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Shavuot, Christianity, and the Law

As spring gives way to summer, the Jewish people prepare to celebrate Shavuot: one of the three pilgrimage festivals in Judaism. Today, it is primarily a celebration of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai marked by families gathering together to decorate their homes, enjoy traditional treats, and study the law.

Interestingly, this is very different from the original Biblical commandment regarding Shavuot. Found in Deuteronomy 16, Shavuot was laid out as a holiday to celebrate God’s provision. Today’s Jewish people instead celebrate the significance of the Torah and an opportunity to re-emphasize the law.

The Law Fulfilled

While we as Christians also celebrate and respect the law, fully understanding that we were grafted in to this beautiful history and storyline, we ground ourselves in its fulfillment found in Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself said, His death and resurrection did not abolish the law, but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). We now live in the freedom of Jesus Christ, maintaining the heart posture of the law without dying by its letter. 

This marks a significant difference between the Jewish and Christian faiths. Where Jews cling to the law, believing it to be the very thing that draws them near to God we get to cling to God Himself, obeying His commands from the love relationship He established at creation and redeemed through Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

The Law Points to Christ

This makes Shavuot a fascinating holiday to study and learn about, as well as a massive opportunity to connect with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Throughout the world where practicing Jews take this time to highlight and celebrate the law, we can gently, lovingly share the truth that that very law was meant only to point to Jesus Christ and sustain His people in holiness, repentance, and sacrifice until He came to establish His rule and reign in our hearts, giving us the Holy Spirit in order to do what the law never could: make us new. 

Romans Seven Observed

Paul expresses so perfectly the heart cry of humanity in Romans 7, the desperate struggle between what we want to do and who we want to be and our continual failures in the flesh. By this reality the Jewish people live and die as the law serves to point out every failure and make us aware of our desperate need for redemption. By this reality too, Christians recognize the mighty chasm between who we are called to be and who we are, but instead of remaining in that sorrow we get to say with Paul “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24-25 ESV). 

An Opportunity for Salvation

As Shavuot is celebrated worldwide, why not take this opportunity to reflect on the freedom and new life we’ve found in Jesus Christ, pray for those still trapped in the law, the very people God claimed as His own and longs to reveal Himself to, and, if you have the opportunity to do so, share the gospel with the Jewish people or support those who are able to?

At GCM we have people all across the globe with access to those still trapped in patterns of religion. Pray for us as we continue to reach out with this message of life! May this Shavuot be a turning point from celebrating the gift of the law to finding its fulfillment and celebrating as the original Biblical text commanded: the provision of God, this time through the perfect Lamb that died in our place, setting us free.