The twenty-third chapter of Leviticus records Israel’s seven annual feasts in chronological order. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, these are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts’ ” (Leviticus 23:1-2, ESV).
Passover was celebrated first. “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover” (Leviticus 23:5, ESV).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced on the following day. “On the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread” (Leviticus 23:5, ESV).
The twenty-third chapter of Leviticus lists the Feast of First Fruits as the third annual feast. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:9-14, ESV).
Observe that they were to celebrate this festival on the day after the Sabbath. What Sabbath? The Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These three national holy-days, Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, all occurred during a single week.
The first month on the Jewish calendar is Abib, later called Nissan. Barley harvest began in the mid-spring, about the middle of Nissan. The first sheaf of grain was harvested and then ceremonially given back to the Lord of the Harvest. The priest received the sheaf and then, holding it high, waved it before the Lord. As the Lord symbolically accepted the sheaf of barley, it became a promise and pledge of an abundant, bountiful harvest.
During the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, He sent Peter and John to make preparations for the Passover celebration (Luke 22:5). After sundown on Thursday, Jesus gathered His disciple together to celebrate the Passover. (For the Jew, a new day technically started at sundown.)
Friday was the fourteenth of Nissan. Passover. At 9:00 that morning, the Innocent Lamb of God was crucified. At 3:00, Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished!” He died, and Nicodemus and Joseph lovingly placed His lifeless body in the tomb (John 19:38-40).
Saturday, the fifteenth of Nissan was the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus’ body lay in the grave, but unlike every other, the body of Jesus was protected from decay. King David prophesied concerning the Messiah, “You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay” (Psalm 16:10, CSB - see also Acts 2:27). Remember, leaven is the agent of fermentation. Sin is the agent of death and decay. The Sinless One was protected from decay! ... the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
Sunday, the sixteen day of Nissan, the day after the Sabbath, was the Feast of First Fruits. Resurrection Sunday. Easter.
The Apostle Paul, a man knowledgeable concerning the Old Testament laws and traditions, wrote to the church at Corinth. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures ... in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 20, ESV). Jesus is the First to live through death! Because God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, we have the promise of life, abundant... bountiful!
The Feast of Passover spoke of Messiah’s death as the sacrificial and substitutionary lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pointed to the sinless life and a body that never faced decay. The Feast of Firstfruits proclaims that His grave could not hold Him. “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’re His foes!” ... that’s worth celebrating!