The weekend of May 23-24 around the world marks a significant occasion for Christians and Jews. The date is 50 days after Passover for the Jews, or 50 days after Easter Sunday for the Christians. The primary events are similar in significance, and so too are the follow-up arrangements.
When God imposed the final plague on Egypt, it was on the night of the vernal equinox, so tradition holds. It was this event, hundreds of years later, when Christ became the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world. And so the same equinox is important for both Christians and Jews. For more on the dating of Passover and Easter, see Torah and the Dating of Passover.
For the Jews, Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments, 50 days after they had fled Egypt. For the Christians, Pentecost occurs 50 days after the resurrection as a celebration of the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s followers. Thus Pentecost Sunday, also known as Whitsunday or White Sunday, has been a tradition in the majority of the Christian community for 2,000+ years. The White Sunday comes from the fact that baptism was often held on this day because of the warmer northern climate (rather than Easter) at this time of year, and the baptismal candidates dressed in white.
It is here, however, the similarities end and the differences begin to occur. Christianity has no celebration concerning the giving of the Ten Commandments and Judaism has no celebration for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Both, however, are trying to emphasize a special event in the life of the community. The Jews base their Shavuot on the Torah itself, while the Christians use tradition, or sacred tradition (is there a difference?) as a way of justifying their event. Both groups, however, recognize that Torah sets the date of the event — 50 days after Passover/Easter.
One might ask why Christianity has no ‘celebration’ of the giving of the Decalogue. Is it because Christians don’t think the commandments are important? Put the question that way to many Christians and you will get a mixed answer.
Hearing Directly From God Makes a Difference.
We all long for direct instructions from God. This seems a little easier than trying to make decisions when we are uncertain of our knowledge and the outcome. This story, then, might interest you.
I worked with a client in San Antonio, Texas. A Christian couple, they had moved from Florida about six years earlier to start a business. Initially they moved in with her sister, then with his.
But things were not going well. So the husband decided to return to Florida, leaving his family in San Antonio long enough for him to reestablish life there. He was getting ready to depart within a few days.
Then came the knock at the door. A stranger.