowship of each other and the One who has made a place for us at His table.

Read through the passages about the Last Supper, the final Passover meal that Jesus enjoyed with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion (Matthew 26 and Luke 22), and reflect on the fact that Jesus was willing to suffer and die in order to redeem us from sin and death. He really is crazy about you!

Unleavened Bread

Tuesday, April 11-Saturday April 15: Since the feast remembers Jesus’ death, we’re going to end it early--on the day we celebrate His resurrection.

During these five days (which I realize is longer than Jesus was actually in the grave), we are going to fast from something. We don’t fast to earn anything from the Lord or to prove anything to Himself, ourselves or anyone else. We fast to set our eyes on Him, to turn our gaze from the temporal things of this world and fix it on our Lord. So choose to give up something that will allow you to focus your attention on the One who suffered death on our behalf.

If you need a suggestion about what to give up, may I suggest leaven? Give up yeast for the week and replace bread with matzah (you can pick it up in any grocery store). With every crunch of unleavened bread, remember the sacrifice of the sinless Savior. Let your own sacrifice press you closer to the living Bread of Life.

Firstfruits

Sunday, April 16 (Easter): On the morning of Firstfruits (the day after the Sabbath), Jesus’ followers came to His tomb and found it empty.

“Jesus is not here,” the angel told them, “He is risen. Come, see the place where He lay” (Matthew 28:6).

On Firstfruits, we celebrate the One who has risen, the One whose resurrection guarantees the resurrected life of all who call upon His Name. Death does not have the final word!

The Jewish people dedicated the first of their harvest to the Lord--a humble acknowledgment of their reliance upon Him for the whole of the harvest.

I’m going to get up early that Sunday to spend some time, some first time, with the One who draws me to Himself. I may even try to find the sunrise.

Easter can be a busy blur, and even a few minutes alone with Him can be hard to get, but the times we fight for are often the tenderest. Make some time on this day to get with Him and read through the passages about Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20). Celebrate His guarantee of eternal life.

Counting the Omer

April 16-June 4: The day of Firstfruits also commences the starting of the “counting of the Omer”—the counting down of the 50 days until the next and final spring feast of Pentecost. We begin counting down from 50 on the day of Firstfruits. During these 50 days, we anticipate the feast of Pentecost, which we will look at in more detail as we approach it.

My encouragement to us as we participate in this counting is to continue to intentionally give Jesus our “firstfruits.”

I don’t farm (or even successfully grow herbs), so my physical firstfruits are pretty limited. But the concept also applies to our emotions, our reactions, our time and our resources.

We have a God who invites us to bring our firsts to Him rather than our extras.

When I do this, especially with my emotions, it makes a huge difference. But I don’t do it nearly enough. I will think or talk an issue into the ground before I turn to Him to deal with it. I’m always surprised when no one’s response is “enough” for me until I remember that I am created to be filled by Christ alone.

When I run to Him first with my disappointment or joy, I am met and tended by the One who knows my heart’s deepest needs. After that, the beauty of sharing with others is sweeter.

Our intimacy and friendship with the Lord grows deeper when we take Him our firstfruits. That is my prayer for us during these fifty days—that we would draw near to the One who draws near to us (James 4:8).

During these days, what if we committed to spending time with Him first thing? I don’t mean we have to spend an extended amount of time and I know that everyone’s schedules are different. But what if we set aside the very first moments and thoughts of the day to enjoy the presence of the One who draws us ever-closer to Himself? Maybe that means setting the alarm five minutes earlier, not pressing the snooze button or resisting the urge to immediately pick up our phones. Whatever it looks like to give Him your firsts, let’s commit to that for these fifty days of preparation.

I’m going to send out a countdown calendar next week to those of you who have subscribed to the feast study. It will (hopefully) be pretty and will include some suggested passages of Scripture and some prayer prompts to reflect on during these days.

We serve a great and powerful God who stoops down to tenderly meet His own. My prayer is that these feasts will slow us down and turn our faces back toward Him. May He meet you as you seek Him.