Preparations for the Passover


Jesus’ Prediction (Matthew 26:1-2; Luke 21:37-38)

            In the clearest statement yet, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be crucified in two days, just before the Passover. This again pins the time for us. It is the twelfth of Nisan. Most people assume that the Passover occurred on the Sabbath day this year, thus assuming that these events took place on a Thursday. However, this leaves a day gap in the record. Nothing is mentioned as happening on Wednesday.

            Luke’s account tells us that Jesus spent each day in the temple and in the evening returned to Bethany to spend the night. So this brings us to the close of another day and the start of a new one since the Jews reckoned that a day began at sundown. Since Jesus closed his last speech with the statement that they would see him no more in the Temple, it still leaves us wondering what happened on Wednesday.

            However, Passover occurs on the fifteenth of the first month. Like our calendars, the Jewish calendar did not start on the same day of the week each year. The Passover could occur on any day of the week, depending on the year. It is my contention that the Passover actually occurred on Friday of this year. Two days prior would be Wednesday leaving us no gaps in the record of the last week.


Plots of the Chief Priests, Scribes and Elders (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2)

            While Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be crucified shortly we learn that the chief priests, scribes, and elders are in a meeting at Caiaphas’ home trying to decide what to do about Jesus. It appears to have been a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin court to consider the problem.

            They were reluctant to make an outward move against Jesus because of his popularity with the people. Instead they sought out a way to take and eliminate Jesus through trickery. They also decided not to move immediately against Jesus, but to wait until after the Passover when fewer people were present. It is interesting that their intentions were at odds with what Jesus predicted. At this moment in time they saw Jesus as being too popular to bring down and decided to wait until after the Passover feast. But Jesus understood how quickly things would change.

            The Passover feast is technically only one day long, but the week starting the day after the Passover was also a special feast, called the Feast of Unleaven Bread. It commemorated the exodus from Egypt when the people ate unleavened bread because there was no time allow their bread to rise (Exodus 23:15; Leviticus 23:4-8). The first day and last day of the Feast of Unleaven Bread were special Sabbaths, or holy convocations, whether those days happened to fall on a Sabbath day or not. Thus there are two special Sabbaths in a row: the Passover day and the first day of the Feast of Unleaven Bread. On these two days, no work could be done. This is an important point generally overlooked when trying to place the day of the week in which Christ died.


Judas’ Betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6)

            It appears that on the evening that the chief priests, scribes, and elders were meeting, Judas decided to betray Jesus to the leaders. He meet with them and was offered 30 shekels of silver to betray Jesus to them when an opportunity arose. Unknowingly, those involved fulfilled a prophesy in Zechariah 11:12. A shekel is what a skilled labor could make in a day’s time or an unskilled laborer could make in two day’s time. Thus Judas was given the amount of funds an unskilled laborer could make in about 2 ½ months, given that no work is done on Sabbath days.

            Matthew and Mark’s account mentions the incident at Simon the Leper’s house just prior to revealing Judas’ plan to betray Jesus. While the incident actually took place several days earlier, it is mentioned here because it tells us about Judas’ motivation in betraying Jesus. Judas had wanted the money from the perfume Mary used to anoint Jesus, but he lost out on this opportunity. Yet another opportunity to make money became apparent to him. It is possible that he thought he could make easy money by betraying Jesus and since Jesus always managed to slip away, he could offer Jesus to the leaders and Jesus would still survive, but meanwhile Judas would have more money in his pocket.


Preparation for the Passover Meal (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13)

            The following morning is called the First Day of Unleavened Bread. It is the day the Passover lamb was to be slain in preparation for the Passover meal. The details for the keeping of the Passover is given in Deuteronomy 16:1-12. The fourteenth day of the first month (Nisan) was the Passover (Numbers 28:16). It was celebrate at sundown, which would be the beginning of the day in Jewish reckoning. The day before, the thirteenth day of Nisan, was the day the lamb was slain. It was on this day that all leavening agents had to be removed from the homes in preparation for the Sabbath. Thus most Jewish homes removed it during the day of the twelfth of Nisan, so it would be out of the house by sundown, which was the start of the thirteenth day of Nisan. This is how the thirteenth day became known as the First Day of Unleavened Bread, even though it wasn’t officially a feast day.

 

The feast of unleavened bread began properly on the fifteenth of Nisan, and lasted seven days, but this was the fourteenth Nisan, the day on which the paschal lamb was slain. However, it was common to blend the slaying of the Passover, the Passover feast and the feast of the unleavened bread, and to look upon all three as one great festival, and to use the names Passover and unleavened bread interchangeably to describe the entire eight days. This appears from the writings of Josephus, who sometimes reckons the feast as beginning on the fifteenth (The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.5) and again as beginning on the fourteenth (The Wars of the Jews, 5.3.1). He also sometimes reckons the feast as lasting seven days (The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.5) and again he reckons it as lasting eight days (The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.15.1). The Rabbinists say that all the leaven was carefully removed from the houses on the evening before the fourteenth Nisan. To the present day leaven is removed from the houses of the Jews on the night between the thirteenth and fourteenth. Hence the day could be very fittingly called "the first day of unleavened bread." [The Fourfold Gospels, by R. L. Whiteside]


            Jesus tells Peter and John, according to Luke’s account, to prepare the Passover meal. They ask him where he wanted to have the meal prepared and like before they are given odd instructions. When they enter Jerusalem they would be met by a man carrying a pitcher of water. They are to follow the man into the house he enters and tell the owner of the house that the Teacher would like to know where the guest room he needs for the Passover meal he would eat with his disciples. Jesus stated that the owner would show them a large, furnished upper room and it is in that room they are to prepare the meal. As before it happened just as Jesus stated. It is likely that the man they approached was a follower of Jesus since he would not need an explanation as to who needed the room.

            The odd nature of locating the room did prevent Judas from telling the authorities in advance where to find Jesus before he had an opportunity to eat and instruct his followers one last time.