The Significance of the Wave Sheaf Offering and the Resurrection of Jesus

by Peter Salemi

Ever wonder why Jesus told Mary, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:” (John 20:17)? He was not presented to his Father yet as the wave sheaf offering. Interesting, the wave sheaf could not be touched by anyone until the offering was made. Jesus went to Heaven presented himself as the wave sheaf offering, then afterwards allowed his disciples to touch him. (Luke 24:39; John 20:27)

When was the Wave Sheaf Cut?

The passage in Lev 23 says nothing about WHEN the wave sheaf was cut. The instruction there has to do with WHAT must be done with the wave sheaf, before WHOM and WHEN. It was the day of “waving” the sheaf not the “cutting” of the sheaf of grain. Jesus fulfilled this symbolism when He presented Himself before the Lord (Father) of heaven on the first day (John 20:1-18). This wave sheaf represented the RISEN Christ and the work He had to do on the first day before the Father, NOT the day He rose from the dead.

Jewish history from the Second Temple period gives an interesting insight. The second-century Mishnah affirms that, when the Sadducees controlled the Temple, the sickle was put to the grain just as the sun was going down on the weekly Sabbath (Menahot 10:1-4, Jacob Neusner translation, pp. 753-754).

The book, Biblical Calendars, states, “The Boethusians [Temple priests] reaped [the firstfruits sheaf] at the going out of the Sabbath” (p. 218. Additional information can be found in the section titled “Temple Service,” p. 280, as well as in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services by Alfred Edersheim, 1994, pp. 203-205). The New Testament’s silence on this Sadducean practice—along with its agreement with the ritual’s fulfillment in Christ—must be construed as acceptance of its validity!

At the time of the first century, there were two beliefs. One was the Pharisees who believed that the sheaf was cut after the annual Sabbath of the first day of unleavened bread. Second. The Sadducees believed however that the “morrow after the Sabbath” meant the first weekly Sabbath after Passover, which the gospels confirm as well. They argued that the word “Sabbath” in Greek, when used by itself, can only mean the Seventh-Day Sabbath of the week, and not the annual Sabbaths.

Now, “The largest and main groups were the Sadducees, prominent during the time of Christ and the apostles. This sect was predominately secular in nature and, unlike the Pharisees, did not pretend to be zealous. Their power and influence were political—not religious” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 23, pp. 989-990).

“We know that the Samaritans and the Sadducees kept a Sunday Wave Sheaf and a Sunday Pentecost. That is an important factor in history. The Jews do not keep the Wave Sheaf because they keep a Sivan 6 Pentecost, which came from the traditions of the Pharisees in rabbinical Judaism, AFTER the Temple was destroyed.... So the Temple period structure and right throughout, including the Samaritans always kept Pentecost on a Sunday. The early church kept Pentecost on a Sunday. Only the Jews [who followed the Pharisees] kept a Sivan 6 and only after the Temple was destroyed.

Modern Judaism does not do this now.... This (the Sadduccean) position was held up until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (see F F Bruce, art. Calendar, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. by J D Douglas and N Hillyer, IVP, 1980, Vol. 1, p. 225). AFTER the dispersion, the Pharisaic position became the accepted practice and the conflict is noted in the Mishnah (Hag. 2:4)” (Article, ‘The Wave Sheaf offering, by CCOG, emphasis added).

The Sadducees method of counting Pentecost was correct. The high priests who served during the first century (until A.D. 70) were Sadducees. They were in charge of the temple as Pentecost arrived in A.D. 31. By keeping the correct day, and with thousands of orthodox Jews present in Jerusalem, the stage was set for Christ to miraculously build the Church of God (Acts 2).

The Pharisees established the method followed by most Jews today. The rabbinic Jewish tradition adopted their method, which dates back to the early centuries A.D. Instead of using the day after the weekly Sabbath, the Pharisees assigned the wave sheaf offering to the day following the first High Day, regardless of the day of the week that it fell upon.

One obvious inconsistency is that by always counting from Nisan 16 (the day after the first High Day) the target date should always be Sivan 6, regardless of the day of the week. If the day God determined for Pentecost had been a set date on the sacred calendar [which the Pharisees do], it would NOT be necessary to count in the first place!

Using this method, the Pharisees were correct about 25% of the time. So since the gospels are silent on the matter, and the chronology of events concerning Christ’s death and resurrection shows that the “first of the weeks” or “Sabbaths” occurs in the gospels after the weekly Sabbath, then we come to the conclusion that the “morrow after the Sabbath” means the weekly and not the annual Sabbath.

But notice, they cut the wave sheaf offering (which was a symbol of the time when Christ ROSE FROM THE DEAD), at the same time when Jesus was resurrected, late on the weekly Sabbath near sundown!

Notice the Prophecy by Isaiah about the Messiah, “for he was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8). It says he was “cut off” This actually means, “the right rendering of the verb, 'was he taken away,' i.e. removed from the earth.” (Pulpit Commentary, emphasis theirs).The Hebrew word is gaw-zar” (Strong's #1504). He was “taken” out of the land of the living it says. Jesus was resurrected, taken out of the earth and went up into heaven and presented to the Father as the wave sheaf offering. Paul said, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept... But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming” (1 Corinth 15:20, 23). 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.

After the cutting away of the grain, they would keep that grain for the next day in the morning and wave it to God as an offering of the first fruits of the harvest, and “the sheaf was offered (waved) before God the following morning, or more precisely, between 9:00 a.m. and noon” (Forerunner’s Commentary), which symbolizes the RISEN (past tense) CHRIST! This occurrence was not a weekly, but an annual event that took place on what we called Sunday, but what the Jews called the First of the Sabbaths that led to Pentecost.

What of Daniel 9:26? It says, “shall Messiah be cut off.” This refers to Jesus' death. Does this contradict Isaiah 53:8? No it does not! The word in Daniel 9:26 is different from Isaiah. The word is, “kaw-rath” (Strong's #3772). This word means to “destroy” and not to “take away” or to “snatch” away as the Strong's put it, so there is no contradiction.

How was the Wave sheaf Prepared?

What of the preparation of the wave sheaf? Is there evidence that the way they prepared the offering is the same was Jesus was prepared?

In the Mishnah it gives us evidence from history on how it was prepared. First it was chosen. It wasn't randomly chosen, but carefully chosen. The first of the first fruits had to have the best quality of fruits to be chosen as the offering.

Then it was bound, 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).

They also ...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).

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, presented to God, and God accepting the offering.

This offering was also holy and could not be touched until after its waving. Jeremiah says, “Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase” (Jer 2:3).

Leviticus 23:14 says, “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...” Matthew Poole's Commentary says, “good reason God should be first served and owned as the supreme Landlord. ” After it was offered then the priest could touch the offering.

Was Christ handled the same way? Yes he was!

Jesus was chosen by the Father (1 Peter 1:19-20; Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8)

He was chosen by the Leaders and High Priests of Israel to be the offering for the nation (John 11:49-52).

And he was chosen by the people as the chosen Messiah in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem  (Mark 11:7-10).

Jesus was of course without sin and had the fruits of Righteousness, the best fruits you can have (Heb 4:15; Phil 1:11).

Jesus was  “bound” and taken to Pilate (Matthew 27:2).

Jesus said, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire” (Rev 3:18). The trials and tribulations of Jesus were meant.

Jesus was scourged and beaten (John 19:1; Isaiah 53).

But Jesus was not crushed. Why? Because not a bone of Him was to be broken (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9: 12; Ps. 34:20; John 19:36). If it was the offering would be unclean. 

What of the waving? 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. Then the wavesheaf was brought back down again.

Christ ascended to heaven to His Father, and returned on that same day (John 20: 17; Matt. 28:9). When he returned commissioned his New Testament church to labor in the harvest (Luke 10:2). God says, the “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; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” (Lev 23:15-16). The Church is to work in the harvest till the second coming of Jesus (Pentecost).

Christ is also called the “Holy One” of God (Acts 3:14; 13:35) Like the firstfruits Jesus was holy before God.

Jesus was not to be touched until he was presented to the Father in heaven (John 20:17).

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