The Wavesheaf Ritual-Proof of Christ
and the Bible
Lawson C Briggs
The ancient priests of Jerusalem had a ritual.
One in which astonishingly the entire secret of the
death-resurrection-mission of Christ the Messiah, and the birth, life and
destiny of the true Christian Church was acted out.
It was no accident that multitudes of first-century Jews, knowing as they did
the facts of this ritual, were convinced of the authenticity of Jesus and His
message, and that they eagerly accepted the new name of Christian: "... The
number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of
the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7).
The long previous existence of the ritual and its known and established
provenance from God, the God of Israel and the God of the universe was proof
positive to their minds that this new development in the religion of Israel
indeed was the unfolding and revelation of the truth of God the Creator.
Looking at that same ritual and its perfect, detailed fulfillment in Christ
and the Church, we on this end of a 2000-year time tunnel still find it equally
impressive and convincing. And to us, it is not only a tremendous testimony to
the divinity and authenticity of Christ but to the accuracy and authority of the
Old Testament Scriptures as well.
The ritual was prophecy which came to pass!
Given Through Moses
The original command was given back in the
wilderness thirty-nine years before the Israelites came into the Promised Land
and had a harvest to which it could apply. It was given by the God of the Old
Testament, who was to become the very Jesus Christ of the New Testament to whom
the ritual pointed.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel,
and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and
shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits
of your harvest unto the priest: 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"
You will notice that the "wavesheaf' was to be lifted up and waved toward
heaven, as a symbol of something actually being transferred to heaven to be
presented and accepted by the One who sits on the throne of the universe.
The sheaf had to be of the "firstfruits" the first of the harvest to be
reaped. "And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until
the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a
statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings" (verse 14).
Why did the sheaf have to be offered first before the rest of the harvest
could be used? Because it represented Christ: "Christ [is] risen from the dead,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20). "... Every man in
his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his
corning" (verse 23). "Christ... the first that should rise from the dead"; "...
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren"; "... the firstborn from the
dead"; "the first begotten" (Acts 26:23; Rom.
8:29; Col. 1:18; Heb.
The ritual was to be repeated each year as the harvest season arrived. It was
closely tied in with the annual cycle of holy days which picture God's plan of
His spiritual harvest.
"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day
that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be
complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty
days [that is, until Pentecost, which means "fiftieth day"].... [Then] ye shall
bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be
of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto
the Lord.... And the priest shall wave... the bread of the firstfruits for a
wave offering before the Lord..." (Lev. 23:15-16, 17, 20).
Here is a time period represented by 50 days to elapse after the offering
and acceptance of Christ, after which something or someone (represented by two
loaves, in which preparation leaven had a part!) become eligible to also be
lifted and waved toward the heavens.
The meaning of the latter symbolism will become obvious when we thoroughly
understand the earlier part of the ritual.
More to the Ritual in Practice
There was more to the way the Jews
actually handled the wavesheaf than we have yet noticed. More than was actually
commanded in the Bible.
Did some or someone among the prophets and priests of Israel, perhaps
centuries before, truly understand the events and circumstances surrounding the
first coming and departure of the Messiah? Or did God in some way simply reveal
it to the priests that the wavesheaf should be handled in the detailed way they
did it? We do not know. But we can see the reason, as we examine those perhaps
even manmade and man-added details, why thousands of fir t-century Jews came to
see Jesus was Christ.
Christ was a chosen one chosen by the Father before the foundation of the
world (I Peter 1:19-20; Eph. 1:4; Rev.
13:8), chosen by the high priest and the leaders of the Jews (John 11:49-52),
chosen by the people (Mark 11:7-10). Not just any sheaf carelessly grabbed on a
Sunday morning out of all the barley which was then beginning to be reaped could
represent Him. Nor could just any sheaf have fittingly demonstrated the extreme
preeminence of Christ's firstfruithood as regards time since then already now
nearly twenty centuries.
The Mishnah, a collection of Jewish law and traditions, describes the
ceremony of cutting, preparing and waving the wavesheaf. Since the Mishnah is
generally thought to have been put into writing only about A.D. 200, some of the
information about events before the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70) may not
always be totally accurate. But the general picture of the wavesheaf ceremony is
borne out by other sources and what we know of the situation at the time. Here
is the traditional ceremony as handed down through the Mishnah:
"How was it done? The messengers of the court went out... and bound the
standing grain into sheaves so that it would be easy for cutting" (Menahoth 10,
3; our own translation).
Following the above-quoted passage, the Mishna dramatically describes the
cutting loose of the stalks of grain from the ground. Standing in the field,
over the chosen and bound sheaf, sickle in hand and surrounded by others who
were there to make sure all was done exactly right, the priest asked: "Is the
sun set?" They answered "Yes!" "Shall I reap?" And they answered, "Reap!" He
then cut the bound grain.
Having chosen and eventually reaped the sheaf, the priests went even further
to make it a wholly suitable representation of Christ (though probably not
themselves fully apprehending just what they were illustrating). What they
obviously could not do while the grain was standing, they now did. "They used to
parch it with fire.... They used to beat it with reeds and the stems of plants
that the grains should not be crushed [before the parching]" (Menahoth 10, 4).
Surely here is more than a hint of the physical beating scourging Christ
underwent at the hands of the Romans, yet done in the type carefully enough not
to crush the grain. Why? Because not a bone of Him was to be broken (Ex. 12:46; Num.
9:12; Ps. 34:20; John
19:36). Then the grain was parched, symbolic of the scorching reception this
world gave the Son of God throughout His entire human life, and especially in
His final hours.
Then, as if this were not enough, the priests "put it in a grist-mill and
took therefrom a tenth [of an ephah of flour] which was sifted through thirteen
sieves..: they put in oil, and the frankincense thereof..." (ibid.). Here again
they pictured Christ's trials and testings (siftings), His Holy Spirit (the
oil), His prayers and the sweet savor to God of His holiness (frankincense Rev.
Thus were the aspects of Christ's life and death represented by ritual. God
had not had all these details written into the Bible in the first place. But He
nevertheless used them in the working out of His plan to identify His Son and
Messiah, so that a tremendous witness was borne to the Jews concerning Jesus of
The Passover Itself a Similar Example
God did a similar thing with Jewish practice in
the events leading up to and culminating in the actual death of Christ as
Passover Lamb. The Jews in Jesus' time were killing their lambs almost 24 hours
late, perhaps about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Nisan 14 (see box on next page).
In the later years (before Jerusalem and the second Temple were destroyed by the
Romans), because of the sheer multitude of the lambs which were brought into the
Temple courts for slaughter, the priests had to begin to kill them even as early
And to further identify and authenticate His divine, anointed Passover Lamb
as the bearer away of the sins of the world, God honored their way!
Yes, He did. Even so far as to darken the earth about noon as Christ hung on
the cross and began to die, and to actually let Him expire by about 3 p.m. (Luke
23:44-46; Mark 15:33-34; Matt.
The time the Jews thus set actually pictured the hour Christ our Passover did
die. For the unbelieving of the Jews, the limited view this gave of the
sacrifice of Christ was sufficient. It was a witness. It was enough they could
As it was, they did picture for themselves, for the time when they shall have
the perception to see and believe, the death of their Savior, as their Passover
as well as ours. Only the Christians needed and now need to understand and
keep the Passover ordinance after the example of Jesus at the beginning of.
Nisan 14. Because only they perceive their future need of prior protection when
God will slay more than firstborn, and throughout the world will "pass over"
only those over whom is the blood of the Christ who let Himself at midnight be
seized in their stead by the "death angel" mob in Gethsemane.
Back to the Wavesheaf
In the time of Jesus the wavesheaf was offered
on the Sunday during Passover week. This is clear since the priests who were
mostly Sadducees were in charge of the Temple and all the Temple ceremony
(Acts 4:1-6; 5:17). The timing and
symbolism of this ceremony would have been overwhelming to those who knew the
events of Jesus' death and resurrection.
The wave sheaf had been chosen in advance, as Christ was. It was tied in a
bundle, symbolizing his captivity. It was cut loose from the ground just at
sunset just the time at which Christ rose from the dead after three days and
three nights in the tomb. The cutting of the grain symbolized Christ's actual
resurrection. Like the sheaf now loosed from the soil, the resurrected Christ
became free from any physical dependence on air, water or sustenance that had
tied Him, as it has tied all other humans, to this earth out of which we grow.
Thus, in the ritual, Christ was slain and resurrected. But He had not yet
ascended into heaven.
So finally the priests waved the product of their (mis?)treatment of the
wavesheaf toward heaven and the Father. And in like manner as the "sheaf" was
raised and let down, Christ ascended to heaven to His Father, and returned on
that same day (John 20:17; Matt.
The barley and wheat harvest continued from the day of the wavesheaf to
Pentecost. It was a type of the spiritual harvest which has been underway in the
Church ever since. But no more of it was waved till the fiftieth day. Then two
wave loaves were made of flour brought of the habitations of the people. The
priest raised them, waved them toward heaven and lowered them. What of these two
loaves? Obviously they represented the many additional firstfruits to be given
eternal life from both Old Testament and New Testament periods (James 1:18;Rom.
16:5; Rev. 14:1-4). The loaves were
baked with leaven, which represented sin (I Cor. 5:7), for none of us as
Christ have never sinned.
No specific point in the ritual seems designed to show our actual cutting
loose from the earth, the end of our dependence on the physical, because our
resurrection and ascension into the air to meet Christ are all one event. Some
will yet be living at that time and will not be resurrected at all, but "changed
in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye" (I Cor. 15:51-52; I
Thess. 4:13-18). But just as the priest raised the loaves up and let them down,
so shall we all ascend into the clouds before returning almost immediately to
earth with Christ, as His feet stand in that day on the mount of Olives (Zech.
To us the general analogy of I
Corinthians 15:35-44, 49 primarily
refers. But the ritual of Leviticus
23, with all its added features, primarily and vividly describes and identifies
No wonder that tens of thousands of first-century Jews the people who knew
the most about Bible prophecies (and the Exodus and about Leviticus 23)
believed. Was it all just coincidence that had come to pass in their day?
Can it all help you too to believe?
When God gave the Israelites a law to
kill and eat the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan (Exodus 12), he did not tell
them to kill the lamb late in the afternoon and finally get it roasted to eat
after the sundown beginning the 15th after the Passover day was ended.
(Remember that a biblical day begins with a dark half, then concludes with a
light half see Leviticus 23:32; Genesis
1:5, 8, 13).
He told them: "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's
passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened
bread..." (Lev. 23:5-6).
The Jews for many centuries have made the eating of the lamb the same as the
feast of unleavened bread (how can it be feast of "unleavened bread" when it is
the feast of "lamb"?). Thus they have confused the two festivals, making them
one. But it is obvious, from Christ's own "last supper" example, that the
originally commanded time to slay the lamb was early in the beginning of the
14th as Exodus 12:6 puts
it, "between the two evenings" between sunset and darkness.
As God of the Old Testament, Christ foreknew He would change the emblems of
the Passover to the bread and wine, and He knew what day and hour He wanted it
to occur. Therefore He told the Israelites to slay the lamb in the evening, put
its blood on the doorposts, roast and eat it and stay indoors till morning (Ex.
12:6-8, 22). Why? Because only those
firstborn humans who were within such already marked and protected houses would
be spared at midnight. The Lord would "pass over" that house at midnight,
still in the first and dark half of the 24-hour day and that "passing over"
was to give that day the 14th its name, Passover (verses 12, 23, 29).
If the death angel (representing the Lord Himself) had not "passed over"
until the night part of the 15th, that day the 15th would have been the
Passover, and not the 14th.
If they had slain and eaten the Passover lamb at the same time of day as the
Jews later came to do, their firstborn would not have been spared!