- John's apparent chronology shows Jesus being crucified on the 14th Nisan right at the time the Passover lambs would have been sacrificed, somewhere in-between 3:00 PM and 'twilight' (6:00 PM). This means the Passover meal would have occurred on a Shabbat, which contradicts what Matthew, Mark, and Luke record: they state that Shabbat was the day after Jesus was crucified. One somewhat feasible resolution to this paradox is that because Jesus was quite possibly an Essene, He may have celebrated an early Seder with His disciples, thus following an Essene tradition which took place only when Passover was also on a Shabbat. However, there are a few problems with this theory:
- Jesus did not follow all Essene practices; furthermore, there is no indication in the Synoptic texts that this is an early Seder or a reason why Jesus did what He did (i.e. a mention that Jesus did this because of the encroaching Sabbath, etc.) Therefore, while an early Seder is possible, the likelihood is slim.
- Mark and Luke specifically say that Jesus' preparations for the meal with His disciples was the time when the Passover lambs would be slaughtered. All three Synoptic Gospels declare this was the first day of Unleavened Bread, which is when Passover occurs. So if John's gospel is taken as the literal standard, it must contradict three other witnesses who say otherwise.
- If Thursday night was an early Seder, then Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the 9th Nisan, not the 10th, thus invalidating this prophecy.
- The other possibility (which is the one I accept) is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke correctly depict that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover meal at the appropriate time. Because sundown on Friday was the beginning of the Shabbat falling during the feast of Unleavened Bread, this was a special Shabbat of which the chief priests and elders wanted to partake their priestly portions (John calls this a 'high Shabbat'). Since Unleavened Bread and Passover are so intertwined, they are often referred to as a singular event; John is doing this in his story--he uses "pascha" in the Greek to denote all days of Unleavened Bread, not just the specific day of the original Passover meal.
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) show that Jesus and His disciples prepared the Passover as the lambs were being slaughtered on the 14th Nisan. What must be understood is that the Jewish day begins with the evening first, when three stars are first visible in the sky. So the lambs are sacrificed on the 14th Nisan, and then the Passover is eaten later that night, when the date has changed to the 15th Nisan. At the time when the lambs were slaughtered, Judas visited the chief priests and elders to betray Jesus; so it could be said that Jesus' death was already underway. Is this a stretch of logic? It is the only way that Jesus could both celebrate the Passover with His disciples and be the Passover Lamb at the same time, as He proclaimed Himself to be. How does this work? Later that evening when the new day had begun, Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples. He 'eagerly desired' to share the Passover with them because He was showing them the symbolism of the Passover as it related to the New Covenant He was instituting in Himself.
Through the night, Jesus suffered; he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was arrested, beaten, and tried before the Sanhedrin. The next morning he was tried by both Pilate and Herod, was beaten some more including having a crown of thorns smashed into His head and His body shredded by a cat-of-nine-tails, and was finally crucified at 3:00 in the afternoon outside the city at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. He died three hours before the official end of the day of Passover. Why is this significant? It seems to be after the event when the lambs were to be slain, so wouldn't this be too late to fulfill the prophecy?... The command in Exodus stated that if any of the Passover Lamb remained until morning, it was to be burned. Throughout the First Covenant, one finds that whenever a sacrifice is burned, it must be done outside the camp, away from the presence of God and the people. The book of Hebrews addresses this for us in Hebrews 13:11-12:
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.