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WAS JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFED ON THE DAY OF PASSOVER?

WAS JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFED ON THE DAY OF PASSOVER?

I believe most would answer the question posed in the title of this study with an affirmative, as I do. But there are passages that seem to suggest that Christ was crucified before the day of Passover.  For example, we read in Jn. 19:31, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies shall not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day….”.  If, as most assume, the preparation was the day before the Passover, the assumption is that this verse tells us that Christ was crucified on the day before the Passover, i.e. on the day of preparation.

We will consider the following in our search for the truth in this matter:

When Did The Hebrew Day Begin And End?

A Consideration Of The Feasts Of Unleavened Bread and of Passover

I Corinthians 5:7

New Testament Passages Considered

When Did The Hebrew Day Begin And End?

It is crucial that we understand that the Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset. How do we know that? Let us consider Gen. 1:4, “…..and the evening and the morning were the first day. And 1:8, “…..and the evening and the morning were the second day”. And 1:13, “…..and the evening and the morning were the third day”. See also verses 19, 23 and 31. Please note that in every case, the order is first the evening, and then the day.

In point of fact, even in the 21st century, the Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset. That is to say, Jews today count sunset as the beginning and the end of the day.

A Consideration Of The Feasts Of Unleavened Bread And Of Passover

We read in Lev. 23:5-7, 5) “The fourteenth day of the first month is the Lord’s Passover. 6) And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7) In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein

There are two elements of this passage that are of importance to our study.  1) Each of these two feasts begins on a different day, which makes it a different feast. That is to say if the feast of unleavened bread was the same feast as the feast of Passover they would begin on the same day. But because they begin on two different days, we must, in my opinion, conclude that they are two different feasts. 2) The first day of the feast of unleavened bread is specifically said to be a Sabbath, i.e. “ye shall do no servile work therein”. But please note, there is absolutely no indication that the Passover was to be a Sabbath. In point of fact the Bible never says that the Passover is a Sabbath.  (If the reader would like to confirm that statement I offer this complete list of the passages which speak of the Passover. Ex. 12:11 and 48. Lev. 23:5. Numbers 9:2-14 and 28:16. Deut. 16:1-6. Joshua 5:10-11. II Kings 23:21-23. II Chron. 30:1-18 and 35:1-19. Ezra 6:19-20. Ezek. 45:21. Matt. 26:18. Mark 15:42.  Luke 2:41 and 22:1-15. Jn. 2:13 and 23, 6:4, 11:55, 12:1, 13:1, 18:28, and 39, 19:14, 31 and 42. I Cor. 5:7. Heb.  11:28.)

As mentioned above, the feast of Passover and the feast of unleavened bread are two different feasts, beginning on two different days of the month. The point of them being two different feasts is further proved as we consider Ex. 12 which gives us the reasons that these feasts are to be commemorated. We read in Ex. 12:26-27, 26) “And it shall come to pass that when your children shall say unto you, ‘What mean ye by this service’? (i.e. the Passover service, see vs. 18).  27) that ye shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, Who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses…”.

Verse 17 of Ex. 12 gives us the reason for the commemoration of the feast of unleavened bread. “And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread: for in this selfsame day have  I brought your armies out of Egypt:  therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance forever”.

The point I am making in this section is that the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread are two separate feasts. This is important because we read Ex. 12:18, “In the first month on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day at even”. In other words, Israel was told to eat unleavened bread on the fourteenth day, which was the day of Passover, but the feast of unleavened bread begins on the fifteenth day of the month.  That means that they ate unleavened bread for eight days, i.e. the day of Passover plus the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread.

So we should not be surprised or confused when we read, for example, in Luke 22:1, “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover…”. That is to say, even though the two feasts are different feasts, by the first century, Jews considered the Passover part of the feast of unleavened bread.

I Corinthians 5:7

We read in I Cor. 5:7 that, “……even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. This tells us that Jesus Christ was God’s true Passover Lamb. That is to say, when Israel sacrificed a lamb on Passover that lamb was the Passover lamb. The shadow of the Passover lamb was, of course, sacrificed on the day of Passover. If the shadow of the Passover lamb was killed on the day of Passover, surely the fulfillment was also killed on the day of Passover.

It is for that reason that I believe we may conclude that Christ was indeed killed on the day of Passover.  In the next section we will consider the passages that seem to say that Christ was killed before the day of Passover.

New Testament Passages Considered

Let us begin this section with a consideration of the passage mentioned at the very beginning of this study, i.e. Jn. 19:31, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies shall not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day….”.

As mentioned above, there is no Scriptural evidence that Passover was a Sabbath, but as shown in the sections above, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread was indeed a Sabbath. So the bodies were taken down from the crosses just before the first day of unleavened bread.That means that the “preparation” was not a day to prepare for the Passover, as so many assume, it was the preparation for the feast of unleavened bread. In other words the day of preparation was the day of Passover.

So Jn. 19:31 tells us that the Jews took the body of Christ down from the cross at the end of the day of Passover, which means, of course that Christ was crucified on the day of Passover, as one would expect from I Cor. 5:7.

With that in mind let us also consider Jn. 19:14, “And it was the preparation of the Passover,and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King’”. This verse obviously has to do with the “sixth hour” of Christ’s ordeal on the cross. But it says that that sixth hour was “the preparation of the Passover”. How shall we account for this seeming difficulty?

We must bear in mind two elements of the feasts that we learned in the earlier sections of this study.  They are: 1) First century Jews thought of the feasts of unleavened bread and the Passover as the same feast, even though they were not.  2) The preparation was not for the Passover itself, it was for the feast of unleavened bread. So this verse describes what was said to the Jews on the day of Passover, at the sixth hour.

Let us also consider Jn. 19:42, “There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews preparation day….”.  Again, the preparation day was a day of preparation of the feast of unleavened bread, not the feast of Passover. In other words, the “preparation day” was the day of Passover.

We read in Matt. 27:59-62, “Now when Joseph had taken the body he wrapped  it in a clean linen cloth. And laid it in his own new tomb…….. . Now the next day that followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate”. The day that followed the preparation was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the day after the day of Passover when Christ had been crucified. (See also Luke 23:54.)

Mark 15:42 is very helpful in that it tells us that the preparation, which was actually the day of Passover was not a Sabbath, but the next day, i.e. the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, was indeed a Sabbath.  That verse is in reference to the evening that Christ died and reads, “And now when even was come, because it was the preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath”. Here we have it clearly put.  Christ was buried on the day of preparation which was the day before the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, i.e. on Passover.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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