So, some of you really liked yesterday’s post (and some of you didn’t, but that’s OK!). It opened some eyes to the power of CONTEXT. Let’s go with it again, as I shake things up with three of the most common “sacred cows” of Biblical mistakes.
1. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder
There are two major reasons this mistake happens. The first is that in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), it seems clear that Jesus is eating the Passover at the Last Supper. Several verses in the passages surrounding the supper indicate that the day that He chooses is “the first Day of Unleavened Bread” (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7). This is confusing for one major reason: the Passover meal is eaten the evening BEFORE the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
I’m reminded of the familiar, yet highly annoying, Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The “first day of Christmas” is never understood as being December 25th. In fact, there are dozens of songs played during the Christmas season (and to my chagrin all the way starting in October at Wal-Marts across the country) stating that “Christmas” is here, when no one ever argues that December 25th has arrived yet. We understand the CONTEXT. When the writers of the Synoptics stated that the “first day of Unleavened Bread” had arrived, they were almost assuredly indicating that the start of the festival and everything that goes with it had arrived. The feast period kicks off four days BEFORE the Passover, when each family selects the Passover lamb and brings it into their home for a four day period of inspection. Consequently, these verses would more clearly be translated, “at the start of the festival of Unleavened Bread.”
The second reason this mistake happens is that we don’t compare the Synoptics to the Gospel of John. John’ s Gospel centers almost exclusively on the events of Jesus’ ministry and their connection to the Feasts of the LORD found in Leviticus 23. This means that John should definitely give us some clues to help.
And John states, repeatedly, that this dinner was BEFORE Passover:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him… – John 14:1-2 ESV
Here, right at the start of the most detailed retelling of the events in the Upper Room, John clearly states that this is before the Passover. But there’s more.
As Peter and John try to uncover who Jesus is foretelling will betray him, we see these verses:
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. – John 13:26-30 ESV
As Judas leaves the Upper Room to go complete the betrayal, the other disciples think he is leaving to buy something for the Feast, or to give to the poor (a common act of charity that happened BEFORE Passover to help the poor celebrate the Feast). If the Last Supper had already been eaten, and the High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread has begun, why would the other disciples think that Judas was purchasing items for the Passover (all of the stores would have been closed), or giving charity so the poor could do the same?
This begs the question: if the Last Supper isn’t a Passover Seder, what is it? Jewish writings describe a unique dinner that would take place between a rabbi and his talmidim (disciples), for a very specific purpose. It would be at the close of a period of training and mentoring that had lasted for months if not years. The rabbi would often gather his talmidim together as a final summary of that training. There is even some indication that he would summarize that period teaching with this phrase: “A new commandment I give to you…”. This didn’t mean that this was a completely new concept, but that this is the direction that the talmidim were to take in carrying out the training they had just completed. It was, for all intents and purposes, a “commencement.” The end of one period and the beginning of another. It was also common for rabbis to hold this commencement dinner on the verge of Passover. What was Jesus’ “new commandment” to the disciples?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13:34 ESV
2. Jesus Was Crucified on Friday
This one’s sort of silly. Let’s be honest, in no way can anyone get 3 days and 3 nights from the afternoon of “Good Friday” to “Easter Sunday Morning.” Jesus made this pretty clear – 3 days and 3 nights was the sign that He was who He SAID He was.
But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:39-40 ESV
Friday afternoon. Saturday night. Saturday morning. Sunday night. Sunday morning. Just count. It doesn’t add up. At best, we can get 3 days and 2 nights. What are the ramifications?
Jesus declared that this was the sign that would define Him. And if Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday, it means that Jesus wasn’t who He said He was. So, how did we come up with this pretty serious error?
Again, it’s a lack of understanding the CONTEXT. The Gospels state that Jesus was buried on the “Day of Preparation for the Sabbath.” So, in our attempt to apply Jewish religious life to this, we miss it all together. Friday was generally the Day of Preparation. But that term was applied to the day before EVERY Sabbath. And the Feast of Unleavened Bread is an eight day feast that begins and ends with a HIGH Sabbath. Jesus was sacrificed as THE Passover Lamb, and in the grave before the HIGH SABBATH of Unleavened Bread. What day of the week was this?
3. Jesus Rose From the Dead on Sunday Morning
Scripture never tells us that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning. Don’t stone me. It’s not my fault. But it’s not there. Where does this mistake come from. Making an assumption, and a failed attempt to reconcile Good Friday with 3 days and 3 nights (see above). Here’s the verse that this assumption comes from:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 ESV
Here, Mary comes to the tomb BEFORE sunrise and Jesus is already gone. That’s all we know. It doesn’t say Jesus rose seconds before that or even on Sunday at all. It says that by the time Mary gets to the tomb – before sunrise – Jesus is gone.
Prepare to have your mind blown: Jesus rose on the Sabbath.
Some day I’ll go into the entire story, but here’s the timeline. Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and in the tomb by sundown. After sundown until sunrise Wednesday/Thursday is Night 1. Thursday morning until sundown is Day 1. After sundown Thursday until sunrise Friday morning is Night 2. Friday sunrise until sundown is Day 2. Friday sunset till Saturday sunrise is Night 3. And sunrise Saturday – the weekly Sabbath – until sunset is Day 3. Jesus rose at the close of Sabbath. Scripture indicates this if you understand the full CONTEXT. But that’s for another post.
Mind officially blown.