The date when we observe Easter

Fredi Winkler

The date when we observe Easter—that is, the day on which we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—is still based on the Jewish lunar calendar. Therefore, it’s not associated with a fixed date, like Christmas is. That’s why the holiday sometimes occurs in late March, and sometimes not until late April.

It’s been rumored that during the time of Emperor Constantine, the date was deliberately changed so that it didn’t coincide with the Jewish Passover, but that’s simply not the case. The holiday still coincides with the seven-day Jewish Passover celebration, but not on the 14th day of the first month (as written in Leviticus 23:5), because then the day of the resurrection could fall on varying days of the week. It was important that the resurrection celebration always fall on a Sunday, and correspondingly, the day of crucifixion on a Friday.

It’s noteworthy that there is still a dispute in Judaism over what is meant by the day after the Sabbath in Leviticus 23:9-14. According to verse 11, the festival of the sheaf of the firstfruits is to be celebrated the day after the Sabbath. The Pharisees then were of the opinion that “Sabbath” means the feast day of the 15th of the month, because the Bible also calls high holidays “Sabbaths.” By this reasoning, the festival can fall on any day of the week.

However, the Sadducees were of the opinion that the Sabbath meant the 7th day of the week (the regular weekly Sabbath). This means that the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week, is the day on which Jesus rose. The assumption that the Sadducees were correct in this disagreement is reinforced by the fact that the Sadducees were priests, and therefore must have known about it.

The day of the Resurrection, the first day of the week, was a crucially important day in Christianity (as we well know). That’s why it was decided at that time that the day of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection should always be celebrated on the day after the Sabbath—a Sunday— and not just on any day of the week.

The calculation of the fixed date, with solstice and moon phases playing a role, is different in the Christian and Jewish calendars. This is why the Christian and Jewish festivals can differ by as much as a month. But they usually fall in the same week.

There is profound divine truth in the interpretation that the feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23, represent a prophetic shadow image of the accomplished work of salvation.

In John 12:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He’s speaking here of what He was expected to achieve through His death on the cross. However, a sheaf (as it was offered to God in the temple on the feast day) contains not just a single grain, but countless grains. Now, something extraordinary is said in Matthew 27:51-53; namely, that many saints were also resurrected when Jesus Christ was resurrected.

The New Testament doesn’t say anything about what happened to these risen saints afterward. However, it fits perfectly into the prophetic image of the first sheaf: that Jesus, like the first sheaf that was presented to God in the temple, presented the firstfruits of Israel’s saints to God after His resurrection. He didn’t appear before the Father emptyhanded.

News from Israel - 04/2020

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