In 325 AD the Nicean Council made a ruling which still impacts you and me today. The results of their decision created a calendar formula ensuring celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus, now called Easter, would always be on Sunday.
In at least one way, we can understand their reasoning. YHWH rested from his work of creating on the seventh day (Shabbat). He also rested from his new covenant work of re- creating on Holy Saturday. Imagine the Father’s growing anticipation as the sun goes down on the Sabbath and he— to the joy of the heavenly host and the shock and dismay of every power and principality—raises his crucified Son, the Lord of glory, from the dead!
"Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb." (Matthew 28:1)
WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER Sadly, the council's decision to separate Easter from Passover risks obscuring the flow of the biblical narrative and losing vital lessons from the prophetic history of God's chosen people. When that happens, we are impoverished.
On June 9, 2019, Whitsun and Shavuot converge. This auspicious reunion is the theme of my article. By exploring how the Testaments connect the Shavuot Yeshua knew with the disciples experience of Pentecost, in Jesus, we can better appreciate and appropriate what God has prepared for those who love him.
The Hebrew name Shavuot (Deut 16:10) refers to seven weeks, the Greek equivalent, Pentecost, refers to fifty days. Both names take us into the biblical text where we acknowledge with wonder that this whole feast pattern is one of divine design."These are the appointed feasts of the LORD ... You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath." (Leviticus 23:4, 16)
Count fifty days from when? The summary statement in Deut 16:12 provides the clue we need, "You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt...". This line interrupts the instructions for all three pilgrim feasts by coming between the second and the third. We are on to something significant; biblically speaking, Pentecost completes Passover.
HE BRINGS THEM OUT There is a reason that even after only hearing the story once, the youngest of children can remember so much about Israel's exodus from Egypt—divine anointing. God tells His- story. He begins,
"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew." (Exodus 23-25)
"God knew" is a brilliantly literal translation of one of the Hebrew language's most intimate concepts, yada. This phrase is not about omniscience, it is a merciful father looking for the prodigal child. This context is not about transcendence, it is about being near enough to hear.
He hears their distress, remembers his covenant, and begins revealing himself which means, yada goes both ways. The true salvation of his people is in knowing him. He raises a deliverer, confronts the enslaving power, and strikes down the gods of the Egyptians.
The angel of death passes over the shed blood of innocent lambs and his captive people pass over from slavery to sonship. With the divine presence in a pillar of fire as their rear guard, they pass through the waters and he annihilates the forces of Pharaoh. God wins.
Moses proclaims that what they (and we) just witnessed was the kingship (kingdom) of God breaking forth in the world, "The LORD reigns for ever and ever." (Exodus 15:18) It was by grace they were saved through faith. It was not their own doing; it was the gift of God. It was not a result of human effort, "Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows (yada) me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:24)
HE BRINGS THEM IN Passover reveals the God who hears and acts, rescuing people out of captivity like he said he would. So far, so good. But are you be satisfied with this as the end of the story, the fulness of the revelation? Not me! They are stranded in the middle of nowhere. I want to know why he brought them out? What is he going to do next? Read on, the divine author does not disappoint.
God, the Shepherd - Up to and from this point on, we are all very familiar with the sin and shortcomings of the people. But Asaph in Psalm 80:1 helps focus our attention on the character revealing actions of the one he calls, the Shepherd of Israel. The LORD guides his flock through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. Along the way, he provides life- giving necessities like water, food, and the mysterious bread from heaven, manna. And he protects them from enemies, like the Amalekite attack.
God, the Teacher - The destination God had prepared for Israel was Mt. Sinai. There, like a Father, he beckons his children to come up and receive the gift of Torah, his teaching and instruction. The Sages of Israel calculated that Moses received the ten commandments on Shavuot (Pentecost), fifty days after the Passover in Egypt. That tradition was validated in the Book of Acts when the Holy Spirit—promised in the Tanakh—was poured out from heaven.
THE GIFT OF PRESENCE Pentecost completes Passover. Said another way, the salvation from Egypt is given a fuller meaning in light of the sanctification at Sinai. Another important Hebraic insight from the Jewish culture of Jesus is that the purpose of the revelation at Sinai was to restore the presence of YHWH to the earth.
"And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." Exodus 25:8) At a Jewish Passover meal, the storytelling begins with Abram's response to God's call. Why is that significant? If we start with the end in mind, we can discern the holy heartbeat of the Almighty before, during, and after the events of the exodus.
Listen carefully to these familiar words to Abram in Genesis 12, "I will make of you a great nation ... I will bless you ... in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." To be a royal priesthood, mediating the holy presence of the life-giving God, became the high calling of each former slave.
"I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know (yada!) me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrew 8:10-12)
* This article was written for "In Touch" magazine, 2nd Quarter 2019. Learn more about the excellent ministry of Christian Friends of Israel in the United Kingom at https://www.cfi.org.uk.
Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.
Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.