Taking a Closer Look

Contributed by one of our dear friends, Norm Bond, this excellent study was too good not to share! 

When was the Last Supper?
The Bible clearly teaches that Yeshua was the ultimate Passover lamb and that He died on the cross at the same time the Passover lambs were slain. The Passover lambs were slain in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan and then roasted to be eaten at the Passover Seders later that evening. How could Yeshua have been crucified at 3:00 P.M. that afternoon and still observe the Passover Seder that same evening?  In other words, how can the account of the Last Supper in the Synoptic Gospels be reconciled with John’s account?

Marvin Wilson, in Our Father Abraham, addresses this question on page 246. He says an explanation that “seeks to bring the Synoptics and John into line is based on the theory that the Jews may have used two different methods of reckoning time. Thus some scholars seek chronological harmonization positing that two calendars were in use – one followed by the Synoptic writers, the other by John – and that Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples a day ahead of the official Jewish date…”

Marvin Wilson continues: “Whatever chronology of the Last Supper one adopts, it seems clear that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper by associating it with the third cup of wine, which came after the Passover meal was eaten. It was known as the “cup of redemption …”

James Fleming, in one of his lectures, said that the Essenes used what they believed was the pure ancient calendar of Israel. It was different than the lunar calendar used by Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Sadducees  controlled the Temple and the official Jewish calendar. He believes that Yeshua used the Essene calendar in deciding when to observe His Last Supper. Dr. Fleming pointed out that Yeshua told Peter and John to prepare the Passover, and when they asked where to prepare it, Yeshua told them that after entering Jerusalem, they would see a man carrying a pitcher of water and he would lead them to the room (Mark 14:14).

Why the mysterious instructions? In his book,With Jesus in Jerusalem by Bargil Pixner, he suggests that perhaps Yeshua designated only His closest disciples, Peter and John to check out the room to keep Judas from knowing where it would be. Therefore Judas’ betrayal couldn’t happen during the meal. Carrying water was usually a woman’s job, so the man Peter and John were to look for was likely an Essene ‘monk.’ The traditional Upper Room was located in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem.  

Mark 14:14-15 states, “and wherever he [the man] enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples? And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.’” Perhaps the master of the house was the superintendent of the monastic district and he led them to the pre-arranged room. Yeshua had obviously made the arrangements earlier. The Essenes would have accommodated those who observed the Passover according to their calendar.

NAU Matthew 28:1: “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.”
Pixner does not think that Jesus was an Essene and that He usually followed the Temple calendar. However, He was on good terms with the Essenes and on this Passover He utilized their calendar. On page 77, Pixner gives his reasoning:

1. Before the Passover, Jesus and the disciples were stayed in the Essene-influenced village of Bethany on the Mount of Olives. This, among other things indicates Jesus was sympathetic to the Essenes.
2. Jesus wanted to celebrate a Passover meal as His parting meal (Luke 22:15), but had the premonition that by the time of the Temple Passover, He would no longer be alive.
3. Jesus’ Passover meal was held in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem where the Essenes’ calendar was observed.                 
4. I might add that the Gospels do not mention that roasted lamb was eaten at the Last Supper. The Temple priests would likely have not accommodated the Essene observance by slaughtering their lambs before the 14th of Nisan. However, David Flusser, in his book Jesus, states that the Codex Bezae is an exception because it quotes Jesus as saying, “With all my heart I have longed to eat this paschal lamb with you before I die” (emphasis is mine).

The above explanation of the date of the Passover helps answer the question of how long Yeshua was in the Tomb. If the traditional Friday dates for the crucifixion and Sunday resurrection are correct, Christ could not have been in the grave for a full three days and nights. Yet Yeshua said in Matthew 12:40 that “just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  Following are a few extra-Biblical ancient Christian documents that contradict the traditional Passion Week dates.

1. In the Syrian doctrinal teaching of the Apostles from the 3rd century called the Didascalia Apostolorum, when referring to the apostles states:

“When we had eaten the Passover on Tuesday evening, we went to the Mount of Olives . . .”
2. The Didache is the doctrinal teachings of the apostles: It dates from the beginning of the 2nd century:
“… on Wednesday, Jesus was taken prisoner…”
3.  EPIPHANIUS OF SALAMIS (ca 380 A.D.)  The bishop Epiphanius is believed to have had more information about ancient Judeo-Christian traditions than any other Church father. He writes in his PANARION (Haer 51,26): “They [Jesus and His disciples] celebrated the Passover meal two days before the official day, that is on Tuesday in the evening“

Following is what I think is the most likely sequence of events during Passion week. I have paralleled the Christian calendar with the Jewish calendar.

John 12:1 says Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before Passover lodged there.

Sunday, the 9th of Nissan. The meal with Simon the Leper. In Mt. 26:2 Jesus says the [Essene] Passover is two days away.

Monday, the 10th of Nissan. Selection of the Passover lambs and, according to Exodus 12:3, they are to be inspected for four days for imperfections before being slain on the 14th (Exodus 12:6). Jesus makes the triumphant entry and proceeds to the Temple, where He taught and was observed by the priests for a period of four days. They found no fault in Him (Luke 23:14 and 19:47).

Tuesday, the 11th of Nissan: Yeshua teaches in the Temple and synagogues (Jn 18:20). He ate the Essene Passover meal with His disciples that evening and was arrested later that night in Gethsemane.

Wednesday, the 12th of Nissan: Yeshua is questioned first by Annas, then by the High Priest Caiaphas and the Elders and the Scribes (Mark 14:53).
Thursday, the 13th of Nissan: And when it was morning, Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:1-2). Jesus was sent to Herod, who returned Him to Pilate (Luke 23:15). Pilate had Him flogged and handed Him over to be crucified (Jn 19:16). This was the preparation day spoken of in John 19:31. Jesus  was crucified, died the ninth hour and was put in the tomb before 6 P.M. The traditional Passover Seder was observed that evening, which began Nissan the14th. This would have been considered a Holy Day, a Shabbat.

Friday, Nissan 14: At 6 P.M. Yeshua would have been in the Tomb one full day (Matt. 27:62). That evening would be Nissan the 15th, which Leviticus 23:6 says is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened bread. It is a high Sabbath day. In the Greek, Luke 23:56 uses the word sabbaton, the plural form of Sabbath, which proves there was more than one Sabbath that week. Sometime that same day, the chief priests and Pharisees posted guards at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64). At 6 P.M. that evening would have begun Nissan 15. This would have completed Yeshua’s second 24 hours in the grave. The women purchased spices for Yeshua’s body.

Saturday, Nissan 15th: This was the regular weekly Sabbath, which was another day of rest. By 6 P.M., Jesus would have completed His third 24 hours period in tbe Tomb, thus fulfilling Matthew 12:40. He would have risen after 6 P.M. Matthew 28:1 states, “Now after the Sabbath, [remember it ended Saturday at 6 P.M.] as it began to dawn [epiphoskouse, meaning “draw near”] toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to “look at the grave.”                                      

Sunday, The 16th of Nissan began at 6 P.M. Mark 16:9 says, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.” I believe this proves Christ rose Saturday evening, not Sunday morning!   

Jesus Also Fulfilled the Feast of First Fruits!
I also believe that with His resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the Feast of First Fruits! It was to be observed “on the day after the Sabbath” (Exodus 23:10-12). The purpose of this feast was to consecrate the harvest to God. The first fruits were representative of the whole harvest. The apostle Paul said Jesus was the fulfillment of this feast in I Corinthians 20-23: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,” The 16th of Nissan, as mentioned above, started Saturday evening according to the  Hebrew calendar, thus qualifying it as “the day after the [weekly] Sabbath.”

Our Holy Scriptures are both profound and consistent!

Norm Bond