Pentecost: The Feast of Weeks
The Feast of Weeks was so named because God commanded the Jews to count seven full weeks(49 days) and one day after Passover (so 50 days after Passover) to determine the event (Leviticus 23:15-16). It was a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting to God the first fruits of their spring crops. Like the other two pilgrimage feasts in the Law of Moses, all Israelite males were required to appear before the Lord in the court of the tabernacle in Jerusalem to make his offering joyfully before the Lord. This celebration fell during the Hebrew month of Sivan (our May or June) and is named Pentecost in the Greek Bible.
The Jewish farmer would place in a basket the first fruits of his field or orchard. He would then join with other Jewish pilgrims (all carrying their baskets) to travel in procession to Jerusalem, singing joyful songs of praise as they went. In later Jewish history, Jews have observed this festival by lighting candles, reciting blessings, decorating their homes and synagogues with greenery (to represent the harvest), eating dairy foods, and studying the Law of Moses. Children were encouraged to memorize Scripture and then were rewarded with treats.
But it is in the New Testament that Pentecost reaches its greatest importance. It was on that day that the Holy Spirit empowered the 12 apostles in Jerusalem to preach the first Gospel sermons (Acts 2). The church of Christ was literally launched. So just as the Old Testament Passover foreshadowed Christ’s work on the cross, so Pentecost looked to the arrival of Christianity and the Church.
*The Jewish feasts were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). Christians do not commemorate these Hebrew holidays. Doing so would distract one from the freedom in Christ. It would make a person obligated to follow all the Law of Moses. And it would cause one to be lost (Galatians 5:1-4). God removed the old covenant in order to establish the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13). But our knowledge and understanding of the Bible is deepened when we see how God hinted at the coming of Christ and the Church so many hundreds of years before they came.