The last week of the Messiah's life is arguably the
most important portions of all of scripture.
This time was so important that the Apostle John
devoted the last nine chapters of his gospel
entirely for this week. To understand the
timing of the Passion Week we must first understand
three things. 1) Exodus 12 and the
Passover commands, 2) what communion is and
why we do it, and 3) what the Gospel writers meant
by certain terms used. Once this is
understood, a timeline falls right into place.
1). Exodus 12:
Understanding Exodus 12 and the Passover commands is
fairly simple. For a detailed study please
read my article, The Feast of Passover,
Bread, and First Fruits
here. The main point to understand is
this, Exodus 12 is the Passover that God commanded
us to keep (Ex. 12:25), not the Jewish Seder.
At the end of the Passover description God commanded
Moses, "that ye shall keep this service" (Ex. 12:25,
13:5). Clearly the service referred to is the
preceding 24 verses in Exodus chapter 12.
Since most do not keep an Exodus 12 Passover they
struggle to understand the timing of the Messiah's
Communion is another command that is often
misunderstood. It is often thought that the
Lord's Supper, or Communion, is the New Testament
Passover. This, however, falls short of good
biblical study. There are several reasons why
the Lord's Supper could not have been the Passover.
First, if the Lord's Supper was the Passover, then
the Messiah did the Passover incorrectly. Exodus 12
explains how to do the Passover, but the Lord's
Supper is quite a bit different. The Lord's Supper
contains leavened bread, but the Passover contains
unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8, Matt. 26:26). The
Lord's Supper was on the preparation day, but the
Passover is on the day after (Ex. 12:6, John 19:31).
There is also no mention of a lamb or bitter herbs
at the Lord's Supper, but these are required for the
The truth is, the Messiah specifically said that the
Lord's Supper was not the Passover. In Luke
22:15-16 the Messiah said, "With desire I have
desired to eat this passover with you before I
suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat
thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of
God." At first glance this sounds like
the Messiah is claiming the meal He is eating is the
Passover, but the Greek text does not allow this.
The word for "desire" is epithumia, which
means, "a longing (especially for what is
forbidden)" (Strong's Dictionary -
G1939). This word is almost always translated
as "lust" or "covet." The
Messiah is saying he strongly desires to eat the
Passover, but He is forbidden because He is the
Passover. Here is a modern translation that
has it more accurate, "'I have longingly
desired to eat this Passover with you before my
suffering; however, I tell you that I
shall not eat of it, until it can be
administered in the Kingdom of God.'" (The Holy
Bible in Modern English). This translation has
it correct. The Messiah did not eat of the
Passover that year. He said so plainly.
How could He have since He was the Passover that
year. The Messiah is announcing to His
disciples that He will not be eating the Passover
with them, which was the next day. This is
another reason why Communion was not the Passover.
To read more about what communion is please read my
The point to be made for this article is that
Communion and Passover are not the same.
The Gospel of John clearly spells out when the
Messiah died. It was on the "preparation
of the passover" (John 19:14). This was
the fourteenth of Abib. The Passover was the
next day. In fact, the Jews rushed to remove
His body so it was not on the cross during the
Passover Sabbath (John 19:31). Clearly the
Messiah died at the same time all the Passover Lambs
were being slaughtered. The confusion is with
the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, appear to claim that the
Passover and the LORD's Supper were the same event.
However, with good biblical study you will find that
the four gospels do not contradict each other.
The first term to understand is "the first day
of unleavened bread." Today this phrase
means the first day of the seven days of unleavened
bread, which is the day after the Passover
preparation. Today we use this phrase to refer
to the fifteenth of Abib. But is this what the
Messiah and the Apostles meant by this phrase?
All three synoptic gospels state that on the
"first day of unleavened bread" the disciples
asked about preparing the Passover (Matt. 26:17,
Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7). What is often missed
is that this phrase clearly refers to the
preparation day of the Passover, not the Passover.
Mark records, "And the first day of unleavened
bread, when they killed the passover" (Mark
14:12). This is the day they killed and
prepared the Passover, which is the fourteenth, not
the Passover Day, which is the fifteenth. This
agrees with the Gospel of John. Our confusion
is because we use this phrase differently today.
Today, we say that the first day of unleavened bread
is the Passover on the fifteenth, but the Apostles
clearly referred to the preparation day on the
fourteenth as the first day of unleavened bread.
This makes sense because that is exactly what Exodus
12 says, "even the first day ye shall put away
leaven out of your houses" (Ex. 12:15).
Our confusion is because we do not keep the Passover
as God commanded, but the Messiah and the Apostles
did. The first day of unleavened bread is the
preparation day for the Passover. This is the
day we remove leaven from our houses.
When the disciples asked, "Where wilt thou that
we prepare for thee to eat the passover?"
(Matt. 26:17). The response from the Messiah
was, "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" (Matt. 26:18). Then they went
and "made ready the passover" (Matt.
26:19). This is clearly the preparation day.
The Lord's Supper is the start of the preparation
day where they remove all leaven from the house.
It makes sense to have one last meal of leavened
bread instead of throwing all that bread away.
This is what the Lord's Supper was, one last meal of
leavened bread just before they started the Feast of
Unleavened Bread. In fact, the synoptic
gospels also state that the Messiah died on the day
after the preparation day (Matt. 26:52, Mark
15:42-43, Luke 23:54). Clearly the Lord's
Supper was not the Passover, but rather, it was the
preparation day. They ate leavened bread in a
communion meal to start their holy days.
to understanding the last week of the Messiah's life
is the Law of God, specifically, the laws regarding
the feast of Passover. We must first
understand that there were
two Sabbaths during that week. The first
Sabbath was the annual Sabbath of Passover (Lev.
23:7). This was the Sabbath of the first day
of Unleavened Bread. The second Sabbath was
the weekly Sabbath we commonly call Saturday.
Here are some facts we must consider.
First, the Messiah rose from the dead on the first
day of the week (John 20:1). This is what we
would call Sunday. Keep in mind, biblical days
start at evening. Mark 16:9 states, "Now
when Jesus was risen early the first day of the
week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene ..." The
Messiah rose from the dead early on the first day of
the week. The first day starts on what we
would call Saturday evening. The Messiah rose
sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday
morning. Saturday evening the wave sheaf was
cut, but early Sunday morning the omer was waved
before the LORD (Lev. 23:11). The day of the
resurrection of the Messiah was the first day of the
week. This is a time marker we can use to get
the chronology of events.
Three days and three nights earlier must have been
the crucifixion, which was the preparation day of
the Passover. We know this because the Messiah
said, "the Son of man be three days and three
nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt.
12:40). This is a pretty precise marker.
The text clearly says three days and three nights.
There is no way the Messiah could be crucified on a
Friday and resurrected on a Sunday while also being
in the grave for three days and three nights.
This time marker asserts that the crucifixion must
have been on the previous Wednesday.
Many have tried to make the crucifixion on a
Thursday. The problem with this theory is it
causes the disciples to break the Sabbath commands.
If the Messiah died on Thursday, then both Friday
and Saturday are Sabbath days. However, Mary
bought spices to anoint the Messiah's body when the
Sabbath ended (Mark 16:1). If the Messiah died
on Thursday, there is no possible day for Mary to
buys spices without breaking the Sabbath. Both
Friday and Saturday were Sabbath days and no stores
would be open before sunrise when Mary went to the
tomb. The Messiah must have been crucified on
Wednesday and rose on Sunday. With these two
time markers a chronology of events can be made.
John 12:1-11 - Six days before the Passover was the
supper with Martha. This was Abib 9.
Mark 11:1-11 - Five days before the Passover was
the Triumphal Entry. This was the day you
were supposed to set your lamb aside (Ex. 12:3).
This was Abib 10.
Luke 20:1-8 - From the 10th until the 14th the
lamb was examined (Ex. 12:5-6).
Matt. 26:2, Mark 14:1, 12 - The evening before the
Passover was the communion and the betrayal of
the Messiah. This was Abib 14 (evening
John 19:31 - This was the preparation day for
the Passover when all the lambs were
slaughtered. This was Abib 14 (during
Matt. 28:1 - This was three days after the
crucifixion on the fifteenth. This was
Abib 18 and was the first day of the week.
The first day of the week starts on Saturday
evening and ends on Sunday evening.
The text says He rose early on the first day
(Mark 16:9), which must have been sometime
before Sunday morning.
From these facts we can deduce a timeline of events.
This timeline is obtained using Exodus 12, Leviticus
23, and the previous gospel accounts. To get
the exact days you simply start with the first day
of the week when the Messiah was resurrected and
count backwards. Here is what you arrive at:
Jesus is questioned (Luke 20:1-8, 19-26)
Jesus anointed at
leper's house (Matt. 26:6-13)
Crucifixion & Annual Sabbath
Resurrection on Sat. Evening (Matt. 28:1)
It is important to remember that the Hebrew day
starts at sunset and ends at sunset. The
calendar below should help point out the difference.
The Last Supper would have been on what we would
call Tuesday Evening the 13th, but was really after
sunset which is Wednesday the 14th. The crucifixion was on the 14th
at around 3pm (the same hour as the Passover
sacrifice), but the body was removed because of the
impending High Sabbath day on the 15th at sunset
(John 19:31). The term "High Sabbath" clearly
marks that this day was the fifteenth of Abib.
This was the first Sabbath of the Feast of
It might be difficult to understand, but once you
get a grasp of how the biblical calendar works it will make perfect sense.
This is the only way that you can take the
scriptures literally in regards to the timing of the
Click image to
The timing of the Passion week can be a difficult
thing to figure out. The only possible way it
works is with an understanding of how the Passover
is to be kept. Unfortunately, very few people
actually keep the Passover as Exodus 12 commands.
Instead we are keeping a Jewish Seder which only
distorts the true lesson to be learned from the
Passover Holy Days. When we decide to obey God
and keep His commandments we will learn what those
commandments teach. However, this only works
if keep the commandments as God commanded them.
Our lack of
knowledge of scriptural law lends us to poor
exegesis. Like Hosea said, "My people are
destroyed for lack of knowledge: . . . seeing thou
hast forgotten the law of thy God" (Hosea 4:6).
Today the church has rejected the Law of God.
As a result, we have a very poor understanding of
the events of the passion week. As Psalms
111:10 states, "a good understanding have all
they that do his commandments." We lack a
good understanding of the passion week because we
refuse to, "do his commandments." If
we would start practicing the commandments of God we
would start to understand these scriptural
The truth of the matter is this, early in the
history of the church pagan doctrines crept in.
The Apostles dealt with this in many of their
epistles and the early church fathers also dealt
with such matters. Bishop Faustus of Mileve,
writing to Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century, stated, "You have
substituted your love-feasts for the sacrifices of
the pagans; for their idols, your martyrs, whom you
serve with the very same honors. You appease
the shades of the dead with wine and feasts; you
celebrate the solemn festivals of the Gentiles,
their calends, and their solstices; and as to their
manners, those you have retained without any
alteration. Nothing distinguishes you from the
pagans, except that you hold your assemblies apart
from them." Maybe the church should
go back to keeping God's commands as He commanded