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“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.

(Exodus 12:3)

The Passion Week - Lesson #1

Day 1 & 2 – Jesus Arrives in Bethany
6 (& 5) days before Passover

 

In the old days, the chosen people acquired a perfect male lamb on the 10th of Nisan, the first month. The little lamb was brought in, cared for, pampered and inspected for those four days. It was gentle and innocent. The children became attached to it. During that time, the father taught his house that this lamb must take on their annual sins and die.

 

When the hour had come, tears flowed from the children’s eyes and the father left for the Temple, the lamb upon his shoulders. Thousands were gathered on the Temple mount each with a lamb, a first born male without blemish.

 

Between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. men laid their hands upon the heads of the lambs, and then sacrificed them by cutting the throat. Golden bowls took the blood of the lambs to the altar. As the last lamb was sacrificed the high priest said, “I thirst.” Then the high priest yelled out, as had been done for hundreds of years, “It is finished!”

 

Passover

 

As the sun set, the Passover lambs were roasted and eaten in haste along with bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. Israel remembered that God had delivered his people out of bitter bondage in Egypt.

 

The Traditional Approach

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany…” – John 12:1

 

“The next day…Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem” (John 12:12)

 

The “next day”, according to the Gospel of John, was the Triumphal Entry on Sunday, thus, Jesus
arrived in Bethany on Saturday. It was “six days before Passover.” Therefore, if you count Saturday as
one of the six days then Passover was on Thursday. If you count six days from Sunday Passover is
on Friday.  Passover had to be either Thursday or Friday. We then can further narrow the crucifixion
to Friday since the body of Jesus was taken down “before the Sabbath.” The verse, “When Jesus rose early on the first of the week…” (Mark 16:9) is the final evidence needed that Jesus rose from the dead Sunday morning.

 

This wonderfully simple scenario leaves in its wake a Gospel record laden with confusing conflicts. Many scriptures simply do not support this version of events.

 

How do you get three days and nights from Friday evening to Sunday Morning?

 

How can Jesus eat the Passover with his disciples and be crucified as the Passover lamb?

 

How can the Jewish leaders “not yet have eaten Passover” the morning after Jesus and his
disciples have already eaten Passover?

 

Commentator “Solutions”


“The Gospel writers must have been confused.”

"The Gospels are not intended to be historically precise."

“No one knows for sure.”

 

Luckily for us, our God is not the God of confusion, but of order. In this study you will find that there are no “conflicts” in your Gospel record. Jesus fulfills prophecies like the “Sign of Jonah” to perfection. If your foundation is level the whole house is level. If your foundation is crooked, your house can never be quite what it should be.

A Biblical Perspective

Let us remember that Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi (teacher).

 

Let us acknowledge that the Bible is a Jewish book.

 

Let us notice that the Gospels were written primarily to show how Jesus fulfilled the
prophetic promises found in the Hebrew scriptures.

 

From a Jewish perspective:

 

The first brick in the foundation of our story is that a day is not calculated from midnight to midnight but rather from sunset (twilight) to sunset (twilight).

       And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Genesis 1:5

 

The second brick is that Jews were required to "rest" on the Sabbath. Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly. This is the very reason he was able to substitute for our sins on the cross. He was "accused" of breaking the Sabbath, but He did not. He could not and be the "Lamb of God".

 

Would a Jewish Rabbi travel on the Sabbath if he could avoid it? The answer is “not likely.”

If Jesus traveled to Bethany on Saturday, he would not be resting.


Because the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) began Friday evening, Jesus most likely arrived Friday afternoon before sunset. A dinner is given in his honor (A Sabbath "Shabbat" meal) at which Mary anoints Jesus' feet.

 

The next morning a large crowd comes out to see Jesus whom they held to be a prophet. They came to hear Jesus teach in Bethany. According to the Gospels they only had to travel "a Sabbath day's walk" to get there. This was an extra biblical Pharisaic "rule" but still it tells us that the Gospel writers were thinking in those terms.


If we account for time using a Jewish mindset the Gospel accounts begins to give us a very different picture of how and when things happened. There is nothing "foreign to the text" in making Jewish assumptions.

 

Event:
Jesus arrives in Bethany on Friday in time for the Sabbath.
“Six days before the Passover Jesus arrives at Bethany” John 12:1

 

Prophetic Fulfillment
The Passover lambs were to be acquired on the 10th of Nisan (the 1st month). The lamb must be
inspected for blemishes until the 14th. Jesus, the Passover Lamb, arrives in time for this inspection period.
 

“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. (Exodus 12:3)


Take care of them (the lambs) until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the
community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. (Exodus 12:6).


Chronology
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” John 1:29


The Gospel message is about God’s Passover lamb. Prophetically, God "brings in his lamb" to Bethany near Jerusalem. Saturday (beginning Friday at sunset) is the 10th of Nisan (also called the month of Abib). This would make the 14th a Wednesday and the day of the Crucifixion. We indeed find that Jesus is inspected for blemishes over the next four days. (10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and on the 14th, the lamb is slain)

 

Friday evening: A Sabbath with Friends
Event
Friday evening, a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor (John 12:2-11). The dinner is in Bethany perhaps at
Simon the Leper’s house (he seems to sponsor these meals). Attending is Jesus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the Disciples. Mary anoints Jesus' feet 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary “anointed” Jesus on three occasions. 

1.  An anointing is recorded in Luke 7:36-50 much earlier in Jesus’ ministry. The first anointing describes Mary as “weeping.” As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. She is a sinful woman who has found forgiveness in the presence of Messiah.

 

2.  The second anointing makes no mention of tears.  Given the time that has elapsed, Mary, on this Friday evening, anoints Jesus' feet out of love and admiration. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.

 

3.  The third anointing three nights later is upon on his head (Matt 26:6; Mark 14:3).

Mary "breaks the jar" to acquire the remaining perfume. While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Jesus prophesied that Mary’s actions would never be forgotten, and indeed they have not!

 

Prophetic Fulfillment
This is a Sabbath "Shabbat" meal. This traditional meal, is held in memory of Genesis 14:18 and is thought to predate the first century. I find the symbolism compelling.
 

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram…Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

 

They lit Sabbath candles: Jesus - I am the Truth, the light of the world

 

They broke bread together: Jesus - I am the Life, the true bread from Heaven

(Chalah, a 3 piece interwoven bread representing the triune nature of God)

The blessing: Blessed is the Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.
 

They drank the fruit of the vine: Jesus - I am the Way, no one comes to the Father except by me

The blessing: Blessed is the Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.

 

This ceremony is often repeated at the end of the Sabbath also.

 

New Testament Connection:

Jesus is the light of the world (candles), the bread of life (Chalah) and established a new covenant in his blood (wine). His priesthood is never ending, in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews).

 

Jesus spent Saturday “resting” together with those who came out to “inspect him” in Bethany
Although it is not clear if a Synagogue existed in Bethany, Jesus met the crowd, which came out from
Jerusalem, to hear Jesus teach and to see Lazarus.

 

Chronology
Since a new Jewish day began Friday at sundown, Saturday is now only 5 days until Passover.

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

Probably the crowd arrives from Jerusalem on Saturday as they are said to have come "a Sabbath day's walk" to get there.


Saturday ended at sundown. Jesus probably spent  this “early the first of the week,” that is Saturday night, at Lazarus’ or Simon the Leper’s house. 

 

The next day the Triumphal Entry takes place and is indeed on a Sunday.


For Parallel Texts see Appendix A

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