The Timing of the Passover: Part II
Before you read this post, make sure you’ve read the prior one to understand the context. I want to discuss when we should observe the Passover meal today. Growing up, I did notice a couple of disconnects between Passover, the “Night to Be Much Observed” and the Days of Unleavened Bread. For instance, I think most people just keep the Night to Be Much Observed without even realizing that this night is mentioned only once (and rather ambiguously) in scripture (Ex. 12:42). So, I had some studying to do.
Even the people I know who agree with my first premise (that the OT Passover was kept in the latter part of the 14th day) still disagree with my second. There is basically one reason for this:
Paul wrote in 1Co 11:23-24, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
Now, I see this verse and recognize that, yes, the timing that Paul outlines is correct. That’s obvious. Others take it as a verification that Jesus changed the time we are commanded to partake of the Passover meal.
I’m going to attempt to keep this organized. There are several reasons why I believe we should keep the Passover at the end of the 14th day. One, it matches the timing of the original Passover that God commanded (Ex. 12:6). This command was established as an ordinance forever (v. 14). Two, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are connected so many times in scripture (Eze. 45:21, Mar. 14:12). It’s just logical that Passover flows right into the Days of UB. It never made sense to me that we ate unleavened bread at Passover, but could still have leavening in our homes the whole next day until sundown. The third and major reason is that Jesus Christ perfectly timed his sacrifice to coincide with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lambs.
What bothers me most is that the keeping of the Passover has made Jesus’ last meal more important than His sacrifice. Scripture is pretty clear that Jesus knew He could not participate in the Jewish Passover meal.
Joh. 13:1 “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that he should depart out of this world… And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…” It says that Jesus knew his hour had come (to be betrayed) before the feast of Passover, and this account is described during the meal. However, Jesus still needed to pass on the new symbols of the Passover; He replaced the slaughtering of the lamb with the bread and the wine (Mat. 26:26-28).
Joh 18:28 “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.“
Clearly, the Jews kept the Passover during the latter part of the 14th day, because these men were taking Jesus on the morning of the 14th and hadn’t yet taken of the Passover. That’s why the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is so perfect. He was the ultimate sacrifice on the perfect day, at the perfect time, when all the Passover lambs were to be slaughtered. The beauty of this fulfillment of prophecy should not be overshadowed by the timing of His last meal.
There are some things from the teachings of Jesus that are taken extremely literally, while others are taken as metaphorical. For instance, the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is only in one gospel account (Joh. 13:4-15). Yet, it is incorporated as a required ceremony of the Passover service. He said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (v. 14, 15). Is He not speaking of His important example of overall servanthood? Or, is He literally just saying we should wash each others’ feet once a year? I understand that the actual washing of feet can be quite a humbling experience; that’s fine. But why do we take some of Christ’s words in letter, and others in Spirit?
There is no command in scripture for the timing of the Passover meal to be changed. Jesus Christ didn’t command it, and Paul didn’t either. In fact, Jesus reinforced the original command in Exodus 12 by seeing that His death occurred at the same time as the Passover lambs. We are commanded in I Co. 11:28, 29 to discern the Lord’s body. Do we do that by placing importance on when Jesus ate the Passover animal, or by symbolically taking of His body when He fulfilled prophecy and became our Passover lamb (I Co. 5:7)?
Try to consider this. Then let me know what you think.