23 July 2013 by Donna Uning CM –
Before the movement from the Jews to the Gentiles, the feasts of the Lord were celebrated as important festivals in the Jewish calendar. There are seven major feasts in the Hebrew or biblical calendar, the Bible calls them not the feasts of the Jewish people or feasts of Israel, but calls them the feasts of the Lord.
“If there’s something that we learned of the Lord, is that in His timetable, He orders His time from this feasts that we couldn’t elsewhere learn,” Ps Peter Tsukahira said to the church during his visit at the Trinity Methodist Church, Kuching. There are reasons why many Christians do not know about this.
In many generations after Jesus, as the Gentiles outnumbered the Jews; the Gentile movement that we know as Christianity deliberately cut the Hebraic or Jewish roots of our faith. Ps Peter Tsukahira, explained the importance of the feasts of the Lord in his message, Spirit of the three pilgrim feasts and restoring foundations for the future.
In his message, Ps Tsukahira, impressed to the church the need to reconnect back to Jewish roots. We need to reconnect to the Hebraic or biblical foundations to enjoy the richness and the fullness of the spiritual nourishment that’s given to us as a modern day body of Christ, he said.
The areas of holidays are apparent in the spring and fall holidays in the biblical calendar. The early church Gentiles, because they wanted to be different, put those holidays aside. Three hundred years after the movement, they forbade Christians to celebrate those feasts. In their place, Christians developed new holidays like Easter and Christmas instead of Passover, Tabernacles and other holidays in the bible.
“Easter was really an existing Roman pagan fertility spring holiday,” said Ps Tsukahira. “There are no bunnies or eggs in the bible,” he told. What does an egg has to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Those are Roman fertility symbols, a pagan root of Easter which was Christianized.
“As for Christmas, Jesus was not born on December 25, sorry,” he said in confidence after living in Israel for over 25 years. It is very cold and rainy in Israel in December; and shepherds are not outside keeping their flocks that night because they (the shepherds and sheep) are indoors. Jesus was born possibly in the spring or fall, he told. December 25, trees, presents and Santa clause are mostly Christianized western or European pagan holidays.
“I’m not here to tell you to stop celebrating these holidays, it is part of Christian culture,” he said. These celebrations can be used in some redemptive value. In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul said he become all things to all men. He would celebrate Easter for the purpose of winning people into God.
“It is important for us to know the biblical feasts because God designated those feasts and God commanded those feasts to the people of Israel, it’s part of the law and we need to know the laws if we’re going to walk in the spirit of the laws,” he said. Ps Tsukahira talked on three major feasts of Israel or Pilgrim feasts, because these are the three occasions during the year when God commanded the men of Israel where they must come up to Jerusalem and worship in the temple.
These feasts are Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). The three festivals are associated with different harvests – Passover comes at the end of the barley harvest; Pentecost, the festival of the wheat harvest; and Tabernacles, the grape harvest.
Each time of these feasts is also a time of biblical significance. Starting with the Passover; “Jesus and His disciples live in these systems,” he said. He understood His calendar with the time of the feasts. They did certain things because of this calendar.
Exodus 12:1-3 tells, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.”
According to the bible, the biblical calendar begins with the Passover. Exodus 12:11-14 continue, “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.”
From that day until this, the Jewish people have been celebrating the Passover in the spring or in April over centuries. There’s a Seder or an order, a certain way Jewish families celebrate this. At a Passover Seder, it is normally done in a family but often at a synagogue, visitors can celebrate with the public. Here, they tell the story of the Exodus, a celebration from slavery to freedom, death to life, and darkness to light. In the process of telling the story, you eat unleavened bread and various symbolic foods and drink four cups. In between the stories, you eat a big meal, he said. The four cups you drink, two before the meal and two after the meal. The meaning of the four cups is taken from Exodus 6: 6-7.
Exodus 6: 6-7 tell, “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”
Each one (cup) is for one of the four things. “First, to bring you out of Egypt; second, I will deliver you from oppressors,” he said, saying the meal is taken after this. “Third, I will redeem you, and finally at the end of the celebration, I will take you to be my people.”
“The truth is, Jesus loves the Passover as most Jewish people do,” he said. In the New Testament, Jesus celebrated the Passover. Luke 22:1, “Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching.” Luke made it very clear what time of year it was, spring.
Luke 22: 7- 8 tell, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
Jesus tells his two friends to find a place to celebrate Passover. Luke 7:14 continues, “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.”
In many Jewish families, when you eat at Passover, you are supposed to lean on pillows. When they lean on the pillows, they remember how hard the slaves worked. Now they are free, so they can recline, he explained. It is apparent Jesus and the disciples did the same thing.
Verse 15 tells, “And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Jesus tells his friends His desire to celebrate Passover with them. Passover is normally celebrated at home and when Jesus wanted to celebrate the Passover with His disciples, He’s saying, ‘We’re family now.’ He’s saying, ‘you’re my closest friends and we’re bonded together in something Holy.’
In verse 16, Jesus said it was His last Passover with them. Ps Tsukahira explained verses 17-20, “this is Holy Communion; it’s the Lord’s Supper but it’s Passover. It was not any bread, but the unleavened bread; the bread of freedom. It was not just any night or any meal when they talk about deliverance from slavery, from death to life, from darkness to light. They remember the lamb that was slain; the blood was put on the doorpost of their houses so that death would pass over the children of Israel.”
“The meaning flows in; these men and Jesus Himself have celebrated the Passover every year of their lives. It was not something strange for them but something familiar to them. From that, we call the Lord’s Supper,” he said. “But we cut the root.”
Ps Tsukahira told about serving in an American Anglican church as a child and knowing the Holy Communion has to do with Jesus. It was years later after he was born again and married to a Jewish woman – from reading the bible and celebrating Passover that he understood the meaning of ‘The Lord’s Supper.’
Verse 20 tells, “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
“He’s identifying Himself with the sacrificial lamb, so that death will pass over you.” Why didn’t someone tell me this? The cup after you eat, the third cup is the cup of redemption. To a Jew, it has all kinds of meaning. Christ said I will redeem you, I will pay the price and make you mine, he said.
“There is a whole story for you to reconnect with your roots. I’m not saying that you should go out and celebrate the Passover although it’s not such a bad idea,” he said. When the believers get hold of this, they will fulfill the Passover.
It’s not just about the Jewish people being set free from slavery; it’s about us being free from sin, darkness and bondage – set free by the lamb of God. When this picture comes together you realize this event is so full of meaning and you, like Jesus, might develop a great hunger and save the people around you.
When you start reconnecting with your roots, what you got is you can bear the fruit of the new covenant, he said.
Ps Peter Tsukahira and his wife Rita are directors of Mount Carmel School of Ministry, Israel. He is an Asian American, now an Israeli citizen. He was in Kuching on July 16-17, 2013, speaking at the Trinity Methodist Church. Earlier, Ps Tsukahira also shared in Miri and Sibu.
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