Firstfruits or Reishit (Re-SHEET) is another celebration observed during Passover week. It is an acknowledgment that the fruit of the ground came from the Lord and was to be consecrated to Him. It also served as a reminder to the Israelites that God was their ultimate provider, and it was his provision that gave them a harvest. The 2023 Firstfruits feast is from sunset on April 8th until sunset on April 9th.
The Lord’s Commandment
“When you enter the land I am going to give and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf. You must not eat any bread, or roasted new grain until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”
The Significance of The First Fruits
As the Israelites wandered 40 years through the desert, the Lord provided their daily food in the form of bread from heaven; manna. Once they reached the promised land, however, there was no longer any need for the manna. The Lord was giving them a land that was fertile and bountiful where they would flourish and multiply.
The Feast of Firstfruits gives honor and thanksgiving to God for the first fruits of their harvest in their new land. In this case, it meant the grain and cereal harvested in the spring. This required a great deal of faith on the part of the Israelites, as they would be offering the first fruits in the spring when only a little was ready to be harvested. They would have to trust God that He would provide the bounty of grain they would need in the future, something that from a human perspective was far from certain considering the people’s dependence on the right amount of rainfall and so forth to give the best crop.
Celebrating The Customs
On the day after the Sabbath during Passover, the people were to give the priest a sheaf of their grain harvest for the first fruits. The priest was then to raise the bundle and wave it “before the Lord” so it would be accepted on their behalf” (Lev 23:11). The worshipper was also to offer a male lamb, a year old without blemish, as a burnt offering as a sign of their dedication (Lev 23:12). The food and drink offering is also given as a sign of their fellowship with God (Lev 23:13-14).
While most celebrate this day as another sabbath, some Jewish farmers on the Kibbutzim (communal villages) have made some innovative changes to the feast celebration. They go into the barley field carrying scythes and cut the ears of grain. The women follow the men, bind the cut barley into sheaves, and then load and carry them on carts decorated with fresh flowers. This is followed by dancing in the fields where the grain was grown. After lighting torches at nightfall, there is a special procession to the communal dining hall, where the sheaves are heaped in stacks in the center as a symbolic offering. The evening is concluded with singing of both old and new songs.
Jesus, Our Firstfruits
The feast of Firstfruits is also a picture of Jesus’ resurrection. On the day before Passover, at the time that each family sacrificed its Passover lamb, Jesus, our high priest, was raised up (on the cross) “before the Lord” to be accepted. His crucifixion, like the blood of the passover lamb, protects us against eternal death. Then, on the third day, Jesus rose on the feast of Firstfruits. On that day of the resurrection in Jerusalem, Jesus became what Paul describes in I Corinthians as “The First Fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20). First Fruits is a biblical festival celebrating the first harvest of crop.
The term First Fruits means that there is more to come. When the priest waved the sheaves of the barley harvest before the Lord as the First Fruits, he was thanking God for the abundant harvest they were about to have. The first fruits were the first, the very first of the harvest, as it was only the beginning of the abundance of the harvest that was about to follow. Messiah Yeshua, the First Fruits of the Resurrection, meant that He was the first of the resurrection that would never see death again. The abundance of the harvest of the resurrection means that there will be an abundance of resurrections in the future.
Christ is the first fruits of the dead, the pledge of the greater harvest to come, so that through his death we can have eternal life!