Passion Week ~ Wednesday
In our last post, we continued to examine the final days of Yeshua’s life and ministry. This post explores the events that may have occurred on Wednesday.
The preceding events we have been following during Passion Week appear to be accounted for by the Gospel writers within the explicit context of either Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, just as presented in earlier posts – however, the exact timing of what happens after these events appear less specific. Yochanan, in particular, touches lightly upon events between Yeshua’s triumphant entry and the Last Supper. As there is no evidence of the events that follow on any of the prior three days, F. LaGard Smith puts them on Wednesday, thou that timeframe is only speculative.
The following is a direct quote from The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order. Mr. Smith writes:
Of far greater significance at this point is the chronology related to the Last Supper, Jesus’ crucifixion, and his subsequent resurrection. Traditionally the last Supper is believed to have occurred on Thursday evening, followed by the crucifixion on Friday afternoon and the resurrection on Sunday morning. However, such reckoning raises at least two questions. First, in an action-packed final week, what reason is there to believe that there would be a whole day of either actual inactivity or activity which is left unrecorded? Second, and far more important – if Jesus is crucified on Friday afternoon and, after that, hurriedly put into the tomb, how can there be sufficient time to match Jesus’ own prediction that he would remain in the tomb for three days and three nights before being resurrected? Even if one stretches imagination within the traditional time frame in order to find parts of three days, it is not possible to find three nights.
The resolution of both questions appears to be found in recognizing that the Last Supper took place on Wednesday evening, followed by the crucifixion and burial on Thursday. Acceptance of that assumption requires an understanding of the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the way in which the Jews reckon time. As for the reckoning of time, the Jewish day begins at sunset on the previous evening. This means, for example, that our Wednesday night is actually Thursday, and our Thursday night is actually Friday.
Passover is observed on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, corresponding to March-April. As noted earlier, Passover is observed in commemoration of the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from their Egyptian bondage. The name derives from the “passing over” of the Israelites when death came to the firstborn of each Egyptian family. As part of that same commemoration, Passover is followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, which reminds the Jews of their forefathers’ flight from Egypt, during which time the Israelites ate unleavened bread only. (It is common among the Jews of Jesus’ day to refer to both celebrations by only one name, either as “Passover” or as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”) By God’s direction (Leviticus 23), a lamb is to be slaughtered late on the 14th day (Passover), and the Passover meal was eaten that evening, which would be the beginning of the 15th day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The entire 15th day is then to be observed as a special Sabbath, or high holy day, regardless of the day of the week on which it might fall in any given year. (If the 15th day is a Friday, then both that Friday and the next day, Saturday, are observed as Sabbaths.)
With that background, the picture begins to become clear. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the disciples’ preparation for the Passover on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. That would place their preparations, then, at the beginning of the 14th day, which, of course, begins on the evening of the 13th day. (Among the preparations common on the evening of the 13th day is the removal of all leaven from the house.) Therefore it appears that the disciples assume they are preparing the upper room primarily for the special paschal meal which they expect to share with Jesus the following evening, and they apparently do not contemplate that the regular meal on the first night will, in fact, be their “last supper” with Jesus.
Although generally referring to the occasion as a part of the Passover celebration, Jesus seems to explain why it is important for him to eat with them on the night before the actual Passover meal. As will be seen, Jesus’ words are: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” In referring to his suffering, Jesus is obviously anticipating that his own sacrificial death will take place later that day, preventing him from participating in the actual Passover supper.
John’s account eliminates any doubt that this Supper occurred prior to the actual Passover meal. When Jesus tells Judas during the Supper to do what he is about to do, some of the other disciples “thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast.” Furthermore, the Jews who have obtained Jesus’ arrest will not enter Caiaphas’ palace for fear that they will be ceremonially unclean and, therefore, unable to eat the Passover. Most convincing is the fact that the day of Jesus’ crucifixion is plainly stated to be “the day of Preparation of Passover Week”—the day on which the Paschal Lamb is slain for the Passover meal taken during the evening of that day.
The most meaningful result of moving away from the traditional time frame is seeing how Jesus’ crucifixion becomes the perfect “type” of the Passover Lamb. Under Hebrew law, the paschal Lamb is chosen on the tenth day and then “kept up” until the 14th day, when it is sacrificed for the sins of the people. If Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is counted as the tenth day, Thursday would be the 14th day, and thus the day on which Jesus is crucified. Far more important than this possible parallel is the fact that Jesus, as the perfect Lamb of God, does not celebrate the Passover with some other ordinary sacrificial lamb, but rather becomes himself the Lamb who is slain – precisely at the appropriate hour!
There is, therefore, strong evidence that the Last Supper takes place on the evening prior to the Day of Preparation, which by modern reckoning would be Wednesday night. Proceeding upon that assumption, the events associated with this final Wednesday include not only Jesus’ last public teaching but also the account of Peter and John finding the upper room and preparing for the Passover celebration.
(As you can see, I did not change his words like usual. Grammarly made many comments in his writing which I ignored.)
In our next, we continue to follow Yeshua into Yerushalayim for His Crucifixion by the end of the week and finally look at what probably occurred on Wednesday.
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