Wave Sheaf Offering Weekend

John Plunkett

April 23, 2016

We have kept God’s Passover, we have kept the Night to be Much Observed, and we have kept the first Holy Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and now we move on in anticipation of the second Holy Day – the day that we refer to as the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.

But actually, there are a few more special days in there too.  There are a few more days which should not be overlooked, but sadly often are overlooked.  There are some days in God’s Sacred Calendar year that He evidently purposely arranged to have mentioned and marked, in His written Word – days that are very special; but which are not Holy Days, per se.  We might even think of them as "semi-holy days."

On example of these "semi-holy days" is the Passover Day – Abib 14.  It is included in the listing of "the Feasts of the LORD" in Leviticus 23; but it is not set aside as a Holy Day.  It is not a Sabbath of rest. 

The New Moon Days might also perhaps be other examples of this.  They are not specified as Holy Days in Leviticus 23; but they were (and still are) important enough to have been observed by God’s people in both the Old and New Covenant eras.

In the sermon today, I would like to discuss with you two other “semi-holy days” – days that are mentioned in Leviticus 23; but are not actual Holy Days.  These two days are the Wave Sheaf Offering Sunday and the weekly Sabbath Day that precedes it.

We tend to think and talk about the Wave Sheaf Offering only on those somewhat controversial “odd years” when the Passover Day and Last Day of Unleavened Bread fall on weekly Sabbaths.  However, I believe that it is very important that we do not forget the great significance of these two days and that we make at least some mention of these days every year.  After all, why should we mark all of the other verses of Leviticus 23 every year; but not the ones that deal with the Wave Sheaf Offering?

Let me begin by asking some questions:

My first question is this: For the many professing Christians, what special day often falls around the time of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread?  

Easter, of course.

My second question is this: Should God’s people keep Easter? 

The correct answer is: No, of course not!  We all know that Easter is a left-over from paganism, and that it is one of Satan’s counterfeit holy days – this one attempting to replace God’s true Passover. 

Just as a reminder, here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Easter:

The modern English term Easter is speculated to have developed from the Old English word ēastre or ēostre or eoaster, which itself developed prior to 899AD.  The name refers to Eostur-Monath, a month of the Germanic calendar attested by Bede {a well-known English Catholic monk who lived from 672 to 735AD} and it was named after the goddess Ēostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism.  Bede notes that Eostur-Monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-Monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced with the Christian custom of Easter.
This Christian custom of Easter has been adapted to memorialize the resurrection of Jesus.

This brings me to my third question:  If this last statement from Wikipedia is true – and I believe that it is – that the professing Christians' Easter is a direct descendant of the heathen worship of a pagan goddess, could it be acceptable at all to the true God for His people, not to keep Easter, of course, but to at least mark the day of Jesus’ resurrection?

The answer to this question may not be as obvious, or as definite, as my first two questions.

In the Church of God of our era, a lot of what we believe and teach goes back to Herbert W. Armstrong's ministry.  In his teachings against the observance of Easter, Herbert Armstrong often said or wrote that God commands us to mark the death of Jesus, not His resurrection.  He said this in accordance with his understanding of this very well known Passover-related scripture:

I Corinthians 11:26:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Although I hesitate to disagree with Mr. Armstrong, whose memory I greatly respect and most of whose teachings I concur with, I personally believe that his take on this may not be one hundred percent totally accurate. 

Yes, of course, the death of Jesus is very important and certainly should be marked each year on Passover night.  And so we do.  And so we did just a couple of nights ago. 

But is Jesus’ resurrection any less important and worthy of annual note?  Does the necessity of observing Jesus’ death negate the necessity of remembering His resurrection?  God answers these questions in many scriptures, and by many different writers.  Let's examine some of them, beginning with Luke recording Peter's words:

Acts 2: 
22:  "You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know:
23:  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24:  Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

It wasn't possible for Jesus to be held by death.

Now from the pen of Peter himself:

I Peter 3:18:
For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Through the Holy Spirit, God the Father quickened His beloved Son – brought Him back to life – not just back to the physical life that He had lived for thirty-three years; but back to the  eternal life as the powerful, Spirit-composed God Family Member He had been for eternity prior to His human birth.

This is why I finished on Passover night by saying that Jesus` death was not the end of it.  The resurrection was yet to come. 

Also, from the pen of the apostle Paul:

Romans 5:
10:  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life... 
Verse 17:  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ)...
Verse 21:  That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:
4:  Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5:  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection...
Verse 9:  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

I Corinthians 15:
12:  Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13:  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Our faith is vain if Christ did not raise from the dead.

15:  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16:  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.
18:  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

All of our brothers and sisters and all of our loved ones are perished if Jesus was not raised from the dead.

19:  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20:  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21:  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22:  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Finally for this section, from the pen of the apostle John, quoting the words of Jesus:

Revelation 1:18:
I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell
(hades the grave) and of death.

We see clearly from all of these scriptures (and there are a lot more of them in the Bible), over and over again, the resurrection of Jesus to eternal life is just as important for us to commemorate as is His death.

For this very reason, the Sabbath that falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread is so very important and worthy of note. 

Why is it important for us to mark, and commemorate this day?  Firstly, because it is specifically mentioned by the LORD in the Feast chapter – Leviticus 23.  Secondly, because it was the very day that Jesus rose from the dead.  Not on the Sunday morning, as most professing Christians believe and teach; but on the previous Saturday afternoon.

He died – not on "Good Friday" afternoon, nor on any other Friday afternoon; but on a Wednesday afternoon – Abib 14 about 3:00 p.m.: 

Matthew 27:
46:  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"  That is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"... 
Verse 50:  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 

Shortly after that, sometime later – but definitely shortly before sunset, He was laid a rock tomb that was owned by Joseph of Arimathaea:

Luke 23:
50:  Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 
51:  He had not consented to their decision and deed.  He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the Kingdom of God. 
52:  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 
53:  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. 
54:  That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. 

That Preparation Day was the daytime portion of Abib 14 and the “Sabbath” mentioned here was the annual Sabbath of the First Day of Unleavened Bread – Abib 15 as revealed here in John’s parallel account:

John 19:
31:  The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away...
Verse 38:  After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.  So he came and took the body of Jesus... 
Verse 41:  Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.  So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

We know that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb for exactly three days and three nights.  Not Friday night to Sunday morning; but exactly seventy-two hours (compare Matthew 12:38-40 with Jonah 1:17). 

So, if His body was laid in the tomb shortly before sunset on the Wednesday afternoon of Abib 14, then if we add seventy-two hours to that, then He must have come out of the tomb on the following Sabbath afternoon – Abib 17 – shortly before sunset.

This is why it is important for us to mark every year – not a fixed Abib 17 – but as it tells us in Leviticus 23, the Sabbath Day which falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

Again, we are not told to mark it as an annual Holy Day; but just to note it, observe it and perhaps ponder about what happened on this very special day.

The following day – Wave Sheaf Offering Sunday – is also a special day; though again, not an official Holy Day.  Yes.  It is a special day.  Not because it might occasionally happen to coincide with Easter Sunday on some years.  Of course not!  

One of the reasons that it is so very special is because God marked it as such in His Holy Day chapter – Leviticus 23.  Let us go there:

Leviticus 23:
5:  In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover.
6:  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
7:  In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
8:  But you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.

Once we have these timings settled, as given to us by the LORD God, in His usual month-day-time format, He does a "switcheroo" on us!  It seems that He wants us to use our "little grey cells" along with the Holy Spirit that He has given us:

9:  And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
10:  "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, 'When you be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf
{Hebrew: omer} of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

Please notice that they were not to start doing this until they arrived in the Promised Land.  They would not have done this during their time in the wilderness.

11:  And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12:  And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD...
Verse 14:  And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
15:  And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:
16:  Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

Each year, the day following the weekly Sabbath which falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a very special day. 

If you have a New King James Version Bible, the Nelson publishers have incorrectly added an unscriptural sub-heading, "The Feast of Firstfruits" prior to the Wave Sheaf Offering section of Leviticus 23:9-14.  Their heading is incorrect because the Wave Sheaf Offering Day was not really one of God’s Holy Days per se.  It is not – and never was – a true “Feast” Day and so is wrongly termed by the Nelson publishers.

Although true that some special sacrifices and offerings were commanded for the Wave Sheaf Offering Day, there is no command for a holy convocation, nor for the cessation of work, as there is for the seven major Holy Days.

When was this sheaf waving to take place?  Repeating verse 11:

And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

Some biblical historians and scholars believe that the Israelites may have actually performed two wavings: 

The first one would have been shortly after the sunset that ended the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread and which officially began "the morrow after the Sabbath" at which time the “raw” un-threshed wave-sheaf was initially cut from the crop and ceremonially waved.  (By the way, some people insist that that sheaf was barley, but the scriptures don’t actually say so
)Again, this would have been on the Saturday evening, just after sunset. 

The second waving was performed during the day-time portion of "the morrow after the Sabbath" – i.e. on Wave Sheaf Sunday – after the sheaf had been threshed and winnowed into an omer-sized bowl of grain.

Repeating verses 15 and 16 of Leviticus 23, the LORD tells us how to count from the Wave Sheaf Day to the Feast of Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks – the Feast of Count-Fifty – the Feast of Pentecost:

15:  And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:
16:  Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

Many Jews claim that the first "Sabbath" that is mentioned in verses 11 and 15 is not the weekly Sabbath; but rather the annual Sabbath of the First Day of Unleavened Bread.  But these Jews are so obviously wrong.  Because their method just doesn’t work!  If you try to squeeze the Jews' reading of it (fifty days and seven weekly Sabbaths from Abib 16) into the scriptures, it just doesn’t work!  

If we were to do as these Jews tell us, and we were to count fifty days from the day after the First day of Unleavened Bread – i.e. Abib 16 – then Pentecost would always fall on the same date of the sacred calendar every single year – i.e. Sivan 6.  And that is when most Jews erroneously keep it every year. 

Here is a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Shavuot:

Shavuot (or Shavuos – literally "weeks") is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June).  Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day that God gave the Torah to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.  It is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three biblical pilgrimage festivals.  It marks the conclusion of the counting of the omer.

But why even bother "counting the omer"?  Why count from the Wave Sheaf Offering Day at all if the LORD wants Pentecost to be kept on Sivan 6 every year?  Why would He set Shavuot/Pentecost on a specific day of a specific month, just like all of the other six holy days; but, unlike them, make us count to it?  And for no apparent reason?  If He really wanted us to keep Pentecost on a fixed day of a fixed month, why didn’t He just say (as He did with all of the other Holy Days): "On the sixth day of the third month (Sivan), you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD"?

But He didn’t!  He commanded us to count!

Without taking the time and space to go into all the fine detail disproving the mainstream Jews’ view on this, it just does not make grammatical or mathematical sense – neither in Hebrew nor in English – when compared with the LORD’S instructions in Leviticus 23.  In many years it is impossible to reconcile a Sivan 6 Pentecost with the necessary fifty days and the necessary seven weekly Sabbaths following the First Day of Unleavened Bread.  It cannot be made to work!

The Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23:11 and 15 must be a weekly Sabbath!  It is the only logical explanation as to why God wants us to count!

For the calculation to the Feast of Pentecost, the LORD was so obviously making a change from His method of fixing the other Holy Days.  He was changing it from just picking a specific day of a specific month, as He does with all the other Holy Days… to counting... from a specific day of the week – counting fifty days (inclusive) from the morrow (Sunday) after a specific weekly Sabbath. 

But which weekly Sabbath is the right one?  Although God does not tell us specifically, we must use our "little grey cells" in addition to the Holy Spirit He has given us to reason and work it out logically from the placement of the command – i.e. after His instructions regarding the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Hence, the weekly Sabbath in question must be the one that falls within the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

But another important question arises.  Is the weekly Sabbath the correct "anchor day" that must fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread?  Or is it, as many of the Church of God groups claim – "the morrow after the Sabbath" – the Sunday – that must fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread?  Again, we must use our "little grey cells"! 

(N.B. The former (Sabbath) method was used by the Worldwide Church of God up until their 1974 ministerial conference at which time they surreptitiously changed it to the latter (Morrow) method).

If these groups are correct, why didn’t the LORD just specify the count to start on "the first day of the week" rather than on "the morrow after the Sabbath"?  Why did He even mention "the Sabbath" at all?  The very mention of the Sabbath makes it plain that the weekly Sabbath must be the anchor day. 

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying that the count must be started from the weekly Sabbath rather than from the Sunday.  What I am saying is that it is the Sabbath that must fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread – not the morrow – not the Sunday. 

In most years, both the Sabbath and the Sunday – the morrow – will fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  But very occasionally, the Sabbath will fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread; but the morrow – the Sunday – will not. 

Verse 16 adds some clarity:

16:  Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

God gives us two ways of counting to Pentecost.  The first is to count fifty days.  The second is to count seven Sabbaths; and these must, of course, be weekly Sabbaths.

It may also be significant that, in Leviticus 23, the only days that are given the Hebrew term “shabbath” (Strong’s 7676) are the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement.  Three other Holy Days are given the term “shabbathown” (Strong’s 7677): i.e. The Feast of Trumpets (verse 24), the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (verse 39).

Why is the Wave Sheaf Offering Day so important?

So, if the Sabbath within the Feast of Unleavened Bread is important because it is the day of Jesus' resurrection, why is "the morrow" – the Wave Sheaf Offering Day – important for us to mark, note, ponder and remember? 

The answer is because the morrow – the Sunday – was the important day that Jesus returned (temporarily) to His Father’s throne in heaven in order to present His “blood offering” to His Father.  In this, the Wave Sheaf Offering Day is inextricably coupled with the Day of Atonement:

Hebrews 9:
7:  But into the second
{main room of the tabernacle or temple} went the high priest alone once every year
{on the Day of Atonement}, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people...
Verse 11:  But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12:  Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the
{true, heavenly} Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us...
Verse 24:  For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25:  Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others;

It was on the Day of Atonement each year that the Aaronite high priest went through the second veil and into the Most Holy Place – the second major room of the physical temple to present a blood offering. 

But it was on the Wave Sheaf Offering Day – not on the Day of Atonement – of the year of His crucifixion and resurrection that Jesus – the High Priest of the Melchizedek priesthood – went into the true Most Holy Place in heaven and presented His blood offering to His Father.

We do not have any details of that special visit.  We know that He certainly did make the trip, by comparing two events of that Wave Sheaf Offering Sunday – one earlier in the day and one later: 

John 20:
16:  Jesus said unto her, "Mary."  She turned herself, and said unto Him, "Rabboni"; which is to say, "Master."
17:  Jesus said unto her, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, 'I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.'"

Please notice this last phrase in which Jesus told Mary to go to His brethren (likely both His physical brothers and His disciples) and to tell them that He was ascending to his Father – probably implying that He was going to heaven right away – as soon as He had finished talking with Mary.  Late that afternoon, He met and dined with two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).  Then, as that first day of the week – that Wave Sheaf Offering Day – was drawing to its close (John 20:19), He appeared to the disciples who were gathered:

Luke 24:
36:  And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, "Peace be unto you."
37:  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38: And He said unto them, "Why are you troubled?  And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39:  Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have."
40:  And when He had thus spoken, he showed them His hands and His feet.

We know for sure that Jesus must have returned to His Father by this time.  Why?  Because He told Mary earlier in the day not to touch Him – because He had not yet ascended to the Father.  He then told her that He would be ascending to His Father – probably right away. Then later in that same day, He allowed – nay, commanded – His frightened disciples to “handle” Him.

Did you ever wonder what Jesus said to His Father when He arrived in heaven on that momentous occasion?  We don’t know.  But perhaps He may have repeated one of these two phrases:

John 19:30:
It is finished. 

John 17:4:
I have glorified you on the earth.  I have finished the work which you have given me to do. 

We can be confident that the Wave Sheaf Offering Day and the Sabbath Day that precedes it are not irrelevant afterthoughts to the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread season. 

Rather, they are highly significant, symbolic and very special days.