Was the Last Supper a Passover (Seder) celebration? Many assume it was. However this view has the problem that Jesus was killed the day after the Passover lambs were sacrificed, losing much of the symbolism that is contained in the idea that Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb.
In fact, when looking at the sequence of events, and how they are described in the various Gospels, and taking into account the only possible dates in history that match with the tradition that Jesus was killed on a Friday, things fall naturally into place.
On this basis, below I have given a table giving my take on the timing of the events surrounding the Last Supper and Jesus’ death and resurrection.
|Hour||Roman Day||Jewish Day||Event||Reference||Comment|
2nd April 33
|Nisan 13||Disciples ask where to prepare the feast||Matt 26:17
Mark 14:12 (Luke 22:7,8)
The first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
Mark (and Luke) is telling his readers that this is the Festival during which the Passover Lamb is sacrificed. He is not saying that it was to be sacrificed on the first day of the festival.
– start of Feast of Unleavened Bread
– Preparation Day (for Passover)
|Last Supper taken together (cleaning out leavened bread?)||Matt 26:20
Some thought Judas was going to buy what was needed for the festival, so the festival was still to come.
There is no mention of lamb being eaten at this meal, which is surprising if it was a Seder.
John tells us it was before the feast.
|Night||Jesus and Disciples go to Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives||Matt 26:36 (Luke 22:39; Mark 14:32)|
|Jesus is arrested||Matt 26:57|
3rd April 33
|Jesus is tried||John 18:28
|The Jewish leaders wanted to eat the Passover meal, which hadn’t yet happened.|
|Afternoon||Jesus is crucified /
Passover lambs are killed
|Jesus body placed in tomb||John 19:31
|It was still the day of preparation.|
– Passover, and
– Normal Sabbath
|Passover Meal celebrated|
4th April 33
|Guard posted||Matt 27:62||The day after the day of preparation.|
|Evening||Nisan 16||Jesus in the tomb|
5th April 33
|Jesus rises / Women go to tomb||Mark 16:1-2|
For details of dating of Jesus’ birth (in 5BC), his age when he began his ministry (aged about 33) and his death (in 33AD) see: