One factor that confuses many people about the Passion timeline is the Last Supper and its relationship with the Passover meal, or seder. The modern LDS church teaches that that the Last Supper was the Passover seder. Here are two chapter headings from the relevant chapters in the New Testament:
Jesus is anointed—He keeps the Passover and institutes the sacrament—He suffers in Gethsemane, is betrayed by Judas, and is taken before Caiaphas—Peter denies that he knows Jesus.
Jesus is anointed with oil—He eats the Passover, institutes the sacrament, suffers in Gethsemane, and is betrayed by Judas—Jesus is falsely accused, and Peter denies that he knows Him.
The problem is that the scriptures make it clear that the Last Supper and the Passover meal were not on the same evening. Once you have accepted the falsehood that they are on the same evening, you have to start performing mental gymnastics to force all the other scriptural details to fit into your false tradition. It’s so much easier when you just believe what the scriptures say instead of the chapter headings!
Let’s start with a scriptural overview of Passover. Take note of the phrases in bold, they’ll be critical later on.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.
Keep in mind that the Hewbrew word shabbat (sabbath) does not mean seventh, it means to cease, as in to cease from labor. These other holy days like the first day of Passover can also be called sabbath days because no work is to be done. It does not mean they happened on a Saturday. Which means you usually have two sabbaths, or holy days, in one week during Passover—the first day of Passover and then the weekly sabbath.
Bread at the Last Supper
Luke 22 tells us that the feast of unleavened bread was approaching. In both verses 1 and 7 it uses the Greek word ἀζύμων (azymoon) for unleavened bread. Yet in verse 19 Jesus takes ἄρτον (arton), or leavened bread, and administers the sacrament. If the Passover had already begun and this was the Passover meal, Jesus and all his disciples would have been violating the commandments by having leavened bread. Imagine how foolish Jesus would have felt to have lived a perfect life right up to the end and then thrown it all away by eating the wrong type of bread for his last meal!
Matthew does the same thing in Matthew 26:17 and 26:26. He uses ἀζύμων (azymoon) to the describe unleavened bread but ἄρτον to describe the bread they ate at the Last Supper. Not to be left out, Mark does it also in Mark 14:1 and 14:22. If the Last Supper was the Passover seder, we have three witnesses that Jesus sinned, he was not without blemish when sacrificed, and we are all doomed.
No Manner of Work
When Jesus identified Judas as the one who would betray him and Judas left, some of the disciples thought Jesus had told Judas to go buy things to prepare for the feast.
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
As they were preparing to head to the Garden, Jesus again suggests they go buy stuff:
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
If the Last Supper was the Passover meal, there wouldn’t be a need to buy anything for the feast…they had just finished eating it! More importantly, the Law of Moses required that no manner of work be done on the first day of Passover. If Jesus told the apostles to buy something that night, he would be telling them to sin. I suspect that the disciples would have been shocked by Jesus telling them to violate the Passover sabbath, but they don’t seem to give it any thought here. Furthermore, if they are eating the Passover meal, no merchants would be open to sell food or swords. Everyone else would be eating their Passover meal at home and doing no manner of work.
Scribes and Pharisees
If the Last Supper was the Passover meal, not only was Jesus confused, so were the scribes and pharisees!
8 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.
Here it is the morning after the Last Supper. The scribes and Pharisees should have already eaten the Passover meal, yet during the trial they are worried about defiling themselves before they could eat the Passover! Throughout the last day of Christ’s life, the Jews were focused on preparing for a meal that they supposedly had already eaten the night before.
For brevity, I’ll just list some of the references that show the Passover meal had not occurred yet.
13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathæa, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
Everyone involved here, from the disciples to the scribes and Pharisees, knew the crucifixion and burial had to be completed before sunset when Passover, and its high sabbath, began.
It’s important that we understand that the Last Supper occurred 24 hours before the Passover meal. Not only is this important in understanding the timeline of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also to understand the significance of the three spring feasts that were linked to Christ’s Passion: the feast of Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, and the feast of first fruits. These are intimately integrated into the last week of Christ’s life, and we’ll explore them next.