The Biblical Feasts are outlined for us in the Torah in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. How many of those did Yeshua and his disciples observe? The obvious answer would be, “all of them,” and as the sinless Messiah that seems to be a pretty safe conclusion. But how are they recorded in the Gospels?
It may surprise you to learn that there are actually few accounts of Yeshua and his disciples observing the Appointed Times? Does that mean they didn’t, or that they weren’t consistent? Certainly the absence of any mention does not mean that the Feasts were ignored. Four separate narrations of the life of Yeshua are condensed on only a few pages.
So let’s delve into exactly what the four Gospel accounts do tell us about the Feasts of Adonai.
Passover is the most mentioned Feast in the Gospels. It is the only Feast found in all four books, with each of the Gospels giving an account of Yeshua’s final Passover before his death.
The very first recording of a Passover Feast comes from Luke’s account of Yeshua’s childhood. The Gospel writer makes it clear that celebrating Passover was an annual event for the family, including the young Yeshua.
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast…Luke 2:41-42
Following Yeshua’s immersion (baptism), he taught and ministered for about 3-1/2 years leading up to his death, which was at the time of a Passover.1 For this time frame, we would expect four Passovers total during in a 3-1/2 year ministry that concludes following a final Passover. These are all recorded in the book of John, with only the final Passover found in the three synoptic Gospels.
The first Passover during Yeahua’s 3-1/2 year ministry records the first of two “cleansing of the Temple” events. Notably, the second such event occurs at his final Passover.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;John 2:13-15
Probably the second of four Passovers, though unnamed, comes a few chapters later in John. There is some disagreement among Biblical scholars, but many concur that this was a Passover Feast.
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.John 5:1
The third Passover account, also just a mention identifying the time, is found in John 6.
Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.John 6:3-4
The fourth and final Passover, immediately before Yeshua’s death, is recorded in all four Gospels.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”Matthew 26:17
Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”Mark 14:1-2
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.Luke 22:1-2
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.John 13:1
Unleavened Bread and First Fruits
As seen in the above passages concerning Yeshua’s final Passover, “Passover” can mean both the Passover evening and the Feast of Unleavened Bread combined. The only reference in the Gospels to the Feast of Unleavened Bread is in direct connection to the final Passover, and is found only in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Following the resurrection of Yeshua, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is mentioned twice in Acts. The first is in connection to a Passover, incorrectly called “Easter” in the King James Version (Acts 12:1-4). The second can be found in Acts 20:6. In both instances, the Feast is used as a reference point for establishing the time. We have pointed out many times that no calendar date is ever used in the New Testament.
The waving of the Omer, the Day of the Wave Sheaf, commonly called the Feast of First Fruits, is not mentioned at all in the Gospels or anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, this observance is not found anywhere in Scripture outside of the list of Appointed Times (of which it is not one of them) in Leviticus 23.
Likewise, Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, is not specifically mentioned in any Gospel account. Of course, the most well-known reference is in Acts 2. Sadly, many Christians do not understand that this was a long-standing annual celebration before this time. Paul also references this Feast in Acts 20:16, just a short time after the previously cited Feast of Unleavened Bread in Acts 20:6.
It has been suggested that Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, can be found in the narrative following Yeshua’s resurrection. While the common English translations of John 20:1 read something like “the first day of the week,” there is no Greek word for “day” in this passage. Further, the word translated “week” is plural. A more literal rendering might be “the first of the weeks,” meaning the first week in the counting of the Omer leading to the Feast of Weeks.
The same phrasing is used in John 20:19, Luke 24:1, and Mark 16:2, and Matthew 28:1. Whether these are direct references to the first day of the week or to the beginning of the counting of the Omer is a matter of debate. I am not qualified to interpret the Greek text and draw a conclusion.
Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
There is no mention Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah anywhere in the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament. This Feasts is not found in Scripture outside of the Torah.
Likewise you will not find Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in any of the Gospel accounts. In the New Testament, the writer of the book of Acts does make reference to a “fast” in Acts 27:9. Most Biblical scholars hold that this fast is, in fact, Yom Kippur.
In the four Gospels, however, there is no indication of any observance of Shavuot, Yom Teruah, or Yom Kippur. Again it should be pointed out that the absence of any mention does not indicate these Appointed Times were ignored or were not important.
Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles
Although we find this Feast several times in the Tanakh, only once is it mentioned by the Gospel writers. Yeshua is seen at the Feast of Tabernacles, or Feast of Booths, in the seventh chapter of John. Interestingly, in John 7:8 Yeshua says he is not going up to this Feast. A little further down (John 7:14) the record says that he did, indeed, go to the Temple in the middle of the Feast.
A lot of Messianic and Hebrew Roots teachers say that Yeshua was born during the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles), or at least near this time during the season of the Fall Feasts. A timeline can be created based on the supposed time that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was serving in the Temple, the projecting forward assuming John was six months older than Yeshua. There is no direct statement in the Gospels indicating this is the case.
Like all of the Biblical Festivals other than Passover, there is no mention of Sukkot in the Synoptic Gospels.
Hanukkah/Dedication and Purim
Hanukkah, a Jewish celebration that is not one of the Appointed Times of Adonai in the Tanakh, does appear once in the Gopspels. And again, it is in the Gospel of John, chapter 10.
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.John 10:22-23
The Hebrew word meaning Dedication is chanukkah, Strong’s Hebrew word #H2598 occuring about eight times in the Tanakh. Nearly all Biblical Scholars understand the Feast of the Dedication in the Gospel of John to be Hanukkah.
It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade.John 10:22-23 New Living Translation
What is not stated in this single passage about Hanukkah is that Yeshua was participating in the festivities. It only says that Yeshua was present at the Temple. Anything beyond this would be speculation.
Purim, a Jewish celebration described only in the book of Esther, is not found in the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament, or elsewhere in the Tanakh. Purim is also not one of the Appointed Times of Adonai.
There is an unnamed “feast” in John 4:45, though probably not one of the religious festivals. Most commentators suggest this is referring back to the wedding feast in Cana, described in John chapter 2, where Yeshua turned water into wine.
There are three “pilgrimage” festivals described in Torah: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (including Passover), The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), during which all male Israelites were to go to Jerusalem to celebrate. Believing that Yeshua was fully obedient to his father’s Torah instructions, it is safe to assume that he observed these every year. We simply do not have record of most them in the Gospel accounts.
1 There is one well-known teacher who believes Yeshua’s ministry was only 70 weeks. Substantial evidence goes against this, including the number of Passovers mentioned in the book of John. To limit the time frame to 70 weeks requires manipulation of the plain text and a misapplication of the prophecy of Daniel 9.
Unless noted otherwise, Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.