A FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING
“The crowd that was there and heard it said it thundered; others said an angel had spoken to Him. Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.” John 12:29-33.
The Jewish Feasts are a symbolic display of Messianic history. Leviticus 23 records God’s instruction for the celebration of eight feasts every year, one weekly, three spring, one summer and three autumn festivals, all at set times. They were also connected to the annual harvest and the celebration of God’s goodness in providing for their physical needs. According to the ancient rabbis, Messiah would fulfil each feast in turn at His first and second comings.
Sabbath was the weekly feast which had a twofold purpose; it was a reminder that God rested after the completion of His great work of creation, and the gift of a day of rest to remind His people that they were human “beings”, not human “doings”.
Passover celebrated God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. They were protected from the angel of death who “passed over” the land, killing the firstborn in every household that was not protected by the blood of a lamb on the door frames of their houses.
The Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits all took place over a period of eight days, symbolizing deliverance from slavery to sin, removal of sin symbolized by removing all yeast from their homes, and the gathering in of the firstfruits of the harvest. Pentecost took place fifty days after Passover and was a celebration of the ingathering of the completed harvest.
It was to the fulfilment of the Feast of Firsfruits to which Jesus was referring when He spoke of being “lifted up”. He would be lifted up on a cross to die as an offering of atonement for the sin of the world at three o’clock in the afternoon; the very moment when the high priest lifted the knife to kill the first Passover Lamb. His death would not only atone for the sin of all mankind; it would also remove sin’s impurity and uncleanness like the removal of leaven from the camp.
Just as the firstborn son in every Jewish family and the firstborn of all the flocks and herds belonged to God, so the firstfruits of the harvest were His and were to be offered to Him in a prescribed manner. They were to be “lifted up” to God as an offering – terumah – and placed in the hands of the high priest to feed him and his family. This terumah sanctified the rest of the harvest and ensured God’s blessing on the crop.
Just as Jesus fulfilled Passover and Unleavened Bread, so He fulfilled the Festival of Firstfuits. He offered Himself as a terumah by being “lifted up” on the cross and by placing Himself into the hands of His Father — His “high priest” — since, for Jesus, there was no one higher than God.
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46 NIV.
The Apostle Paul explains the significance of this terumah in his magnificent exposition of the resurrection.
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection came also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn; Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NIV.
Because Jesus gave Himself both as an offering of atonement and a terumah, His resurrection guarantees both the removal of sin and the full harvest of those who are in him and will rise again. Our hope of resurrection lies in His resurrection because the Father placed His seal of approval on Jesus’ offering by raising Him from the dead. Because we are “in Him”, we shall rise again when He returns to claim His kingdom.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.