When we study God's ways in nature we are accustomed to look for absolute perfection in His designing - take the marvellous patterning of a butterfly's wing, for instance! And once we have begun to appreciate that His time-designs are, like all His works, wrought for His glory - 'for the whole earth is full of His glory' (Isaiah 6: 3) - then we look for perfection in all that He does, and, when we seek it, we find it. For 'the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein' (Psalm 111:2).
The question before us now is this : 'How much of the Law relating to the 'Feasts of the Lord' did Jesus and His disciples fulfil at the time of His all-atoning Sacrifice in AD 33? That He fulfilled it in part, every Bible expositor would agree, for it is clear that at the time of a Passover He certainly laid down His life for us. And that God accepted His Sacrifice is also clear, because He raised Him from the dead.
But we hear Isaiah say (in chapter 42: 21) 'The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.'
To make quite plain what we are really saying, we must ask a further question. Where do we find Jesus and His disciples keeping the two 'holy convocations,' one at the beginning, and the other at the end of the 'seven days of unleavened bread' (Leviticus 23:6-8)?
Never have we heard a suggestion from any writer that any such thing happened, or could have happened, in the year of the Crucifixion. We all know, without dispute, that the first 'holy convocation' at the beginning of the seven days - that is, in the evening of the true 14th day of the first month - was the scene of 'the Passover' and 'the Lord's Supper' when, reckoning Himself as having laid down His life already, Jesus gave His body (symbolically in the bread) and His blood (symbolically in the wine) to His disciples to eat and drink.
But as for keeping a second 'holy convocation' seven days later, in view of the New Testament's apparent complete silence on the matter, who would dare to suggest that any such gathering took place?
However, when we were reminded that on two previous occasions - at the Exodus and at the Birth of Christ, as we have already seen - God's design had been to bring together the two 'feasts' of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles so that they ran concurrently, we had to ask why this should have been, unless the same design was destined to recur in AD 33?
Revelation on this matter came slowly, and over many years; but in the end the whole glorious pattern of what had been accomplished before, at, and after Calvary, stood out in bold relief.
For the moment we must ask the reader to accept by faith a fact which later it will be possible to prove - and that is that the actual hour of the Birth of Jesus was 8 am (see Note 5) on October 29th 1 BC.
If we then measure the calendar of His life from the hour of His birth, we shall find that Jesus was put to death, that is crucified, at 8 am on May 1st AD 33 after 33 years (of 354 days) 6 months and 13 days. His sufferings, and being 'made a curse for us' (Galatians 3:13) as He hung upon the Tree, lasted from 8 am to around 3 pm when He actually died.
God then suspended the reckoning of the calendar of His Son's life in this world until midnight on Sunday, May 3rd, when He raised Him from the dead. (See Chart 9.)
So the fact stands out that the major part of Monday, May 4th, as measured from the Sunday midnight, was still the 14th day of the 7th month.
We shall now see how perfectly (that is, completely) the Word of God was fulfilled by our Lord and His apostles on the day of His Resurrection.
Many have wondered why it was that Jesus left it so late on 'the first (day) of the weeks' (see Note 3) before meeting with the gathered disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. This was some time after the two, with whom He had 'broken bread' about sun-down at Emmaus, had returned to their brethren in the Holy City - a distance, we are told, of 'sixty furlongs' which would be a journey of at least two hours, and probably more (Luke 24: 13).
We now need to consider this 'holy convocation', late on Monday, May 4th, which doubtless went on far into the night, for it could not have commenced before about 9 pm when Jesus came and 'stood in the midst' (Luke 24:36). In John's account (chapter 20:19-23) we see how, at long last, the God of Israel was able to come and dwell among His people, as represented by these apostles. A thousand years before this, in the time of Solomon, the cloud had 'filled the house of God' on the opening day of the 'feast' of 'the seventh month' (2 Chronicles 5: 3-14). This was at the 60th Jubilee from Creation. But now the Great Redeemer made it possible for His disciples to continue to abide in Him, for 'He breathed on them, and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost''.'
For the next seven days these disciples were 'dwelling together in unity,' indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Hallelujah! Was this the first time the Heavens had actually witnessed the real 'Feast of Abiding in Christ'? Had such a thing ever been possible before in the history if Israel? These questions will answer themselves in due course.
We must turn at once to another aspect of these same seven days, as given in Luke's account (chapter 24). Here we see Jesus feeding His disciples on the true 'unleavened bread.' If He had previously explained to them that 'leaven' was the doctrine and teaching of men (such as the Pharisees and Sadducees) (Matthew 16: 6-12) then it should not be difficult to discover the meaning of unleavened bread. We believe it is true to say that on the night of May 4th AD 33, for the first time in history, the Son of God opened the understanding of His disciples, 'that they might understand the scriptures.' He expatiated to them on all the things 'which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms' which concerned Himself. And what He showed them was the truth which man had never known before. Was this not the real 'Feast of Unleavened Bread'?
It could only be so if it took place at the opening of the 15th day of the first month. But what 'first month' could it be?
We have to look back again to the Exodus (chapter 12 and seeChart7), and consider the 'type' and pattern of the first Passover and see what God did then. If we read the final verses of Leviticus 23, we find that Israelites were to 'dwell in booths' in the feast of the 'seventh month' - 'That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.' So spake the Lord. And the very first night after their departure from Rameses on the 15th day of the first month, we are told in Numbers 33: 3-5, the children of Israel 'pitched in Succoth.' As Succoth means 'booths' it is perfectly clear that 'the first month of the year,' referred to in Exodus 12: 2, had originally been 'the seventh month.' (Most interpreters have accepted this, and the Bible's chronology fully substantiates the fact).
So, after the Exodus from Egypt, we discover that God still thinks of Israel keeping in remembrance 'the seventh month', although He had made it 'the first month of the year' to them (see Chart 6).
It was the same month, but it had two aspects, and once this is accepted, it can be appreciated how needful it was for God to call this 'seventh month' in the 34th year of our Lord's personal chronology - 'the first month of the year' - for it was the inaugural month of an entirely 'New Creation.' The 'old things' had 'passed away' and 'behold,' says Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 'all things are become new.' At the Exodus, truly, the birth of the nation of Israel took place when they were separated from Egypt; but it was not until AD 33 when the real loosing of Israel, God's 'firstborn' (Exodus 4:22), could be effected because it was then that Jesus became 'the first begotten from the dead' (Revelation 1:5 lit. trans.). How, let us ask, could He be born in Bethlehem on the 15th of the 7th month in 1 BC, and not be 'the Firstborn from the dead' on the same date, that is, in a calendar known to God before the foundation of the world?
So Jesus and His disciples did keep the first 'holy convocation' of each of the two 'feasts' simultaneously, in the evening of May 4th AD 33.
Now we know that a question will at once arise with all who have treated this matter of time seriously in the foregoing pages - what about the Lord's Passover Supper on the Thursday April 30th - was this not the true 'holy convocation' opening 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread?'
No doubt all reading this will know that Jesus, in the most wonderful revelation of His personal love relationship with His own at, and after, that Last Supper (as John so fully recounts in chapters 13 - 17), had to say: 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' Yet, four days later, on the Monday evening, He was to be found pouring out from the Scriptures all those things which concerned Himself. This, of course, was because the time had at last come when He could also impart to His hearers the Spirit of God, without whose indwelling they would never have been able to benefit by the unfolding of these wondrous things.
Could anyone, even in eternity, gauge how much had transpired in those intervening four days, or how great a change had been wrought in those disciples?
An expression in Exodus 12: 6 in the Hebrew has often been a puzzle to expositors, for the word says:
'Ye shall keep it (the lamb) up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it (lit.)between the two evenings.'
Which 'two evenings'?
How deep is the Word of the Living God - How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past searching out!
Any normal commentator would refer us to Leviticus 23: 32 and say that the day of the Passover would commence the previous evening, and run 'from even unto even' like the Day of Atonement. We need not debate the correctness of this assumption but have to remember this fact: the death of Jesus Christ brought the four periods of 490 Redemption Years from Abram's birth (which we call 'the times of Israel') to an end and in Divine reckoning they ended with the hour of the Lord's Passover Supper.
Imagine if God had not raised up Jesus from the dead - would there have been any Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Feast of Tabernacles? But because Christ was raised up, there was a new beginning - this time in the power of His resurrection!
What was necessary, however, was that it should be the same date so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In Exodus 12: 18, the word was given to Israel: 'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even' (see Chart 7 and Chart 10).
Oh, praise God ! 'Praise ye the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights ... Praise ye Him, sun and moon ... Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens' (Psalm 148: 1-4) it was, indeed, between the two evenings of April 30th and May 4th, AD 33, that everything pertaining to the Great Passover was accomplished, so that the true Feast of Unleavened Bread could open for those disciples who represented Israel. And it was in the night of May 4th, no doubt around midnight, that the real 'letting go' of these disciples took place. At the previous midnight Jesus - 'the Firstborn' of God - had been 'let go' from death; but on the Monday night it was His people that were 'let go' (see Exodus 5:1, etc.) as He breathed on them His Holy Spirit.
And then the disciples kept the Feast for seven days, until Jesus rejoined them and there was a second 'holy convocation', as we read in John 20: 26.
The expression 'after eight days', of course, included the whole of 'the first (day) of the weeks' in the late evening of which Jesus first met with the apostles, as described above. So these eight days ran on to the evening and midnight of May 11th. This was the solar anniversary of the midnight of the Exodus Passover, which took place on May 11th 1639 BC. (1,671 solar years had passed but, as shown previously, a total of 201 years - 131 years of the Servitudes in the time of the Judges and the 70 years of the Babylonian Captivity - had been viewed by God as lost to Israel in this long era. This meant that exactly three times 'seventy times seven,' or 1,470 solar years had now elapsed, in the sight of God, from the start of Israel's national history at the Exodus midnight deliverance, when 'the firstborn' were 'let go' from death in Egypt).
Before dealing with the significance of this second 'holy convocation', kept
by Jesus and the disciples at the end of the 21st day of the seventh month in
the calendar of His life, we have to point out that with God this is
viewed as taking place on 'the eighth day' (Leviticus 23: 34-36). Let it be said
that where 'the eighth day' is spoken of in Scripture, the emphasis is on the
beginning and not the end of the day. Both 'Tabernacles' and 'Unleavened
Bread' were feasts of 'seven days', but the close of the seventh day could be
viewed as the opening of the eighth. Space does not allow us to go into the
finer points of this difference here, but the reason will become clearer when we
go on to see the dispensational meaning of these feasts in our next chapter. We
shall also see the significance of Thomas's absence during the seven days and
his recovery when He saw the Lord at their end.