Jesus’ Last Passover Was “On the First Day of the Unleaveneds”
The parallel account of Jesus’ last Passover as recorded in the Gospel of Mark makes it clear that the Passover day, Nisan 14, was recognized as “the first day of the unleaveneds.” In Mark 14:12 we read, “And on the first day of the unleaveneds....” This is a literal translation of the Greek. As we have learned, “the first day of the unleaveneds” is not a phrase designating the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, but specifically refers to the Passover day, Nisan 14, in which all leaven was removed and the first unleavened bread was eaten.
As did Luke in his Gospel, Mark also tells us that this was the day that the Passover lambs were killed. Continuing in Mark 14:12 in the KJV, the next phrase reads, “when they killed the Passover....” The words “they killed” are translated from the Greek verb ethuon. The specific meaning of this word is most revealing. As a verb, ethuon reflects the following case and action: third person plural—they; imperfect tense—meaning an action not yet completed, but taking place at that very moment—were killing; active indicative—being done personally at that moment by the subject—they. A literal translation of the Greek text would be as follows: “And on the first day of the unleaveneds, when they were killing the Passover lambs....”
It is critical to note that Mark’s inspired words as preserved in the Greek text show that the Passover lambs were being killed at that very moment as Jesus sent His disciples into Jerusalem.
Mark was a Levite. Therefore, his testimony becomes ironclad, with no room for variation. He fully understood on which day and at what time the Passover lambs had to be killed for the domestic Passover.
The word “they” in this verse can only refer to those who were killing the Passover lambs at that precise moment on Nisan 14, at the beginning of the day, just after sunset. “They” could not possibly be referring to the priests at the temple, because the temple-sacrificed Passover lambs were not slain until the next afternoon—late on the 14th. The only logical conclusion is that “they” refers to those who were killing the Passover lambs at houses or inns where the domestic Passover would be kept. The lambs were being killed at the beginning of the 14th according to the statutes and ordinances of Exodus 12. This was the exact moment that Jesus sent His disciples into Jerusalem to prepare the Passover—“when they were killing the Passover lambs....”
Properly translated, this verse in the Gospel of Mark has profound meaning. When Mark’s account is combined with Luke’s account, the impact is even greater. Here are Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7 combined in a literal translation: “On the first day of the unleaveneds, in which it was obligatory to kill the Passover lambs, when they were killing the Passover, His disciples asked Him, ‘Where do You desire that we should go and prepare the Passover that You may eat?’ ”
Furthermore, these verses in the Gospels of Mark and Luke clearly show that the domestic Passover was a common practice. It is also apparent in these accounts that the disciples were accustomed to keeping the domestic Passover, as indicated by their question, “Where do You desire that we should go and prepare the Passover that You may eat?” Apparently, Jesus had not previously instructed His disciples to make arrangements for the Passover. They knew that it would soon be time to eat the Passover, but they did not know where Jesus wanted them to make the necessary preparations. Since the killing of the domestic Passover lambs was happening before their very eyes, the disciples asked this urgent question, “Where do You desire that we go and prepare the Passover so that You may eat?” What was Jesus’ answer in these Gospel accounts?
Jesus did not command Peter and John to go to the temple to sacrifice a Passover lamb. His command was to follow a certain man to a certain house and to prepare the Passover at that house. Nothing could be clearer!
When we examine all three Gospel records of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, it is obvious that Jesus kept the domestic Passover on the 14th—“the first day of the unleaveneds.”
Matthew’s account: “Now on the first of the unleaveneds, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You desire that we prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near; I will keep the Passover with My disciples at your house.’ ” ’ Then the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and prepared the Passover” (Matt. 26:17-19).
Mark’s Account: “And on the first day of the unleaveneds, when they were killing the Passover lambs, His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You desire that we go and prepare, so that You may eat the Passover?’ And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the city, and you shall meet a man carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. And whatever house he shall enter, say to the master of the house that the Teacher says, “Where is the guest chamber, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” And he shall show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. There prepare for us.’ And His disciples went away: and when they came into the city, they found it exactly as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover” (Mark 14:12-16).
Luke’s Account: “Then came the day of the unleaveneds in which it was obligatory to kill the Passover lambs. And He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us that we may eat.’ But they said to Him, ‘Where do You desire that we prepare it?’ And He said to them, ‘Watch, and when you come into the city, you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters; and you shall say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest chamber, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ ” And he shall show you a large upper room furnished; there prepare’ ” (Luke 22:7-13).
Jesus’ own words to His disciples are overwhelming evidence that “the first day of the unleaveneds” was, in fact, the Passover day— not the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Moreover, the context of these Scriptures proves it was the domestic 14th Passover. The word “Passover” is used 11 times in these three accounts; “the house” is mentioned three times. Not once is the temple mentioned, nor is a temple-killed Passover lamb remotely indicated in these accounts. There can be no doubt that Jesus kept the domestic Passover on the 14th day of the first month, as commanded in Exodus 12.
The Gospel accounts do not specify whether the disciples’ preparations included the killing of the Passover lamb. It is possible that Peter and John killed the lamb themselves. However, since everything was “furnished and ready,” it is more likely that the master of the house had already killed the lamb by the time Peter and John arrived. In that case, they would have begun roasting the lamb and setting out the other foods for the meal, making sure that the unleavened bread and wine were ready. They completed whatever was necessary to prepare the Passover meal. Luke records, “Then they went and found everything exactly as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover” (Luke 22:13).
The Gospel records leave no doubt that Jesus and the apostles kept the domestic Passover on the 14th of Nisan. This is the day called “the first day of the unleaveneds” by Matthew, Mark and Luke. At the time of Jesus’ last Passover, the 14th day of the first month was commonly known to all Jews as “the first day of the unleaveneds.” Even those Jews who kept the 15th Passover recognized Nisan 14 as the beginning of “the unleaveneds”—because all leaven was removed by the morning of the 14th, and unleavened bread was prepared and eaten on that day. The practice of that time forbade any Jew to eat leavened bread after 11 AM on the morning of the 14th. Therefore, even those Jews who did not eat the Passover meal on the night of the 14th were required to eat only unleavened bread during the day portion of the 14th.
There is no question that in New Testament times the Jews acknowledged the original Passover day—Nisan 14—as “the first of the unleaveneds.” Yet in the centuries that followed, the original significance of Nisan 14 was altogether lost. While in New Testament times the domestic 14th Passover was apparently the predominant practice, it was ultimately replaced by the temple-centered 15th Passover. Modern Jews observe solely a 15th Passover and view the 14th of Nisan only as a preparation day for their traditional Seder meal on the 15th—the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. By replacing the 14th Passover with a traditional Seder meal at the beginning of the 15th, the Jews have shortened the original eight-day festival to only a seven-day observance. These seven days of unleavened bread are now known to Jews as “Passover,” rather than as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Josephus, who wrote his Jewish histories over a period of many years, has recorded this transition from the original eight-day festival of “the unleaveneds” to the shorter Jewish observance of seven days.
Josephus Documents the Change From the Eight-Day Festival to a Seven-Day Observance
The transition from a biblical eight-day festival to a Jewish seven-day observance is documented in Josephus’ contrasting descriptions of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they were observed during his lifetime. Josephus shows that there was a change from the original designation of two separate feasts, totaling eight days, to only a seven-day festival. He also shows that the use of unleavened bread was mandatory for the Passover day, as well as for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. His narration is most revealing:
“But when the fourteenth day was come, and all were ready to depart, they offered the sacrifice, and purified their houses with the blood, using a bunch of hyssop for that purpose; and when they had supped, they burnt the remainder of the flesh, as just ready to depart. Whence it is that we do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha, which signifies the feast of the passover, because on that day God passed us over, and sent the plague upon the Egyptians; for the destruction of the first-born came upon the Egyptians that night...” (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 11, Ch. XIV, Sec. 6).
In this narration based on Exodus 12, Josephus clearly depicts the 14th of Nisan as commemorating the event of God’s passing over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt. He calls this commemorative observance the festival of “Pascha,” or Passover. He does not call the Feast of Unleavened Bread the “Passover” at this point. In the next section of his exposition, after his narration of the Exodus itself, we find this statement about the entire eight days: “Whence it is that, in memory of the want we were in, we keep a feast for eight days, which is called the feast of unleavened bread” (Ibid., Ch. XV, Sec. 1). Here, he relates that the Passover day was included with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as one of “the unleaveneds.” By relating that there were eight days of unleavened bread, Josephus was not attempting to promote a new practice that was contrary to the Scriptures. Instead, Josephus was relating that the first Passover, as recorded in Exodus 12, was in fact an additional day of unleavened bread.
These two accounts by Josephus clearly show that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were originally understood to be separate feasts with separate meanings. Unleavened bread was required for both feasts, which together totaled eight days. However, Josephus’ later accounts show that this original distinction was beginning to be blurred, as reflected by a change in terminology and designation. The following narration depicts the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a combined observance: “Now, upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread, which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called Passover, and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt...” (Ibid., Bk. XVII, Ch. IX, Sec. 3; bold emphasis added).
Recounting the same event in Wars of The Jews, Josephus again records this change in terminology: “And indeed, at the feast of unleavened bread, which was now at hand, and is called by the Jews the Passover...” (Bk. II, Ch. I, Sec. 3; bold emphasis added).
By this time, the Jews were calling the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread “the Passover.” Josephus’ writings clearly demonstrate this change in the name of the festival. When Josephus wrote this account in 90 AD, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was commonly called “Passover” by the Jews. The meaning of the name Passover had shifted from the 14th of Nisan to the following seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. As a result, the Jews in succeeding generations lost the knowledge of Nisan 14 as the first of “the unleaveneds.”
The Jews’ rejection of Nisan 14 as the Passover day not only shortened their observance of the festival of “the unleaveneds,” it also profoundly affected the Jewish observance of Pentecost. In the New Testament, we find that the Jews were gathered at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost on the same day as were the early Christians—the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1-11). This observance of Pentecost clearly shows that both Christians and Jews had counted from the same Wave Sheaf Day. At that time, the majority of the Jews still acknowledged Nisan 14 as “the first of the unleaveneds.” Later, the Jews forsook the true Passover Day, no longer observing Nisan 14 as a commanded feast day, and consequently they ceased to reckon Nisan 14 as one of “the unleaveneds.” This failure to observe the true Passover resulted in eliminating Nisan 14 as a day to be included in determining the Wave Sheaf Day. The various Jewish sects began to follow different interpretations of God’s command for the wave sheaf, which led to the setting of a number of different dates for the Wave Sheaf Day and consequently for the observance of Pentecost.
Some of these Jewish sects placed the Wave Sheaf Day on a fixed date, claiming that “the morrow after the Sabbath” meant the day after the first or last annual Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Those Jews who based their count on Nisan 21—the last annual Sabbath, or holy day—always observed their Wave Sheaf Day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Those Jews who based their count on Nisan 15—the first holy day—always observed their Wave Sheaf Day during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but they did not observe it on the first day of the week unless Nisan 15 happened to fall on a weekly Sabbath. Neither of these Jewish interpretations is in accord with the Scriptures, which reveal that the Wave Sheaf Day—“the day after the Sabbath”—is always the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
In most years, the weekly Sabbath which precedes the Wave Sheaf Day will also fall during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. However, in years when the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 21, falls on a weekly Sabbath, it cannot be used to determine the Wave Sheaf Day. In such years, it is the preceding weekly Sabbath—Nisan 14, the Passover day, “the first of the unleaveneds”— which must be used to determine the Wave Sheaf Day. The biblical commands in Leviticus 23 and their original fulfillment in Joshua five make it clear that in these years the Wave Sheaf Day will be “the day after the Passover.” In the following chapter, we will see that in such years the Passover day is for Christians today “the first of the unleaveneds”—as it was in every year for both Christians and Jews in early New Testament times.
When the Wave Sheaf Day Is “The Morrow After the Passover”
The book of Joshua records the fulfillment of the first Wave Sheaf Day by the children of Israel following their first Passover after entering the Promised Land. In Joshua five we read, “And the children of Israel camped in Gilgal and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the old grain of the land on the next day after the Passover, unleavened cakes and roasted new grain in the same day. And the manna stopped on the next day after they had eaten the grain of the land. And there was no more manna for the children of Israel, but they ate the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (verses 10-12).
This account is most significant. According to God’s command in the book of Leviticus, the children of Israel were forbidden to eat any grain that grew in the promised land until they had offered the wave sheaf. God had specifically commanded, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest of it, then you shall bring the premier sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD to be accepted for you. On the next day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.... And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched grain, nor green ears until the same day, until you have brought an offering to your God. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:10-11, 14).
Thus, when Joshua tells us that the children of Israel ate “of the old grain of the land on the next day after the Passover, unleavened cakes and roasted new grain in the same day,” this means that the day after the Passover was the Wave Sheaf Day. (For a full explanation of the original fulfillment of the wave sheaf, see Understanding God’s Command for the Wave Sheaf by Dwight Blevins.)
Since the Wave Sheaf Day is always “the morrow after the Sabbath,” it is obvious that the Passover day in Joshua five— Israel’s first Passover in the promised land—fell on a weekly Sabbath. Joshua’s account clearly demonstrates that when the Passover day falls on a weekly Sabbath, it is that weekly Sabbath which determines the Wave Sheaf Day. In such years, the only weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread falls on the last holy day—Nisan 21. Using the last weekly Sabbath to determine the Wave Sheaf Day would place the day outside the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on Nisan 22—thus nullifying the significance of the wave sheaf in relation to the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
As we have seen in Joshua five, it is contrary to Scripture to place the Wave Sheaf Day outside the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The original fulfillment of the wave sheaf in the Old Testament, and its ultimate fulfillment by Jesus Christ in the New, make it absolutely clear that the Wave Sheaf Day is always the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In those years when the Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, the Wave Sheaf Day—“the next day after the Sabbath”—will always be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread— Nisan 15. When the Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, Nisan 15 is the only first day of the week within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In such years, the Passover day—Nisan 14—is a full day of “unleavenedness” because of the demands of the Sabbath commandment that no work be done.
To fulfill the requirements of the Fourth Commandment, no work should be done on the weekly Sabbath. Thus, in years when the Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, all leaven would be removed and destroyed by sunset of the 13th, and unleavened bread would be prepared and baked before the Passover day begins. In such years, the Passover day is, by requirement of law, an additional day of “unleavenedness.” It is truly “the first day of the unleaveneds” in determining the Wave Sheaf Day. When the Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, it is included in determining “the morrow after the Sabbath”—and the Wave Sheaf Day will always be the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the Scriptures command.
Some Rabbis are Beginning to Realize That Nisan 14 is an “Unleavened Bread Day”
In recent years, some rabbis have begun to rethink and reevaluate their traditional view of Nisan 14. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, dean of Ohr Torah Institutions and chief rabbi of Efrat, Israel, wrote a column in the January 15, 1994, Jerusalem Post entitled “Blood and Redemption.” The article concerns the relationship of Nisan 14 to the paschal lamb sacrifice and to the seven days of unleavened bread called matza: “Nonetheless, nothing can change the fact that a fundamental difference exists between New York [in reference to the entire Diaspora] and Jerusalem—a difference expressed in the very nature of the festival discussed in this week’s portion, Bo [the name of his weekly column].
“What I’m referring to goes beyond the extra Diaspora day at the end of Pessah [Nisan 22]. Surprisingly enough, few people realize that here in Israel we also have an extra day, but it arrives before the start of the festival, the 14th day of Nisan. [The festival starts on the 15th.] Unfortunately, its unique feature is generally overlooked in modern times.
“[T]he Passover sequence ... begins with the command for the Israelites to sacrifice the paschal lamb, which must then be eaten in haste; we are told how God will pass through Egypt and kill every firstborn, and that the blood of the slaughtered lamb is to be placed on the door posts of Israelite homes as a sign for God to spare the inhabitants. Then the Almighty declares: ‘This day shall be for you a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival to God...’ as we’ve quoted above.
“To which day is God referring? At first, [this] sounds as if it refers to the day when the paschal lamb is sacrificed, but as we keep reading, ambiguity surfaces. ‘Eat matza for seven days. By the first day, you must have your homes cleared of all leaven...’ (Ex. 12:15).
“Now it seems that the earlier verse with its reference to the day, ‘You shall remember,’ could actually refer to the entire Pessah festival [the seven days].
“[Rabbi] Rashi concludes that ‘this day of remembering’ refers to the day the Jews left Egypt, the morning after the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, the 15th of Nisan. But the problem with this conclusion is that the 15th of Nisan is the beginning of a seven-day festival, so why is it called ‘this day’ and not ‘these days’?
“In contrast, Rabbi Ibn Ezra says the day which the Torah enjoins us to remember is the 14th, the day before the festival begins. It’s an opinion that can be traced to the school of [Rabbi] Yishmael, whose discussion in the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 5a) of the meaning of the verse, ‘but on the first day you shall destroy all the leaven within your homes,’ means that the first day referred to here is actually the 14th, the day before the seven-day festival begins.
“This difference of opinion leads to the speculation that we’re really talking about two festivals, whose distinct characteristics contain a subtle difference for the Israeli [in the land of Israel] and the Diaspora Jewries: The 14th day of Nisan is the one-day festival of the Paschal sacrifice, the paschal lamb (hag haPesah); the 15th commences a seven -day festival of matzot and redemption (hag haMatzot).”
These rabbis are correct in interpreting the phrase “by the first day” in Exodus 12:15 as referring to the 14th day of the first month. They are also correct that the Passover day, Nisan 14, was a separate festival preceding the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread—“This day shall be to you for a memorial.” Until the 14th Passover ceased to be observed, Nisan 14 was recognized as an additional day of unleavened bread. During New Testament times, the 14th was commonly called “the first day of the unleaveneds,” as is clearly shown by the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. For the Jews in Judea in New Testament times, including Jesus Christ and His disciples, Nisan 14 was the first day of eating unleavened bread and the first day of unleavened homes. Even those Jews who observed a 15th Passover ate only unleavened bread after 11 AM on the day portion of Nisan 14. As we have seen in the Jews’ own writings, all leaven was removed and destroyed on the morning of the 14th day of the first month—the Passover Day! That is why Josephus recorded that eight days of unleavened bread were being observed by the Jews during his lifetime.
What Rabbi Riskin wrote further substantiates the biblical evidence that Nisan 14 was originally recognized as “the first day of the unleaveneds.” However, as Rabbi Rashi’s words show, this knowledge was lost to the Diaspora Jews—Jewish exiles who were carried captive into other lands. The Diaspora Jews observe Nisan 22, rather than Nisan 14, as an added festival day. Rabbi Riskin’s article gives us an idea of the differences in practice between the Jews in Palestine and the Jews in the Diaspora. While the Diaspora Jews traditionally observe Nisan 22, the day following the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Palestinian Jews are beginning to recognize Nisan 14 as an additional day to be observed.
The knowledge that Nisan 14 is the true day of the Paschal lamb would not have been lost to the Jews if they had remained faithful to the Scriptures instead of following the rabbis and their traditions of Judaism. As we have seen, the Jews’ forsaking of the 14th Passover and eliminating it from “the unleaveneds” led to the added error of misinterpreting God’s command for the wave sheaf offering, which resulted in great confusion and division in the Jewish observance of Pentecost. If we, as Christians, do not follow the commands of the Scriptures and the example of Jesus Christ and the apostles, we will also end up in confusion and division.
Jesus and the Apostles Acknowledged
the Passover Day as “The First Day of the Unleaveneds”
During His ministry, Jesus strongly denounced the various Jewish sects because they made void the laws and commandments of God through their traditions. However, we do not find that Jesus ever denounced the observance of the Passover day, Nisan 14, as “the first of the unleaveneds.” On the contrary, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all testify that Jesus and the apostles fully accepted and observed the Passover day as “the first day of the unleaveneds.” While this phrase also pertained to the Pharisees and other religious factions of Judaism, the Gospel writers chose the expression because it had meaning for early Christians—and to pointedly show that Nisan 14 was indeed “the first of the unleaveneds.” Even Luke—who wrote his Gospel for Gentile converts—uses this expression, showing that all early Christians recognized Nisan 14 as “the first day of the unleaveneds.” There is not one word in the entire New Testament which condemns the practice of including the Passover day as “the first of the unleaveneds.” Jesus and the disciples openly acknowledged the Passover day as “the first of the unleaveneds” when they ate unleavened bread for the Passover meal on the night of the 14th.
The last Passover that the apostles kept with Jesus was clearly observed on “the first of the unleaveneds,” as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Gospel writers were specifically referring to Nisan 14, using a common term which all Christians and Jews of that time understood. When we understand that the Passover day is numbered in Scripture as an unleavened bread day, there is no question that it should be included in determining the Wave Sheaf Day. Including the Passover day in our determination ensures that the Wave Sheaf Day will always fall within the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the Scriptures require. By following this biblical principle, we will be able to correctly count to Pentecost, and to observe the true fiftieth day—the day that God Himself has made holy and has commanded us to keep.
Concerning the Eating of Leavened Bread on the Passover Day
Understanding that the Passover day was observed by Jesus Christ and the disciples as “the first of the unleaveneds” may lead to questions in the minds of some Christians concerning the eating of leavened bread on the day portion of the Passover day—Nisan 14.
It is clear that in the Old Testament, unleavened bread was commanded to be eaten for the Passover meal on the night of the 14th, but there is no clear command concerning the remainder of the 14th. The commands of God state only that all leaven must be removed and destroyed before the beginning of the 15th. By the commandment of God, there are only seven days in the Feast of Unleavened Bread—not eight. However, the Passover is an additional feast day—which when combined with the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, makes a total of eight days.
It is evident that in New Testament times the Passover day was, by practice, an unleavened bread day, as recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. While there is no command in the Old Testament which forbids eating leavened bread on the day portion of the Passover day, it was the common practice in Judea to collect all the leaven on the 13th of Nisan and to destroy the leaven on the morning of the 14th. In view of this practice, it is unlikely that Jesus and the disciples ate any leavened bread during the day portion of the Passover day. While the Gospels do not specifically tell us, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus and the disciples observed the entirety of Nisan 14 as an unleavened day. Such a practice would be in accord with the first Passover observance in Egypt. The Old Testament records show that only unleavened bread was eaten on the day portion of the first Passover day, the 14th of Nisan.
Today, our practices for the Passover day should be in accord with the New Testament practice observed by Jesus and the apostles, as recorded in the Gospel accounts. Since Jesus did not sin in any way, at any time, Jesus Christ and the apostles were clearly honoring God by observing the Passover day as an additional day of unleavened bread. If they had not observed this practice, the Gospel writers would not have called the Passover day “the first of the unleaveneds.” There is no question that we should follow the example and practice of Jesus Christ and the apostles and observe the Passover day as a separate day of unleavenedness in addition to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
After understanding what “the first day of the unleaveneds” means, the author cannot personally, in good conscience, eat leavened bread on the day portion of the Passover day after having eaten unleavened bread, symbolizing the broken body of Jesus Christ, in observance of the Passover. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). In light of what is recorded in the Gospels about Nisan 14 as “the first day of the unleaveneds,” the author believes that it is entirely correct to observe the Passover day as a complete day of unleavenedness. This conclusion is not based on the author’s idea, opinion or private doctrine. Rather, it is based upon Old and New Testament Scriptures which show that this was the practice of Jesus and the apostles.
Those who insist on eating leavened bread on the day portion of the 14th should ask: “Is it pleasing to God to eat leavened bread after having eaten unleavened bread during the Passover to symbolize partaking of the broken sinless body of Jesus Christ?”
We Must Do that Which Is Pleasing to God
The teachings of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament, show that Christians are required to fulfill more than the letter of God’s laws. Jesus made that quite clear when He said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way that you shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The apostle Paul also said that we “should serve in newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6).
Christians, who are under the New Covenant, are required to obey in the spirit, and are commanded to follow the example of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:21)—and the apostles as they followed Christ (I Cor. 11:1). What was Jesus’ example? How did He live His life? How did He obey God the Father?
The New Testament clearly shows us Christ’s example. He always did those things which pleased God the Father. Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I AM, and I do nothing from Myself, but as My Father has taught Me, these things I speak. And He who has sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, because I am always doing those things which are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28-29).
Jesus Christ revealed that keeping the letter of the law does not satisfy the requirements of the New Covenant. After telling His disciples the parable of the servant who did all that he was commanded to do, Jesus said, “Likewise you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants, because we have done that which we were obligated to do’ ” (Luke 17:10).
As true Christians, we are required to do more than observe the commandments of God in the letter of the law. If we keep the commandments of God in the letter only, we are “unprofitable servants,” because we have obeyed only that which was commanded. Yes, we may still be the servants of God, but as Jesus said, we are “unprofitable servants.” In order to be more than “unprofitable servants,” we must do and practice the things which are pleasing to God the Father and Jesus Christt, as the apostle John writes: “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, then we have confidence toward God. And whatever we may ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and practice those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22).
© 1995, 2008
Fred R. Coulter
Christian Biblical Church of God P.O. Box 1442
Hollister, CA 95024-1442
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Post Office Box 125
K6V 5V2 Canada
Post Office Box 8224
Witham CM8 1WZ
Post Office Box 73
Republic of South Africa
Post Office Box 494
Rep. of South Africa
Iglesia de Dios Cristiana y Bíblica
PO Box 831241
San Antonio, TX 78283