Three Scripture passages outline the biblical observance of Pentecost, or Shavuot. Lev. 23:15-22 and Num. 28:26-31 describe the Temple offerings, and Deut. 16:9-12 outlines the requirements for individual worshipers.
Like the feasts of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles, Shavuot was one of three “solemn feasts” decreed by the Lord (Ex. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16; 2 Chron. 8:13). All Israelite men were obligated to present themselves at the Temple. The Temple services for Shavuot closely resembled those of the Feast of Firstfruits, since both holy days were observed with firstfruit offerings. However, the offering for Shavuot was different. It consisted of two long loaves of wheat bread with leaven in them, as the Lord commanded: “Bring two loaves of bread from your settlements as a presentation offering, each of them made from four quarts of fine flour, baked with yeast, as firstfruits to the Lord” (Lev. 23:17).
The loaves of bread were not burned because God had forbidden leaven on the altar (Lev. 2:11). Instead, these loaves with yeast in them, along with two lambs, formed the wave offering for Shavuot. The priest waved them in front of the altar forwards and backwards, and then up and down. After that, they were set aside “for the priest” (Lev. 23:20) and became the festive meal the priests ate later that day in the Temple.
Acts 2 records the fulfillment of Shavuot as the promised Holy Spirit descends, indwells believers and ushers in the church age.
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Unleavened bread is a wonderful picture of Jesus the Messiah. The bread is without leaven, as He is without sin. It also is striped and pierced, as His body was beaten and pierced for our sins (Isa. 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). In addition, the Feast of Unleavened Bread symbolizes Jesus’ burial. His body was placed in the grave but did not see corruption as He rose on the third day (see Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60; 28:1-10) and carried our sins away (Ps. 103:12; Heb. 9:26).
Everyone should see Jesus in the Feast of Uneavened Bread because He fulfilled the feast’s Messianic symbols in the bread:
1. Provision (Jesus is the bread of heaven).
2. Propitiation (Jesus is the sacrifice who bore God’s wrath and satisfied His justice; in so doing He brought sinful people back into favor with God).
3. Preservation (Jesus’ body did not suffer decay in the grave).
There are other symbolic markers in this feast:
Jesus referred to Himself as the bread of life (John 6:35) and chose the bread of the Passover to be the symbolic memorial of His broken body (Luke 22:19).
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.”
The Lord expects believers put aside sin in our lives, as leaven is put aside in the feast (1 Cor. 5:7-8; see also Gal. 5:16-24; Eph. 4:22-24).
The seven days speak of satisfaction or fullness; believers are completely satisfied in Christ.
In summary, Passover and Unleavened Bread together picture the sacrificial, substitionary death of Jesus — the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world — and the burial of His body, which God the Father raised on the third day before it decayed. The resurrection, as we will see next week, is pictured in the Feast of Firstfruits.