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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 20: Matthew 26:1-30, by Kevin M. Williams

However, within Israel—and even to this day—Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread are synonymous with one another. To the Jewish mind, Passover is an eight-day observance, including the Feast of Unleavened bread and vice-versa. The disciples were not being incongruent. They were being very Jewish.

And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover (Matthew 26:18-19).

The other gospel accounts give us an even deeper look into the Messiah’s powerfully prophetic gifts and another proof of His Messianic claim.

But this verse is the first that brings us to a logistic quagmire into which some become mired. To prepare for the Passover Seder meant, in part, to go to the Temple, sacrifice the required lamb, bring it home and eat it with the rest of the ritual meal. If this is the case, then Yeshua could not have been crucified on the Passover—Nisan 14. The very next verse reads, “Now when evening had come, He was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples” (Matthew 26:20).

In the Jewish calendar, almost every holy day (Rosh Hoshanna, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc…) begins on sundown of the previous day—according to our western calendars. Ergo, if your calendar shows Yom Kippur on a Friday, it actually begins at sundown on Thursday.

The only holy day that follows a different practice is Passover—setting it apart from all other feast day observances. The Paschal lamb was sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan—and there were hundreds of thousands of lambs slaughtered, making it an all day affair—so that it would be eaten after sundown, the beginning of the 15th. Exodus 12:5-6 reads, “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.”

The Hebrew word “twilight” is erev, whereas the word for “night” is lila. Erev occurred between 3:00 p.m. (the 9th hour) and 6:00 p.m. The lamb in Exodus 12:6 is to offered up at erev—twilight. The Hebrew is quite specific.

So too is the Greek. In Matthew 26:20 it says that “when evening had come.” The Greek word is opsios, or twilight, the period between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Nisan 14 is in fact Passover, but only inasmuch as this is the day when the Paschal lamb was slaughtered. But by the instruction of the Torah, it was consumed in one’s home after sunset, making it the beginning of the next day, the 15th of Nisan.

For some this raises the question, “How then can Yeshua be our Paschal sacrifice?”

The answer resides in the Jewish tradition and helps us see why understanding the New Testament from a Hebraic perspective is so useful in absorbing the entirety of the message of the Bible.

The Nisan 14 sacrifice was known as the first Chagigah (pronounced ha-gee-gah). But there was a second Chagigah as well on Nisan 15 at the 9th hour. In Orthodox Jewish homes to this day, the Passover meal is a two-night observance, known as the 1st and 2nd Chagigah, and the Seders are identical.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2006

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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