The Messianic Life Cycle Celebrating Shavuot
Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, Firstfruits, and Pentecost, will fall on June 8th this year. It is important to note Shavuot, like all of the other Biblical feasts, is very specifically commanded in Scripture with regards to the timing of the feast. To celebrate Shavuot properly the most important criteria to know is when to celebrate the feast. For example, June 8th is not the only date set aside for the celebration of Shavuot. June 6th is also considered a valid date.
The reason for the difference in the dates is that the Sadducees and the Pharisees interpreted differently the command regarding when to celebrate Shavuot, and is based on this verse: ''And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:'' (Lev 23:15). The problem is that the command says to begin numbering the Sabbaths from the day after the Sabbath of the wave offering. This resulted in two distinct opinions. First, the Pharisees believed the Sabbath of the first wave offering was the Holy Day that started the week of unleavened bread. This opinion is the traditional opinion used to day. The other opinion, the one the Sadducees maintained, stated that the Sabbath mentioned in this passage was the weekly Sabbath.
However, as messianic believers it becomes easier to examine this passage in light of Yeshua's roll, and how as messiah he predicted the proper timing of Shavuot. The reason Yeshua is crucial for determining the meaning of this passage, is because of his fulfillment as the firstfruits offering. For example in this passage "But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept."(1Co 15:20), the apostle is relating to Yeshua’s mission as the firstfruits of the resurrection. However, in this passage “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) the apostle is relating to the second firstfruits; those who are Messiah’s at his coming. The reason that Rabbi Shaul (Paul) is identifying the firstfruits in two parts is because the resurrection happens in two stages. Yeshua was the first to be raised from the dead, however his followers will not experience the resurrection until his return.
This fits into Shavuot very nicely because it is also commanded to happen in two stages. For example the passage “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:” (Leviticus 23:10) This states that the first firstfruits offering is to be given to the priest when the children of Israel come into the land. However, a verse of the same chapter also wants Israel to number the days after the Sabbath when the wave offering was given. In fact, they are to count 7 Sabbaths or 49 days, and on the fiftieth day they are commanded to celebrate Shavuot.Now looking from this perspective at how Yeshua and his followers celebrated Shavuot we also see it accomplished in two stages.
The first stage is in this passage “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” (Jn 20:1) From this passage and the passages at Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:9 it becomes apparent that Yeshua was raised from the dead sometime during the first day of the week. However, here it is critical to remember the first day of the week by biblical reckoning starts Saturday night at sundown. Therefore Yeshua was raised from the dead at the end of the Sabbath and dawning toward the first day of the week. Remember how in Lev 23:15 the Lord commanded the countdown to Shavuot to begin from the “morrow after the Sabbath”. If Yeshua was truly the firstfruits offering as Rabbi Shaul claims, this countdown began at his resurrection. Therefore the Sadduceean method of beginning the count on the day after the weekly Sabbath seems to be creditable considering Yeshua’s role as the first wave offering.
The second stage of how the apostles knew when to celebrate Shavuot is based on the passages which state “Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” (Acts 1:2-4) In these passages the apostles mention that after the resurrection, Yeshua showed himself as proof for a period of forty days, while the apostles were waiting for the promise. Then “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2:1) the promise also came, and the apostles were filled with the Spirit. As a confirmation that this was the promise the apostles waited for, it was confirmed by signs and wonders very much like the signs and wonders recorded for the first Shavuot described in Ex 19:16:19. It is also interesting to note that on the first Shavuot Israel received the Torah, and on the second Shavuot the apostles received the Torah into their hearts, through the Spirit.
Shavuot like all the other Holy Days is commanded very specifically with regard to when the Holy Day is to be celebrated. However, in light of a belief in Yeshua the mystery of the timing of Shavuot becomes clearer. Because when Yeshua began fulfilling his mission as firstfruits, by being raised from the dead at the end of Shabbat, during the first day of the week he set in place the beginning of the countdown for Shavuot. Therefore He established the fact that the counting was to begin on the day after the seventh day Sabbath and end fifty days later, on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost). This has resulted in every Shavuot being celebrated on the same day of the week that Yeshua was raised, and confirming the work and ministry of Yeshua by giving his followers both the Spirit and the Torah (Spirit and Truth) on the same day of the resurrection. Therefore, this year Shavuot falls on June 8th and should be set aside as a day of reading the Torah and following Ruach HaKodesh.