Scripture Imagery: 93. The First-fruits and Pentecost

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It is not merely a matter of conjecture when we say that the Hebrew Festivals were typical of the future dispensations. There is the most distinct scriptural authority for so regarding them. The verse just quoted from 1 Cor. 5 authoritatively applies in this way the feasts of the Passover and the Unleavened Bread, and the five others are (either directly or inferentially) thus applied and explained in other passages, as we shall see:—
On the third day after the Paschal Lamb was slain (“on the morrow after the sabbath")1 a sheaf of the first fruits of the new harvest was taken by the priest and waved before the Lord with the usual sacrifices,—but not with a sin offering—as a solemn dedication of what the ground would produce. This we are warranted in applying to the resurrection of the true Lamb of God on the third day (the morning after the sabbath, the first day of the week), “for now,” says Paul, “is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.”
Nothing of the harvest was to be eaten until this solemn dedication of the first sheaf to God had taken place, and the meaning of this we see shown in a peculiar and beautiful way in the Gospel of John. Our Lord had risen but not yet ascended. This ascension was the act of dedication of the life now begun in resurrection; and therefore He says to the sorrowing disciple with whom He speaks at the side of the sepulcher, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” No created being was to participate in Him, not even so much as touch Him, until His sacred life was as the first fruits of resurrection proffered to the God of the harvest.
But what takes place is entirely characteristic and beautiful. With reverence we may say, He could not go on His way, even on such a solemn embassy, and leave that sorrowing heart despairing beside the sepulcher without one word of comfort; and it is well to see that there is nothing in the claims of the highest ardor of devotion to God that hinders one from the flow of human sympathy whilst passing onwards. He could not see Mary bowed at the grave without saying, “Why weepest thou: whom seekest thou?” And she supposed it was the gardener! Ah! we often think that it is only the gardener when it is the Christ. There was no blaze of glory around. His head even in resurrection: though we cannot believe otherwise than that there was dignity and grace, yet He took on Him the nature and semblance of man so completely that He was mistaken for a gardener, and thus—as the sheaf of plain barley was waved before the Lord—He ascended as the first-fruits of them that sleep. This was on the sixteenth of the month Abib: it was on the seventeenth of Abib that Noah's ark had rested on the summit of the mountain.'2'
Exactly seven weeks after the waving of the sheaf came the Feast of Pentecost in which was offered “a new meat offering” of the general harvest in the form of two wave-loaves of bread; but this time they were to be accompanied by a sin-offering, for there was leaven (typical of evil) in them. They were to be baked, however, so that the leaven should not continue to work. The antitype of this is given in Acts 2. There we are told that “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” —that is, not merely come, but “fully” —in the antitype—come, the disciples being together, the Holy Ghost descended upon them and formed them into the one body of the church. Until then they had been so many separate particles, like the grains of flour which were to form the Pentecostal loaf until the oil3 was poured upon them. Directly that was done, the separate particles were united into one mass. This figure is very beautiful and expressive: the individual disciples being gathered together, upon them the Holy Ghost (typified by the oil—"the unction of the Holy one,"-) was poured forth, and they are thus baptized into one body in identity, unity, and cohesion, “for we,” says Paul, “being many, are one bread” [though formed out of two loaves, Jew and Gentile] “one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread4.” This day of Pentecost was the day (according to Maimonides and the Rabbis) on which the law was given. It was in every way appropriate that it should be also the day on which the Spirit and the gospel were given.
Now Paul says, “If the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy5.” How can that be if there be leaven in the bread? Simply because there is a sin-offering also with the bread, which was not required with the pure unblemished sheaf. Does not that view then give sanction to the allowance of evil in the church? By no means, for the leaven was baked; that is, the action of fire-judgment—is passed upon it and its corrupting action is stopped.
To the superficial mind there is nothing to notice, except indeed it be of a grotesque nature here in the offering of a couple of loaves of ordinary bread, accompanied by the elaborate ceremonial and sacrifices that seemed so disproportioned to the value of the bread itself—the whole round of sacrifices on an exceptionally large scale being commanded—two rams, seven lambs and so forth; but there are meanings in things which the superficial glance cannot perceive. There is a kind of ink made from oxalomolybdic acid, the writing of which is invisible till the sun shines upon it, and these sacred hieroglyphics of the Holy Ghost cannot be rightly read until the light shining from the face of Jesus Christ, “The light that never was on sea or land, The consecration,” rests on them. And much depends too on the eyes that look: he that would bring back the wealth of the Indies must take out the wealth of the Indies; the more the mind is already filled with the affluence of the scriptures, the more treasures shall we find on every fresh contemplation. If our eyes are filled with the beauties of the living Word, we shall see His glorious radiance transferred on to the page of the written word as we read.
But much depends on the way in which we look at things as to what we can see in them. The companions of Columbus only saw driftwood at the bow of their vessel; but Columbus saw, and saw correctly, a new world. The friends of Galileo and Newton saw chandeliers swing and apples fall, thinking them trifling matters no doubt; but the unveiled sight of the philosophers saw hidden in these little things the secrets of the laws which govern the swaying solar systems. The Viscount who escaped from Metz took a morsel of paper out of his tooth and they found on it, reduced by microscopic photography, the vast plan of the enemy's movements. The German officers play at Kriegspiel as Pyrrhus played in ancient times with the blocks of wood, but the blocks of wood mean regiments and battalions, the game is war, and the stakes are continents. This morsel of paper from the book of Leviticus may be to us merely the “Jehovistic account” of a Hebrew feast, or the reflection, as on a telescopic mirror, of the vast church dispensation.