What Jesus Did
for the Holidays
“...it was now the midst of the feast Jesus
went up into the temple,
and began to teach.”
By Jon W. Quinn
Under the Old Covenant, the people of God
observed many "holidays" (our modern word from "holy days"). Some of these
were connected to agricultural seasons: the planting time and later in the
year the reaping time, and were days of thanksgiving to God the Provider and
celebration. Others were memorials of God's love and providence in the history
of the nation.
The three main holidays were Passover, Pentecost and the Tabernacles. Consider
some of the holidays in the Jewish religious calendar:
Month 1 - Nissan (March-April) 14- Passover begins; 21- First Fruits (barley
Month 3 - Sivan (May-June) 6 - Pentecost (wheat harvest)
Month 7 - Tishri (Sept - Oct) 10 - Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) a day of
fasting; also - Feast of Tabernacles (Thanksgiving and memorial)
Month 9 - Kislev (Nov-Dec) 25 - Dedication (Hanukkah - feast of lights)
Month 12 - Adar (Feb-March) 13-14 - Purim - the defeat of Hamaan (Esther)
Consider some of these holidays as they relate to Jesus' ministry on earth.
Though Jesus' home was in Nazareth, and his "HQ" was in Caesarea (far to the
north in Galilee where He lived and taught), He would often visit Jerusalem
(in Judah) for these Holy Days and teach in the temple and have run-ins with
the religious officials.
Feast of Tabernacles - "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks"
The Feast of the Tabernacles was a week long observance celebrating prosperity
with thanksgiving. It was one of three annual celebrations in which Jewish men
were to go to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). It marked the end of the growing
season and beginning of winter (Leviticus 23:39). It was also a memorial of
deliverance from Egypt and the journey in the wilderness (Leviticus:40-43). It
was neglected during times of rebellion. During the period of restoration at
the end of captivity Nehemiah records how the people began keeping this and
other feasts again (Nehemiah 8:23-28; esp. vs 17). Often when apostasy is
occurring, the observances commanded by the Lord get neglected.
John tells us how one year Jesus went up to Jerusalem at the middle of the
feast (John 7:2; 6-8; 10). He began teaching at the temple ( 7:14, 16). The
people present give wonderful testimony concerning the miracles they had seen
Jesus do: “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those
which this man has, will He?" (John 7:28-32)
Not only this, but even more positive testimony is given by the officers sent
by Jesus’ enemies to arrest Him “Never has a man spoken the way this man
speaks” (John 7:44-47).
Feast of Dedication - Jesus answers the question: "My sheep hear my voice"
This feast began to be observed in 165 BC to remember an event that had taken
place 3 years earlier. A Syrian general Antiochus Epiphanes had attacked
Jerusalem and had desecrated the temple by building an altar to Zeus and
offering swine to Zeus in sacrifice. Faithful Jews fled the city, many joining
the resistance headed by the Maccabean family.
Compromising Jews had even joined with the idolaters. Ultimately, the
resistance retook Jerusalem and
cleansed the temple and rededicated it to the worship of Jehovah. The Feast of
Dedication, or "Hanukkah" (Hebrew word for "dedication") began to be kept to
celebrate this victory and the temple cleansing.
It is at this feast that Jesus identifies Himself as “the Good Shepherd” (John
10: 14; 22-23). He was asked the question by His opponents: “Who are you
exactly?" (John 10:24). He responded by discussing His relationship with His
“sheep” and the hope we have in Him (John 10:25-30). The reaction to Jesus
saying that He and the Father are one was to pick up stones to throw at Him.
Jesus asked for which of His good works (miracles) were they going to stone
Him (John 10:31-33)? He then pointed out to them that those works show that
His words are true (John 10:37-39).
Passover "This do in remembrance of Me."
The most prominent of holidays was the Passover. It was commanded to be kept
as an annual memorial of Israel's deliverance from Egypt. It specifically
refers to the blood of the lamb being sprinkled on the doorposts of the slaves
in Egypt that would cause death to "pass over" and spare that house (Exodus
The Passover Meal would include the Passover lamb and unleavened bread, which
signified the hurried way in which the Israelites left Egypt - they ate the
meal with sandals on, dressed to travel, and with walking staff at hand. This
had not been a leisurely prepared or eaten meal. The unleavened bread was one
way this was signified.
Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover each year. We'll focus on the last
Passover. For over a thousand years the people had been offering a Passover
lamb to remember events long past. But they were also symbolizing an event yet
in their future; the offering up of the lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus
is our Passover Lamb as well as our sin offering (Isaiah 53:7,8; John 1:29;
When Jesus arose from the table at that final Passover meal, He was preparing
to become the true Passover Lamb which the Passover lambs of years past had
symbolized. They were simply shadows of the real thing. He was the real
Passover Lamb! He always had been in the mind of God! We read of the
preparation for the final Passover (Matthew 26:17-19) as well as the
establishment of a new memorial to be kept in the future by Jesus’ disciples
as they remember His sacrifice (Matthew 26:26-30).
Conclusion - Pentecost - Let the Harvest Begin!
Our Passover Lamb has been offered. In Him our redemption and eternity is
secured. There must be witnesses to the fact that accurately relay this
important information to the world. After the resurrection, Jesus spent some
time with His apostles preparing them for exactly this work. Ten days after
Jesus’ ascension brings us to the Day of Pentecost. This day was a celebration
of the wheat harvest. But this Pentecost, there would be another harvest as
well; that of redeemed souls saved by blood. Let the harvest continue! (Acts
From The Bradley Banner 1/22/2012
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway