This article will demonstrate just how Jesus Himself fulfills all of the Jewish feasts from the Old Testament. After each Feast outlined below, rituals from Jewish Traditions at the time of Christ are delineated, along with how Jesus fulfilled these customs.
Daily Offering, the Tamid
The first sacrificial feast was the daily offering, or “Tamid” in Hebrew. It can be found in the Bible in both Exodus 29 and Numbers 28. It was offered twice a day by a consecrated priest, at the third hour (9 AM), as well as at the ninth hour (3 PM). It consisted of a sacrificial lamb, wine, and bread. It was to be a continual offering, to each generation, forever. The priest would carry the wood for the sacrifice up to the altar.
Jesus fulfills this perfectly, because He is the sacrificial Lamb of God, who also carried wood up to His sacrifice, and who was crucified at the third hour until the ninth hour, according to St. Mark’s gospel. In John 6, Jesus announced that He is the Bread of Life, and at the Last Supper he consecrated bread into His body and wine into His blood. This sacrifice will last until the end of time.
The Sabbath was the original day from Genesis that God rested from his creation. For the Jews, this day was the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. Jews also rested on this day. According to Leviticus 24:5-9 and Exodus 25:23-30, during the Sabbath worship service, the holy Bread of the Presence, twelve loaves in all, made the night before, was laid on a golden altar, was eaten only by the priests, who also drank wine. This bread was unleavened bread, with no impure leaven (bacteria), or yeast, added to it, so it wouldn’t rise. The Jewish name for the Bread of the Presence, “Heb lehem ha pannim,” also can be translated as the “bread of the face of God.”
Jesus Himself fulfills the Jewish feast of the Sabbath by becoming unleavened (pure) bread at the Last Supper and during each Mass. Wine, after being consecrated into His blood, was also drunk. His Real Presence in the Eucharist includes His holy face. Also, he did not rise on Holy Saturday, but instead, he rested in the tomb.
The Passover, or “Pesah” in Hebrew, commemorated the night that the angel of the Lord passed over the Jewish firstborn and spared them from death, in Egypt. (Exodus 12). It was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan. This meal consisted of eating an unblemished lamb with unleavened bread, drinking wine, and eating bitter herbs. It was a form of the “Todah” sacrifice, which for the Jews was a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for any favor received. This sacrificial meal was to be commemorated forever.
This was the meal Jesus had with his apostles the night before He was crucified. Although it is commonly known as “The Last Supper,” in reality, it was “The First Mass.” In order to properly celebrate this feast, one had to eat the unblemished lamb. This lamb was roasted on a spit, with a rod going up its spine and another one across its legs, resembling a cross. Since this Passover meal was not completed in the Upper Room (they left after the “Cup of Blessing”), but rather on the cross where Jesus was given a bitter drink as the final Passover “Cup of Consummation”, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was the perfect sacrifice of the purest lamb, started in the Upper Room and completed on Calvary (at the exact moment that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered). When we eat the Eucharist (which also means thanksgiving) at Mass, we are fulfilling God’s command to celebrate the Passover feast throughout all generations.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the day after Passover, and continued for seven days (think Easter Octave). It can be found in Exodus 12:15-20. No leavened bread was to be eaten for seven days, and leaven was not to be found in the house either. It was done to commemorate the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness. Leaven has bacteria in it, and is considered to be unclean. Unleavened bread is therefore pure and incorruptible bread. At Emmaus, the second Mass occurred during this feast of Unleavened Bread, on Easter Sunday, His disciples only recognized Jesus during the breaking of the unleavened bread. He promptly disappeared from their sight, to let them know that from now on, His Presence would be hidden from our sight in the form of the Eucharist.
Jesus fulfills this feast at every Mass by becoming the Eucharist, which is His body (which we cannot see) in the form of unleavened bread. Jesus’ body in the tomb also fulfills this feast, because his sacred body, like the pure unleavened bread, was also incorruptible (it didn’t decay). St. Paul talks about this feast in 1 Corinthians.
The Feast of First Fruits can be found in Leviticus 23. It occurred on the day after the Sabbath after Passover, or Sunday (the third day after Passover). It consisted of the priests bringing the first sheaves of barley from the spring harvest to the temple for a sacrificial offering to the Lord. Psalm 30 was recited:
“O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.”
The priest was to wave the sheath (up and down, then right to left, or the sign of the cross) before the Lord. An offering of lamb and wine was given as well.
St. Paul calls Jesus the first fruit of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, as the first to rise from the dead, and then followed by the rest of us. Like the barley, Jesus was also the first to be cut down to be offered to the Lord as a sacrifice for our sins. He also was restored to life after going into the pit, like it says in Psalm 30. During Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest also “waves” the Eucharist in the sign of the cross.
Pentecost (Feast of Weeks)
Pentecost was originally a second harvest festival, and it occurred seven weeks (50 days) after the Feast of First Fruits (“Pente” means fifty). It can be found in Leviticus 23:15-22 and Numbers 28:26-31. Later on, Pentecost also became known as the day that the Jews received the Word of God from Moses on Mt. Sinai, with the presence of God in the form of fire on the mountain. When Moses returned with the Ten Commandments to the camp, three thousand Israelites were killed by the Levites as punishment for their worship of the golden calf.
Jesus fulfilled this feast in the New Testament during Pentecost in the book of Acts. The presence of Jesus, who sent us the Holy Spirit, appeared as tongues of fire in the upper room on Mt. Zion, causing the apostles to speak in foreign tongues (this means that the salvation is universal, and not just for the Jews). The Book of Acts says that three thousand souls were added that day, in Jesus’ initial “harvest” of mankind. By unconfusing the language of men with the gift of tongues, the New Testament Pentecost thus overcomes the Tower of Babel incident, where the common language was confused into many different tongues.
Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)
The Feast of Trumpets, found in Leviticus 23, was a New Year feast that looked forward to the day of judgment. Trumpets were blown to drown out the accusations of Satan against mankind.
Jesus will fulfill this feast on the last day, when the angels blow their trumpets and He returns to earth in the Shekinah glory cloud to judge mankind.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
During this feast, found in Leviticus 23, the people were to do no work and to afflict (self-mortify) themselves. Additionally, the High priest would go into the Holy of Holies, after ritually purifying himself with a bath, to offer blood for the sins of the people. He did this by sacrificing one goat, and then throwing its blood on the altar. He then laid his hands on the head of a second goat, called the scapegoat, while pronouncing the sins of the people over it. This goat would then be handed over to a gentile, who would take it out into the desert, and then would throw it over a cliff, killing it.
Jesus fulfills this feast by being the eternal High Priest, who went into the desert and fasted (self-mortification) after being baptized in water, then taking the sins of the people upon himself after being handed over to the gentiles, and who was then killed in atonement for our sins. Today, Jesus is in the ultimate Holy of Holies, or heaven, continually offering His sacrifice of blood to the Father for our sins.
Tabernacles (Feast of Booths)
The feast Tabernacles is found in Leviticus 23. It celebrates the harvest of grapes and olives (for wine and oil). It was a seven day feast, occurring five days after the day of Atonement. For seven days they recalled the forty years of wilderness wandering in the desert after Passover by living in booths (tents), just like their ancestors had done. The priests sang Psalm 118, which includes the verse,
“the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
and the word “Hosanna” (Save us). The ceremony consisted of pouring water and wine into basins on the altar, which flowed out from under the temple (flowing water is “living water”). The flowing water symbolized the coming of the Holy Spirit. During this ceremony, the people would wave palm branches.
Another ritual employed giant candelabras that would be lit in the courtyard outside the temple. This symbolized the return of the Shekinah glory cloud (the pillar of fire), which had disappeared with the loss of the Ark of the Covenant. The reflection of the gold in the temple cast a very bright light. The Jews believed that this feast would one day inaugurate the conversion of the gentiles, and would also bring forth the Messiah and the Holy Spirit (living water).
When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the people waved palm branches and sang out Hosanna (Save us) in praise of Him, because they recognized that this was the coming of the Messiah. Jesus says in John 7 during this feast that rivers of living water (the Holy Spirit) will flow out of His believers, which now includes gentiles. In John 8, Jesus declares Himself to be the very bright “Light of the World.” In Revelation 7, the saints in heaven, including many gentiles, also wave palm branches to God while praising Him.
During the Mass, the priest at the altar also mixes a little water with the wine next to lit candles, near the tabernacle. During the consecration, the Messiah is brought forth in the form of bread and wine.
Chanukah (Festival of Lights)
The feast of Chanukah was not one of the original feasts outlined in Leviticus 23. It celebrates the dedication of the Temple, after King Antiochus Epiphanes defiled it. (1 Maccabees 1:20-28). According to Jewish Tradition, the lamps there miraculously burned continuously for eight days, even though there was only enough oil for one day. Jesus went to this festival, according to John 10:22-23. It occurred on the 25th day of Kislev.
Jesus said that His body was a temple. His temple was defiled during the crucifixion, but after the Resurrection, His light now burns continuously. He even said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will rebuild it (After the Resurrection, His Temple is thus “rededicated”). The celebration of His light coming into world and burning continuously occurs on the 25th day of December.