The Days of Unleavened Bread are a Holy Day of God that is rich with symbolism and meaning. During this period of time, the Wave Sheaf is offered, signifying the beginning of the barley harvest. What is the meaning of these days as we look forward to Pentecost, and what is taking place in the fields?
Brethren, it's really hard to believe that seven days have passed since we were last together. Really feels like it went very, very fast this year. I don't know if everyone else felt the same way, but here we are again gathered together before God to commemorate the last day of Unleavened Bread. Got a little nervous this morning when Carl started talking, started giving his message, realized that, you know, it's funny how this works because we never, well, very rarely talk to each other, and Carl and I did not.
But leaned over to my wife at one point and, you know, kind of showed her the title of the message and a couple of the passages that Carl went to. You're going to find that they dovetail very much. In fact, I jokingly turned back to Mr. Miller and pretended to tare mine up because it was so similar in parts, but then he went in a different direction, which is good. Usually, you try to see what you can do to find something that isn't going to end up being covered, isn't going to end up being there, and Carl got right in there this year, so that's good. God, I think we need to hear it more than once.
So, I want to ask for a show of hands as to anyone that managed to slip up this week with the leavened bread of any kind or who managed to miss a significant chunk of leaven as they went about their week. I'm sure, you know, we've all been there before. I remember a number of years ago, and I think I've shared this story before, I was de-leavening an old Ford F250 that I had, and I'd owned the car for several years up to that point, and I was de-leavening it. And I found a compartment in the back of the cab that I actually didn't know existed. I had no idea it had even been there. It had never been de-leavened.
Not once since I'd owned it had that compartment been de-leavened. I had no idea that compartment even existed in the back of that car. Even though I had gone through square-inch of that thing, it was tucked in behind. I had to fold the back seat down, which I learned that early on, that the seat would actually fold down. And then once that happened, you could actually see the little space. It's like a little, I don't know, area to put maps or whatever down in there. But with the seat up, you just never even noticed that it was there, which was crazy.
So, you know, you manage to miss things, you manage to not see things, but that's kind of part of the spiritual point to these days in some ways, isn't it? That despite the effort, despite the work that we put in, despite all the things that we do to get the leaven out of our lives, that we still make mistakes. We still come across things that we missed, things that should have been removed. And I don't know about you, but I am so thankful for the symbolism of Christ's Passover sacrifice on our behalf to make up for those shortcomings and for the mercy and the grace that we're all provided as a result of, you know, our spiritual maturity as we grow.
I found as working from home, it's a lot easier to avoid leavening when you work from home. Remember when I was working at the school district, and I don't know if you've been in the office at all this week, it seemed like inevitably, this week and only this week was bagel day or donut day or somebody brought pizza in or catered the subway or something along those lines, and you're just not thinking about it, you grab something, walk off with it, take a bite and go, "Oh, that's right. I can't be doing that. Not this week." But it seemed like no matter what, this was the week in which all those things happened. But regardless, here we are all here on this last Day of Unleavened Bread.
And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes it can be difficult to find a topic that's not going to be discussed, that's not going to be already there. And that's part of the issue being the extreme availability of material on this day. It's not that there's a lack of material, it's actually that there is so much material and so rich with meaning that kind of getting those topics figured out can be a challenge at times. But particularly today as we consider where we are in God's plan and as we kind of consider the feasts of the Lord as we see them outlined in Leviticus 23, all of them work together.
All of them are connected. They cannot operate with one of them pulled out of the sequence. They're all present. They're all there. In fact, kind of the way it's... You can think about it a little bit, in some capacities, it's like a manual transmission. You hit each of these days and you push the clutch in, you shift the gear and you hit the gas again. And it's like each of these days kind of presents that opportunity for us to do that.
For those of you younger in the audience, cars used to come with transmissions that didn't shift themselves. Now, I'm sure many of you already know that, but we're getting to the point where that is a lost art and a lost skill in the next generation to a certain extent. But the festivals of God are like that. As we go through the Passover and into the Days of Unleavened Bread and on to Pentecost, on down the line, each one gains a little bit more speed, gains a little bit more momentum as it takes us into the final steps of God's plan for humanity.
So, as we consider where we are in the plan that these festivals portray, it's going to be critical for us to take a look backward in order to look forward. Kind of take a look backward in order to look forward as we kind of consider the near-term application, and today is one of those days where you press in the clutch and you move on into the next Holy Day, which was mentioned earlier, the Holy Day of Pentecost.
The festivals of God, they're all organized, as was mentioned this morning, around the agricultural season in ancient Israel, which for them, meant, you know, increased context and meaning because each and every one of them were intimately living it. They understood these seasons. They understood these times. They understood the various things that were going on. But for the vast majority of us today, we're largely removed from this lifestyle, we're largely removed from the agricultural living, and so it's a little more challenging for us sometimes to picture the intrinsic meaning of these days.
Let's go ahead and turn over to Exodus 12. Again, we talked about how we're going to look back to look forward. Exodus 12. And in Exodus 12, ultimately, we see God establish, well, reestablish, “re” I should say, the calendar for Israel. We see God reestablish the calendar for Israel. During their time in captivity, it's very likely, in fact, virtually guaranteed that the Israelite people were utilizing the Egyptian calendar at that point in time. And the Egyptian calendar at that point in time was a solar calendar.
In fact, it's not much different than the Gregorian calendar today. It had some notable differences. This specific calendar eventually became what is known as the Coptic calendar. You might have heard of that. And that calendar is actually a calendar that's still in use by Egyptian farmers today to be able to keep track of agricultural seasons because that's what the calendar that Egypt was operating off of was originally designed to do, was to help them keep track of plantings, and reaping, and harvests, and all of those things.
A calendar that's been derived from that calendar is in use today, actually, in the country of Ethiopia. The country of Ethiopia uses a modified Coptic calendar. And fun fact for those of you that are the younger people in the audience, in Ethiopia right now, today, it is the year 2014. Because of the way their calendar adds and deletes days, it is 2014 today. It's already the year 2014, I should say. It's not like the new year. But it's the year 2014 in the country of Ethiopia. Now, they also utilize the Gregorian calendar as well, so they'll have, like, Ethiopian calendar date and a Gregorian calendar date, which is kind of interesting. But based on the way that they add and delete days, it's off by seven years from the Gregorian calendar. So, in Exodus 12, we see God essentially provide a very different system for the Hebrew people to reestablish the timing of their holy festivals. And the system that was provided for them was based on the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar.
Exodus 12:1-14 "The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, this month shall be your beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, on the tenth of this month, every man shall take for himself a lamb according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons. According to each man's need, you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb should be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.'" And we know that that's because it was representative and a type of Jesus Christ. "Now, you shall keep it until the 14th day of the same month and the whole assembly at the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the house." This is where they eat it.
"Then they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. They shall eat it. Do not eat it raw nor boiled at all with water, but roast it in fire, its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning. And what remains of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. And thus, you shall eat it with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hands. So, you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover." Now, why? Verse 12, "For I will pass over the land or pass through the land of Egypt that on that night..." Come on eyes. Come on eyes and mouth. "For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord."
Verse 13, "Now, the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you and see the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So, this day should be a memorial to you and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance."
And we'll stop there at verse 15 for a moment. So, we see this is the first month of the calendar that God establishes by divine decree directly to Moses. Now, it was known to those in Israel at that time, this particular month, as the month of Abib or Aviv, depending on your pronunciation, which was a word that described the condition of the heads of barley in the field. It helped them ultimately determine which month was the right month because the barley was as Abib in the fields, which means, according to the theological wordbook of the Old Testament, already ripe, but still soft. It wasn't quite fully hardened yet. It was already ripe, but it was still soft.
So, based on these characteristics, the month of Abib and the timing of God's festivals could be determined in ancient Israel. Now, as technology developed, we saw a lot of change in technology as time went on. We're no longer plowing with oxen and, you know, a single plow. We're no longer going through and reaping, as Mr. Koester said, with scythes. As technology develops, and more precise measurements of the celestial bodies took place, and then you had the need to determine these dates beyond the land of Israel, the need for observation was not necessary and calculations could be used to determine the timing of these festivals.
So, God tells Moses that Israel was to take a lamb on the 10th of this first month, kill that lamb on the 14th, consume it, put the blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the Lord would pass over their homes during that final plague. God told His people not to leave their homes until morning. Told them not to leave until morning. As they left their homes the following morning as God commanded, which because of the way the Hebrews reckoned their day, would have still been the 14th, they heard the wailing from the households of Egypt as they mourned their dead. Remember, the firstborn and the firstborn of the cattle were dead.
At that point, the people essentially threw them out of Egypt, essentially tossed them out, basically said, "Look, just take whatever you want. I'll give you gold. I'll give you silver. Just get out," was basically the attitude that they had toward the Israelites at that time. And so we see that on the day of the 14th, the Israelites, 600,000 men, plus their women and their children and their livestock and their belongings and their families and the mixed multitude that was like, "You know what? This God of yours has got something going on. We're coming with you." All these people began to gather together during the daylight hours of the 14th. And according to verses 41 and 42 of Exodus 12, they left Egypt by night. They left Egypt by night.
Now, we keep a vigil on that night. That's called the night to be much observed or the night to be much remembered. And it commemorates the Lord delivering His people by night, the 15th of Abib, the start of the first day of Unleavened Bread. In fact, go on, Exodus 12:15 says, talking about these days.
Exodus 12:15-20 "Seven days, you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day, you shall remove leaven from your houses and should be out by the beginning of the first day. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day, there should be a holy convocation,” which we had last Sabbath. “On the seventh day, there shall be a holy convocation for you,” which we are gathered here to commemorate today. "No manner of work shall be done on them, but that which everyone must eat, but only may be prepared by you. So, you shall observe the feast of unleavened bread, for on this same day, I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance."
Verse 18, "In the first month on the 14th day of the month that evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the 21st day of the month at evening. For seven days, no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native in the land. You shall eat nothing leavened in all your dwellings." He says, "You shall eat unleavened bread."
So, we see God command that from the 14th day of the first month that evening, in this situation, at sundown on the 14th, the beginning of the 15th, that they were to eat unleavened bread for 7 days until the 21st day of the month at evening.
Now, people sometimes ask, you'll get the question occasionally, "Well, how come we don't take unleavened bread from the very beginning of the Passover? We take an unleavened Passover and then, you know, theoretically, the days of unleavened bread haven't really started until that evening at sundown. Why is it that we don't do unleavened bread in that 14th-day time period?" Well, because God commanded them to not have leaven for seven days, not eight. He had them begin that at sundown on the 15th for the 7 days ultimately that went through.
We know that in the New Testament, Christ kept the Passover with His disciples on the front side of the 14th, that he was betrayed, tried, and died during the day of the 14th with His body being taken down before sundown that evening, which began the first day of Unleavened Bread. And then seven days later at sundown, tonight, the festival was concluded.
So, for the past seven days, we in the churches of God have been following these instructions. We've been putting out and we've been keeping out the leaven. We've been taking in the unleavened bread. We've been working on focusing on the godly attitudes of sincerity and truth in accordance with Christ as the bread of life. But there was another event that took place during the days of unleavened bread that's rich with meaning, that's critical to the story, particularly going forward. Let's go to Leviticus 23. Again, sometimes you have to look back to go forward. Leviticus 23. If you want to turn over there. And sometimes when the sermonette starts taking your Scriptures, you begin to sweat. It's okay. Leviticus 23. We'll go ahead and see the instructions here as we see God outline these things to the Israelites. Leviticus 23, beginning in verse 4.
Leviticus 23:4-8 It says, "These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the 14th day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover." We just talked about that, right? "On the 15th day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord. Seven days, you must eat unleavened bread." That's what we're in the midst of right now. "On the first day, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it, but you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day should be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it."
So, we see God reiterate these instructions that He provided to Moses, to the people of Israel as a whole. But notice verse 9.
Leviticus 23:9-14 "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, speak to the children of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on your behalf. On the day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be 2/10ths of an ephah fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord for a sweet aroma, and its drink offering shall be of wine, 1/4th of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God. It shall be a statute forever throughout all your generations or throughout your generations in all of your dwellings.'"
So, this wave sheaf offering, this was a critical component of the worship of the people of ancient Israel. It was an offering that was to be waved before God at a very specific time. And what this offering represented was it represented the very first of the ripened barley at that time. It represented the first fruits of that harvest, or as the Hebrew word says, the firstborn of that harvest. It's kind of the first plant, so to speak, that would have matured during that barley crop for that season. And it was to be offered before God on the Sunday that took place during the days of unleavened bread. It was this day upon which the count to Pentecost began. Verse 15. And we want to continue here.
Leviticus 23:15-16 "You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath or from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, seven sabbaths shall be completed. Count 50 days to the day after the 7th Sabbath and then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord."
Now, there's been debate over the years as to what the exact timing is here, whether the count is based off of the high Sabbath on the first day of Unleavened Bread or the high Sabbath at the end of the days of unleavened bread or the weekly Sabbath that's in between, but only one of those options provides a floating date for Pentecost that would require counting. In both of the other scenarios, it would have been simpler for God to say, "On the X day of this month is the day of Pentecost." But God requires that we count this particular date. And so taking a look at it in that way, then we're examining off of, most of the time, the weekly Sabbath, but sometimes there are circumstances that take place that make calculating that a little more complicated.
And so what the church has been begun to say is that it's counted beginning with the Sunday that occurs during the day of Unleavened Bread or during the days of unleavened bread. And the reason for that is because in timing of that and counting of that in years where the Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, like last year, or like this year where the first day of Unleavened Bread took place on the weekly Sabbath, often, there's confusion. Well, how do we count it then based off of this? If you're taking off of that Sunday with an inclusive count from the Sunday that occurs in the days of unleavened bread, you will come out with an accurate timing, regardless of the circumstance of any of the way that that's set up. And so that takes a lot of the confusion out of it in that sense, and you'll end up with an accurate timing each and every year.
Now, history records that the wave sheaf was harvested in the waning moments before sundown on Saturday night and was waved before God to be accepted during the daylight hours, specifically between the hours of 9:00 and noon the following day. The count then ended after 7/7s or 7 weeks, and then the following day was Pentecost. So, because you're beginning the count on a Sunday, you end the count on a Sunday. And so we have Pentecost being that 50th day following the beginning of that count. Let's go over to John 20:11. John 20:11. As we move into the New Testament here and see the symbolism and the fulfillment of these things. John 20, and we'll pick it up in verse 11.
Based on putting together all of the accounts that we can see in the Gospel, we get a general timeline of the events that occurred after Christ's death. We can see that Mary squared...and I'll refer to them as Mary squared, it's Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. We see that Mary squared came to the tomb first at dawn on that following morning, which would have been the day of the wave sheaf based on the account of that year and the timing of that year.
An angel descended, an earthquake occurred and rolled a huge round stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb away, which is good because there was a small discussion among them of how are we going to move this thing. That angel took care of that. The ladies run back, as you put, again, the accounts together in the harmony. The women run back to report to the apostles and the rest. We see Peter and John rush down to the tomb. And I appreciate John because John takes the opportunity to forever memorialize that he was faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. I love that interaction. The two raced down, but this is the one who got there first. They went in to inspect the tomb, they saw that he was gone, and they returned to their homes. But Mary, instead, what we see, stayed outside the tomb weeping. Verse 11 of John 20.
John 20:11-17 "Mary stood outside by the tomb, weeping, and as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain. And then they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.' Now, when she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ And she, assuming at this point, supposing that he was the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you've laid Him and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary…’” He must have said it in a certain way that she recognized, you know, it must have just been the way he said it. “But she said to Him, ‘Rabboni,’” which is to say, teacher. Jesus said to her, verse 17, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to the brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.'" I am ascending there is in present tense. It's in the present tense. It means it is happening at that time. Some translations you will see says, "Don't cling to me." Some say, "Touch me not." Some translations put it in that sense. But he says, "Go and tell your brothers and your sisters, go and tell the brethren that I am ascending to the Father."
So, she runs to go and tell the disciples as she was instructed. Let's go ahead and just turn over to Matthew 28:9. Kind of a parallel account here. Kind of tells the story. And what makes this particular a little bit confusing is whether or not this particular appearance is to Mary squared again as they went to go and tell the disciples or whether it was to a larger body of the rest of the women, describes earlier that Joanna was there and Salome was there, you know, John's mother was there as well, and other women also. So, it's a little bit challenging to know for sure who exactly it's being appeared to here. But regardless, something was different here. Something was different here.
Matthew 28:9-10 Says, "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, rejoice. So, they came and they held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Jesus said, don't be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there, they will see me.'"
Again, something here is different. They weren't rebuked at this point for touching Him. In fact, they grasped Him by the feet and they worshiped Him. Later that evening, we see that He allowed the disciples to touch Him as well. In fact, as they go in and they're talking, that there's, you know, physical contact that took place there. Between His discussion with Mary at the tomb and these events, it appears that the reason why he could not be touched before had been resolved, that he had been accepted by God as the wave sheaf offering.
Harvested from this life just before sundown on Saturday night in 31 AD after the 3 days in the tomb that He gave as the sign of His Messiahship, and then waved, we might say, before the Father the following day to then be accepted as the first of the very spiritual harvest, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, as Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15, as Paul records in Romans 8:29, the firstborn of many brethren.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering. He has been offered up on our behalf. So, that begs the question, what would Israel be doing then at this point in time "agriculturally?" And I'll put agriculturally in quotes because we're trying to make a spiritual analogy here. But what would they be doing at this point in time after the wave sheaf had been offered, after that was taken care of? Well, the wave sheaf marked the very first of the right barley. And once it was offered, essentially, at that point, the barley could be harvested. And as Mr. Koester outlined this morning, an incredible amount of work went in to taking care of all of that. You can imagine the lands of Israel on the whole sown with barley, you know, sown with wheat, sown with these various things throughout and those things had been sown the year prior in the fall and in the winter, they'd overwintered.
And, ultimately, now the barley is up, it's ripe, the first fruits have been offered, the harvest can begin. And so they are just bustling at that point, getting it in before it gets, you know, rained on, before it gets wet, doing all the incredibly hard work that needed to take place to take in the barley. But they were still waiting on the wheat. The wheat was maturing. The wheat was still growing in the field at this point in time and it would be another seven weeks, roughly, from the time of the wave sheaf to the timing of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, which was what took place on the day of Pentecost with the wave loaves, right?
So, we see this concept and this analogy put into place in Scripture of a spiritual harvest that's built throughout the New Testament. It's in a number of locations, in fact, a couple of places that we're going to this morning. John 4, we won't turn there, but just reference it. They're having a conversation with the disciples about the woman at the well, the disciples are upset, you know, partially bristling a little bit because he was talking to a woman. Not only that, a Samaritan woman on top of that, so that's two strikes. And so, you know, they're kind of bristling a little bit about things. And Christ turns to them, and he says, "Do you not say that there are still four months and then comes the harvest?" And he says, "Look up." He goes, "I say to you, lift your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest." He says, "They're already white for harvest."
Now, you look at the disciples most of the time when Christ talked to them, I don't know that they necessarily realized fully at this point that he wasn't talking about the fields. In fact, if you look at what he says next, they encourage Him to eat and He says, "I have food of which you don't know." And it's almost like they kind of lean over like, "Did He bring some snacks? Like, He says He's got food. I don't know what really is going on here." So, I think there's times where He would say things, and they're just, "I don't get it, really." And so, ultimately, what we see is that He's making an analogy here toward a spiritual harvest, ultimately. And He says in verses 36 to 38.
John 4:36-38 "He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this, the saying is true, one sows and another reaps." And He makes the point, "I sent you," to the disciples, He said, "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored. Others have labored and you have entered into their labor."
So, He's saying, "As you guys go out and as you are working with these people going forward, it's already been sown. You're coming in and you're picking up what has already been done to that extent."
We have that same circumstance today. We have individuals where the seed has already been sown earlier in their life, you know, and they're now coming back and they're coming to fruition and they're looking at things. I don't chalk that up and say that's me. I'm reaping what someone else has sown. That's that scenario in that sense today. So, He kind of goes on. He says, "Look, the work that I was sent to do was to do this laboring, to do this sowing, and to do this reaping." And He says, "And that is the work I'm training you in." He says, "That's the work I'm training you to go and do." He says, "To go out and to preach the gospel to the world." Matthew 9, we can go ahead and turn over there if you'd like. Again, Mr. Koester went there this morning. Matthew 9:35, look at the circumstances.
Matthew 9:35-38 It says, "Jesus went about all the cities and the villages. So, He went about all these locations, teaching in the synagogue, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people." But notice verse 36, "When He saw the multitudes," those who came to Him, those who followed Him, those who went from place to place, who enjoyed the loaves and the fishes and were there in the process, it says, "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd. And then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’ He says, "Therefore, pray that the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Christ was moved with compassion as He worked with those who were in the multitudes that came to Him. He saw their exhaustion. He saw their physical, and their mental, and their spiritual exhaustion. He saw how they were hurled about, as that word says, scattered, hurled about, scattered like sheep with no shepherd, just lost.
And instead of getting angry at their inability to understand the things He was saying, instead of getting frustrated by it, He was moved with compassion. He was moved with love because he recognized the situation that they were in. And he saw how plentiful the harvest was. How many were there that were listening and were present? How many were interested? But what He lamented was that there were not enough laborers to take in the harvest. There weren't enough workers to take care of the work.
And as Mr. Koester mentioned today, if you don't have enough people taking care of that field, I would like to point out in our defense with the hay, hay season is camp season. It's the same exact time. So, it's not like we completely ditched Him. We were at camp. And when you do three or four camps, it takes up most of the month of July. So, I fully expect that I'm going to be helping with hay this year now that I've said that. So, anyway. But the moral of the story was Christ is lamenting that there's just not enough workers to do the work. There's not enough people out there with the scythes. There's not enough people gathering the sheaves. There's not enough people taking care of those things.
Matthew 9:38 Once again, He says, "Pray that the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
And brethren, that's a prayer which all of us can pray today too. That is a prayer that all of us can pray today as well. One of the interesting things about grain is that while it generally matures at the same rate, not all of the stocks mature at the exact same time across the land of Israel. So, depending on your field, depending on your soil conditions, depending on your water, depending on the sunlight, you know, if you have a field that's partially shaded maybe by some large trees or large, you know, whatever, if you don't maybe have as enough water or you maybe don't have great soil, one field might actually mature a little bit sooner than others. And so the harvest on the whole would be a little bit staggered throughout the land of Israel and over a very long period of time as they brought in the barley and as they ultimately brought in the wheat. The wheat itself was a winter wheat. It was sown in the fall and the winter of one year. It took seven to eight months to come to maturity. Took seven to eight months to come to maturity from the time that it was sown.
And so they would plant it in the late fall winter. It would grow up into a little three or four-leaf little green plant, you know, in those beautiful rose that you see, you know, throughout places, these little green plants. And then it would overwinter. It would just kind of hang out throughout the winter, the rains would hit, it would really just kind of sit in that place. And then when the spring's temperatures changed and the sun came out, it would begin to grow to maturation. It would begin to grow to the point where it produced fruit. And it was in those weeks following the last day of Unleavened Bread with the offering of the first fruits for the barley harvest that that wheat was now going into its final steps of maturation, was finally moving into the final steps of its maturation.
Now, we see Christ utilize this time to teach His disciples as we kind of interact with and see what Christ was doing with His disciples at this point in time during those days of unleavened bread between there and Pentecost. We see Him setting up critical foundational lessons in them that, brethren, are important lessons for us today too as we grow and as we mature. One of those lessons, if you want to turn there you can, I'm just going to reference it, is in John 20:26-29. And Christ gives them a lesson on faith and the importance of faith.
As you know, a number of people shouted from the rooftops that Christ had risen. They were running and they were telling the disciples, and they were telling everybody. And there was one individual who wasn't present earlier when Christ appeared to the disciples who was having a little bit of trouble with the belief of that fact. Poor guy forever is known as doubting Thomas, but Thomas, who at that point in time essentially said, "Until I see it with my own eyes and until I can put my hands into the wounds that He experienced, I don't buy it." John 20:26-29, we see Christ teach a lesson here on the importance of faith. The importance of faith.
John 20:26-29 Says, “‘Thomas, reach your finger here and look at my hands and reach your hand here and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Christ said, ‘Thomas because you have seen me, you are believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
So, He makes this point on the importance of faith in the growth and the maturation process, in the trusting of God and the faith that goes along with that. Another lesson on trust He taught to the disciples in John 21 just right there on the same page.
Disciples found themselves back to their original occupations, said, "I'm going fishing. I'm going out in the boat. I'm going to go see what we can do." They spent all night out on the water looking for fish. Nothing. I've been there, not all night, but I've been there all day in a boat, nothing. It's pretty dejecting. It's a pretty rough day in those circumstances. But in the morning, they noticed, maybe as the fog partially cleared a little bit, they noticed a lone figure standing on the shore who shouts out to them. Always. There's always one guy in a boat. "You catch anything?" "No." They hold up like four fish. "Look at that." You look at the guy run in your boat. Buddy, come on.
But ultimately, He says to them, He says, "Why don't you just let the net down on the right side of the boat?" And you can imagine Peter, the way Peter operates. We don't see Him recorded as saying anything, but they do, they follow the instructions, and sure enough, there were more fish in the net than they could bring in. Now, did God do that just because? No. He did that to illustrate the importance of trust. He did that to illustrate the importance of faith. He did that to illustrate all of those aspects of lessons for His disciples as they grew and as they matured. He taught lessons on love and care, John 21:15-24. John 21:15-24. Here we know Peter famously denied Christ three times the night of His betrayal. We know that, ultimately, he was accused of being with Him. And he, you know, vehemently denied, you know, multiple times being with Him.
But after he had eaten breakfast, Christ asked Peter three times whether he loved Him. And again, I mentioned earlier that it's interesting if you study into the words that are used here because it helps to give you a little bit of the understanding of what's really being said. Jesus Christ uses the word, agape, the first two times that He asks Peter. "Peter, do you agape me? Peter, do you agape me?" And each time Peter responds, "Lord, you know I phileo you." He doesn't say agape. He says, "You know I love you with brotherly love." And so the third time Jesus Christ asks him, "Peter, do you phileo me?"
And Peter is grieved at that point that He would ask him the third time. And I think he finally figured out the lesson, three times in connection with the three times he betrayed Him, the whole thing. But each time, Jesus Christ said, "Tend my sheep. Take care of the people that I've called, that I have brought to you, that I'm entrusting you and these disciples with." He says, "Feed, herd, tend to the lambs and to the sheep." And I think that's a lesson that Peter understood. I think that's a lesson that kind of sunk in a little bit as it connected to the things that he had done before as well.
He taught them a lesson about doing the work, and you can see this in a lot of different places, Matthew 28, Mark 16. Christ sent them out with their orders. He sent them out with the work that they were to do. They were to go, they were to preach the gospel, they were to go and make disciples of any of those who believed and were baptized. Any of those who, you know, believed in these things and were willing to be baptized, he was to make disciples, they were, I should say, to make disciples out of them. And so we see these lessons being taught in this time in between the Days of Unleavened Bread and the feast of Pentecost.
Through these efforts and these lessons that we see, we see the New Testament church develop and we see it grow into what the rest of the New Testament chronicles. From Acts on, we see this amazing growth. We see the disciples step up mightily, you know, as God's Spirit begins working in them more fully. And as they begin to shed more and more of their own carnality and to align themselves more and more with God and what God wants, we see this incredible work take place. We see this incredible growth of Christianity through the early part of the church, of course, that got shifted and changed a little bit going into the first and second centuries, but we see this example throughout Scripture of a spiritual harvest.
I want to go to one more analogy and one more example here. Let's go to Matthew 13. Matthew 13. After the Parable of the Sower, we see another very short parable that takes place. Matthew 13:24. It's one of those that we read, and when we read it, we bristle. So, I'm just going to throw it out front. We're going to bristle when we read it. It's just what it is.
Matthew 13:24 "Another parable He put forth to them, saying, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and then went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. And so the servants of the owner came and said to him, sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? He said to them, an enemy has done this. The servants said to him, do you want us to then go and gather them up? But he said, no, lest while you gather up the tares, you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers, first gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."
This particular parable is one that's challenging for us to consider because as it stands in the analogy of the spiritual harvest, it implies the existence of individuals who are tares and it illustrates their proximity to the wheat that came from the good seed. But not only that, it seems to insinuate that it's a very part of the wheat harvest that we're considering here as we lead up into the feast of Pentecost and the Feast of the First Fruits.
Now, as the parable goes, the sower sowed his field according to the timing, sowed it in the late fall, the winter of the year, but an enemy snuck in and added different seed to the rows. Okay? We see that as... So, it's like salting the fields, I guess. It's kind of a way of, like, trying to get at somebody. And if we don't fully understand the agricultural side of things, we don't fully understand what we're getting at here.
A tare in this situation is a weed that looks remarkably like wheat when it's young. In fact, the actual plant is called darnel, at least that's what they think it is. It's darnel. And it's a ryegrass that actually is toxic. It's poisonous. The fruits themselves are poisonous if they're eaten in large consumption. But basically, at the stage prior to when it overwinters, it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between the two because they're still just three or four leaves. In fact, at that point, it would have been almost undetectable and really difficult to determine which was which. But as the plant matured and as the plant grew, it became much more apparent that this was not the same plant.
So, as the parable goes, the servants, they go, they ask the master if he wants them to go and gather them up to clear the tares from the field. And the master very wisely says, "No, because in the process, you're going to disturb the root structure of the wheat too. By pulling those weeds out, you're going to damage the root structure of the wheat." And so he says, "Just wait. Let them grow to the point of harvest. Let them grow to the point of maturity. And at that point, when the difference is clear, the tares can be gathered and the wheat can be gathered." How do they tell them apart at that point if they look so similar? Once the ear of the wheat appears in the final stages of maturation, it's clear.
Wheat terminates in a single stalk, as you can imagine wheat in your head to look like, a single golden stalk, right, with the little hairs on the side, and all the fruit is in pairs kind of as it goes around, all on one single stalk. With darnel, when it heads, the little pockets are alternating. So, there's one going this way with some fruits coming out of it and a little higher up, one goes this way with some fruits coming out of it and a little higher up, one goes this way with some fruits coming out of it. It's abundantly clear when they are mature whether or not it is wheat or whether or not it is a tare. Whether it is the bread of life or can be a life-giving bread, I should say, or whether it's the toxic product that is produced. And at that point, then it can be cleared from the field.
Now, I want to be abundantly clear, the reason why we bristle is because this parable has been weaponized over the years and usually used to insist that other people are tares, that they should be removed and uprooted. Somewhat, ironically, in Christ's very clear instruction that it's His responsibility to make that decision at the time of harvest. But how will he know? Matthew 7:16, "You'll know them by their fruits.” You'll know them by their fruits. By the visible portion of the stock that illustrates the maturation of the wheat. By the fruit which that wheat has produced.
Let's go over to 2 Peter 1 for our final passage here today. 2 Peter 1. Take a look at a passage that Peter wrote here that really deals with the process of adding to the things of our foundations, I should say. So, kind of building on the foundations of what we have mature into a more... What's the word I'm looking for here? More along the lines of the example that were provided by Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1, and we'll pick it up in verse 5, we kind of see this roadmap, this roadmap from the elementary principles of our calling and then the maturation process that takes place that all of us are in the process of undergoing. All of us are maturing, all of us are growing, all of us are in that process as we build on these elementary principles.
2 Peter 1:5-9 It says, "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. To virtue, knowledge. To knowledge, self-control. To self-control, perseverance, or patience, or endurance. To perseverance, godliness. To godliness, brotherly kindness. And to brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
And we're going to stop there for just a second because I want to take a look at what these steps are and what these things are described as. So, Paul... Oh, Paul. Peter admonishes us here diligently to add to our faith, to add to those fundamental principles, that belief with which we came to God, that calling that we received and that belief that we had, that focus and that baptism that we underwent as part of a, you know, example of our faith. He says, "To add to that virtue." Virtue in Greek means excellence of character. "That our character is excellent, that we build our character, we build who we are to become more like God." To that excellence, to that character, he says, "To add knowledge and understanding." Why not the other way around? Why not knowledge and understanding first? What happens if knowledge and understanding is in the hands of someone without character? It's misused. It's wield as a weapon. Add to that character, knowledge, and understanding.
To knowledge and understanding, we add self-control. The Greek literally means the power of rulership over one's self. The power of rulership over one's self. To that self-control, we add patient endurance, the ability to cope, to deal with challenges without breaking, without having a crisis of faith, without losing one's self in the process. He says, "To add to that endurance, that perseverance, godliness," or as it says in Greek, reverence or piety, which means a recognition of who God is, a willingness to subject oneself to Him fully. To godliness, it says, "Add brotherly love," Philadelphia, love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And then, finally, agape, which is a love that is absent of self.
Peter states that if we mature in these things, if these things abound in our lives as we build, and as we add these things, we will not be barren, we will not be unfruitful. We will produce much fruit. But, brethren, if we lack these things, Peter says that we're short-sighted even to the point of blindness, forgetting that we've been cleansed from our old sins or, as James puts it, we've looked in the mirror and then we've forgotten the kind of man that we are.
Just prior to the days of Unleavened Bread, we came into the Passover, we all spent time in self-reflection. We all spent time in self-reflection. We examined ourselves in the mirror, so to speak, according to the standard that we see in Scripture. And we considered the image that we saw. The fruits of our life, we might say, the things that, you know, are presented to the world around us, the visible things that can be seen. We considered in the process of that our thoughts, we considered our words, our actions, and how those things line up with the standard which God has provided us.
As it talks about in James, we considered not just that which we hear, but that which we do. Not just what we hear, but that which we do. How we present ourselves to the world around us as ambassadors for Jesus Christ, for that kingdom which is to come, for our nation. And I'm going to, again, venture a guess that we all found places in our lives where we can make improvements. And to be quite honest, if the answer was, "I'm perfect, I've got no problems," go back and look in the mirror again. That's the reality of this process, is learning that we're always maturing, we're growing, we're doing everything that we can to become more like the example that we have in Jesus Christ. But we've identified places in our lives where, with the help of God's Spirit, we all can grow and can mature.
Now, the offering of the wave sheaf during the days of unleavened bread began a seven-week countdown to the day of Pentecost and the First Fruits of the wheat harvest. And during the seven weeks between now and the feast of weeks, wheat was maturing in the field. It was using the sun, it was using the water which God gave it the soil to then grow and mature and produce good fruit. And it was during these weeks leading up to the first day of Pentecost that we see at the beginning of the New Testament church that Christ helped His disciples grow and mature and to become polished a little bit, to become more like Him.
So, brethren, coming out of these days of Unleavened Bread and the self-examination that we've concluded, what's the plan going forward? What's the plan going forward? How will we ensure spiritual growth over the ensuing weeks so that our examination doesn't result in us being short-sighted or blind? What are we going to do to strengthen the calling which God has provided us, to make the most of this opportunity that He's given us? How will we add to our faith? How will we add to our knowledge, our self-control, growing up in godliness and brotherly kindness and the love that each and every one of us have been charged with? I'd like to close today with Peter's words here in 2 Peter 1, beginning in verse 10.
2 Peter 1:10 "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure. For if you do these things," referencing what he just talked about, "you will never stumble. For an entrance, or for so, an entrance, will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."