Jesus in the Feast of Firstfruits
The 3rd feast on God’s calendar, called Firstfruits, is another example where our English translation is found sorely lacking. Despite what its name suggests, the festival of Firstfruits is not about fruit (like apples or bananas). Historically, it’s about grains (specifically barley), but really it’s about much more.
Important Note: This is part 7 of a series of articles on the Biblical Feasts of the Lord (sometimes called the “Jewish Feasts”) and how they were designed by God to reveal both the first and second coming of his Messiah, Jesus. If you haven’t read the articles preceding this one, you should start here.
Firstfruits on the Jewish calendar marks the beginning of the annual grain harvest in Israel. And of the grains that were sown in winter, barley was the first to ripen. God’s thoughts and instruction on Firstfruits are described in Leviticus 23:9-13.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
As this passage states, this festival occurred “on the day after the Sabbath.” Here is where some disagreement exists amongst various groups. The question is, when God says, “the day after the Sabbath,” to which Sabbath is he referring? In my last article I pointed out that the first day of Unleavened Bread is a Sabbath. But there is also the weekly Sabbath, falling on Saturday. So, concerning the year that Christ died and rose, there is some disagreement regarding after which Sabbath the priest’s waving of the sheaf occurred.
But I want to keep this discussion focused on Yeshua Jesus and I don’t want to get bogged down in the mechanics of the rituals. I’ve provided a timeline below that shows how I think this feast (along with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection) may have played out. Study it at your convenience. But I encourage you to not lose sight of who this feast is all about.
Thanks to Hebrew4Christians.com for helping me work this timeline out.
What is clear is that the Feast of Firstfruits occurs while the Feast of Unleavened Bread is already in progress. To put it simply, the Firstfruits is a 1-day festival that’s stuck in the middle of the 7-day festival of Unleavened Bread.
So, on the day of firstfruits (the day after the Sabbath) if you were a farmer in Israel and you had a barley field, you would take a sickle and cut a sheaf (basically a bundle) of barley, bind it together with a cord, place that bundle in a basket, and bring it (along with your lamb, flour, oil, and wine) to the high priest of the temple who would hold up the sheaf and present it before YHWH God for acceptance on your behalf.
You could not cut or harvest any part of your field for any other purpose until you did this first step (Leviticus 23:14). After this requirement was satisfied, only then could you harvest the rest of your field for making flour, bread, etc.
After giving your offering to the priest, he would take the sheaf of green barley of the new harvest and he would wave it north, south, east, and west in dedication to YHWH God. The male lamb was then offered as a burnt offering to the LORD along with unleavened flour mixed with oil, and an offering of wine.
It’s important to know that this first sheaf was a representative of the whole harvest. It served as a pledge that the rest of the harvest would be realized.
Yeshua’s Fulfillment of Firstfruits
Leviticus 23:11 shows that the priest is to present the sheaf to YHWH on the day after the Sabbath. When we read the account of the resurrection in Matthew 28:1, we see that both Marys (Magdalene and Jesus’ mother) find the tomb of the Jesus empty on the day after the Sabbath.
Christ rose from the tomb on the 3rd day (literally the 3rd day of the Passover season), on the very Day of Firstfruits, showing himself to be the first “sheaf” of the true harvest. Remember that this sheaf was a representative of the whole harvest. It served as a pledge that the rest of the harvest would be realized. His resurrection stands as a pledge that, because he was glorified, those who follow after him will also be glorified. Paul explained this in 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
The prophet Daniel prophesied of this fact in Daniel 12:2: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
Jesus confirmed this and further explained, in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” Which is why we can be confident that because Yeshua, the Christ rose from the dead, we will also rise from the dead to glory as He did.
Christ became the “firstfruits of the resurrection” on the very day the priest was waving the firstfruits of the barley harvest. So he fulfiled the Feast of Firstfruits.
1 Corinthians 15:20 says,
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
Acts 26:23 says,
…that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
The Hebrew word for “sheaf” is omer. And we see that a sheaf can also represent people. We see examples of that in the following scripture:
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Notice that Jesus is not talking about literal crops, but rather about people.
Israel was an agricultural society so that because they already understood the concept of a physical harvest, they would understand the concept of a spiritual harvest.
So, not only did Christ fulfill Passover on Passover, not only did he fulfill unleavened bread on unleavened bread, we see him now fulfilling firstfruits on firstfruits, since he is the “firstfruits of the resurrection”.
And let’s not forget the other offerings required by God for this feast. The unblemished, one-year-old lamb (remember that the “spotless lamb” was the central symbol of Passover); the unleavened flour with oil. This produces unleavened dough (remember that this was the central symbol of the Feast of Unleavened Bread); and finally, the wine – Christ stated in that the wine represented his blood poured out for us. So we have the lamb, the unleavened bread, and the wine – the very symbols Yeshua Jesus used at his final supper to call attention to his redemptive work on the cross.
Firstfruits in Scripture
Firstfruits has been a repeating theme throughout the bible. Here’s what it says of Yeshua:
- He was the first begotten of Mary Matthew 1:24-25
- The first begotten of God Hebrews 1:6
- The firstborn of all creation Colossians 1:15
- The firstborn of the dead Revelation 1:5, Acts 26:23
- The firstborn of many brethren Romans 8:29
- The firstfruits of the resurrected ones 1 Corinthians 15:14-23
- The Beginning of the creation of God Revelation 3:14
- He’s the preeminent one Colossians 1:18
So we see through all of this that Yeshua Jesus is literally “the Firstfruits” fulfilling the Feast of firstfruits on the feast of firstfruits – not the day before, not the day after, but on the very day.
In summary, the symbols that YHWH God established in the Feast of Firstfruits in the time of Moses were specifically meant to point to the final and true “Firstfruits” Jesus in his resurrection. This miraculous and transformative event occurred on the very day of the feast, calling attention to its fulfillment and ultimate purpose.
It also heralds the harvest (resurrection) that is to come, namely ours, which is outlined in the next article, The Feast of Pentecost.
I hope God has blessed you through this study,