After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem (John 5:1, NKJV).
The first major festival period in the Jewish calendar year is the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, which commences with Passover. The festival commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, when the angel of death passed over the homes of those who put the blood on their doorposts. The Gospels record three occasions when Jesus celebrated Passover (Luke 2:41-43, John 2:13-23, Matt. 26:17-20).
Fifty days after Passover came the feast of Shavuot, often referred to by its Greek name, Pentecost. Although the Scriptures don’t provide a reason for Pentecost, the rabbis believed that it commemorated the giving of the law to Moses. There is no record in the Gospels that Jesus celebrated Pentecost. However, before His ascension He counseled His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). This event actually occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
The final festival season in the Jewish calendar were the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The Day of Atonement signifies the day on which sin was cleansed from the camp and the people were at one with God. Booths commemorates the time when Israel had to live in tents in the wilderness.
In addition to the feasts of Moses’ laws, the Jews have two other festivals that commemorate God’s historical intervention. The first is Purim, which marks the deliverance of the Jewish people from genocide, when Esther appealed to the Persian king. The second is Hanukah, also known as the feast of Dedication (John 10:22), which celebrates the victory of the Maccabeans over the Greeks in 164 B.C.
Of course, the biblical feasts were done away with long ago at least as far as Christians are concerned. They all met their fulfillment in Christ. However, we can learn a great deal through studying them and the messages that they contain, because all of them teach lessons about God’s saving grace and power to deliver.
Though we no longer keep the feasts, what things can we do that help to keep before us the reality of God, what He has done for us, and what He asks of us?