Netzarim, Original followers of Yeshua & His 12
In recent weeks I've come across several disappointing interpretations regarding the Passover, which falls just after the head of the year as decreed by YHVH, our Keeper of Time (Cf. Exo. 12:2).
The most prevalent proposal was followers of Messiah denying that the "Last Supper" fell on the 14th of Aviv (or Nisan)- which is the Passover. Surprisingly, many of these claims come from those with an affinity for Torah! The sad thing is, these people are making a false assumption about the Pesach because their modern interpretations of the day, and the feast which follows it-Chag haMatzot, are incorrect.
As a movement, believers (by any name by which we call ourselves) are mistaken about the application of this feast, both today and in the days of Messiah. The reason I write this is for fear of some believers to disregard the day we are exhorted to keep in memory of our Master.
I found a text which ironically illuminates the Scriptures in the gospels. It comes from Josephus, and besides explaining how first century Jews kept the feast, it clarifies the actions of the Pharisees and Sadducees according to the Gospel of John. We know by Yeshua's teachings that some of the traditions of the Pharisees devalued Torah, but I believe they were right in the application of the Passover commandments:
"In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month... the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover; and so we do celebrate this passover in companies, leaving nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following. The feast of unleavened bread succeeds that of the passover, and falls on the fifteenth day of the month, and continues seven days, wherein they feed on unleavened bread; on every one of which days two bulls are killed, and one ram, and seven lambs. Now these lambs are entirely burnt, besides the kid of the goats which is added to all the rest, for sins; for it is intended as a feast for the priest on every one of those days. But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them. And while they suppose it proper to honor God, from whom they obtain this plentiful provision, in the first place, they offer the first-fruits of their barley, and that in the manner following: They take a handful of the ears, and dry them, then beat them small, and purge the barley from the bran; they then bring one tenth deal to the altar, to God; and, casting one handful of it upon the fire, they leave the rest for the use of the priest. And after this it is that they may publicly or privately reap their harvest. They also at this participation of the first-fruits of the earth, sacrifice a lamb, as a burnt-offering to God." (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chap. 10, Para. 5)
And this is what is written in Torah:
"On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’” (Leviticus 23:5-8, NKJV)
All of the statements made by Josephus are supported by the Scriptures:
1. The 14th of the month after twilight is when they ate the Passover meal in companies. Now, the 15th of Aviv at twilight began the FEAST, which is different. The 15th of the month was a high Sabbath (John 19:31), whereas the 14th was NOT and has never been a sabbath. The 14th is also called the Preparation day because people needed to travel, burn the remainder of the Pesach, and rid their homes of leaven. This is the reason none of the disciples had objections to Yeshua (presumably) commanding Yahudah Qeriot to 'quickly buy something'- because it was not yet Shabbat. (Cf. John 13:26-29) I think the confusion stems from the fact that the beginning of the Feast on the 15th- the Sabbath- was more highly regarded than the 14th 2,000 years ago. It's totally opposite today. The main problem is, however, that many Torah-observant disciples commonly believe the period of daylight after the Seder is a Sabbath; it is not. We've got to correct this mindset in honor of YHVH, following His words.
2. Now its true the Scripture says the priests wanted not to be defiled as to not eat the Passover (Cf. John 18:28). However, the combination of the Pesach and the feast is simply called "Passover". It has several names, i.e. "Passover", "days of unleavened bread", but either title encompasses all eight days (1 day of Pesach +7 days of Feast of Unleavened Bread). Now Josephus record above tells us that the priests had several meals to eat, all throughout the eight days! Furthermore, the 16th was firstfruits, when the tithes came in the temple. We know from elsewhere fresh spices came in the form of tithes (i.e. Luke 11:42). Ever had goat with mint? The priests were not going to defile themselves for seven days as they interpreted the defilement commandments (i.e. Lev. 19:11) with all that good food to eat. It's almost like they were a type of Esau who sold out his inheritance for a bowl of soup! They sold out Messiah for goat curry! :|
As for the other points made, this is explained by the difference of commands between the ORIGINAL Passover in Egypt and the Passover in Jerusalem. The staff in hand and sandals in feet was a command for the Egyptian Passover- but only for that night. The commandments for "throughout your generations" omit this. It's not as if we smear lamb's blood on our doorposts every year too, correct?
This understanding also helps us to see how the "sign of Jonah" (three days/three nights) was also fulfilled. The 14th was a Tuesday, the 15th a Wednesday holy Sabbath (Day 1 in the Tomb), The 16th firstfruits a Thursday and non-Sabbath (Day 2 in the Tomb), the same day that spices were offered in the Temple and also when the women bought some of the harvested spices to anoint Yeshua's body. They saw this as a special gift in honor of Firstfruits and prepared them accordingly. The 17th was a Friday and at night was the weekly Sabbath (Day 3 in the Tomb). The first day of the week followed and was the end of three days and nights. This fits the culture and history perfectly not to mention the prophecies of Scripture. Amein.
So, I encourage us-and all who call on the name of Messiah- to keep the 14th in honor of Messiah's death. He both kept the Pesach and died on the 14th after twilight, before the eve of the fifteenth which began the Feast. He is our Passover because he encompassed all of it. He did not keep a 'Passover rehearsal' or 'early Passover'. He fulfilled Passover according to Torah; If he would have kept a Passover early he would have slain a lamb early and thus have been guilty of breaking the commandment. This is the only One who fully kept the Torah we're talking about. Just as He did so we should do, there is every reason the Passover seder on the 14th of the month should be the highlight of our year- which we celebrate in companies in remembrance of Messiah Yeshua.