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. His execution was either a 1-in-365 happenstance incident or of divine design.
Friday Nissan 15, Jesus was crucified on the first day of the Jewish Passover that began at sunset the previous evening with the Feast of Unleavened Break 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 was merely a coincidence 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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God told Moses with His voice from the burning bush at the base of Mt. Sinai to return to Egypt after a 40-year exile. Along with his brother Aaron, they were to confront the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt with a 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 of his Hebrew slaves leave. On the other hand, if he only released the Hebrew men to go have this feast, he could hold their families hostage.
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.”
‘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,” then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.” The 9th plague of deep darkness for three full days came next, but Pharaoh still didn’t relent.
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.
Livestock value to both the Egyptians and Hebrews was very significant, especially for the enslaved Hebrews. Sheep were the source of clothing, food and milk, even as pets. For a household to lose a single lamb meant losing this valuable survival source.
For the Egyptians, cattle were valued in much the same way and even more so. Cattle were part of Egyptian religion and represented a status of wealth. Losing a significant portion of livestock, which included sheep and cattle, would be disastrous.
At midnight, the angel of death passed over any home with the lamb’s blood splashed on the doorposts thereby sparing the associated lives of the Hebrew’s firstborn and their livestock. The 10th plague was devastating for the Egyptians – every firstborn died, including within their livestock. With the death of his own son that night, too, 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:
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 yet to reveal:
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 to be held at its appointed time and the week that followed were intended to be a time of solemn celebration in remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance from slavery and tyranny.
Add to the timing factor of the crucifixion of Jesus, the circumstances factor. The events surrounding the crucifixion 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 government rulers Tetrarch Herod and Procurator Pilate, at the urging of the Jewish leadership Jesus was still crucified on the eve of Passover at the appointed time for the sacrifice of lambs. Was it just a coincidence or a divinely appointed time?
Updated December 15, 2022.
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NKJV = New King James Version translation.
NET = NETBible translation
 Quotes from NET translation. Exodus 10[iv] Exodus 12.
 Mock, Robert. Destination Yisra’el. “The First Pesach in the Land of Egypt.” photo. 2017. <https://destination-yisrael.biblesearchers.com/destination-yisrael/2017/04/the-history-of-the-passover-in-the-days-of-the-nazarene.html>
 Benner, Jeff A. “Ancient Hebrew Livestock.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2022. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/culture/ancient-hebrew-livestock.htm> Cownie, Emma. Emmafcpwnie.com. 2018. “Why cattle mattered in the Ancient World.” <https://emmafcownie.medium.com/why-cattle-mattered-in-the-ancient-world-4e27b1c37e58> “Cattle in the ancient world of the Bible” Women In The Bible. 2006. <https://womeninthebible.net/bible_daily_life/cattle_ancient_world/#:~:text=Cattle%20were%20an%20important%20status%20symbol.%20In%20biblical,as%20well%20as%20for%20ploughing%2C%20threshing%20and%20transport.> Broyles, Stephen. The Andreas Center. 2010. <https://www.andreascenter.org/Articles/Sheep%20and%20Goats.htm> “Sheep in History. Sheep101.info. 2021. <http://www.sheep101.info/history.html
 Exodus 13, 34.
 Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 16; Leviticus 23. “Abib” and “Nisan.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.