Passover – an Appointed Time for the Crucifixion?
Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t happen on just any day of the year…the timing is simply too hard to ignore. Was the particular day of his execution an appointed time or was it simply a 1-in-365 odds happenstance incident?
Nissan 15, Jesus was crucified on the first day of the Jewish Passover commemorating the event when the sacrifice of an innocent lamb had once been required of God for salvation from the slavery and tyranny of Egypt. Merriam-Webster defines a sacrifice as “an act of offering to a deity something precious.”
Determining whether or not the timing of the crucifixion at the Passover just coincidentally happened that day or if the timing had a deeper significance starts with a basic understanding of an appointed time. Clues are found in the story of how the Hebrew Law came to be given by God at Mt. Sinai.
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From the burning bush at the base of Mt. Sinai, God told Moses to return to Egypt after a 40-year exile. Along with his brother Aaron, they confronted the mighty Pharaoh with the clear and succinct message:
Ex 5:1 …”Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’”(NKJV)
Initially, Pharaoh was not willing to give up his slave labor force, but he paid a big price for taking that stance. Suffering through several plagues, Egypt’s ruler was finally looking to stop the misery and commanded, “‘Go, serve the Lord your God.”
Having an afterthought, he asked, “Exactly who is going with you?” Pharaoh realized he was about to make a big mistake if he let all the Hebrews leave. On the other hand, if he allowed only the Hebrew men to go have this feast, he could hold their families hostage.[i]
Moses countered with a shocking response that ruined Pharaoh’s scheme: “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our sheep and our cattle we will go, because we are to hold a pilgrim feast for the Lord.”[ii]
‘No way!’ was the essence of Pharaoh’s response saying, “‘No! Go, you men only, and serve the Lord, for that is what you want.’ Moses and Aaron were then driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.”[iii] The 9th plague of deep darkness for three full days made it clear that nothing less than a full release of the Hebrews was acceptable to God.
Leading up to the horrible night of the 10th plague, God offered protection for the Hebrews if they followed a precise sacrificial ritual. Each family was to choose one of their unblemished lambs, sacrifice it, splash its blood on the door posts of their homes, and roast the lamb for a family feast at sunset.
At midnight, the angel of death passed over any home with the lamb’s blood splashed on the doorposts thereby sparing the lives of the Hebrew firstborn and their livestock. For the Egyptians, the 10th plague was devastating. Every firstborn including the livestock died that night including the Ruler’s own son. Pharaoh’s resolve was finally broken.
Salvation from the plague of death set the stage for what would become Israel’s first legally mandated Feast observance, “It is the LORD’s Passover.” Every year thereafter, the Passover was to be observed as a celebration festival to remember how God delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian tyranny:[iv]
Ex 12:14 ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.(NKJV)
A few weeks later, God handed down the Law to Moses at the top of Mt. Sinai. The Law defined the observance of three annual Festivals or Feasts starting with the Passover using similar terms as for the weekly Sabbath, each was called “a holy assembly” or “holy convocation.”
According to the Law, the Passover opened the annual festival cycle beginning with the Feast of Unleavened Bread to be observed at its appointed time in the month of Abib aka Nissan 14th in the the place God was to choose:[v]
Lev. 23:4-7‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.
‘On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover.
‘And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
‘On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. (NKJV)
For the Passover, the primary component was the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The Feast and the week that followed were to be a time of solemn celebration in remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance from slavery and tyranny.
Add to the timing factor, the circumstances factor. The events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus were controlled solely by his archenemies, the Jewish leadership – out of the control of Jesus, his Disciples or any alleged Christian conspirators.
Found to be innocent by the rulers of Judea (Tetrarch Herod) and Rome (Procurator Pilate), still Jesus was crucified at the urging of the Jewish Council, the first day of Passover – a coincidence?
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NKJV = New King James Version translation.
NET = NETBible translation