Passover.—2001Translations Commentary-+ JW’S Memorial- The Lord’s Evening Meal Plus Open

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The Passover and
The Lord’s Evening Meal

When we first started this document, we thought that we knew quite a bit about the Passover, but after much research and many letters from readers, we realized that few of us actually understood the times, dates, and significances involved.

What most call ‘the day of Passover’ isn’t really a day at all; it’s a seven-day festival. For notice the first instructions from God on this, as found at Exodus 12:2, 3, 5-8 (LXX), ‘This will be your first month. It is to be the first one [in your] year. So tell the whole gathering of the children of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man should select a lamb (depending on the size of his family) for his household … So, choose a perfect male, yearling lamb from [your herd] of lambs and kids, and keep it nearby until the fourteenth day of this month. Then the whole group of the children of Israel will slaughter it that evening. And they will gather the blood and put it on the top and both sides of the doorframes of the houses where they will be eating [the lamb]. Then that night, they will roast the flesh over a fire and eat it with yeast-free bread and bitter herbs.’

And we read in verses 15 and 16, ‘Now, you will eat yeast-free bread for seven days. And starting on the first day, you must remove all yeast from your homes. And if someone eats yeast between the first and seventh days, that person must be destroyed in Israel. The first day will be called holy, and the seventh day will be your holy day. You aren’t to do any hired work then. The only work that you may do will be the things that you need to [survive].’

So from the above, we can see that the Passover started after sundown on Nisan 14, and that’s when the Israelites were to start eating a meal with yeast-free bread, which they were to do every day for seven days. However, the lamb was to be taken to the Temple and sacrificed on the following day, then the portions which were not offered to God and the Priest were taken home and prepared (cooked). So, although the Passover festival ran for seven days (until the 21st), the actual Passover sacrifice was eaten on Nisan 15.

Thereafter, God’s people apparently gave names to each of these days, and Nisan 15 was called Passover, but Nisan 14, which was the ‘holy day,’ was referred to as the Day of Preparation (of the lamb). It was on this day that Jesus instituted his ‘evening meal,’ and he as ‘God’s Lamb’ was slaughtered. We can clearly see this from the following scriptures:

Matthew 27:62-27:63– Then the next day, after the Preparation, the Chief Priests and Pharisees gathered and came before Pilate, saying, ‘Lord, we remembered that while he was alive that impostor said, Yet, in three days I will be raised.’

John 18:28– Early the next morning, they led Jesus from Caiaphas’ [home] to the Governor’s Palace, but they didn’t go inside, because they didn’t want to become unclean (so they could eat the Passover).

John 19:14  Now, it was about the sixth hour of the day of Preparation for the Passover. And [Pilate] said to the Judeans, ‘See, your King!’

Yet, the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke would seem to contradict the above scriptures and indicate that the day Jesus told his disciples to prepare for the Passover, was in fact the day of Preparation. However, notice that no lamb was mentioned as being slaughtered, and the accounts don’t speak of a lamb being eaten at the meal, for Jesus himself was to become the lamb that was to be slaughtered on the following afternoon.

Also, remember that the day of Preparation was the holy day, and thus a Sabbath; so Jews would typically prepare for this first meal of yeast-free bread, bitter herbs, and wine on the previous afternoon, and that was when they were to remove all the yeast from their homes.

But why did Jesus say at Luke 22:15I really wanted to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,’ if the Passover was the following day? Because this was the first Passover meal of seven that would be eaten that week… it just wasn’t the one that involved eating a lamb. For, due to a lack of refrigeration, meat wasn’t common at all meals back then. However, eating bread with some sort of ‘sop’ (olive oil?) was apparently common.

So, notice that this understanding hasn’t really changed anything, it just gives us a better idea why the first day of Passover (Preparation) was a ‘holy day,’ why no lamb was mentioned as being eaten during Jesus’ last supper, and why it was appropriate for him to be slaughtered on the following afternoon (when the Passover lambs were slaughtered). Therefore, the appropriate day for memorializing Jesus death remains Nisan 14, though perhaps there is a case for celebrating it every evening from Nisan 14 -21.

But why this date (or these dates)? Because Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 5:7, ‘Clean out that old yeast so you can be something new that isn’t fermenting, because the Anointed One (who is our Passover) has been sacrificed.’

So, as Passover was the week during which God accepted Israel as ‘His inheritance;’ and when He saved their firstborn with the blood of a lamb; and when He saved them from Egypt; the blood of the ‘Lamb of God’ was shed to inaugurate the New Sacred Agreement. And Jesus himself selected the first day of Passover to celebrate the Memorial of his sacrifice.

For more information on the Lord’s evening meal and who should partake, please see the link The New Covenant.

A Second Passover Date

Of course, attending the Passover Festival was a life-or-death matter for Israel, because God told them (at Numbers 9:13): ‘But if anyone is clean and is not away on a trip, he must be sure to keep the Passover. Any person who doesn’t offer the gift to Jehovah at the proper time is guilty, and must be cut off from his people.’

So we must assume that, as with the Passover, celebrating the Lord’s Evening Meal at the proper time is very important for Christians.

However, unlike the pagan peoples who lived around them, the Israelites were not worshipers of the gods of astrology, so they weren’t as involved (as were other ancient peoples) in making celestial observations. And so; since the calculations to arrive at the correct Passover date (the 14th day of their first lunar month) can be difficult to determine at times (as is testified to by the different dates selected by different religious groups in our day), there was apparently some allowance for error.

And also; when people were unable to observe the Passover – as when they were ceremonially unclean, away on a trip, or whatever – they were allowed to celebrate it 28-days later, on the evening of the full moon. Instructions concerning this are found at Numbers 9:10-12,-(Compare-Open searchgodsword.? nu+9:10 + MQFR-w93-2-1-w03-1-1.htm) where we read: ‘Tell the sons of Israel that whenever a man among you or your descendants has become unclean because of touching a dead body, or is far away on a journey, he must still keep the Passover to Jehovah, but he must do it on the evening of the fourteenth day of the second month. [The Passover sacrifice] must be offered then, and eaten with yeast-free bread and bitter herbs. They must not leave any of it over until the next day, nor may they break any of its bones. They must offer the sacrifice just as they would on the Passover.’

As the result; when circumstances don’t allow a Christian to celebrate the Memorial of the death of Jesus on the 14th day of Nisan on the Jewish calendar (which appears to be a most appropriate time for doing so); as was true of the Passover in ancient Israel, this may be celebrated twenty-eight days later, according to ancient custom and the Law. However, this apparently doesn’t disallow Christians to meet together and to partake of the sacred bread and wine on other occasions, as appears to be true of the Love Feasts of the First Century Christian congregation (see Jude 12, and 1 Corinthians 11:20, 26).

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In rare cases some unforeseen circumstance, such as illness or travel complications, might prevent a Christian from attending as he or she had planned. What should be done in such a situation?

During the celebration unleavened bread and red wine are passed, and those who have been anointed with God’s holy spirit and chosen for life in heaven partake. (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:28-30) If one who has each year been partaking is this year confined to a sickbed at home or in a hospital, elders of the local congregation will arrange for one of them to take some of the bread and wine to the sick one, discuss appropriate Bible texts on the subject, and serve the emblems. If an anointed Christian is away from his home congregation, he should arrange to go to a congregation in the area where he will be on that date.

In view of this, it would only be under very exceptional circumstances that an anointed Christian would have to celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal 30 days later (one lunar month), in line with the command at Numbers 9:10, 11 and the example at 2 Chronicles 30:1-3, 15.

Those who are of Jesus’ “other sheep” class, with the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth, are not under command to partake of the bread and the wine. (John 10:16) It is important to attend the annual celebration, but they do not partake of the emblems. So if one of them is sick or is traveling and thus not with any congregation that evening, he or she could privately read over appropriate scriptures (including the account of Jesus’ instituting the celebration) and pray for Jehovah’s blessing on the event worldwide. But in this case there is no need for any additional arrangement for a meeting or a special Biblical discussion a month later.

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Questions From Readers

If a Christian is sick or is traveling and thus not able to be at the Memorial celebration, should he celebrate it a month later?

In ancient Israel the Passover was held annually on the 14th day of the first month, named Nisan (or, Abib). But we find a special provision at Numbers 9:10, 11: “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘Although any man of you or of your generations should happen to be unclean by a soul or off on a distant journey, he too must prepare the passover sacrifice to Jehovah. In the second month [named Iyyar, or Ziv], on the fourteenth day between the two evenings, they should prepare it. Together with unfermented cakes and bitter greens they should eat it.’”

Notice that this did not establish two alternative dates for the Passover (Nisan 14 or Ziv 14), with any Israelite or household free to choose, depending on convenience. The provision of a Passover meal in the second month was limited. It was an exception for an Israelite who was ceremonially unclean on Nisan 14 or was at a great distance from where the regular celebration was held.

The only recorded instance of this being widely used was at the time when faithful King Hezekiah revived the observance of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. There was no time to get ready for the first month (the priests not being ready nor the people gathered), so it was held on the 14th day of the second month.—2 Chronicles 29:17; 30:1-5.

Other than such exceptional circumstances, the Jews kept the Passover on the date that God designated. (Exodus 12:17-20, 41, 42; Leviticus 23:5) Jesus and his disciples celebrated as the Law required, not treating this date casually. Luke reports: “The day of the unfermented cakes now arrived, on which the passover victim must be sacrificed; and [Jesus] dispatched Peter and John, saying: ‘Go and get the passover ready for us to eat.’”—Luke 22:7, 8.

On that occasion Jesus instituted the annual celebration that Christians know as the Lord’s Evening Meal. The value of Christians’ attending cannot be overemphasized. This is the most important event in the year for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jesus’ words show why; he said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Thus, each of Jehovah’s Witnesses should plan months ahead to keep the date of the celebration free of any other appointments. The Lord’s Evening Meal will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 6, 1993, after sundown locally.

In rare cases some unforeseen circumstance, such as illness or travel complications, might prevent a Christian from attending as he or she had planned. What should be done in such a situation?

During the celebration unleavened bread and red wine are passed, and those who have been anointed with God’s holy spirit and chosen for life in heaven partake. (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:28-30) If one who has each year been partaking is this year confined to a sickbed at home or in a hospital, elders of the local congregation will arrange for one of them to take some of the bread and wine to the sick one, discuss appropriate Bible texts on the subject, and serve the emblems. If an anointed Christian is away from his home congregation, he should arrange to go to a congregation in the area where he will be on that date.

In view of this, it would only be under very exceptional circumstances that an anointed Christian would have to celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal 30 days later (one lunar month), in line with the command at Numbers 9:10, 11 and the example at 2 Chronicles 30:1-3, 15.

Those who are of Jesus’ “other sheep” class, with the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth, are not under command to partake of the bread and the wine. (John 10:16) It is important to attend the annual celebration, but they do not partake of the emblems. So if one of them is sick or is traveling and thus not with any congregation that evening, he or she could privately read over appropriate scriptures (including the account of Jesus’ instituting the celebration) and pray for Jehovah’s blessing on the event worldwide. But in this case there is no need for any additional arrangement for a meeting or a special Biblical discussion a month later. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal—From The  FaithfulAndDiscreetSlave.htm

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