HaBikkurim and Resurrection

English: Ears of barley in summer, ready to ha...
“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves / Upon the fields of barley / You’ll forget the sun in her jealous sky / As we walk in fields of gold”

I just realized two things: First, that my current series has run out and I’m not quite ready to post the next one. Second, that I’ve never done a post on HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits. That’s really odd, since while Firstfruits is considered a very minor High Holy Day in mainline Judaism (due to a combination of having no Temple in which to present the offering and most Jews being barred from owning farmland for the last two millennia), it’s extremely important to Messianic Judaism. Well, it’s time to rectify that, if only with a few brief thoughts over lunch.

The first day of the Feast of Matzah is a Sabbath-rest, regardless of which day of the week it falls on (Lev. 23:7). On the first non-Sabbath day following this, the people of Israel were commanded to bring an offering of the firstfruits of our barley harvest (which ripens before the wheat harvest) before the Holy One (v. 11). It was not offered on the altar, but waved before the his Temple. It was on this day that Yeshua, “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1Co. 15:20) presented himself before the Father.

I could go into a long discourse about why I believe that Yeshua’s Resurrection both occurred on Nisan 17 (three days after Passover begins on the 14th) and on HaBikkurim, even though Jewish law as established by the rabbis sets it firmly on the 16th. For now, it’s enough for me to note that the 17th commemorates both the landing of Noah’s Ark (Gen. 8:4, which uses the civil calendar starting in Tishri) and Esther going before the king to intercede for her people and being given her life back (Est. 3:12-5:1), so it should be no surprise that this day marks the Resurrection of the Messiah. I’ll get into the calendar issues another time since I don’t want to derail this post.

Many commentators have been puzzled at Yeshua’s comment to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17), “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” It was not, as some have supposed, that in his Resurrected and glorified body he was no longer to be conversed with casually—Mary was far from being casual, and he later conversed with his disciples at length over “casual” meals, allowing them to handle him freely. Rather, He had stopped on his way to complete the requirements of the Torah in presenting himself as a wave-offering before the Father as a mercy to a beloved disciple, but could not tarry until the Feast was made complete.

The importance of Yeshua’s Resurrection being the Firstfruits cannot be overstated, since it means that we too will have a physical Resurrection. To many of my readers, this may seem like an obvious point, but to many sects within Christianity, it is a point all-too-often forgotten. In particular, I’ve debated several “full preterists”–Christians who insist that every prophecy in the Scriptures, including all of those of the Second Coming, has already been fulfilled–who deny that there will be a literal bodily Resurrection of Yeshua’s disciples. Their argument is that since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1Co. 15:50) and since the body “is raise a spiritual body” (v.44), this must mean that there is only a Resurrection of the human spirit to Heaven, not one of the physical body.

We could argue the exegetical fine points. “Natural” is the Greek word pseuchikon, which means “related to or enabled by the psyche,” which is the “lower mind” that mankind shares with many animals (the Hebrew equivalent is nephesh). It has nothing to do with the material that the body is made of, but rather that which dominates its impulses. Likewise, “spiritual” is pneumatikon, which means “related to or enabled by the spirit.” Again, it is refering to the dominant force in that body’s life, not what the body is made of.

But even leaving that aside, Paul’s entire discourse in 1 Corinthians 15 precludes us from denying that we will have a physical Resurrection that, just like the Messiah’s, will result in us having a physical body capable of interacting with the material world.

I rather like the way that point is made in this excerpt from Richard B. Gaffin’s book, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, as quoted in the Reformed Reader blog:

The point to these sacrifices is that they are not offered up for their own sake, as it were, but as representative of the total harvest, the entire flock, and so forth.  They are a token expression of recognition and thanksgiving that the whole has been given by God.  Thus “firstfruits” does not simply have a temporal force.  It does bring into view the initial portion of the harvest, but only as it is part of the whole; it focuses on the first of the newborn lambs only as they belong to the entire flock.  “Firstfruits” expresses the notion of organic connection and unity, the inseparability of the initial quantity from the whole.  It is particularly this aspect which gives these sacrifices their significance. . . [Messiah’s] resurrection is the representative beginning of the resurrection of believers.

Garden-Tomb-1This means that if we trust that Yeshua was raised bodily and glorified, then we can trust that we will be as well, just as if we trust God with the firstfruits of the barley harvest, we can trust that he will bring in the rest of the harvest of that same “fruit” as well. One does not offer up barley for the later wheat harvest, or grapes for the barley harvest: The firstfruits are always the same type as the harvest that they represent, so our Resurrection will be the same as our Master’s.

Shalom, and to my Christian friends, may you have a wonderful Good Friday and a happy Resurrection Day.

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