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Although he had listened intently to my message, the Jewish man who had come to hear me minister in Texas last month left the service in a hurry. I was disappointed I hadn’t had the chance to discuss the truth of Messiah with him personally. But a few days later, he called me from a hotel room in Chicago.
We spoke for more than an hour about Jewish stuff and Jesus. He had never heard anything like that before. Since I couldn’t see him, I really had no idea how he was handling this information which disputes what Jews have been taught.
As the discussion came to a close I asked him if he believed what I had told him. After a sigh, he said yes. I invited him to pray with me, which he did.
And as this successful businessman accepted Jesus the Jewish Messiah as his Lord and Savior, he had quite an experience. As we finished, he said, “Wow, that was something. I broke out in a cold sweat as we were praying.” He continued, “I don’t know why, but I’m all smiles. My children need to know about this.”
Hallelujah! Thank you Lord for another Jewish man in the Kingdom, let his children follow.
Karen and I were on our way to the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, having ministered five times and spending three days on the air helping The Rock Radio Network (WBMJ & WIVV) with its share-a-thon. We had time for lunch and, since we had barely seen the Caribbean in our six days there, were looking for someplace on the beach to eat. But after driving up and down several beachfront streets, we found nothing, and disappointedly settled for a popular American chain restaurant. Little did we know it was God’s plan.
As our Hispanic waiter was getting us set up, looking at me kind of strangely, he asked me where I was from. It turned out he was in the church where I ministered the night before. Excitedly, he called a waitress over. He had been telling her all morning about our ministry. Apparently she had heard about the service on the radio and suggested he attend. She was a believer, he was not.
But this waiter was amazed that a Jew believed in Jesus, saying several times, “It’s a miracle.”
A few minutes later, as the family in the booth next to us got up to leave, the father walked over to me saying, “I couldn’t help but to overhear your conversation with the waiter.” Expecting him to be a believer who was about to praise God, I smiled.
Then he said, “I am the Rabbi of a local congregation.” While we continued with a brief pleasant conversation, I knew why were weren’t eating at a beachfront restaurant. I knew God had made these divine appointments.
Shortly afterward, the Lord moved on my heart to challenge our waiter about his position with God. Within a few minutes, with tears welling up in his eyes, he confessed Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!
Let’s praise God the Rabbi won’t be far behind in his realization that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the only way to receive salvation.
The Waiter, Jesus, and a Rabbi
Comparing these to our American holidays, it’s like the fourth of July is a day of the month, but Thanksgiving is a day of the week, Thursday
Here’s why that’s important.
The Feast of Firstfruits and Shavuot (Pentecost) are the two for which no day of the month is prescribed, but rather are linked to “the day after the Sabbath (during Passover),” in Leviticus 23:11. Taken literally, the Sabbath in that passage is Saturday, so Firstfruits is therefore Sunday.
That equates to Resurrection Day, which of course is always a Sunday, lining up as always occurring on Firstfruits. The Jewish Apostle Paul noted that in 1st Corinthians 15:20, calling Messiah the firstfruits from the dead. But the Jewish religion computes the time differently. It regards the second day of Passover as Firstfruits, interpreting the Sabbath of Leviticus 23 to mean a special or festival Sabbath, not Saturday. So that “day after the Sabbath” can be any day of the week. Of course, that changes the Resurrection Day implications.
While this is not concrete proof, it seems important to me that God didn’t specify Firstfruits as “the next day” after Passover, or as a numbered day of the month. That adds credence to the idea He meant to assign Firstfruits to a day of the week - Sunday.
Furthermore, one of the theological splits in ancient Israel between the Sadducees and Pharisees involved the belief in the Oral Law. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees didn’t observe it, but stuck to the written Word. The concept of a festival Sabbath, in addition to the seventh day Sabbath, is not in Torah.
Since modern day rabbinic Judaism carries the influence of the Pharisees, this idea of a different Sabbath is still being used in the timing of the feasts. In addition, we don’t expect religious interpretation to highlight the resurrection of Jesus.
By extension, if Firstfruits is always on a Sunday, then Shavuot, the Feast of weeks, is also always on a Sunday. The Scriptures clearly delineate the two observances are to be separated by 50 days. Thus the Greek title of Pentecost which means fiftieth.
So notice how God set up these two feasts. He didn’t list a numbered day of the month, but used the day of the week - the day after Sabbath. Starting with Firstfruits on Sunday, then instructing in Leviticus 23:16, “Count fifty days,” to Shavuot, which must also fall on a Sunday.
More significantly, although all the feasts point to our Messiah, these two feasts stand out in a sense. Firstfruits, the day Yeshua was raised from the dead; Shavout (Pentecost), the day the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to indwell believers.
There are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God. He ordained these days to the Children of Israel so He could send His Son as fulfillment.
Shavuot - Holy Spirit, Revival, and Unity
“. . . and that day about three thousand souls were added to them,” Acts 2:41.
The Jewish Apostle Peter had just finished his powerful oration to the Jewish men who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost), as required by Torah. Moments earlier, they had witnessed an amazing event as the disciples of Yeshua had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
In verse 37 of Acts 2, we are told these men were cut to the heart by Peter’s message, asking what should they do. The result was a major Jewish revival.
Interestingly, Jesus never had such a response as He ministered to His Jewish brethren. But then He knew there was more to come. He told His followers in John 16:7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
Indeed, it was the Holy Spirit at the center of this revival. In fact, it is easy to see how the Holy Spirit changed Peter. This Apostle was regularly making spiritual mistakes as he walked with Yeshua. But filled with the Spirit at Shavuot, he was a different man.
Even King David, in the days when God selectively gave His Spirit to prophets and kings, understood the purpose of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 51:11/13 he wrote, “And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
As Yeshua proclaimed in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life.”
At the time, the experiences of Acts 2 were thought to be available only to Jewish people. They were the only ones who believed in the Most High God. Gentiles were heathens who worshiped foreign gods.
So when Peter told the Jewish men in Acts 2:39, “ For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off,” it could have easily been understood to mean Jewish people who weren’t there. But God had a bigger plan.
Writing in Ephesians 2, the Jewish Apostle Paul told the Gentiles that before they believed in Jesus, they were aliens from Israel. Then, in verse 13, he explained, “But now in Messiah Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.”
He went on to explain Yeshua had made the Jews and Gentiles to be one (spiritually) and had symbolically taken away the wall in the Holy Temple that kept Gentiles out of the Inner Court. Then in verses 16/18, “That He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
This plan of God, unity of both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus, has everything to do with Shavuot. Not only because that’s when God sent His Holy Spirit, and announced it was for those far off, but more importantly because of His original instructions for the Feast.
Starting in Leviticus 23:17, the Lord calls for the High Priest to wave two loaves of a grain offering before the altar. But unlike any other grain offering prescribed by God, these loaves were to be baked with leaven, a symbol of sin.
We believe one loaf represented sinful Jews, and the other sinful Gentiles, waved together as a foretelling that the two would become one, reconciled through the cross. Shavuot, God used it to bring the Holy Spirit, to bring revival and to bring unity.
The seven Feasts of the Lord, as directed in Leviticus 23, involve two different calendar timing approaches. This is a critical issue for understanding the fulfillment of those Feasts by Yeshua our Messiah.
Five of those holy days are scheduled on specifically numbered days of the Hebrew calendar months. Passover, for example, is always on the fourteenth of Nisan. The other two, however, are based on days of the week.