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Mark 14:12 the first day of the Feast

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, December 16, 2023

12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

The Feast of Unleavened Bread really began, according to God’s command to Moses, the day after the Passover. The Lord said to Moses: “The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast” (Leviticus 23:5-6). Since the month began with the new moon, the night between the fourteenth and fifteenth was a full moon.

It’s obvious from New Testament and modern usage that “Unleavened Bread” also came to include the Passover the day (really, the evening) before. This verse tells us this: “Unleavened Bread” is the name given, but it was also “when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb.” That means that it was, strictly speaking, Passover, and not the festival that started the next day. There are plenty of people today and in every generation that think everyone must be strict about the names of these festivals, but Bible passages like this one are never in error. Mark is not telling us how to speak, he is telling us how people of his time spoke. It would be wise for us to listen to a first-century Jew about the way he talked instead of insisting we know better than he would about how a first-century Jew would talk.

In this particular year, the Passover landed on a Thursday. We know this for two reasons. First: The Passover happened on the night before the Sabbath (Mark 15:42), which would have been a Friday. Therefore Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and the Passover was the night before. Second, Jesus rose on a Sunday, “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2), which was the third day, in Jewish reckoning, since his death (Luke 24:21). This counts Friday as the first day of his death, Saturday as the second day, and Sunday as the third day.

On Passover night, “Jewish men were required to eat the evening meal within the city of Jerusalem.” The disciples wondered where this should be, since the meal would take a long time to eat (often lasting from sundown until midnight). Was there a certain inn, or restaurant, or home, that they should go to?

We see from this exchange that whatever Jesus had in mind, he had not shared his plans with his disciples. This was especially important when we consider the betrayal by Judas. Jesus did not come out and tell them all, including Judas, where he planned to have this meal. He knew he would be arrested soon; this very night, in fact. But he did not want to be disturbed until the right moment came.

Jesus wanted to celebrate the Passover with his companions. It was the last time he would celebrate the Passover, and this was a marvelous reminder of the way God rescued his people from their bondage to slavery in Egypt. Despite a despot who hardened his heart against them leaving, and terrible circumstances, God moved events at that time so that, by time the tenth plague approached Egypt, he forewarned his people that they would soon be leaving. The Lord completely arranged things so that while Pharaoh’s heart was at its hardest point, the people of Israel were setting aside their lambs for the feast and the celebration when they could leave the land—at Pharaoh’s order!—even though he thought he was tightening his iron grip on them more and more. Now the Lord would bring about an even greater salvation through Jesus than he had worked through Moses. Satan would lose all of his power over sin; the grave itself would become powerless before Jesus and his authority. Sin would be atoned for with the blood of the Lamb of God. Moses had painted blood on the posts of the doors, the doors that led out of Egypt, standing below like a man does and looking up. Jesus would paint his blood on the posts of the cross, the door that leads out of every grave, and he did it hanging above and looking down; hanging there as a man, but looking down on mankind as God.

And Jesus wanted to have time for prayer in Gethsemane. This is twenty verses away in this chapter. He needed to consult with his Father and pour out his heart in prayer. He needed to tell his Father and us (we who humbly read the text of his prayer) that he was already in agony over this sacrifice, and that he wanted, desired, and prayed that there would be any other way to accomplish what needed to be done. He knew the will of his Father, and he submitted to that will. But before the terrible hours of his suffering, he spent hours in prayer.

And Jesus wanted time to institute the Lord’s Supper. In the text, this is just ten verses away. The Passover, as wonderful an illustration and a memorial as it is, needed to give way to a greater celebration. The Lord’s Supper is certainly a memorial as the Passover was. Jesus will say, “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). But it is more. It also confers forgiveness to those who receive it by the real presence of his true body and blood, as he says: “This (the cup of wine) is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). There is surely more to say about this and the forgiveness he offers and gives to us, but we will wait a few verses and read about it again, and as we thrill at the gift our Savior Jesus gives in his body and blood.

As for now, it was time to make preparations. “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). And more than that: “Every valley shall be raised up” (for the deficiencies of our sinfulness and sins of omission will be smoothed over), “every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged placed a plain” (for the jutting piles of our sins will be leveled and annihilated by his pure and perfect sacrifice), “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed” (Isaiah 40:4-5). The glory of God’s forgiveness, prophesied, fulfilled, and given to us all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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