Have you ever wondered how Jesus ate the Passover meal the evening before the Passover lambs were killed?
People have asked me this question many times.
Here is my explanation – hope it helps clarify this timing of the story.
Passover in Exodus
Exodus 12:6-8 (Numb. 9:1-5; 28:16; Deut. 16:6)
- Kill on the 14th
- At twilight (between the evenings) – between sundown and sunset
- Eat that night as the 14th begins at evening
- The people were to kill the lamb in the evening and eat it that night
But in Jesus’ time they were sacrificing the Passover lamb late on the 14th (throughout the day) and eating the lamb that night on the 15th. Jesus kept the Passover according to God’s instructions in Exodus, but the Jews had not eaten their Passover lamb by the next morning on the daytime of the 14th. (John 18:28). By the time of Jesus, the Jews were sacrificing their Passover Lambs into the afternoon of the 14th and eating their Passover meal later that evening after sundown on the 15th. So they were eating the Passover a day later than God told them to in the Torah.
How It Changed From the 14th to the 15th
The Exodus Passover was like a home group meeting. This changed when Passover worship was centralized at the Temple and led by the priest and Levites who started sacrificing the Passover lambs at the Temple for the people instead of the head of the household sacrificing them at their home. Plus many of the people were ceremonially unclean so the priest and Levites took their place.
- King Hezekiah – 2 Chronicles 29:20-36; 30:5,17
Called for the centralization of Passover at the Temple. This created a logistics problem because it was impossible for the priests and Levites to sacrifice so many Passover lambs between sundown and sunset on the 14th. As a result, killing the Passover lambs continued through the daytime of the 14th.
- King Josiah – 2 Chronicles 35 – same issue
- Ezra – Ezra 6:20 – same issue
Timing of Jesus
By the time of Jesus, in order to accommodate their centralized Passover celebration which extended throughout the 14th, they interpreted “at twilight or between the evenings,” to mean between 3-6 pm. So they are killing the Passover lambs at that time on the 14th and eating the Passover meal later in the evening which would be on the 15th. Jesus did not do this. He ate the Passover meal with His disciples on the 14th when it began at evening time.
There was always a remnant who kept the Torah according to God’s instructions. Jesus connected with one of His followers who killed his Passover lamb at twilight and provided it to Jesus for Him to eat with His disciples as the 14th begin in the evening. In God’s amazing timing, Jesus kept the Passover according to God’s instructions while, at the same time, was crucified at the time, still on the 14th, when the Passover lambs were killed in the centralized Passover celebration at the Temple. This is similar to what happened in the 4th century when Constantine replaced house churches with centralized worship in large basilicas led by professional religious leaders who replaced the father as priest of the home.