Gentile Christians & The Jewish Holidays, An Overview

The Old Testament takes up the first 2/3rds of the Holy Bible yet lots of Christians pay little attention to it.  I think it’s because many of us have been taught or gotten the impression that the Good News message in the Gospels somehow makes the Old Testament irrelevant; after all isn’t it full of laws and regulations that Christ’s death on the cross nullified?  Wrong!

Just What’s In The Old Testament That’s So Special?

All of us Christian Gentiles can cite the story of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, and the blue prints for the tabernacle.  We all know of the accounts in Genesis and the Exodus event.  Those are things we’re all taught in Sunday school and church, but there were other things in the first five books of the bible, the “Torah,” and others in the Old Testament that were taught.

Like Wow! Being Ordered to Party!

The Jewish people were commanded (among other things) to hold various festivals during the year and most were to be done into perpetuity1.  Though Christ commanded the majority of them certainly the people engaged in all of them with appreciation and thankfulness.  Two of the major ones were Passover and Pentecost.  Others were the Feasts of Tabernacles, Trumpets, and Atonement, and one, found in 1st Maccabees called the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, and the Feast of Purim, found in the Book of Esther.

The accounts of the Garden of Eden, Moses, and the Exodus, are all routinely taught but for some reason things like these festivals, and lots more in the Old Testament are often, well, for lack of a better word, ignored.   The common opinion, as cited above, is the sacrifice Christ made on the cross no longer makes those things relevant.  Yet, with two exceptions right there in the first five books are the events Christ commanded the Jewish people to honor and thank him by.

Passover: Exodus 12:24

Pentecost: Exodus 23:16

Feast of Tabernacles: Deuteronomy 16:13

Feast of Trumpets Numbers 29:1-40

Feast of Atonement: Leviticus 16

“But those festivals they’re just for the Jewish people!” you might exclaim.  No, not necessarily.  At least there’s no express statement from Christ on the issue.  So, if we don’t take this as being accurate what other indication do we get from the bible about honoring the festivals and the Torah?  Well, did Christ attend them?

Naturally Christ attended the festivals.  They were a big part of the Jewish experience/lifestyle. He probably grew up helping to prepare for them, and eventually attended his first when he was twelve (Luke 2:41-50).  There is no doubt he attended them during his ministry.  Check out John 2:13, John 5:1, 7:2-10, 7:37, 10:22, etc.

Well, what does the most prolific author in the bible- Paul, say about these things?

Paul & The Traditional Holidays

The Apostle Paul, known in Hebrew as Saul of Tarsus, first generation Christian, church planter, author of the majority of the books of the New Testament, continued to respect the celebrations of God’s acts of protection and redemption.  Below are some references he made in that regard:

Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (NKJV).

Pentecost in 1 Corinthians 15:20:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  (NKJV).

Feast of Atonement in Acts 27:9:

“Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them,”

 “When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them saying, ‘I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.’ And he sailed from Ephesus.” Acts 18:20-21 (NKJV).

“Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.”  Acts 14:1 (NKJV).

Conclusion

Sadly, many Christians today do not understand that God ordered most of the festivals and Christ honored and attended them.  We have no indication that He ever taught his apostles to do any differently.  Pay attention to the accounts where He was either coming to or departing from a festival.  But we 21st Century Westerners, being so “Gentilized”, so divorced from the Jewish roots of the faith, tend to miss this important understanding.

Does this mean that we should start attending a Messianic synagogue?  Should we install a mezuzah on our home doorpost or start wearing a Yammica?  Not necessarily, but we should educate and remind ourselves to honor these special times of the year because, noted above many were ordered by God to those who were entrusted with the message of his eventual earthly walk.  He ordered them to celebrate them forever.  Why would we disobey or even be ignorant of these commands or any other He gave?

The major festivals of the Jewish year for the year 2017, in chronological order:

Rosh Hashanah/The Feast of Trumpets (the Jewish New Year).  This, the first of the three fall festivals, begins at sunset on Sept.20th and ends at nightfall on Sept. 22nd.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the second fall festival begins at sunset on Sept. 29th, ending at nightfall on Sept. 30th.

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), the last of the fall festivals, begins at sunset on Oct. 4th then ends at nightfall on Oct. 11th.

Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah), begins at nightfall on Oct. 11th, and ends at sundown on Oct. 12th.

Hanakkuh (Festival of Lights), beginning at sunset on Dec. 12th, and ending at sunset on Dec. 20th.

Feast of Purim, begins at sunset on March 11th and ends at sunset on March 12th.

Passover, begins at sunset on April 10th, and ends at sunset on April 18th.

Feast of Unleavened Bread, begins at sunset on April 19th, and ends at sunset on April 26th.

Pentecost, begins at sundown on May 30th, and ends at sunset on June 1st.

We Gentiles should be more conscience and better honor what our friends in the Jewish faith hold so dear.  Let this new awareness and respect for the ancient festivals enrich our understanding of Christ’s earthly walk, and our relationship with Him.  May our renewed awareness of these events, and the symbolism of them concerning Christ’s involvement in our lives, shorten the distance between our hearts and those of that special race of people He first declared to be his chosen.

 End Notes:

  1. Passover- Exodus 12:24; Pentecost- Leviticus 23:21; Feast of Tabernacles- Leviticus 23:41; Feast of Atonement – Leviticus 16:29.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s