The Preparation Day

Among the many questions associated with the events surrounding our Savior's last Passover are the questions concerning the preparation day that is mentioned on the crucifixion day. If it can be established that the day of the crucifixion was a Friday, this day of preparation and the chronology of these events can easily be understood in context.

We know the following three facts about the preparation of the Passover ceremony that Jesus and his disciples observed:

    • Jesus instructed his disciples to make preparation for the Passover (Matt.26:17-18; Mk.14:12-15; Lk.27:7-12).
    • The disciples did as they were instructed and prepared for the Passover (Matt.26:20; Mk.14:17; Lk.22:13).
    • Jesus and his disciples did eat what they considered the Passover meal (Matt.26:21-22; Mk.14:17; Lk.22:14-16).

The scriptures document a preparation for the Passover meal that Jesus and the Twelve observed; however, what was the purpose of the preparation spoken of on the day of Jesus' crucifixion.

1. Preparation for the Passover

"And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] said to the Jews, behold your king! The

chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then he delivered him [Jesus] therefore to them [the Priests] to be crucified. And they [the soldiers and the Priests] took Jesus and led him away" (Jn.19:14-16 KJV).

These comments by John document that the day on which Christ was crucified was indeed a preparation day for a Passover ceremonial meal, which was to be eaten that evening. He also notes that it was about the sixth hour (9 a.m.) when Pilate gave the order to crucify Jesus.

2. The Preparation for the Sabbath

"Because it was the preparation day the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath [Greek, Sabbaton] day [Deut.21:22-23]. For that Sabbath [Greek, Sabbaton] day was a high day [Greek, mega: large or great]; therefore, they appealed to Pilate to have their legs broken, so that the bodies could be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead therefore they did not break his legs" (Jn.19:31-33 Para.).

In John, chapter 19, verses 14-16, John documents the day of the crucifixion as a day of preparation for a Passover. In verses 31-33, John also tells us that this day was before a weekly Sabbath. This makes the day of the crucifixion a preparation day for the Passover meal, and also a preparation day for the weekly Sabbath.

In John's account he calls this Sabbath (Greek: Sabbaton) a 'High Day' (Greek: megas hermera). But, what would make this particular Sabbath any different from any other Sabbath? In order to understand the importance of this Sabbath, we must study the meaning of the words 'Sabbaton' and 'megas.' The Greek word 'Sabbaton' is in the singular form of 'sabbata', which means the 'weekly cessation' as observed by the Jews. The word 'megas' means 'large', 'great', 'exceedingly great.'

The following are some of the things that made this particular Sabbath very special:

    • It was the first day of the spring festival. The Passover meal was to be eaten in the evening of this Sabbath.
    • The festival sacrifices would be made on this Sabbath.
    • This day was a commanded assembly for the first annual festival observance.

When we examine John 19:31-33 in detail, we notice that there are 5 major things we can learn:

    • This day was a preparation day for something.
    • It was the day before the Sabbath, i.e., Friday.
    • The Jews were worried about defiling the Sabbath and a High Day by leaving the dead bodies hanging on the tree.
    • This weekly Sabbath was a festival day (high day).
    • Jesus died on the preparation for this day as the Lamb of God (Symbolic Passover lamb).

3. The Jews' Preparation Day

"Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher wherein never was a man laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulcher was nigh at hand" (Jn.19:38-42 KJV).

Here, John makes reference to the urgency for getting Jesus' body buried because of the Jews' preparation day. The time of this event was after 3 p.m. and the Jews were killing the lambs in preparation for their Passover (the second day of two consecutive days of Passover) and for the Sabbath, just before the end of the day.

4. Friday the Preparation Day Before the Weekly Sabbath

"And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly to Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marveled if he were already dead . . ." (Mk.15:42-46 KJV).

The English phrase the day before the Sabbath is translated from the Greek word prosabbaton (before the Sabbath) and it is only used once in the New Testament. The inspired record and the Greek language is very clear. This scripture clearly states that Jesus was put to death on the preparation day before the weekly Sabbath. See Chapter 11 in which the differences between a weekly Sabbath and an annual festival day are explained.

Consider The Following:

Notice that there is no preparation day necessary for the annual festival days at the beginning and end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is not unique only to this festival but is the same for all festivals except the Day of Atonement. However, the weekly Sabbath does require a preparation day, because no manner of work may be performed on it, including the preparation of food:

"And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you: no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done by you" (Ex.12:16 KJV).

The following statement by Mark is solid proof that the day he spoke of was in fact the day before the weekly Sabbath.

"And, he [Joseph of Arimathaea] took it [Jesus' body] down and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in the sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath [Greek: sabbaton] drew on" (Lk.23: 53-54 KJV).

In Mark and Luke the phrase prosabbaton (before the Sabbath) and the word sabbaton (the weekly Sabbath) show that the day after the preparation is the weekly Sabbath. The word sabbaton is only used to denote the weekly Sabbath and does not mean a feast or festival day as some people believe. The Greek words used to denote a festival or feast day are heortazo, which means to observe a feast, and heorte, which means a festival or feast. Therefore, it should be clear that the preparation day mentioned is Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath.

5. They Rested the Sabbath Day

"And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how the body was laid And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments;and rested the Sabbath [sabbaton] day according to the commandment" (Lk.23: 55-56 KJV).

Again, we see the weekly Sabbath mentioned and the only other day that demands rest from all labor besides the Sabbath is the Day of Atonement.

6. The Day Following the Preparation

"Now the next day, that followed the preparation the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying, Sir we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day . . ." (Matt.27:62-64 KJV).

The priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate after the preparation day to request guards for the tomb. The following are some important points to note about the day after the preparation day:

    • It was the day after killing the lambs and the ceremonial Passover meal.
    • It followed the preparation which was on a Friday (Jn.19:31-33).
    • It was a weekly Sabbath day (Mk.15:42; Lk.23:54; 55-46).
    • It was the first day of Unleavened Bread (see Jn.19:31).

Notice also that there is no indication that these men feared ceremonial defilement as they did at their first meeting with Pilate (Jn.18:28). This indicates that they had observed the Passover the night before. This also seems to indicate that only the religious officials had observed the Passover on Friday night because they (the Priests) were allowed to work in service on the Sabbath.

The facts clearly establish that there were two types of preparation on the day of Christ's crucifixion: the preparation of the Passover and the preparation for the weekly Sabbath.

Clearly, it was Thursday when the disciples prepared the first legal Passover for Jesus and themselves, and Friday was when other Jews made their preparation for the second legal Passover, just before the weekly Sabbath.

By B.L. Cocherell b5w37