The Passover of Jesus
By Dianne D. McDonnell
Many are confused about the "Passover" that Jesus ate the last evening of his life. Why was it so important to Jesus? What does it mean to us today as Christians? How does it all tie together?
Many churches refer to it as "the last supper" but that is not what our Messiah called it. It was a Passover meal. And Jesus knew ahead of time that he would die at Passover time. What is the significance of this? Why did Jesus say:
And yet the next morning the Jews who wanted Jesus to be condemned said they would not enter Pilate's palace because "they wanted to be able to eat the Passover," John 18:28. They were planning to eat a Passover meal that evening twenty-four hours after the meal that Jesus called Passover. Jesus did not indicate in any way that his Passover was an "early" Passover as some teach. How do we understand all these things? Did God pick Passover day as the day Jesus would die for us? God does not do things randomly, and the death of Jesus Christ on a certain day was pre-planned for an important reason! Jesus understood that reason but most Christians today don't understand at all. This article will explain the awesome meaning of these events, explain the seeming contradictions, and what it all means to YOU personally.
The Israelites first kept Passover as slaves in Egypt. God instructed the people to sacrifice a lamb on the evening which was the beginning of the 14th day of their first month. The lamb's blood was painted on the facings around their doors and that night the Death Angel came overhead and "passed over" the houses that were marked by the blood. All who were firstborn among the Egyptians died that night but God spared the Israelites who had painted the lamb's blood around their doors. See Exodus 12. What was the symbolic meaning of this event?
John the Baptist was inspired by God to call Jesus "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" See John 1:29, 36. Did the lambs sacrificed at Passover really symbolized Jesus who would save all mankind by the shedding of his blood as a sacrifice for our sins? Did Jesus actually die on Passover day? Does that mean that we should honor the day that Jesus called Passover? Wasn't he already dead when the Jews ate their Passover? How does it all fit together? The Passover of Jesus is critical for all Christians—may God help us to understand it!
A Biblical day begins at sunset, and the night portion of the day comes first, then the daylight part of each day. Sunset begins a new day as shown in the chart comparing Roman days with the older Biblical day:
So when Jesus was eating his Passover meal it was after dark on the first part of the day on the 14th of Abib. He had observed Passover many times before but he knew this one would be his last as a human being. Jesus knew he would die before the next sunset ended that Passover day! After the meal he was arrested that same night, tried early the next morning and crucified from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Then Joseph took down his body, prepared it for burial, and put the body into his own tomb before Passover day was ended by sunset starting the next day. As the Bible counts time, Jesus died on the same day that he ate his Passover meal. He became our Passover Lamb that day!
But why were the Jews referring to a Passover night twenty-four hours later, on the 15th of Abib? God set aside two days of memorial and celebration side by side. One, the 14th, marked the final plague upon the Egyptians and the saving of the Israelites on Passover night. During the morning part of the 14th the Israelites plundered the Egyptians as wages for their 430 years of bondage, then packed their meager belongings, and quickly baked unleavened bread to eat on their journey. When sunset marked the beginning of the 15th the Israelites left Egypt by night with a pillar of fire leading the way! God ordered the Israelites to remember that day every year as The First Day of Unleavened Bread. He told them they were to keep it as a day of rest and worship. It was a yearly "Sabbath" but it could fall on any day of the week. They were to prepare for it ahead of time. So there were TWO separate events to remember side by side. One was the night the Death Angel passed over because of the blood of the lamb, the 14th of Abib. The second event was the following night when they left Egypt free at last due to the great power of God!
Over the years some Jews began to merge the two events together and observe the Passover on the 15th—the night set aside to remember coming out of Egypt. Some Jews remained true to the original orders of God. The Jews at Qumran, made famous by the Dead Sea Scrolls, observed the 14th as Passover and the 15th as The First Day of Unleavened Bread. In the first century time of the early Christians there was a disagreement among Jews about which day should be called Passover. Jesus kept Passover on the 14th as God originally decreed. Next is a chart revealing the events of the Passover of Jesus and the following day.
Understanding the Passover of Jesus
(Abib is the First Month of the Year in God's Calendar)
March/April of the Roman Calendar
Paul is pointing out the need to observe both days that God set aside! All the Spring Holy Days have deep meaning for Christians as this chart explains:
We are to keep Passover evening when Jesus instituted the bread and wine symbols of his body and blood, and the yearly Sabbath day that begins seven days of eating bread made without leavening. Since Jesus is our sacrifice we do not need to offer a lamb sacrifice, but we need to remember that leavening — baking powder, yeast, and baking soda, all represent sin during these seven days. We are to remove these products from our houses, together with all food that is leavened in the same way that we must put aside our sins and renounce them when we accept Jesus as our Savior. The unleavened bread represents Jesus, John 6:47-51; Luke 22:19. We leave behind our slavery to sin just as the Israelites left behind slavery in Egypt. See Jesus' words in John 8:34-36. And at the end of the seven days of eating unleavened bread with our meals, God commanded an additional day to be observed as a yearly Sabbath, the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, Leviticus 23:1-8.
Since Biblical days begin and end differently than the days we are familiar with it can be difficult to keep it all straight. Here is how these days fall in our Roman calendar in 2010:
God made Passover a pivotal part of His plan for mankind. We need to honor that day, and as Christians STOP ignoring the time our Savior called Passover. We are NOT told to pick when we want to commemorate a "Last Supper" however we wish to do it. We are given a specific time, and a certain day of the year to take the bread and wine, and we are given a specific seven days to remember to get sin, symbolized by leavening, OUT of our lives. We are given times to remember, days to celebrate and times to act out the life-long process of living free of sin because we have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus our Savior and his Way of Life. It was important to Jesus and it should be important to us as followers of Christ!
What an honor it is to finally understand the true meaning of these days! May God help each of us to treat them with respect for they outline God's own Plan! They reveal how He brings mankind to Himself! The Simplicity of the Gospel is portrayed every Spring in the days that He has ordered us to observe. This year if you prayerfully participate in these days and let it all sink in, you should begin to comprehend how these days reveal God's own magnificent Plan and your own part within His Plan. God's Plan includes loving and saving you, not just now but for all eternity! But you must have a heart that responds in a willingness to obey, and a heart overflowing with love and reverence for Him.
 The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes, page 336. The 14th was called Passover according to the Calendars of Priestly Courses, 4Q320-30. Also see translations of The Temple Scroll XVII, as both the 14th and the 15th are described separately. The 14th is the day that the lamb was killed and the 15th is a yearly Sabbath rest which falls on a week day. Ibid, Page 194, 195.
 Some first century Jews argued for the 14th of Abib, some argued for the 15th. See articles by L. H. Schiffman, an expert on Jewish religion in the first century.
 The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes, pages 82 and 110. In the latter part of the first century, the Qumran Community who called themselves "Sons of Light" did not kill a lamb at Passover unlike the rest of the Jews of that time, but considered prayer as "an acceptable fragrance of righteousness". 1QS-IX, 4-5. Their community was destroyed by the Roman army in about 68 A.D. and their scrolls which were hidden in caves were not discovered until hundreds of years later.
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Pastor Dianne D. McDonnell
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