The Israelites in Egypt killed the passover lambs at the start of the fourteenth of the month, after sunset, ate the passover that night, and stayed in their homes until morning. Then the Israelites left Egypt during the daylight part of that same day, the fourteenth of the first month.
We can know this because chapter 12 of Exodus says so.
Do we need to know what happened on that particular day thirty-five centuries ago in Egypt? We do, just as we need to know what happened in Jerusalem on that same day of the year fifteen centuries later. The links between those two days, whether already well known or now becoming known, were designed by our Creator to establish the certain knowledge of his intentions for all of us. This day, the passover, when its full meaning is known, gives each of us an assurance of what he intends for us personally.
Table of Contents
- Seven appointed times
- The Passover – between the two evenings
- First example – quails and manna
- Same phrase, more examples
- Second year passover
- Passover in the second month
- Morning and evening sacrifices
- Elijah and the prophets of Baal
- The order of the sacrifices
- All in one day
- All in one day – 1500 years later
- The last supper – Passover?
- Where did the lamb come from?
- The new covenant passover
- Starting with 120
- Understanding spiritual realities
Seven appointed times
It is the first of seven annual appointed times that include nineteen holy days, of which seven are annual sabbaths and twelve are not. His entire plan for every human who ever lived or ever will is expressed in those seven appointed times. Their purpose is to put into perspective what he wants us to know about our future. Each of the seven represents a different stage of a plan lasting seventy-two centuries. They form a framework, or outline, in which we can place details as we learn them from the whole Bible.
In Hebrews 8:5 we are given an example showing that earthly things can be a “shadow” of heavenly things. Chapter ten of that book explains how the physical works of the law under the old covenant foreshadow the good things promised by the new covenant.
Colossians 2:17 is a key verse. It says that an outline of God’s plan is in the holy days he has given us. Paul compares this to a shadow. A shadow on the ground is a two-dimensional representation
of a three-dimensional reality, an outline of it. The annual holy days and the weekly sabbath outline for us the whole plan. And the knowledge of the calendar helps in understanding it.
In God’s calendar, as revealed in the Bible, every month begins with the night on which that month’s new moon is first seen after sunset. Every day begins and ends at sunset. Each month lasts either 29 or 30 days. The first month of each year is always the first spring month. That is, it is the first month that begins after the spring equinox has occurred. The result of this system, which requires that we actually observe the heavens every month, is that every year has either 12 or 13 full months. During any period of 19 years there will be 12 years of 12 months each, and 7 years of 13 months each. This is a total of 235 months, with 144 being in the regular years, and 91 being in the seven longer years.
Knowing when to observe the seven appointed times depends on our observation and understanding of God’s calendar, and they are related to that calendar in another way, because during each year there are 19 annual holy days, with 7 different from the other 12 because each of those seven is an annual sabbath. The Bible gives us much information about what the seven annual appointed times represents. Even the numbers, 7 and 12, which are used throughout the Bible to represent broader concepts, can add to our understanding of what each appointed time represents.
The Passover – between the two evenings
But we have to start at the beginning, and that is the passover. Verses 1 to 6 of Exodus 12 explain that Moses and Aaron were told that it was the first month of the year to them. It was not the first month of the year to the Egyptians. The Egyptian year started in the late summer or autumn. But the Israelites were told to start their year in the spring.
They were to keep the passover on the fourteenth. They were to choose a lamb on the tenth of the month, and keep it until the fourteenth. They were to kill the passover on the fourteenth, “between the two evenings” as some English translations put it. In Hebrew this phrase is “beyn ha-arbayim.” Beyn means “between.” Ha means “the.” Arbayim is the dual plural form of “ereb,” or “two erebs.”
The Hebrew word for evening is “ereb.” It means twilight. The first twilight begins at sunset. Sunset is the end of one day and the beginning of the next. So the word “ereb” is often used to refer to sunset, the point in time when the first “ereb” begins. This word is usually translated as “even” or “evening.” The first twilight, which we do call “evening,” lasts until no more sunlight can be observed around us, or in the western sky. We say then that night has fallen.
There are two twilights every day. The second begins when the first noticeable light of dawn is seen in the eastern sky. But we do not call that second twilight “evening.” The Bible translators who attempt to accurately translate the Hebrew phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” invariably translate it as “between the two evenings” or “between the evenings.” Other translators do not try to translate this precise phrase, but just say “at even” or “in the evening,” or “at twilight” or “at dusk.”
But the Hebrew word “ereb” refers to the quality of light that we call “twilight.” That is what the word means. It is descriptive of the light when the sun is below the horizon, but the sky is reflecting the sun’s light. The second twilight, which begins at “dawn,” when the first light of the sun is seen in the eastern sky, ends at the moment that the direct light of the sun appears, sunrise.
A correct translation of “beyn ha-arbayim” would therefore be “between the two twilights.” So the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” actually means the entire period of time from sunset to sunrise. We can know that it means this because the same phrase is used ten more times in the Bible. Here are some examples:
First example – quails and manna
In chapter 16 of Exodus, the Israelites, one month out of Egypt, were complaining about not having enough food. In Exodus 16:12, they are told that they would eat meat “between the two twilights.” The people knew what the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” meant. Verse 13 says “at even” or “in the evening” quails appeared, covering the whole camp. This is not the same phrase. It is just the word “ereb” with a single prefix letter. It could also be translated “with evening.” So it happened after sunset, while the sky was still light.
But they could eat quail meat all night long, if they wanted to. That is what they had been told, “between the two twilights.” In the morning the manna would appear for the first time, the first day that manna had ever been seen, and it appeared daily for six mornings. Verse 22 says that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much manna, enough to last two days, because the next day, the seventh day, was the sabbath, and no manna would appear that day.
From this we can know that in verse 12, when they were told about the quail to come after sunset, and “bread” in the morning, it was the sabbath day. The sabbath day ended at that sunset. The quail appeared after the sabbath had ended. The period of time called “beyn ha-arbayim” began at sunset and continued through the night on the first day of a new week. All that night they could eat quail, through the whole period called beyn ha-arbayim. And the morning of that same day was the first of six mornings with manna, from the first day of the week to the sixth day of the week.
This account is the absolute definitive evidence of exactly what the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” meant to the Israelites of that day. If the meaning was lost, forgotten, misunderstood in later centuries, it was clearly understood when Moses spoke those words.
Same phrase, more examples
Exodus 30:8 says that Aaron would be lighting the lamps “between the two twilights.” After sunset there would be time to light the lamps before complete darkness fell. As we will see later, he also had other things to do at that time. Those lamps would burn into the night, and Aaron would need to “dress” the lamps in the morning, when he also burns incense on the altar (verse 7). Aaron would not have to do everything by himself. There were Levite assistants including his own sons to do much of the work.
Leviticus 23:5 says that the passover is on the fourteenth “between the two twilights.” The next verse says the fifteenth starts seven days of unleavened bread.
Second year passover
We also have an account of how the Israelites kept the passover in the second year after they had left Egypt.
Numbers 9:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 9:2 Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. 9:3 In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. 9:4 And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover. 9:5 And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. (KJV)
The KJV is one translation that ignores the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” and just says “at even,” as it does here in verses 3 and 5. In both verses the Hebrew actually says, “between the two twilights.” In spite of this, the KJV is useful here to express all that was done during that time. It is not just saying “you shall kill the passover” at that time. It says “you shall keep” the passover, according to all the “rites” and “ceremonies” of it, and all on the 14th, all between the two twilights that day. According to “all that the LORD commanded Moses.”
That includes roasting and eating the passover lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and burning up whatever remains in the morning, as they were instructed one year earlier, in chapter 12 of Exodus.
Exodus 12:7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.
Exodus 12:9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 12:10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.
Exodus 12:11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. (ESV)
In the second year they didn’t have any houses with doorposts and lintels. There was no need to invoke protection from “the destroyer” (Ex 12:23) with the blood. But all the other “rites” and “ceremonies” were kept.
Passover in the second month
Numbers 9:10-12 gives the same instructions for those who have to keep the passover in the second month. The Hebrew in verse 11 uses that same phrase, which means “between the two twilights.” Darby’s translation of these verses shows plainly that the passover is to be eaten on the fourteenth.
Numbers 9:11 In the second month, on the fourteenth day, between the two evenings, shall they hold it; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs shall they eat it.
Numbers 9:12 They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break a bone thereof: according to every ordinance of the passover shall they hold it. (Darby)
The word which Darby gives as “hold” is “keep” in the KJV. That Hebrew word basically means “make” or “do.” It covers everything.
John Darby believed in translating the Hebrew as literally as possible. This is what the Hebrew says; not only is the passover to be killed on the fourteenth, but according to every “ordinance” the passover is to be held on that day, and that day only.
Morning and evening sacrifices
Another time when the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” is used is in the instructions about the morning and evening sacrifices. These are found in two places. Here are the relevant lines from these passages, in the ESV translation:
Exodus 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 29:39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.”
Verse 41 repeats, “The other lamb you shall offer at twilight”
Numbers 28:3 “And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. 28:4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight;”
Verse 8 repeats, “The other lamb you shall offer at twilight.”
The two daily sacrifices also included offerings of flour, oil, and wine. In all four verses, the phrase “at twilight” is actually that same phrase, “between the two twilights.” Because we have the actual “definition” of the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” in chapter 16 of Exodus, as explained above, these original instructions make it plain that the two daily sacrifices were to be made after sunrise and after sunset.
In later centuries, the evening sacrifice, or evening offering, came to be made before sunset, before the evening began. Yet they still called it by the same name. Psalm 141:2 and Ezra 9:4-5 call it the “evening offering.” The evening (ereb) begins at sunset. If Israel had not neglected the instructions for long periods of time, if the daily sacrifices had been made continually every single day for all the following centuries, that understanding would not have been lost.
Yet the word “ereb” is defined in the Bible, and so is the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim.” We can know what they mean.
Elijah and the prophets of Baal
Some have tried to show that the evening sacrifices were supposed to be done in the afternoon. They use I Kings 18 to support that contention. But I Kings 18 never uses the term “evening sacrifice.” The sacrifice that Elijah makes is a bull, not a lamb. It is not “the evening sacrifice.” It is a sacrifice made for a unique purpose. Elijah first makes a lot of preparations for that sacrifice (offering, oblation).
1 Kings 18:36 “And it happened at the offering of the sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said …” (LITV)
He came near the altar to make the sacrifice by praying to God. That is all the Hebrew words say in this verse. They do not say “evening.” The time is after noon, but a more specific time is not given. Even the word “time” is not there in the Hebrew. When preparations had been made, he was ready to do this special sacrifice. Elijah came near, and prayed for God to send fire from heaven. That certainly was not the usual way that a daily evening sacrifice was done, and the verse says nothing about what time of day it was.
This was a kind of contest between the 450 prophets of Baal, and the one prophet of Yahweh. All the people agreed to it.(verses 23-24). The prophets of Baal would call on their god to send fire to burn up their sacrifice. And Elijah would call on his God to do the same with his sacrifice. Verse 26 says the prophets of Baal called on Baal from morning to noon, and danced around the altar they had made. Verse 27 says at noon Elijah mocked them. Verse 28, they cut themselves with knives.
Verse 29 adds that all the time they were offering their sacrifice, from morning until afternoon, even though they prophesied continually, there was never an answer. The word for “nothing” is used three times. The word “evening” appears here in some translations only because translators have inserted it. The word “ereb” in any form is not in this whole chapter.
H5704 (“ad”) just means “while” they offered this sacrifice for all those hours, or “during” all that long time. It is not referring to all of that being done “until” anything.
(Nehemiah 7:3 in a single verse shows that H5704 can mean either until or while. It is used both ways in that verse.)
I Kings 18:29 is pointing out how the 450 prophets of Baal had spent hours in a frenzied effort to get their god to respond. And no response of any kind ever came, in all those hours. Elijah has let this spectacle continue from early morning into the afternoon in the sight of all the people. Finally, he decides it has gone on long enough. There are still a few hours left before sunset. A lot of things have to happen before then, and Elijah knows it. So he starts to prepare the altar for the sacrifice he will make. The contrast with all that the people have been watching and hearing all day comes in verses 36 to 39, when one man, Elijah, offers a single prayer to Yahweh, and his prayer is immediately answered, in a big way.
And all the people say, “Yahweh, he is God.”
The order of the sacrifices
Another argument that some have used to claim that the phrase “beyn ha-arbayim” refers to the afternoon, before sunset, is the order in which the daily sacrifices are described. Since each day begins and ends at sunset, they say, then if the first sacrifice is made in the morning, the second sacrifice of that day would have to be made before that day ends at sunset.
But this conclusion does not take account of the fact that those two sacrifices are made every day, perpetually. Aaron and his descendants would be expected to sleep at night. Their day starts when they wake up in the morning, at first light. The first sacrifice they make is in the morning after sunrise, and the second in the evening after sunset. Both sacrifices were to be made during their waking hours within one continuous period of time, every day.
Explaining the sacrifices in this order is no more illogical than saying that the sun sets at night and rises in the morning. The sun does nothing of the sort. Yet from our perspective, that is exactly what it does. The Bible is written for real people living real lives.
All in one day
So far, it has been necessary to gather evidence from many places in the Bible to establish just one important fact. That fact is critical in understanding the full meaning of the passover. It is that all the requirements for keeping the passover were fulfilled during that one day. The passover is so much more than a history lesson. As the first of God’s seven annual appointed times, which define the whole plan of salvation, the passover and all the events that it represents are the cornerstone of that plan. And that seven-thousand-year plan is the foundation for eternity.
All the events of the passover are compressed into one day. The fourteenth of the first month was an appointed time for the people of Israel, and is for us. It is complete in itself. It represents completed action. It stands alone. It is unique in being the only one-day annual appointed time in God’s calendar that is not an annual sabbath.
All in one day – 1500 years later
If the evidence presented so far is not persuasive, there is more.
Though the instructions about the passover and the seven days of unleavened bread in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers all state explicitly that the passover is on the 14th of the first month and the days of unleavened bread begin on the 15th of that month, by the first century AD these instructions were not well understood or followed by most of the Jews in the world.
Luke 22:1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. (KJV)
Luke knew that the feast of unleavened bread is not the passover. But that is what the Jews of that day called it. Luke explains that he is using the common terms. He says that it is “the feast of unleavened bread,” but that it is called “the passover.” The people called the whole seven-day feast the passover. That seven-day feast begins at the start of the fifteenth day of the month.
Mark 14:1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him,
Mark 14:2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” (ESV)
Mark is using the same common terms. It was two days before the passover, and also two days before the start of the feast of unleavened bread. That puts both on the same day.
Numbers 28:16 And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the LORD. 28:17 And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten. (KJV)
This instruction is clear enough. The passover and the feast are not the same day. But 1500 years after the instruction had been given, the feast was now called the passover.
The feast would start on the fifteenth. Mark is saying that it was two days before then, on the thirteenth. There is a continuous narrative here, from Mark 13:3 to Mark 14:2. Jesus is on the Mount of Olives that day, after returning from the temple. The disciples asked him what was to come in the future. Everything he tells them in chapter 13 is known as the “Olivet Prophecy.” Another account of that long prophecy is given by Matthew in two chapters, Matthew 24 and 25.
Mark tells us that at that time, the thirteenth day of the month, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to arrest and kill Jesus before the feast began. In Mark 14:3-11 he goes on to explain the earlier event in Bethany that had given Judas an excuse to go to the chief priests. After Matthew gives his longer account of the Olivet Prophecy, we read this, in chapter 26:
Matt 26:1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,
Matt 26:2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
Even Jesus himself is quoted here as using the word “passover” to refer to the day that all the people and the priests who are plotting against him are looking to and planning for by that name. Matthew then goes on to explain, just as Mark does, how the chief priests had already made their plans to kill Jesus “before the feast.” And they managed to do that.
John 18:12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.
John 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. (KJV)
They had not yet eaten the passover, because the fifteenth, the start of the feast, had not yet come. This was the morning of the fourteenth of the month. He would be crucified that day, and buried before sunset.
John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (KJV)
Luke 23:52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 23:53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 23:54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (KJV)
Jesus was betrayed, arrested, condemned, crucified, and buried, all on the fourteenth of the month, before the sabbath began. The phrase in the KJV, “that sabbath day was an high day” (John 19:31) or “great day” in some translations, means it was an annual sabbath. The annual sabbath was the fifteenth of the first month, the first of the seven days of unleavened bread.
The last supper – Passover?
The night before, the night of the fourteenth, Jesus had a meal with his disciples. That meal is called “the Last Supper.” What kind of supper was it?
Matt 26:18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. 26:19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. 26:20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. (KJV)
The word “even” in verse 20 is “opsios” (G3798) This word can mean three different times of day, depending on the context. In verse 26:20 above, it means nightfall. When nightfall had come. In Matt 27:57 and Mark 4:35 and John 20:19 it means the late afternoon, before sunset. And in Matt 16:2 and Mark 1:32 the same word means after sunset, when one day has ended and another begun.
Words do tend to change their meaning over time, and mean different things to different people. In English, the word “twilight” has not changed its meaning. We know that it refers to a particular kind of light. But the word “evening” to many English speakers can mean the whole period of time from sunset to midnight. To others it only means the time from sunset to nightfall. To some, evening starts when the sun is low in the sky and shadows begin to lengthen. The same thing happened among speakers of Hebrew and Greek.
The word “ereb” in Hebrew came to be used in three ways, much as the word “evening” is used in three ways now. “Ereb” originally referred to the twilight that begins at sunset. But it expanded its meaning to refer also to that moment in time when the twilight begins. And, of course, since the fundamental meaning of the word was descriptive of the quality of light that we call twilight, it also referred to the twilight that comes before sunrise. It had those meanings when Moses wrote. But in later centuries, it also came to be used to refer to the late afternoon, just as the English word evening has now taken on that meaning among some speakers.
The Greek word “opsios” may have begun with one specific meaning, but by the first century, in Koine Greek, it clearly had three different uses. Sometimes, in studying the Bible, we need to be aware that a single English word is not always available to properly express the meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. Comparing multiple translations can help, and sometimes turning to Strong’s or Thayer’s. A free program available on the internet, called e-Sword, can be most helpful in this way.
We just read in Matthew 26:18-21 that Jesus said “I will keep the passover.” And the disciples “made ready the passover.”As we continue reading in that chapter…
Matt 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (KJV)
Paul says this was the night he was betrayed, so there can be no doubt this also is happening on the 14th of the month, since days begin at sunset. The daylight part of the 14th follows the night of the 14th.
1Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered unto you: that the Lord Jesus, during the night in which He was betrayed, took bread; 11:24 and having given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which has been broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 11:25 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (EMTV)
This is what is commonly known as “the Lord’s Supper.” But was the meal they ate that night actually a passover meal? Most people would be eating the passover a day later.
Luke 22:7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. (KJV)
Luke 22:8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” (ESV)
Jesus told them to take “the passover” into the city, and how to find a particular man who would show them to a place that had already been arranged for. In Matthew 26:18, he tells the disciples to quote him as saying, “My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples,” He means that his time to keep the passover was at hand. Even his own disciples did not understand that his time to die had come, no matter how often they had been told. Certainly the owner of the house would not have understood that to be the meaning of “my time is at hand.” The owner of the house already knew that Jesus would be keeping the passover at a different time than most people would.
Luke 22:11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 22:12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 22:13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 22:14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 22:15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (ESV)
As Luke says, this was the day “the passover must be killed.” The passover means the passover lamb. So they ate the passover lamb. But why would it be a day of unleavened bread? Even “the” day of unleavened bread.
The passover was always killed on the fourteenth. The seven days of unleavened bread start on the fifteenth. This cannot be the fifteenth because he would die on the afternoon of the fourteenth.
The passover must be killed on the fourteenth. How did that become “the day” (meaning the first day) of unleavened bread?
That had been the day on which all leavened bread was removed from the homes, even sweeping all crumbs that might have fallen to the floor. So it was called the first day of unleavened bread, becoming the first of eight days.
In “Antiquities of the Jews” by Flavius Josephus, Chapter 15, “How The Hebrews Under The Conduct Of Moses Left Egypt,” is this statement: “Whence it is that, in memory of the want we were then in, we keep a feast for eight days, which is called the feast of unleavened bread.” The whole book is available free online at Project Gutenberg.
It was written in the first century, so it does indicate that the 14th was considered a day of unleavened bread by then.
Where did the lamb come from?
How is it that Jesus and the disciples came to have a passover lamb to eat at the start of the fourteenth? Where did they get the lamb?
John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
Six days before “the Passover,” was six days before the fifteenth. John also uses the common terms of that day, as John 13:1 shows.
So Jesus came to Bethany on the ninth.
John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 12:14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 12:15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (ESV)
“The next day” would be the tenth of the month. Jesus and the disciples were in Bethany that morning, where Lazarus and his sisters lived. Bethany is on the mount of olives, about two miles from the city of Jerusalem. Later that day, he came into Jerusalem, where the large crowd declared him “the King of Israel.” The quotation in verse 15 is from Zech 9:9. The tenth of the month was the day that the passover lamb was chosen.
Mark 14:12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (ESV)
It is the start of the day called “the first day of unleavened bread,” the fourteenth. “When they sacrificed the Passover lamb.” Who are “they”? The word “lamb” is not in the Greek in this verse. It isn’t needed. In this verse, the word used twice, “pascha,” means the passover lamb both times.
When they sacrificed the passover, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?”
The verb here is in the imperfect tense. It actually says, “when they were sacrificing the passover,” or “when they were killing the passover.” There were not many people killing the passover at that time. Most people would not be killing the passover until almost a full day later. Yet in the parallel account, Luke tells us that when that day came was when the passover must be killed.
Luke 22:7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. (KJV)
The disciples were sacrificing the passover when the passover must be killed, just after sunset when the fourteenth came, in Bethany, where they had chosen the passover lamb on the tenth.
Peter and John then carried “the passover” the two miles from Bethany to Jerusalem, and prepared “the passover” that evening, by roasting it, so that when Jesus and the other disciples arrived after dark, Jesus could eat “the passover,” as he said he would.
Was this a passover meal? Yes.
The new covenant passover
It should now have become clear that from the beginning, all the requirements for keeping the passover were to be done within the 14th of the first month. That fact was personally endorsed by Jesus Christ when he and his disciples kept the passover at what he knew to be the correct time. He did not come into the world for the purpose of teaching all the people when to keep the passover. But by setting an example for his disciples he has done so for us.
On his last passover he instituted three additions, each a reminder of the meaning of the new covenant, giving us annually a chance to actively participate in a commemoration of everything that the passover now represents.
Matt 26:27 And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it. 26:28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 26:29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. (MKJV)
That very day his blood would be shed, and he would become “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He would become “our passover” “sacrificed for us” (1Corinth 5:7).
Putting the lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintels was no longer necessary after Israel had kept the first passover. Since the day that Christ sacrificed himself and became our passover lamb, the annual sacrifice of a lamb is no longer necessary. And yet, the eating of the flesh of the passover lamb is still possible, and still necessary if we are to keep the passover.
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
When Jesus made these statements, as reported in chapter six of the Gospel of John, there were many people following after him. Many of the 5000 who had been miraculously fed with five barley loaves the day before had now crossed the sea to Caperneum to find him. They had said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” and they wanted to make him king (verses 14,15). They likely now considered themselves among his disciples. But after hearing these statements even many who already were his disciples left him.
John 6:60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?”
John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 6:69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (ESV)
He had told them all that what he was saying was not about the physical world alone, but spiritual reality. In verse 63 he says,”It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life.” But this did not persuade all the disciples, because their thoughts were not spiritual. The reason that many disciples turned back is that they had not been called by the Father at that time. Their time may have come later. Or it may be that their time is yet to come. Jesus explained this to all the disciples while they were still there to hear him.
John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (ESV)
Starting with 120
At the end of his ministry only 120 disciples remained.
Acts 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (KJV)
That is how it was intended to be. But the time would come when thousands more would be added.
Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 4:4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
Acts 5:14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, (ESV)
Understanding spiritual realities
The third addition made to the passover observance on the night of the fourteenth is described in chapter 13 of John. He washed the feet of the twelve. That act has symbolic meaning. Everything connected to the passover has symbolic meaning for us. We are physical beings, and we need physical symbols to represent to us spiritual realities, so we can understand more clearly. The bread and wine are such symbols. Mystical concepts such as transubstantiation do not contribute to our understanding. On the contrary, they introduce “mysteries” that cloud our understanding of spiritual truths.
John 13:12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them,
“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 13:15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (ESV)
He had told Peter, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
When we make the decision to keep, to observe God’s holy days, we may not at first understand the meaning of each one. But over time, through experience and study and discussion and contemplation, their full meaning can be revealed to us.
Hebrews 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (MKJV)
The new covenant is founded on better promises than the old. The old covenant offered physical promises. The new covenant adds spiritual promises. But the purpose of each is to fulfill the promises of the covenant that Yahweh made with Abraham.
Heb 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My Laws into their mind and write them in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.