Growing up I was always confused why we were told that Jesus would be dead for three days and three nights, and would then arise. Yet, we celebrated “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday” and then on Sunday, Easter—Celebrating His Resurrection. No matter how you look at that, it isn’t three days and three nights. Well, I found an excellent teaching on this from Tom Bradford and “Torah Class,” and he presents what seems to be the correct timeline for Jesus’ last supper, arrest, crucifixion, burial and resurrection; let’s go over it.
Okay, on Aviv 13, it’s the day before Passover, which in the year Jesus died would have been a Wednesday, and the disciples had the special meal prepared that we call The Last Supper. As I’ve said before in other studies, in Yeshua’s days the politics were such that the Holy Lands had been divided (by Rome) into several districts. The ones we’re all most familiar with are Judea (Judah) to the south where Jerusalem was located, Galilee up north, and Samaria that lay between the other two. Also, Judaism had fractured and the Judean Jews, Galilean Jews, and Samaritan Jews and each developed some different traditions on a number of religious issues including just how the feasts were to be observed. The Galilean Jews (Jesus and His disciples were Galileans) had established an additional celebration in Hebrew called seudah maphsehket (or last supper) that the Judean Jews didn’t recognize. This last supper was about remembering that it indeed wasn’t all Hebrews who were in danger from death at God’s hand in Egypt, but only the firstborn sons. So a special nighttime meal was adopted where this meal would be eaten and there would be a 24 hour fast that followed—thus the name “last supper”—which was never to imply that it was Jesus’ last supper. The next meal to be eaten was the Passover meal.
Now I admit there have been all kinds of essays and books explaining that there were two Passover Seders: one on Passover eve, Aviv 13th, (the day before Passover) and the official Passover night meal on Aviv 14. But this isn’t very good scholarship and it misses the mark rather significantly. These so-called two Passover Seders were in fact the combination of the last supper (celebrated only by Galilean Jews and it appears that it was probably also celebrated by the Samaritan Jews), and then the next night the actual Passover meal. But this same poor scholarship also rather obscures what went on with Jesus and His disciples on those fateful few days.
So on Aviv 13, Wednesday, the seudah maphsehket was prepared; however, it wasn’t eaten on Aviv 13. It was after sundown, at the end of the day of Aviv 13, that the meal was eaten. What I mean is that it was eaten as the first meal of the day of Thursday Aviv 14th (remember, the beginning of a new day is just after sundown). This special meal honoring the firstborn (called last supper) was eaten on Passover, but as the beginning meal of the day. Are you with me so far? OK, now follow me closely.
The meal called “last supper” is eaten in the first hour of Passover. It’s here that Yeshua says to commemorate this day by drinking wine that symbolizes His blood that establishes the New Covenant, and by eating unleavened bread that symbolizes His body where we become united. Notice: this wasn’t the traditional Passover Seder; that was yet to come because that meal isn’t eaten until the end of Passover day.
So at the start of the day of Aviv 14, Thursday, Passover day, the Galilean “last supper” commemorating firstborns is eaten. (This is actually nighttime of what we think of as Wednesday, but is actually the beginning of Thursday. Understand?), The next event is that Jesus and His disciple journey to the Garden; Jesus prays, Judas betrays Jesus and shortly after midnight Our Lord is arrested. It’s still Passover day (late Wednesday night, just after midnight, which is why the disciples had a hard time staying awake).
In the wee hours before daylight, He’s tried and convicted of blasphemy. It’s still Passover Day. After his sentence is confirmed by Pontius Pilate Jesus is scourged and nailed to a Roman cross by Roman soldiers. It’s still Passover Day, Thursday, Aviv 14.
At about the moment Jesus expires (3:00 PM in the afternoon on Passover Day) the slaughter of the Passover Lambs begins in the Temple grounds. Somewhere around ¼ million sheep will be killed and their blood collected between the hours of 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm, stopping as the sun drops to the horizon. It’s still Passover Day.
While this is occurring the women are hurrying to get the Roman soldiers to remove Jesus’ corpse from the cross; it’s a requirement that they must get Him buried immediately because otherwise He would just lay exposed for at least 2 days. Why? I’ll show you in a minute. They achieve their goal and Yeshua is entombed before the sun sets. It’s still Thursday, Passover Day.
The butchered lambs are placed in the thousands of collective ovens located all around Jerusalem so the hundreds of thousands of visiting pilgrims can cook their Passover Lambs. It’s still Passover Day. Shortly after the 3 stars become visible (when it’s dark enough to appear in the night sky), Passover Day ends and the first day of Matza begins. It’a now Aviv 15, Friday, the first day of Unleavened Bread (leaven symbolizing sin).
What, you say, where did the Passover meal go? Aren’t they supposed to eat it on Passover day? NO! Much to many peoples’ surprise, the Biblical injunction is that the Passover meal is to be eaten after dark. This means the day has changed. This means Aviv 14 has changed to Aviv 15—the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That’s right: the Passover meal isn’t eaten on Passover Day; it’s the first meal of the new day on Matza. Why? Because that’s exactly as it was in Egypt. They were still eating the Passover meal at around midnight on Aviv 15 when Yehoveh killed all the unprotected firstborns throughout Egypt.
It was Jerome in the 5th century AD who translated the Hebrew words Zevah Pesach and made it Pass-over. So we get this mental picture (along with millions of sermons to back it up) that on Pesach the Lord “passed over” the Hebrew firstborns killing only the Egyptian firstborns. Wrong. The problem is that Zevah Pesach doesn’t mean “pass over”—it means “protective sacrifice.” (Ooh, did a light pop on?)
Look: what occurred on Aviv 14 in Egypt was that the Pesach Lamb was slaughtered and its blood brushed onto the doorways of homes. It was the day the “protective sacrifice” of the lamb, as ordered by God, took place. But, it wasn’t until after dark—when the day changed to Aviv 15—that late at night (around midnight), the Lord passed through Egypt killing all unprotected firstborns in the nation of Egypt. So even Hebrews perished who weren’t protected by the blood on the door post). So Pesach, which is only the protective sacrifice of the lambs, happened on Aviv 14, but the Lord didn’t pass over the protected Hebrew firstborn until the first hours of the next day, Aviv 15. Then when night turned into daytime (still the same day) the Hebrews left Egypt and that’s the day celebrated as the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Now the first day of Matza was a festival Sabbath day! Friday Aviv 15th was a Sabbath day, a festival Sabbath day. It had some of the same requirements as the 7th Day Sabbath in that handling a dead human corpse was prohibited on any kind of Sabbath. That’s why the Gospels tells us that there was a frenzy to get Jesus buried before dark, when the day changed from Pesach (a regular day) to the 1st day of Matza, which was a festival Sabbath day—because they couldn’t handle a dead body.
Aviv 15th was an uneventful day; it was Friday, the festival Sabbath to begin Matza. The day ends at sundown and now it’s Saturday, Aviv 16th; this is the regular weekly 7th day Sabbath. For the past several centuries Firstfruits has been celebrated on Aviv 16 (as a permanent tradition), in fact it was only the Rabbis (who were Pharisees) who long ago ordered it done this way, as opposed to the way it was done in Jesus’ day. And, this change occurred after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. when the priesthood became defunct. Remember, the Sadducees were the High Priests, and so with the end of the Temple and the priesthood—the Sadducees—lost much of their control over issue of the rituals and traditions. Now, the Pharisees got their way and they decided that rather than Firstfruits moving around on the calendar, it would always be Aviv 16th that Firstfruits would be celebrated on.
I want you to catch the significance of this . . . Jesus, the True High Priest, was sacrificed and resurrected, so the office of a Priest—let alone a High Priest—had ended. How was this accomplished? By allowing the enemies of Israel to destroy the Temple. The Temple was gone, there was no longer a need for the High Priest on earth, because Jesus was The High Priest!
But let me say again: in Jesus’ day, Firstfruits was the day after the 7th day Sabbath no matter what the calendar date. So in Jesus’ era, Firstfruits was always the first day of the week (Sunday in our modern terminology).
Notice that by this timeline Yeshua has been in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights just as the prophecy of Jonah in the belly of the great fish explained. I hope that you can see this isn’t at all straightforward and that if a scholar isn’t a student of the Torah and to a degree Jewish Tradition, there’s no way he can understand how the passion week of Jesus’ death played out. After all, the New Testament that was written by Jews who assumed that anyone reading these documents would be familiar with the Jewish customs and their nuances and the political circumstances of that day, so they didn’t see any need to explain all this.
Just remember the significance of all the festivals: The entire sequence of his death, burial and resurrection occurred precisely and exactly on the appropriate Biblical Feast days. But that’s not all! 50 days later on the Feast of Shavuot (what we know as Pentecost), the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within men. The Lord harvested His Believers. They were his, they were put away for safekeeping, where no one and nothing could ever forcefully take them, us, away from Him. But, there’s more harvesting to come!
The High Holy Days of the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur (which I discussed in a another study) represent Yeshua HaMashiach coming for the second time—this time in great power and glory, bringing the world to it’s knees, cutting down the evil and laying low the rebels.
The Feast of Tabernacles, or more appropriately as it’s also known, the Feast of Ingathering, is the entry into the 1000 Reign of Christ—the Millennium. I won’t go into all the details right now, but I will point out the amazing parallels between the focal point and grand finale of the Feast of Sukkot: the Water Libation ceremony at the Altar of Burnt Offering. The earthly purpose for this event was to ask God to bring rain to the land to water the crops. In the final moments of the final Biblical Feast of each year, the closing event is that seven trumpets are blown 3 times for a total of 21 blasts of the trumpet, as a Golden Pitcher of water from the spring of Siloam is brought by the High Priest through the Water Gate of the Temple Mount. Then the water is poured out from that Golden Pitcher while the people of Jerusalem say in unison, “God save us now!” These 21 trumpet blasts represent the 3 series of 7 final judgments that will be rained down on the world in man’s final hours. After these 21 judgments, it’s finished. The history of man as we know it . . . is over. Yeshua HaMashiach is now in total control of a world without even one single rebel; not one single person is alive who doesn’t know the Lord and bow down to Him. And that’s the way it will remain for 1000 years.
For further understanding of “Jewish” History and the foundation of the Christian faith, I encourage you to visit Torah Class.