The countdown to being an Easter graduate has begun

Updated: Jan 31

We are in the Easter Season.  We can all wear white clothes, white shoes, white accessories, and even straw hats, from now until Labor Day.


In Sewanee, Tennessee, at the University of the South, the male students maintain a tradition of wearing seersucker suit jackets and bow ties.  This attire can be seen accompanying short pants and sneakers, as tour groups are led around the campus.  It is like after Easter year round there.


Sewanee wear

For anyone who bought the children baby chicks, ducks, or rabbits for Easter Sunday’s gift basket … now is the time to gather some recipes for the aforementioned … or let them go free in the yard.


In a way, some things that have a traditional association with Easter are comforting, if not cute.  Some identify with the Old South … the Bible belt.  Others are representative of pagan celebrations gaining acceptance, as being somewhat parallel to Christian tradition, in order to attract more worshipers.


Unfortunately, none of the fashion or livestock traditions have anything to do with the true meaning of the Easter Season.


It is time we refreshed our memories about this season.


Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, and there are seven Sundays in all, leading to the Day of Pentecost.  The Day of Pentecost begins the longest liturgical season of each year – the Proper Season.


The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth day.”  The seven weeks of Easter means forty-nine days come before the fiftieth day, since seven times seven equals forty-nine.


The fiftieth day is a Jewish tradition, which always follows the Passover season.  It is called the “Counting of the Omer.”  An “omer” is a unit of dry measure, which is about 3.64 liters, or just under a gallon (3.84 quarts).


The Passover festival is a seven-day holiday, beginning with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The first and last days of the week-long event are observed as “legal holidays and as holy days involving abstention from work, special prayer services, and holiday meals.” (Wikipedia)


seder cup of wine

The Passover begins, in the Jewish calendar, on the 15th of the month of Nissan. According to Wikipedia, “Passover is a spring festival, so the 15th day of Nisan begins on the night of a full moon after the northern vernal equinox.”  That is why Easter changes dates, from year to year.


The timing of spring is important, so “to ensure that Passover did not start before spring, the tradition in ancient Israel held that the first day of Nisan would not start until the barley was ripe, being the test for the onset of spring.”


An omer of barley was brought to the Temple on the second day of the Passover, the 16th of Nissan, and they would begin a countdown to the fiftieth day, which began the Festival of the First Fruits (a.k.a. Shavuot).


These celebrations were not based on styles and trends, but on commandments of the LORD.  As such, the 49 days also correspond with the time it took Moses to lead the children of Israel from captivity to their agreement with YAHWEH, at the foot of Mt. Horeb in the Sinai.


On the fiftieth day, the children of Israel accepted God as their King.  They were the first fruits of the LORD, as priests who would maintain the Covenant with God forever more.  In return, God would forever protect His people and offer them the eternity of Heaven.


As Christians, we accept this history as pertinent to our faith.  It is from that history that a New Covenant with the LORD came, through Jesus Christ.


When we say, “New Testament,” that does not mean the “Old Testament” is thrown out with the bath water.  Perhaps, it would be best to say, the Master Covenant came through Moses, with the First Amendment to that Covenant coming through Jesus Christ.


The fact the two are not separate can be seen when Jesus said he came only for the Jews.  As such, all of his disciples were Jewish; and they were to be the key elements of Jesus’ ministry.  The Acts of the Apostles focuses on those beginnings, which came during the festivals when dedicated Jews honored their commitment to the Covenant by going to Jerusalem.


Today, we read of Peter speaking to the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavot, which is the Festival of the First Fruits … when the omer of barley had passed its test in the Temple.   Peter stood as one of twelve newly commissioned Apostles of Christ, the first fruits of the Holy Spirit from Christ, telling the people Jesus was the Messiah.  That was on the fiftieth day – the Day of Pentecost.


first fruits

In John’s Gospel, we read of the first day of the week, Sunday, the Resurrection was realized.  The Passover week had just finished.  The week’s processes had begun on Friday, the 14th of Nissan, with that being the day of preparation for the Passover Seder meal – the Last Supper.  That meal began at 6:00 PM, when the next day officially began – the 15th of Nissan.  That was also officially the Sabbath – or Shabbat.  Passover week ended on the following Sabbath, which was the 22nd of Nissan.  This means Easter Sunday occurred on 23 Nissan, the eighth day of the Counting of the Omer.


Easter Sunday began the first week of the seven weeks of the Easter season.  Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene that morning.  He appeared to Cleopas and another follower of Jesus on their way home to Emmaus, later that afternoon.  Finally, for a third time, Jesus appeared in the house where ten disciples hid behind a locked door.  Jesus made that appearance on day’s evening, before sunset, so all were on Sunday, the first day of the week (yom rishon).


John told us that Thomas was not present for that First Sunday of Easter meeting in the house.  So, Jesus reappeared before the eleven on the Second Sunday of Easter – “a week later.”  That would be the 30th of Nissan, the 15th day of the counting of the omer.


Can you see a pattern emerging?


The first day of the Passover is a Sabbath, the day of the LORD.  Jesus is presented to the Temple as the sacrificial lamb on God’s day.  Why would God not plan that?


The first Sunday of the Passover week (16 Nissan), Jesus was presented to the Temple as a measure of barley.  The Counting of the Omer began, with Jesus the first fruit to be tested.


On the last day of the Passover festival, also the Sabbath, the day of the LORD, Jesus was freed from the bondage of the physical realm, having been dead for three days.  Why would Jesus not go into the hands of his Father on the Lord’s Day?


The second Sunday since the beginning of the Passover is the first Sunday of Easter (23 Nissan), when Jesus was risen, to begin a New phase for those dedicated to the One God.

The third Sunday since the beginning of Passover is the second Sunday of Easter (30 Nissan), when Jesus supposedly met with the eleven disciples, including Thomas, as part of their in-depth training as would-be Apostles.


In actuality, John wrote in Greek, “Kai meth’ hēmeras oktō,” which is an important statement (introduced by a capitalized “Kai”) that translates to state, “after days eight.” To interpret that as “a week later” only shows one’s ignorance of the omer count. This means the “days” were those counted and “eight” was the day designated on that day. Since the omer count began on Nisan 16, the actual Jewish date was Nisan 23. The Passover ended on a Shabbat, Nisan 22, making Sunday (the first day of the week) be Nisan 23 and that was when Thomas saw Jesus, meaning Jesus appeared twice on the same day (once when Thomas was away and once when Thomas was there).


John wrote of that second meeting in the house, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples.”  Jesus would spend forty days meeting with his disciples, giving them assignments and lessons, beginning on Monday, the 9th day after the counting of the omer began.


Jesus would Ascend to Heaven on the 50th day following the first day of Passover (15 Nissan to 5 Sivan), a Sabbath, the day of the LORD.  Why would the Lord not plan to Ascend His Son on the Lord’s Day?


The disciples would be raised as Apostles on the 50th day of the Counting of the Omer, a Sunday (6 Sivan).


Can you see the blending of Judaism with Christianity?


The Sabbath has always remained the day of the LORD.  Sunday has always remained the first day of the week; but, as Christians, we represent the first light of the New Revelation that the Christ has come.


We are here on the first day of the week!


Look at your calendars at home.  Sunday is the first day and Saturday is the seventh day.  Saturday is the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day.


We are here today … Sunday … because we bring ourselves to the light of the Son, for him to shine on us, within us, and from us.


That is the meaning of the Easter Season.  We have to let peace be with us.


Three times in John’s Gospel, he quoted Jesus saying, “Peace be with you.”


(Raise two fingers as a hippie peace sign) PEACE!


peace sign

That is not what Christ meant by saying, “Peace be with you.”


We think of “peace” as not being angry, not being at war, as Kumbaya, where we all get along well together.  We think of it as a greeting, without deep meaning.


When Jesus first said, “Peace be with you,” the disciples were behind a locked door because they were possessed by “fear of the Jews.”  Fear is a lack of peace.  Thus, “peace” can be defined as, “Inner contentment; serenity.”  Peace means “Do not be afraid.”


John said the disciples rejoiced at being put at ease by Jesus, at which point Jesus repeated that instruction, adding, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”


That is our mission!  We are to be sent, by Jesus, just as God sent Jesus to show us how to be sent.


Then John said Jesus “breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”


That is the only way to become sent!  You have to receive the purpose.


Then Jesus added, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”


This was a statement about fearing those who sin.  In that instance, it was the “Jews,” whom the disciples had locked the door to keep out.  The Jews killed Jesus, and the disciples feared they could be, might be, and may be the focus of some yet materialized sins, by the Jews.


We have our own people to stop being afraid of, who are always the powers that are one with us, but who wield the sword of sin over our heads as our enemies, threatening us not to do anything holy.


Jesus said, forgive and forget.  Let’s move on.  I have bigger plans for you, and to “Receive the Holy Spirit,” you cannot be cloaked in fear.  You have to have peace within.


This is what the Easter Season should be about: Losing the fears that keep one from receiving the Holy Spirit.


All we have to fear is fear itself.

All we have to fear is fear itself.


There are seven weeks to have Jesus be reborn within you.  Seven weeks to be raised in faith.  Seven weeks to prepare for the fiftieth day, the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit turns followers of Jesus into the Apostles of Christ.


When we reach that point, we can look back, as did Peter, who wrote about all the trials and tribulations a believer of Christ will have to face.  Peter wrote, “You have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith … is tested by fire.”


If you are still afraid, then a test of fire will have you run away from serving God.  If you still have fears, you will flinch when someone demands you prove your faith.  If you are hiding behind locked doors, fearful of someone knowing what you believe, you will deny having ever known Jesus.


Peter wrote, “Although you have not seen Jesus, you love him.  Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”  That is what an Apostle comes to realize.


Thomas would become an Apostle, but while still a disciple he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”


That prompted Jesus to ask, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”


Imagine Jesus asking you, “Have you come here today to see me and to feel the Holy Spirit, because otherwise you will not believe?”


There is work still to be done before graduation day arrives.


Peace be with you, so you may receive the spirit.


Amen

#1Peter139 #Psalm16 #peacebewithyou #Acts21432 #John201931 #receivethespirit #countingoftheomer #SecondSundayofEaster