A Description of the Time of Jesus' Last Supper and the Time of the Passover


As many have sought to understand the times of Jesus’ last supper, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection; the following text describing the events in the context of the Jewish observance of the Passover might help you understand. 


Passover Crowds Near the Walls of Jerusalem -- 1911

In Mark 26 Jesus was in Jerusalem before the Passover:


1 Now after two days was the feast of the Passover and the unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him with subtlety, and kill him:
2 for they said, Not during the feast, lest there shall be a tumult of the people. (American Standard Version - uncopyrighted)


During the day of feast of the Passover no work was allowed.  It was similar to a Sabbath.  No one was allowed to kindle a fire or carry a water jar.  The stores were all closed.  The eating of the sacrificed lamb and the unleavened bread was begun after sunset on the beginning of the Passover.  In Roman Jerusalem, the Jews observed the beginning of each day at sunset.  According to one Rabbi it was known the day had begun when the first stars appeared.  The Romans observed the beginning of each day at midnight.  If the Jews were to arrest Jesus during the Passover as opposed to the day of preparation for the Passover, they would have risked the anger of the people for violating the sacred feast by doing work.  In Jerusalem some people did not work the day before the Passover either, yet some of the shops stayed open until late afternoon as people rushed to get their errands done before the Passover.     


In Luke 22 there was a similar verse:

1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put him to death; for they feared the people.


The words, “not during the feast, lest there be a riot” were missing from this verse.


In the Gospel according to John 13:


1 Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

2 And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God,


Jesus was eating supper before the Passover.  This evening was the day of preparation for the Passover.  Most of the six chapters of John 13 – 20 happened in this last day of Jesus’ life before the resurrection.  According to the Jerusalem Talmud – Pesachim, during this evening the Jews were allowed to eat leavened bread, but were instructed to light a lamp and search for all the bread and crumbs and gather them.  No leavened bread was allowed after noon of the day of preparation.  It was supposed to be either sold to a Gentile, fed to animals, or burned before noon


Jesus and disciples shared bread and wine during the evening meal known as "The Last Supper."  Judas dipped a piece of bread into the dish.  This dipping of bread happened during a normal meal.  There was the washing of the feet.  There were numerous speeches. 


In Luke 22:


31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat:

32 but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.

33 And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death.

34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

35 And he said unto them, When I sent you forth without purse, and wallet, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, “Nothing”.

36 And he said unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword.

37 For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfillment.

38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

39 And he came out, and went, as his custom was, unto the mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed him.


On Passover, the sale of swords would not have been permitted.  This was the evening of the day of Preparation.  The Passover was not until the next evening.  The arrest, the convening of the Sanhedrin, the transport of Jesus to Pilate’s headquarters, the Jews assembling at the trial, the crucifixion, the burying of the body would have all violated the laws of Passover observance.  The day of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion was the same day they sacrificed the lambs for the feast in the Temple.  The day began at sundown and was the last supper of Jesus.  Observant Jews would have been searching for unleavened bread on the eve of the preparation day to remove from their houses, as it was a serious offense to have leaven in one’s house from the time of noon on the day of Preparation until evening and seven days afterward.     


Jesus was teaching his disciples that night and arrested as one may read in the Gospels. 


The next morning in John 18: 

26 One of the servants of the high priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?
27 Peter therefore denied again: and straightway the cock crew.

They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium: and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
29 Pilate therefore went out unto them, and saith, “What accusation bring ye against this man?“
30 They answered and said unto him, If this man were not an evildoer, we should not have delivered him up unto thee.

According to this passage the Jews had not yet eaten the Passover.  It was the day of preparation for the Passover.  If they would have entered the palace and touched something unclean, they would have been disqualified from eating the Passover and would have needed to return a month later to partake in the second Passover for those who missed or were unclean for the first Passover.  In the traditions of many Jews of those days, there were instances of touching a corpse or a having an issue of blood that might make a person unclean for a time.  A woman having her period was supposed to be unclean for seven days.  Merely touching an item might make it unclean and thus pass uncleanness on to another.  Many were compulsively afraid of being made unclean and did not enter into the places of Gentiles for fear touching a metal door handle or other item might make them unclean.

In John 19, Jesus was being judged by Pilate:

11 Jesus answered him, Thou wouldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath greater sin.

12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend: every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

13 When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment-seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

14 Now it was the Preparation of the Passover: it was about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, “Behold, your King!”

15 They therefore cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him! Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

16 Then therefore he delivered him unto them to be crucified.


In verse 14, John stated it was the day of preparation for the Passover.  It was the sixth hour when Jesus began receiving further abuse and was forced to carry his cross towards Golgatha.  There were twelve hours of daylight.  The sixth hour was noon then at the ninth hour, that was three o'clock, Jesus passed away (Matt. 27:45).  According to Josephus the Passover lambs were sacrificed between the ninth and eleventh hours; that was between three and five o'clock (Wars of the Jews, Josephus, Book VI, Ch IX, 3).. 


It was required that all Israeli males who were able bodied and not feeble minded be in Jerusalem for the Passover; according to one Talmudic source any male old enough to walk was required to attend..  Entire families went also.  In the Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim; the sacrifice of lambs was begun at the seventh and a half hour (1:30 PM).  There were fellowships scheduled to share each roasted lamb.  There may have been ten or more people sharing each lamb.  One from each fellowship had to go to the temple to sacrifice the lamb.  After the sacrifice the lambs were roasted on wooden spits and not eaten until after sundown.  The Jewish law indicated that the sacrifice was supposed to be done in the evening.  The Jews decided that sometime after noon on the day of preparation the evening was approaching as the shadows were growing longer and darkness was setting in over the land.  They had to use this language in order to legally sacrifice tens of thousands of lambs in a few hours before the evening and prohibition against work.  The Samaritans took the commandment to roast the lamb in the evening literally and waited until dark.  The Samaritans did not pay the temple tax and were ostracized by other Jews.   


 Jesus hung on the cross while the lambs were being slaughtered.  As evening approached and the Jewish officials were worried about violating the high Sabbath by not removing the bodies before sundown; they asked for the bodies to be removed from the crosses. 


31 The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the Sabbath (for the day of that Sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

32 The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him:

33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:

34 howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water.

35 And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe.

36 For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.


One of Jesus’ friends buried his body.  It was Friday.  Part of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Jesus' body was in the tomb.  When the ladies went to the tomb early Sunday morning, they found the empty tomb.  Jesus later appeared to his trusted disciples numerous times before his ascension.  


There was more context of Jewish first century life in the volumes of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, Josephus, Philo, and Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, by Jeremias Joachim


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Link to an uncopyrighted Babylonian Talmud


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