In order to piece together the Passover week, I have found it necessary to refer to a quality astronomy program (Starry Night Pro Plus) besides resorting to historical, religious, and linguistic resources. Understanding the Hebrew Mazzaroth (Job 38:32) will help us to see the heavenly drama from Christ’s conception to his final Triumph, especially during the events surrounding Passover. We ought to know the importance of the moon in regards to the Jewish Passover. Besides the astronomical importance, what did the requirements of the Passover entail for the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and how did the circumstances of the Last Supper and the crucifixion of Jesus play into the Feast?
The Passover lamb was to be slain “between the evenings”, i.e., between the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month of Nissan. Yet, the Passover could not be held until after the Full Moon was sighted. ‘Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon on our feast day.’ (Ps. 81:3 ESV). As a Jewish new day started in the evening, the 14th of Nissan began in the evening for the Jews. However, the Passover lamb would be sacrificed sometime in the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan after the moon had become full, and the Passover meal would be served at twilight of the fifteenth.
On Passover week in the year 33 AD, from Tuesday until late Friday afternoon, the moon will be in the constellation of BETHULAH, the Virgin, who holds the Branch and the Ear of Wheat. After the birth of Jesus, we rarely see his mother Mary mentioned in Scriptures until this Passion Week when her presence is so important. Jesus was the Seed whose death was imperative before the Resurrection. Although the 14th day of Nissan would begin on Thursday evening, but it would not be until after sunrise the next morning when the moon would become full, and then the Passover Lamb could be sacrificed.
When the disciples approached Jesus, it was before (πρωτος) the Unleavened Bread, or ‘the day before the Unleavened Bread’ if translated correctly. They wanted to know what to do, and Jesus instructed them to ask a certain man for his house. The disciples made ready for the Passover, called the Preparation of the Passover, in which involved making sure the house was clean of leaven. Although they had until the following noon of the 14th day of Nissan to remove the leaven off the premises, typically the Jews would make sure that their homes were free of leaven by the beginning of the 14th day of Nissan just to be safe. On Thursday evening, Jesus sat down with the twelve for Supper. Early Friday morning the moon became full and the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed hours later.
Under rare circumstances do we celebrate Thanksgiving on another day, but the Passover could only be celebrated after the lambs were sacrificed in the afternoon on the 14th day of Nissan. (There were special provisions for a second Passover date held a month later.) Although there are some similarities, the meal that Jesus and the disciples ate was a Preparatory meal, and not the Passover Sedar. In Luke, Jesus stated, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. The term, ‘with desire I have desired’, is used as in I desire to have what I can’t have.
Besides, the women would have participated if it were Passover, since it would be a family meal. Scriptures do not mention lamb, bitter herbs, etc. However, mention is made that they ate bread (αρτος) raised or leavened bread, but as a general noun it could also mean unleavened bread. The specific word for unleavened bread (αζυμος) is not employed here. Since grape juice begins to ferment quickly, wine would have been served. Moreover, grapes are generally harvested at the end of summer.
On the other hand, Jesus could have conducted the first half of the Sedar, with Himself being the second half of the Sacrifice. As described in 1 Corinthians 11, Jesus was instituting the first Communion service, which had similarities to the Sedar, but was not the same thing. If in fact, the Passover lamb had been eaten prior to Jesus death, then Jesus would not have been the Passover Lamb who came to die for the sins of the world.