IS THERE A HOLIDAY TO CELEBRATE THE RESURRECTION IN THE BIBLE ALREADY?
I firmly believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. I firmly believe that G-d set up holidays to practice for and commemorate these momentous works. But our current traditions regarding those celebrations seem a far cry from the intention of the scriptures. This particular issue has concerned me greatly over the years. I keep thinking that if I wrote someone a letter about myself and they continued to try to love me separate from what I’d shared, I might be offended. I may even get tired of the game and give up on the relationship. We know that G-d is far more merciful than I, thankfully! But there is something in this concept that I have struggled with for years now. So I have to ask the daunting question. Should we change how we celebrate Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection?
Let’s go back to the original holidays given to Israel, the Feast Days. Descriptions of these days are given in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Many Christians are aware of Passover but miss out on the holiday that encompasses the Passover and continues on through the week after. It is called the Feast of Firstfruits or beginning of the harvest. (If you are a learned Christian, you might note the reference of Firstfruits by Paul in I Corinthians 15:20 comparing Yeshua to the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.) Firstfruits begins the day after Passover and starts a 49-day count to the Feast of Shavu’ot. Or what we now call, Pentecost. And here in the Old Testament we see the entire New Testament set up for celebrating Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit.
This Feast of Firstfruits has some important symbolism. The Biblical practice requires that a sheaf of barley (the first grain crop to ripen) be waved before the Lord to dedicate the harvest to Him. It also begins the 49 day countdown to Shavuot, when Israel received the Torah from G-d on the mountain and later on, when the Holy Spirit came. You see a clear cycle and teaching from these festivals. G-d taught His children in the desert what Yeshua would do through the practices of His Feast Days. He also taught us about our story.
The firstborn of man, Adam, was sinful and through his line we see death comes to all. Another firstborn is needed. Yeshua, who is the Firstfruits of the harvest that G-d intends to bring in. Hence we see the idea of rebirth, new life, coming into play. Yeshua was asked how a man can be “born again” and without a full understanding of G-d’s works, this idea is truly confusing. What we see is that a spiritual rebirth is necessary and could only come through the work of Yeshua, the firstfruits of G-d’s harvest.
The Bible’s continual use of agricultural references points to the nature of G-d’s instructions. We are intended to walk outside, see nature, observe it, and understand what G-d is doing through it. His signs, His days, His seasons provide clear direction and a path to worshiping Him in “spirit and in truth.” It can be difficult in such a technological society to really connect properly to these instructions, but a quick jaunt into the wilderness or farmland and you have it. It’s all there. In this nature and in the moon and stars the Feast days are laid out. As Genesis tells us that the heavenly things are given as signs, we shouldn’t shy away from finding G-d’s ways in G-d’s creation. He has put them there to align with His scriptures. This observance and use of nature is essential to understanding and abiding by the Feast Days. But it isn’t just any use of nature. It is a correct observance through His word. Hence you won’t find bunny rabbits and eggs surrounding the Feast of Firstfruits. But you will find harvest and grain and items that actually represent what G-d is doing.
Furthermore, what you see in Leviticus 23 when you go and read about G-d’s Celebrations is that He clearly states, “this is a permanent regulation, throughout all your generations, no matter where you live.” The old Christian version of me used to read over that as if it was just part of the “rules for Jews”, never taking into account that throughout the Torah G-d commands that His ways and teaching are the same for the Israelite and the “alien living among” them. G-d always intended all of His decrees to be for all people. So now, when I read that we are to keep His Feast Days throughout all our generations, forever, wherever we are, I can no longer avoid them. What Christians don’t understand is that many of the laws of the Torah can only be carried out in the Land of Israel, or when there is a Temple, or when there is a Levitical priesthood, etc. But there are some commands that are “forever” no matter what land or what generation you live in. Those proscribed commandments are to be kept to this day by all who love G-d.
To go one step further, if you believe in the 10 Commandments, or “love thy neighbor”, or even in Biblical “tithing” (despite the misinterpretation that the modern church has put upon it) then you cannot ignore the other sections of scripture and Torah that also apply even without a temple and priesthood.
Modern day Christian theology tries to help Christians into only following a few of the Torah commandments by coming up with something called the Moral Law. It is the “new law” that, according to them, became more important than the other Torah teachings after Christ. This sort of heretical thinking can only be taken apart by a true and real reading of scripture itself. In John 14:24 Yeshua states that whoever loves Him will keep His word and further states that this word is not His alone but the Father’s who sent Him. In Deuteronomy we are admonished not to add to or take away from the scripture. This Moral Law idea is a clear addition to scripture. You will not find it in G-d’s word. Therefore it must be attributed to man’s folly and we must discard of it to begin to understand Yeshua’s true teachings.
NOW WHAT ABOUT EASTER ITSELF…
With this background in place (please go do your own research on the above issue and test it all! Scripture has the answers), let’s talk about what we do celebrate. Easter.
In the first few hundred years of the early church, you see no real celebration of Easter as a part of their regular festivals. It is not until Emperor Constantine I in 325 that you see a shift take place. The Church of Rome had been excommunicating those who were keeping Pesach or Passover on the Biblically instructed day. The Council of Nicaea was convened and decided that a new formula for deciding this day and a change of the day was appropriate and placed it on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Instead of the 14th day of the first month as Scripture instructs us. This addition to scripture that aligned with the pagan practice of Sun Goddess worship is the beginning of modern day Easter being a “Christian” holiday. In fact, the Council of Nicaea was so intent on distancing itself from the so-called, Jewish tradition of Passover, that if Easter accidentally fell on Passover, they would celebrate Easter the following Sunday. (Let me make a quick note here, the resurrection of Yeshua and Passover are NOT the same holiday in the Bible. Just one inconsistency when you say that Easter is the new Passover. Passover is death, Easter is supposed to be resurrection. Let’s keep it clear…)
Now, there are all sorts of claims out there that Easter is related to the pagan goddess, Ishtar. But it is much more likely that the term, Easter, actually did come from the word Pascha or Pesach. There is also the possibility of a Germanic connection to the word Oestre, which is related to the idea of East or dawn. Either way, Easter is a transliteration of the word Pesach. Here we find one great example of why transliteration of proper names can become a dangerous thing. Had we not transliterated the proper name of Pesach or at least kept it close to the name, Passover, we would not have strayed so far from the practices of the actual commanded Feast day because we would see it’s practice and mention in the Old and New Testaments. But the transliteration to Easter allowed for entirely new and unbiblical practices to form and an incorrect replacement for Passover to begin.
How did we get these Easter practices? The first thing to take note of is that the rabbit was the sacred animal of the Saxon goddess, Oestre, mentioned above. We get our word, estrogen, from this Saxon word. She was a fertility goddess and no surprise, ancient symbols of fertility greatly included… yes, eggs. There is no doubt that the combination of Spring holidays that were happening at the time of Constantine and before and after had a great affect on how this new version of Passover was celebrated. The pagan became preferred over the sacred and over time, the sacred was forgotten and rejected entirely.
To make it even more rooted in paganism, ham became a regular part of the festivities and was, in ancient times, a meat eaten in the springtime. Ham is a prohibited item to eat, as it is not designated as a food according to the Bible. Certainly these practices would have been greatly concerning to Hebrews and Jews and early followers of Yeshua.
WELL, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
This very general and quick overview will give you my source of concern. So what do we do with all of this now? Many say that it is the intent of our hearts in these practices that matter. “We are worshipping the REAL GOD now, not pagan gods!” I agree that the intent of our hearts is essential. Is our intent to find out who G-d really is, or to be comfortable with what we’ve been told He is? Is our intention to know and love the Lord our G-d and to seek him only? Or is it to seek out what makes us feel good? Would you be surprised to know that G-d has actually asked that He not be worshipped in the fashion that other gods have been worshipped? Let’s go to Deuteronomy 12 starting in verse 29. “But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the LORD your G-d in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” All kinds of detestable things that the Lord hates. The Lord has no desire to be reminded of these gods in our worship of Him. If He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, if Yeshua himself is seen celebrating G-d’s festivals, if the early followers of Yeshua celebrated G-d’s festivals, why do we believe G-d is excited about accepting our pagan version of His things? The Bible makes it abundantly clear that He is not pleased with these practices.
Proverbs 28:9 – “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law (the Torah), even his prayer is an abomination.”
My heart begins to hurt the more I study G-d’s word and find no basis for many of our “Christian” practices that are supposed to be worshipful of Yahweh. To be honest, I have no desire to go out and share this. This isn’t news that anyone wants to hear. But let me tell you, it IS good news.
Truth brings freedom. G-d promises that His ways are a blessing to keep. While our salvation is secure in the blood of Yeshua, our American Christianized walking out of this salvation leaves much to be desired. If the church intends to stand against the storm of cultural evils, it must accept ALL of G-d’s word, not just bits and pieces. Only G-d’s truth is strong enough to withstand culture. And only G-d’s truth is strong enough to truly change a life. I know this first hand. I’ve seen the blessing of G-d’s ways. I cannot deny it. He is faithful.
We are sensitive and many of us hold to our own traditions with strength and perseverance. I’m asking and hoping that we will begin to hold G-d’s traditions with such reverence. The Bible tells us that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. May I be open to changing my ways, and adopting His! I will be celebrating Pesach and Firstfruits with my family going forward. I will be rejecting Easter. It is a new beginning.
In love and brotherhood.