Pesach (also known as Passover) is the annual memorial of the event that occurred when G-d "passed over" the homes of the Isra'elites when they were in bondage in Egypt. G-d spared the first born of the Isra'elites because they had faith in G-d's promises and placed the blood of lambs on their doorposts. The very first Pesach is found in Exodus 12 and actually refers to the lamb that was sacrificed and whose blood marked the doors.
'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD'S Passover.
The annual remembrance of that supernatural event is commanded in Leviticus 23:4-5. This event occurs on the full moon (the 14th day) of the month of Nisan, the first month of the religious calendar for Isra'el. It marks the event that resulted in the freedom of the Isra'elites from their bondage in Egypt. For believers it marks the date of Messiah's sacrifice that resulted in the freedom of believers from their bondage to sin (Romans 8:2).
Scripture tells believers that Messiah Yeshua is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), that He is a "lamb unblemished and spotless" (1 Peter 1:19), and that He is the "Lamb of G-d" (John 1:29, 36). What picture do we get of Messiah as the Pesach Lamb? To see that picture clearly we should ask the question "What was the purpose of the Pesach lamb in the Exodus?"
Unlike several other sacrifices given in Scripture, the Pesach lamb was not offered for sin or uncleanness. It was never intended to atone for sin. Instead its blood served to mark the homes of those who believed in G-d (Exodus 12:7) so that they would be saved from G-d's judgment upon those who were not His people. This provides a picture of the blood of Messiah serving to mark the lives of those who trust in G-d for salvation from His judgment upon their sin and for His redemption (1 Peter 1:17-10).
Messiah is our once-for-all-eternity Passover sacrifice. The commandment in Scripture to observe the memorial of the first Pesach is called a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Exodus 12:14). Although Messiah is not physically present with us at this time we can participate in the annual memorial of His work and celebrate that which He has already done while eagerly looking forward to His return.
Chag HaMatzot is a transliteration of the Hebrew for "The Festival of Unleavened Bread". This moed immediately follows the day of Pesach and is commanded in Scripture in Exodus 13:
"For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.
The annual celebration of the original moed is given in Leviticus 23:6-8. It is an annual remembrance of being set free from bondage in Egypt and the "bread of affliction" that was eaten in haste. For believers it takes on the additional remembrance of being set free from bondage to sin.
When most Americans think of "bread" we think of the white fluffy loaves of Wonder Bread that made up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had as children (or maybe even as adults!). The "fluffiness" of the bread is caused by yeast which is also called "leaven". Leaven causes the bread to rise and become puffed up. To the writers of Scripture leaven represents sin. The Master also had this understanding as He used the expression in his teaching of the disciples:
"How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
Was Yeshua providing a first-century equivalent of an FDA warning regarding baking products?
What was He saying then? We find the answer in the very next verse.
Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Luke 12:1 provides an additional detail identifying the "leaven of the Pharisees" as the sin of "hypocrisy".
Leaven pictures sin and in Exodus 13 we find G-d commanding His chosen people to be without leaven immediately after He "passes over" them. It was a commandment to be without sin. Messiah is our unleavened bread because He is without sin. He even gave us that explicit picture in the Last Supper:
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
The idea of "be without sin" also fits with the teachings of the Master. To the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years who Messiah healed He said "stop sinning" (John 5:14). To the woman caught in adultery He said "stop sinning" (John 8:11). To the disciples the Master said "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) and be without sin.
Unleavened bread is called matzah in Hebrew. It is essentially a giant cracker (about 8-10" on a side). Matzah is pierced to ensure it is without any bubbles so it isn't puffed up. Any "puffiness" might indicate leavening which is a picture of the sin of "pride". Messiah, too, was pierced for our transgressions (in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:5). Matzah can be seen as the "bread of life" that marked the new life G-d gave to the Isra'elites when they were set free. Messiah makes this point, too, when calls himself the "bread of life" in John 6:35.
Scripture refers to the moed of "Chag HaMatzot" as a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Exodus 12:17). It is eternal because it pictures Messiah... the One Who is Eternal (Revelation 22:13) and is the Bread of Life.
Yom HaBikkurim is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of this moed. It is known as the "Day of First Fruits" or sometimes just "First Fruits". The commandment for this moed is given in Exodus 23:
Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field;
The commandment is also found in Leviticus 23:10-20.
This "first fruit offering" pictures the resurrection of Messiah. 1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us that, by his resurrection from the dead, Messiah is the "first fruits" of those who are asleep.
Scripture also calls this a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Leviticus 23:14) since it, too, is a picture of the Eternal One.
Shavuot is the Hebrew name for the Feast of Weeks (shavuot means "weeks"). It gets this name from the fact that G-d commands us to count seven weeks. It is also called Pentecost in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost means "count 50" in Greek since the commandment is to count seven weeks and then observe the moed. This moed is first given in Leviticus 23:
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.
This moed annually marks the giving of the covenant at Mt. Sinai as well as the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believers in Yerushalayim on the same date almost 1,500 years later. It pictures the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit that Messiah gave to the talmidim in John 14:16, 26, John 15:26.
Believers in Messiah can consider all of these spring moedim as annual reminders of His life and work. Although Messiah is absent from us in the flesh we can remember Him through the times appointed by G-d for that very purpose.