Preparation for the Passover
When did Jesus die?
Many believe that the Gospel accounts contradict when it comes to the death of Jesus. They think the synoptic Gospels contradict John with the timing of the death of Jesus. Does it really? What does the Bible say?
Many even argue that Jesus did not eat the Passover Meal and that he instituted the Lord’s Supper as something new and different is this true?
Some think that the expression “Passover” and “Unleavened Bread” means the season, or the entire 8 day festival. It’s all generalize there are no specifics that way a Friday crucifixion can be justified. To do away with Two Sabbaths that week one can say “there was only one Sabbath, the weekly Sabbath that week therefore the crucifixion was on Friday.” What does the Bible say? Notice the argument below:
Interpreting "Passover" in the Gospel accounts:
Narratives interpreted by critics are: “our comments in green brackets [---], otherwise direct quotes from Bible. Our comments below perfectly explain:”
Did Jesus as this source argues institute a new meal called the “last supper”? Or was the last supper the Passover? Notice the arguments below:
What does the Bible really say?
Does this really mean the season?
In the King James you find “Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” (Matthew 26:17).
“And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” (Mark 14:12)
“Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed” (Luke 22:7).
Allegedly this contradicts Johns gospel that says, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1).
Also, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (John 19:14).
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover” (John 18:28)
Do these contradict? Let’s see
Now first off does it mean the whole 8 day season of the Passover and days of unleavened bread? To a certain extent yes (see Acts 12:3; 20:6) but the gospels get specific, and say it the "first day" of the unleavened. This was first day of this Passover week that this event of the Last supper took place. You will notice it says on the "first day" of the unleavened when the "lambs were killed." What does that mean?
Here is how the Greek reads as translated into English from the Textus Receptus in the Greek/English Interlinear by George Ricker Berry Ph.D. and the Apostolic Polyglot.
“And on the first day of the unleavened breads” (Matthew 26:17)
And on the first day of the unleavened breads” (Mark 14:12)
“And came the day of the unleavened breads” (Luke 22:7)
Italics is supplied and added in. The original in the Greek is:
“Now on the first of unleavened came the disciples to Jesus, saying to Him, Where will you we should prepare for you to eat the passover.”
“And on the first day of unleavened, when the passover they killed, say to Him His disciples, Where desirest you going we should prepare that you mayest eat the passover.”
“And came the day of unleavened in which was needful to be killed the passover. And He sent Peter and John saying, Having gone prepare for us the passover, that we may eat.”
Notice the word “bread” is not in the Greek! Of course by implication bread is meant, for “unleavened” was to do with BREAD. But MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT is to notice the fact that the word “feast” is NOT USED!!
It was the “day of Unleavened” What does this mean?
None of the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, use the word “feast” with the word “unleavened.” John used it in a number of times in his Gospel (i.e. chapter 13:1; 7:2). They did not use it in the verses above to be specific. Luke used the word feast in chapter 22:1that it “drew near.”. He and the others did not use it when they were referring to THE DAY they killed the Passover lambs, and on which day the disciples came to Jesus to ask Him where they should prepare the Passover meal for them to eat.
Notice what Richard A. Parker, University of Chicago wrote concerning Nisan 14. “But on what authority should Hebrew translators, as Salkinson and Delitzch, introduce the word [the Hebrew word for feast, chag or chagag, or the Greek word for feast], into these texts, when the corresponding Greek phrase has no word [in it] for ‘feast,’ and only speaks of the ‘first of the unleavened bread’— a common expression for the Jewish 14th with practically all first century writers. Furthermore, why attempt to change Luke’s account of an actual passover meal (22:15) to agree with a common meal...” (Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume LXII 1944, “Ancient Jewish Calendation: A Criticism”, emphasis added).
They had VERY GOOD REASON why they DID NOT use it. They did not want you to believe this was the 15th day of the month, the first Sabbath day, the holy convocation day, of the seven day FEAST of Unleavened Bread.
Oh, it was indeed THE FIRST OF UNLEAVENED, but what does that mean? If you have not yet called to mind the instructions of Exodus 12-from Jewish CUSTOM and TRADITIONS that this 14th day was a day, the first official day in their religious traditions, to be unleavened, to prepare for the Passover!
“even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses:” (Ex 12:15). This cannot mean the first day of unleavened bread because on that day of the 15th, “And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
“And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. (vv.16-17). The 15th was a Sabbath no work was to be done, certainly not taking leaven out of the houses. It was also a day when Israel was set free. So this “first day” was not the 15th but the 14th when all the arrangements and preparations were made for the 15th which was a Sabbath.
The 14th day was a day when the Lambs were killed (Ex 12:6), and the blood was spread on the door posts. The Meal was eaten “that night” on the 15th with “unleavened bread” (v.8). So the leavened had to be out of the houses by 15th. This can only be done on the 14th. So the “first day” was not the 15th but the 14th it was the first day of preparation for the Passover Meal to be eaten “that night.”
Notice in the New Testament, the same events are taking place on the preparation of the Passover. “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” (Mark 14:12). Like Exodus 12 the 14th day of Nisan was the day when the lambs were slain, and the houses were clean out, taken all the leavened away. They were to “prepare” so they can eat he Passover (see also verses 15 and 16). This was the beginning of the 14th of Nisan. 2 Chronicles 30; Ezra 6 all explicitly say the same, it was the day when the lambs were killed on the 14th day of Nisan.
Luke 22:7-8 same events are taking place, “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.
“And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.”
Again Matthew 26:17, 19: “Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?...And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” This day was the day when Passover was prepared, the leaven was out of the houses, and the Passover lambs were killed, this was the beginning of the 14th of Nisan. The Sabbaths were sunset to sunset (Lev 23:32). This was the beginning at sunset; the Passover Meal Jesus ate took place at “night” after preparation. Notice “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.” (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17). This word “even” can mean as Thayer’s describes it as, “opsios
2a) either from three to six o’clock p.m.
2b) from six o’clock p.m. to the beginning of night” (emphasis added).
The Apostle Paul said of the last Passover Meal, “That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:” (1 Corinth 11:23). The word “night” here is “nux” (Strong’s 3571), meaning night time even mid-night. So the context in this case for opsios is evening after sunset.
At sunset was the preparation, and afterwards during the night that sat down to eat.
At sunset the room itself was already “furnished and prepared” (Mark 14”15). The lamb had to be roasted and prepared afterwards.
Luke 22:14 says: “And when the HOUR was come, He sat down and the twelve apostles with Him.”
Sunset in Palestine about the Passover time of the year could have been around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. or later depending on whether a 13th month had been added to the calendar(which it must be added from time to time) that year. So Jesus may not have sat down with the twelve until 9 or 10 p.m. to start eating this Passover meal. Some have estimated that to kill and clean, and roast a lamb ready for eating for 12 or so men, would probably take from three and a half to five hours. It did take a number of hours to prepare the Passover meal ready to be eaten. Jesus came later with the other disciples to the upper room, after the Passover had been prepared and the night was well on its way.
After the supper when Jesus was betrayed they came with “lanterns and torches and weapons.” (John 18:3). Obviously it took place at night.
Peter when he followed him, “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.” (v.18). Again it was night time when these events took place on the 14th of Nisan on preparation day.
In the “Sixth hour” they condemned him which corresponds to our midnight. John 19:14,15
Then during the day when they put him to death John said, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (John 19:14). It was still the preparation day. The first day of Unleavened bread did not come till sunset that day! It is that “night” on the 15th that the meal was eaten (Exodus 12:8). That’s why the Pharisees said “lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover” (John 18:28). They were to eat it that “night” when Jesus was in the tomb on the 15th.
When Jesus died it says in John, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (19:31)
Even when they buried him it says, “There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. (v.42). Right until they buried him it was the preparation day of the Passover the 14th of Nisan.
Notice what Ungers Bible Dictionary says, “The 13th Nisan. On the evening of the 13th Nisan, [This is sunset which begins the 14th of Nisan] which, until that of the 14th, was called the ‘preparation for the Passover’ (John 19:14), every head of a family searched for and collected by the light of a candle all the leaven. Before beginning the search, he pronounced the following benediction: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with thy commandments, and hast enjoined us to remove the leaven.” After the search he said, “Whatever leaven remains in my possession which I cannot see, behold, it is null, and accounted as the dust of the earth.”
“3. The 14th Nisan. This day, called until the evening [the end of the 14th beginning of the 15th of Nisan] the preparation for the Passover, was also known as the “first day” of Passover (Lev. 23:5–7). Handicraftsmen, with the exception of tailors, barbers, and laundresses, were obliged to cease from work, either from morning or from noon, according to the custom of the different places in Palestine. No leaven was allowed to be eaten after noon, when all that had been found either on this day or the preceding one was to be burned.” (Article “Feast of Unleavened Bread”, p.560, emphasis added). Either the night before up to the day of the crucifixion till noon leaven was being clean out of the houses. It was preparation day for the Passover.
Shops were still open so the disciples could have gone out and bought things for the feast because the Sabbath was the next day at sundown.
So do these passages mean the Passover season? Absolutely not! It means the first day of unleavened, when the leavened was to be cleaned out of the houses of the Israelites and prepare to eat Passover.
Did Jesus eat a Passover Meal? What do the scriptures say?
Matthew 26:17-19. The disciples come to Jesus saying: “…Where will you that we PREPARE for you to eat THE PASSOVER.”
Jesus tells them to tell the man of the house that He will “keep THE PASSOVER at your house.”
The disciples did as Jesus had appointed them and “they MADE READY THE PASSOVER.” Pretty plain easy to understand words to me - Jesus and His disciples were observing THE PASSOVER!
Mark 14:13-16 gives us PASSOVER in verse 12, and in verse 14, and once more in verse 16.
Luke 22:8-13 they prepared the Passover, they were going to observe in the guest-chamber “the Passover” and they made ready “the Passover.”
Notice verse 15, “And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat THIS PASSOVER with you before I suffer.” The Bible is beating us over the heads with this, Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover!
Just because the lamb is not specifically mentioned by name really does not prove anything as to the idea that at this last Passover meal. * In Fact, these elements were so common at Passover meals that to mention them was tantamount to stating the obvious. This was apparently the case in m. Pesah. 10:3, where the author refers to the eating of the paschal lamb only in passing.
*Jeremias concludes from m. Pesah\. 10:3 that we have here “precisely the same combination of historical report and cultic ritual as [found] in the texts describing the Last Supper, and in both cases we can observe the same thing happening: [The] cultic ritual overshadows the historical facts and concentrates attention upon the continuing rites” (Words, 67; emphasis original).
Looking at the verses already given in Matthew, Mark and Luke, we can see the word EAT used over and over again.
In Luke 22:15 Jesus says , “...With desire I have desired to EAT THIS PASSOVER with you....”
The whole ceremony, observance and keeping of the Passover under Moses, as given in the books of Moses, was fundamentally bound up and founded upon the main element of the observance(besides the slaying of the lamb) and that was the EATING of the lamb. The Passover was not completely and fully observed WITHOUT the EATING of the lamb.
The Passover meal would not have been a meal or supper WITHOUT the EATING of the lamb. This last Passover was called a supper by the writers of the Gospels. It was very much a SUPPER MEAL, and Jesus desired to EAT this Passover with His disciples before He suffered and was killed on the cross. This was a regular true Passover observance, with everything the Passover was to have for a supper meal -unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the roasted lamb.
Other POSITIVE indications in the synoptic SUBSTANTIATE that the Last Supper was a PASSOVER MEAL. In his commentary on THE GOSPEL OF MARK, William L. LANE offers a concise summary of such indications:
“The return to Jerusalem in the evening for the meal (Mark 14: 17; cf. Matt.26: 18; Luke 22: 10) is SIGNIFICANT, for the PASCHAL meal had to be eaten within the city walls (M. Pesachim V11. 9). An ORDINARY meal was taken in the late AFTERNOON, but a meal which began in the EVENING and CONTINUED into the NIGHT reflects PASSOVER practice (Ex.12: 8; Jubilees 49: 12). The reference to RECLINING (Mark 14: 18) satisfies a REQUIREMENT of the Passover feast in the FIRST century when custom demanded that even the poorest man RECLINE for the festive meal (M. Pesachim X.1). While a NORMAL meal BEGAN with the BREAKING OF BREAD, on THIS occasion Jesus BROKE the bread DURING the meal and FOLLOWING the serving of a dish (Mark 14: 18-20, 22). The Passover meal was the one occasion when the serving of the dish PRECEDED the breaking of the bread. The use of WINE was generally reserved for festive occasions and was characteristic of the Passover (M. Pesachim X.1). FINALLY, the interpretation of the ELEMENTS of the meal CONFORM to Passover CUSTOM where the haggadah (or interpretation) is an INTEGRAL part of the meal. The CUMULATIVE EVIDENCE supports the claim made in verses 12, 14, and 16 (of Mark 14) that the disciples PREPARED a PASSOVER meal and that the EXTERNAL FORMS of the Passover were observed at the meal itself.” (pp.497-498)
Now in the Gospel of John chapter 13 it says, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
Norval Geldenhuys argues that this translation, followed largely by the A. V. and N. I. V. among others, is misleading because it completely detaches the Last Supper from Passover. He suggests that the expression “before the feast” should be connected with the verb “knowing” (eidos). Thus the translation would read: “Knowing (already) before Passover that His hour had come to depart out of this world unto his Father, Jesus, he who loved his own in this world, loved them unto the end (or ‘to the uttermost’).” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, p.657).
According to this translation (which is followed by Weymouth, Knox, Moffatt and others), John does not wish to detach the events of the Last Supper from the Passover. Rather he gives a reason for their occurrence, namely, Jesus knew in advance of His impending death at Passover. John often attributes to Christ’s foreknowledge the reason for His actions (see John 12:7, 23; 13:3, 11, 18; 18:4; 19:28). So this scripture does not contradict the timing of other scriptures in the synoptic Gospels at all. It simply says Jesus knew before hand that this was the Passover that he would die for the sins of the world. And that the last supper as the Passover meal.
In the Gospel of John only FEW details of the Last Supper are given, because, as Geldenhuys explains, “He assumes that his readers are quite aware of the fact that this meal was the PASCHAL repast which the Lord celebrated with His disciples on the EVENING before His crucifixion, and that He then instituted the Holy Communion. For this reason he MERELY refers to it by the single word DEIPNON (supper) WITHOUT stating expressly what precise meal it was. He knew that the FIRST THREE Gospels and also the Epistles of Paul gave a FULL ACCOUNT of the celebration of the paschal repast and the institution of the Holy Communion. Consequently he does NOT REPEAT the same facts, but mentions a few SUPPLEMENTARY OCCURRENCES that took place DURING that meal, as they made a great impression on him and had NOT been described in the OTHER Gospels.” (note 5, pp.659-660)
“Though John does not explicitly designate the Last supper as a Passover meal for the reasons just mentioned (see above), there are indications that he ALSO regarded the meal shared by Christ with His disciples as a PASCHAL MEAL…John, like the synoptic writers, regarded the Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples as a PASSOVER MEAL.” (Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, p.61, emphasis added).
Now Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:23ff) do not mention the (seder) lamb meal but refer to "the night in which the Lord was betrayed" Notice the scripture. The expression the “same night,” (KJV) in which Jesus was “betrayed.” The word “same” is in Italics. That means it was added by the translators, therefore not in the original text. They do that some times to try and clear up the translation by adding some words to the text, that's why you find italicized words in the bible. So this scripture can read, “The night in which he was betrayed.” Many people use this scripture to justify and early Passover at the end of the 13th beginning of the 14th. But All Paul was doing was hearkening back to what happened at the first New Testament Passover Meal. Nothing indicates that it was the same time that Jesus ate the Passover at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th. The early church kept the Passover at the same time the Jews did at the end of the 14th beginning of the 15th, in which the 14th was preparation day.
Why no lamb in the early church? For Christians we need not sacrifice lambs any longer Christ caused that to cease (Read our booklets Saving works of God and Daniels 70 weeks for details). The lamb for Christ and the disciples was eaten because Christ did not die for our sins till the next day.
Even the ancients observed the preparation day as the day when Jesus was Killed. During the quartrodeciman controversy Polyacrates wrote to the Roman Pope and his church, "We observe the genuine day...All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith.
"Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops, and I am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people of the Jews threw away the leaven." (Scaff, History of the Christian Church vol.2, pp.204-205, emphasis added).
Why did Jesus have the Passover early?
Did the disciples know this was a special Passover?
Why did Jesus do the Passover early on the 14th instead sunset on the 14th and the beginning of the 15th? Well, because, he was going to be the Passover lamb at the very time when they slaughtered the Lamb, he couldn't hold the Passover Meal at that time. That was the time when he had to die for the sins of the world. So he held it early. Now Samuele Biacchicchi’s Book God’s Festivals shows this to be correct, he writes, “A plausible resolution of the discrepancy is to assume that the Last Supper was a special paschal meal eaten the evening before the official Passover Meal. The anticipation of the paschal meal could have been motivated by the fact that Jesus knew he would suffer death at the Passover in fulfillment of the type provided by the slaying of the paschal lamb on Nisan 14. He knew he could not possibly eat of the paschal lamb at the usual time and himself be sacrificed as the true paschal lamb when the lambs were slain.
“It was more important that Christ’s death should synchronize with the death of the Passover lambs than that his eating of the Passover meal synchronize with the official time of the Passover meal. In view of the legitimate concern, Jesus anticipated his eating of the Passover with his disciples to the evening before the official Passover so that the types of the slaying of the lamb and the offering of the first fruits would be fulfilled 'not only as to the event, but as to the time'''
“Support for this assumption can be found in the time references to the Passover in Matthew 26:2, 18 and John 13:1. In Matthew 26:2, Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.’ Clearly this indicates that Christ knew that his death would occur at Passover which was two days away. Christ’s awareness that his death would occur on Passover day could have caused him to anticipate his last paschal meal with his disciples a day earlier.
“Christ could not have instructed his disciples to prepare the Passover at the official time (Nisan 14) when he had just informed them that he would be crucified at that time. This explains the sense of urgency in the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples: ‘Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples.’ (Matt 26:18). The phrase ‘My time is at hand’ presumably refers to the short time left to Passover when the ‘son of man will be delivered up to be crucified’ Because of the shortness of time, hasty arrangements had to be made for a special Passover meal.
“A similar conclusion can be drawn from John 13:1, which functions as a prologue or title to the story of the Last supper in the Upper room. As translated by the RSV, it reads: ‘Now before the feast of Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end… ” (pp.56-57, emphasis added).
Jesus knew he would be the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed at the very same time the lamb was slain by the high Priest at the temple.
Notice the 3rd hour which corresponds to our 9 o’clock they bound him to the cross. This was the same time they bound the sacrificial lamb to the altar. At this time they would sings the Psalms from 113 to 118. The Psalm 118: 27 says, “God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”
It was at this time that Jesus was “lifted up” (John 3:14). It was at this time that the Psalms sings, “The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.” (118:16).
Then right at the time “between the two evenings” Or the ninth hour (our 3 o’clock), Jesus died. It was at this time when the lamb was slain.
How can this occur if Jesus was to keep Passover at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th? God’s plan be done-“thy will be done.” It was God plan for Jesus to be that Passover lamb.
The disciples were expecting something to happen as well. Jesus kept telling them his time was at hand, that he would go into Jerusalem for this Passover and be crucified for the sins of the world. That he would be raised up. His message of the Kingdom of God he connected with the Passover, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25). Though did not understand fully, they anticipated something, they were waiting for the kingdom of God and Jesus to be that King. So an early Passover was something that they understood needed to happen because Jesus told them something was going to occur.
So there is no contradiction in the Gospels, and it does not mean the season in those particular passages. In the Old and New Testaments it all correlates together. There were two Sabbaths that week, the annual and weekly Sabbaths. See our article on the High Day Sabbath for details.