The barley for the Passover firstfruits offering (reishit) was laid together in a sheaf and brought to the court of the Temple. Yeshua died as our Passover Lamb. That was not the end of the story, however! The Torah states that following the Sabbath after the Passover, the priest would present the firstfruits of the barley harvest to the Lord so that the rest of the harvest would be accepted. When the Temple stood, Firstfruits was observed the day after the Sabbath of the Passover. The Sunday after Passover would be the observance of Firstfruits.
Passover had begun when Yeshua died, and on the third day, early that Sunday morning, the priests were in the Temple offering up the firstfruits of the harvest. At this very time, our Messiah and High Priest was raised from the dead, offering up Himself as our atonement. In so doing, He became the firstfruits of the rest of the harvest of believers in Him. Therefore Paul writes:
But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits, after that those who are Messiah’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
On the first day of the week, Yeshua was raised bodily from the dead, to fulfill the symbolism of this yearly festival which falls within the days of unleavened bread. As Passover pictures Messiah as the Lamb who was slain, Firstfruits pictures Messiah who was ‘raised up’ as firstfruits, in whom alone those who are asleep will be “made alive.” Firstfruits could not be celebrated apart from Passover; and, Messiah’s Resurrection can never be celebrated apart from His Passover sacrifice for us. This would be to separate the fruit from the root.
Firstfruits was celebrated only after entering the Promised Land (Leviticus 23:10). After all, how could it be celebrated in the wilderness where there is no harvest? So also, Messiah’s resurrection speaks of life after and beyond this wilderness journey of struggle. This resurrection life will not be fully understood while in the bondage of sin. In fact, it was not until after Firstfruits was observed that the new growth of grain could be eaten. Likewise, it was not until after Messiah’s resurrection that believers could fully partake of the new growth, even the new life in Him. It was only after He had been raised and ascended to the Father that we received “the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 8:23).
Firstfruits gave assurance that the rest of the harvest would be accepted: “He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted” (Leviticus 23:11). God does not just barely accept us, but in Messiah, He is delighted and well pleased with us. He accepts us completely.
Passover - the Feast of Redemption brings life, and it was during Passover that I found a new life in Yeshua (Jesus) a decade ago. Being raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, in Baltimore, I went through all the traditional motions that a good Jewish girl goes through. I celebrated all the holidays and became Bat Mitvahed, but I never understood what it meant to have a relationship with God.
After I got married I moved to the “Bible Belt” of Charlotte where most of my friends seemed to be Christians. My two best friends at the time, who were Christians, never really talked to me about what it meant to be a believer, but I could see they were still absolutely amazing women.
I thought they represented how “Christians” should be: caring, truthful, dependable, loyal and not overbearing. But for some reason I actually appreciated the absence of faith in our conversations.
One ‘Nutty’ Friend
However, I had a friend. Tammy* who I thought was a bit overbearing. We both have daughters who enjoyed playing together. One day in 2001 we began chatting about how we were raising and educating our girls. Tammy, who was home-schooling, purposefully incorporated God and the Scriptures into her child’s education. My response to her was, “This is not what the real world is all about. My daughter, Anna, will know about concrete things like reading and social studies, and we are raising her to be a good honest girl. That is what is important.”
Tammy then said to me, “Stacy, how can you think eternal life is not important?!” Well, this actually struck me as a humorous question because at that point Tammy seemed to be “ off her rocker.” I thought, “I’ll have some fun with my meshuggenah (“nutty”) friend,” as we began going back and forth about God.
I had my views and she could not sway me, but it was amusing to hear her get frustrated! That is, until I had enough. “Look Tammy,” I said, hoping to end the conversation and put her in her place. “I am Jewish and my family is Jewish, and if I ever did anything else (like accept the Messiah) I would break my family’s heart. So I’m sorry, but, that is how it is and we will just have to agree to disagree.” “Well that’s a shame,” she said. “But, you know there are a lot of Jews that have converted.” Now it was not so humorous anymore. What I heard her say was “I am sorry you are going to spend eternity in hell, but you can join my team and admit that ‘being Jewish’ is wrong.” Our phone conversation ended on bad terms. I was so mad at her that I started reading anything I could on being Jewish. “ I am not going to buy into this ‘Jesus thing,’ I thought to myself. So I bought The Idiot’s Guide to the Bible and read the entire book. At that point, I started feeling like, “Well maybe this Jesus did do some pretty amazing things, if you actually believe it at all.”
A New Testament Experience
In the beginning of March 2002 another friend invited me to her church. She explained that a Messianic Rabbi would be speaking. I accepted the invitation, and to my surprise, it was awesome. There was an amazing atmosphere of love and joy as I saw Jews and Gentiles worshiping the same God together. The Rabbi said that even if you believe in Jesus (Yeshua), you are still Jewish. Well, this was a concept that I had never even considered. It reminded me of being able to get a ticket at the amusement park for that exciting ride for which I thought I was too short. After the service I told my two friends that I was interested to learn more. Though they did not show it, they were really excited. They later told me that they had been praying for me “behind my back.” Thank God for them!
A few weeks later my friend, Mary, took me to Hope of Israel Congregation. I found the service interesting and with Passover coming up I decided to celebrate with my family. The only place I knew I could get a Haggadah that late in the season was through Word of Messiah Ministries. I called the office and made arrangements to get one. Sam asked me how long I had known Yeshua and I remember saying, “Well I don’t really know Him yet.” Miriam offered to meet with me the following week to go over any questions. That was, in my eyes, so generous and great that I eagerly accepted. That night as my family went through this Messianic Haggadah, the Lord began a work in my heart.
A Brand New Life, in Messiah!
The next day was Saturday, April 2nd, 2002 and I decided to visit Hope of Israel Congregation again. What can I tell you? The Lord continued to speak to me personally and when Sam invited those who wanted to accept Yeshua as Messiah to pray, I prayed the ‘sinners prayer.’ My life has not been the same since. Later that year, my husband found Yeshua, my daughter became a bat-mitzvah (2010) and my son will be bar-mitzvahed next year.
I am now blessed with the privilege to coordinate HOI/WMM’s Passover banquet each year. The message in the Passover is so amazing. I am blessed to be a part of something so awesome that spoke to me; and, I am so delighted to be a part of making the story available to everyone.
Our banquet sells out every year with over 500 people attending and this year we have added a special children’s banquet to help teach the story in a fun way and keep the tradition alive in our kids. Please keep reaching out to your Jewish friends, and maybe this Passover they will find life in Messiah.
The classic portion on the subject of faith is found in Hebrews 11, and it provides extensive teaching regarding salvation. Beginning with Abel and spanning throughout Biblical history we find that these heroes anticipated Messiah’s coming through the various demonstrations of their lives of faith. Moses likewise was looking to the salvation that would be provided in Messiah. He established his faith through keeping the Passover even before the Exodus took place. We, too, can glean spiritual principles which are evidenced in the Passover that is kept by faith.
By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (Hebrews 11:28)
The word kept (make or do) is in the certain tense, which means that when Moses kept the Passover, had permanent redemptive results.
Paul reiterated this concept in 1 Corinthians 5:8 by teaching a mostly non-Jewish congregation, Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul teaches us that “Messiah our Passover [Lamb] has been sacrificed” and we are to testify and express this truth each time we celebrate the Passover, which is an ongoing testimony of God’s redemption in Messiah. Because of our faith in Messiah, like Moses, we must look by faith to the Lamb of God.
As Moses pointed to the greater prophet, Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), the Passover also points us to a greater redemption. In Hebrews 11:24-26 we learn that Moses refused the pleasures of Egypt for the reproaches of Messiah because by faith he sought the heavenly reward.
Keeping the Passover has eternal results because Messiah is the Passover Lamb. Today, we keep Passover by faith not only to remember the redemption story from physical slavery in Egypt, but more importantly, to testify that the same God who redeemed us from spiritual slavery continues to be faithful to us every day. Passover is the ongoing testimony of our God who is able to deliver, to protect, to strengthen and to restore us back to Himself.
Faith in the Blood
The blood was a necessary element in order to bring redemption. Therefore, “Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood,” which points to two essential aspects of redemption. The first Passover pointed us forward to the greater deliverance that Messiah would bring and the blood of the lamb on doorposts points us toward the bloody sacrifice of Messiah as the Lamb of God for Israel and the world (John 1:29; 3:16).
The blood in both cases provided a substitute for those that deserved judgment. Leviticus 17:11 confirms this eternal truth that “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
The first Passover only had effectiveness because the blood was applied to the doors of the homes. The blood on the outside of the door was seen by God as their testimony of faith in His way of salvation (Exodus 12:7, 13). Therefore, applying the blood of the spotless lamb on their doors was essential and effective for Israel because it was done by faith, a faith that ultimately found fulfillment in the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
Secured by Faith
Hebrews 11:28 continues to explain the clear purpose for keeping Passover and applying the blood, “so that the destroyer would not touch the firstborn.” The blood would protect and secure the Israelites from God’s judgment on Egypt. In the Scripture, the usage of the word firstborn is applied to Israel as God’s firstborn of the nations (Exodus 4:22).
The judgment on the Egyptians was certain because God declared that what the Egyptians had done to Israel, His firstborn of the nations, would be done to the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 4:22-23). One might ask, why did Israel need to apply the blood of the lamb, if God already declared His judgment upon Egypt? This is vital to understand because the first Passover was redemption by faith, not merely physical deliverance from Egyptian bondage. This faith was demonstrated when households in obedience to God’s word applied the blood on the door. If they refused to put the blood on the door, even though they were Hebrews and the firstborn, they would have been condemned along with Egyptians. God requires all to have faith in His plan of redemption. When we trust in Messiah we are secured in Him because we share the rights and benefits in Yeshua, who is our righteousness and the firstborn among many brethren. (Hebrews 12:23)
Furthermore, the author of Hebrews gives more insight when he writes, “the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel” (Hebrews 11:28). This security from judgment is emphasized by the word touch. In Hebrew, nagah, translated as touch simply means to come into physical contact with another, meaning that the destroyer had the authority to kill those who had no blood applied on their door, but had no authority to touch those under the blood.
Likewise, we as His firstborn are delivered by the blood of the Passover Lamb and have immunity from the judgment to come on the world. Moreover, we enjoy God’s daily security as we live in light of His eternal salvation. Let’s keep the Passover Feast with deeper appreciation for the Lamb of God.