Today’s reading in numbers brings us a list of the Jewish holidays. There were 7 main holidays, 4 in the spring and 3 in the fall.
2. Unleavened Bread
3. First fruits
4. Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
5. Feast of Trumpets
6. Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
7. Feast of Booths (Tabernacles)
Each of these feasts is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. The spring feasts are fulfilled during his earthly life. The fall feasts are fulfilled in Heaven.
The feast of Passover is fulfilled in the Last Supper. The feast of Unleavened Bread began immediately after Passover and lasted for one week. The Jewish people ate unleavened bread as a reminder of the exodus and the covenant made in the desert. It is fulfilled in the Eucharist; the new unleavened bread is the bread of the new covenant. The feast of First Fruits was a feast the celebrated the first harvest of the spring. It is fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, Paul calls Jesus, “the first fruits of the Resurrection”. The feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the giving of the Torah and the coming down of God in smoke and fire onto Mt. Sinai. It is fulfilled on Pentecost when the tongues of fire descend on the Apostles.
The fall feasts are fulfilled in heaven. The Feast of Trumpets was a feast that announced and began preparation for the coming of the Day of Atonement. Trumpets were blown to announce that soon it would be time for the day when sins are forgiven. Its fulfillment is seen in the Jesus decent into the nether world after his crucifixion when he preaches to the souls awaiting the messiah and opens the gates of Heaven. We also see its fulfillment in the Book of Revelation with the blowing of the seven trumpets that announce the coming of the final judgement. The Day of Atonement was the one day a year when the Jewish high priest would enter the inner sanctuary and pour out the blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. We see this fulfilled in the Book of Hebrews when Jesus enters the Heavenly Holy of Holies and offers his own blood for the forgiveness of sins. Finally, the Feast of Booths was a celebratory feast to end the year. The people would build open tent like structures in which they would recline and celebrate and rejoice for the forgiveness of sins and the blessing of the previous year. We see this fulfilled in the Book of Revelation where heaven is described as a wedding feast and an eternal celebration.
Finally, these feasts were established during the Exodus and Desert wanderings of the Jewish people. Later after the Temple is constructed (and then rededicated) the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple (Hanukkah) will be added to the fall feasts. This feast can be seen as being fulfilled in two ways. First, the feast celebrates the light returning to the temple. It is fulfilled both in the birth and resurrection of Jesus, when light returns to the world and when Jesus’ body is glorified becoming the new temple.