This is the second in a two part series on why Christians should celebrate the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
The Real Passover Timeline
Christian tradition says Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. However, that is not quite right. Jesus Himself explained that He had to be three days and three nights in the grave, according to the sign of Jonah which He gave to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-42 and Luke 11:29-32. Here is how that worked:
- Triumphal Entry and Examinations (Friday-Tuesday). Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was on the 10th day of Nisan (John 12:1, 12-16), the day the Passover Lamb is presented (Exodus 12:3). That corresponded to our Friday. Specifically, according to John 12:1, Jesus arrived at Bethany six days before Passover to stay with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. The next day, five days before Passover, He entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the people, on the same day that the Passover lamb was presented at the Temple. Even as that lamb was to be examined over the next four days to ensure it was without defect (Exodus 12:3-6), so, too, was Jesus was examined by every element of society:
In each case, Jesus passed the test and was found without fault.
- Passover Celebration (Tuesday Night). Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan, which corresponds to our Tuesday evening (Matthew 26:17-18; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). Do not be confused by the fact that Matthew, Mark, and Luke say, “on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”. In Jesus’ day, the three feasts of the Passover season were all lumped together and called “Unleavened Bread”, even as in our day they are all lumped together and called “Passover”.
- Arrest and Trial (Tuesday Night-Wednesday Morning). Jesus’ arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin happened the night of Passover. It was there that the final examination happened and Jesus was declared acceptable by the High Priest (Matthew 26:57-67; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71. Of course, High Priest Caiaphas did not know exactly what he was doing, but his acceptance of Jesus’ testimony that He was Messiah was the reason he sent Jesus to Pilate to be executed (John 11:49-52).
- Execution (Wednesday Afternoon). Jesus was tried before Pilate the following morning, our Wednesday, and crucified that day at noon (the sixth hour) (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1-3; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28, 19:14). Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. (the ninth hour), just as they were sacrificing the Passover lamb in the Temple (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-45).
- First Day in the Grave (Wednesday Evening-Thursday Evening). Since it was the Preparation Day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:14), Jesus and the thieves who were crucified with Him had to be dead and removed from the cross by sundown (John 19:31-41). God specified in His word that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a Sabbath, and therefore everyone had to rest on that day (Leviticus 23:7). Thus it was the first day of Unleavened Bread which was the Great Sabbath when Jesus spent His first day in the grave. That corresponded to our Thursday.
- Second Day in the Grave (Thursday Evening-Friday Evening). On what we call Good Friday, the Sabbath of that first day of Unleavened Bread was over, so normal work could be done. That’s when the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate for a guard to watch Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:62-65), and when the women bought spices and made preparations to anoint Jesus’ body properly for burial (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-56).
- Third Day in the Grave (Friday Evening-Saturday Evening). Jesus remained in the grave through the day we know as Saturday, which was His third day there. That was a normal weekly Sabbath, and on that day the women rested from their work of buying and preparing the spices (Luke 23:56).
Resurrection (Sunday). At some point after sundown on Saturday, Jesus rose from the grave. Any point after sundown would be the beginning of the first day of the week, which was the Feast of First Fruits. It was on the morning of that day, which we call Sunday, that the women came to the tomb and found an empty grave (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-2).
What About Easter?
The feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits do not correspond to the traditional Christian observance of Easter. Easter is a pagan celebration named for Ishtar, Babylonian goddess of fertility. She is also called the Queen of Heaven, and is known by many other names, including Asherah. There is much documentation of this, but here are some web sites with further explanations and links:
- 119 Ministries, Sunburned, parts I & II, http://119ministries.com/sunburned-part-1 and http://119ministries.com/sunburned-part-2.
- Catholic Encyclopedia, “Easter”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05224d.htm.
- Christian Answers.net, “Where did ‘Easter’ get its name? Where did the concept of an Easter egg and bunny originate?”, http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t020.html.
- Yahoo! Answers, Is Easter based on the goddess Ishtar?, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080318090751AAKKtuE.
Easter does not even occur at the same time as Passover, except by accident. It is timed to occur in conjunction with the Vernal Equinox, signifying the beginning of spring and thus the return of the earth’s fertility. The reason Christians now celebrate Easter instead of Passover is not because God commanded this change, but because the Roman Catholic Church mandated the change when the Emperor Constantine established Christianity as the religion of Rome. In that way the pagans of Rome could retain their pagan ways and still satisfy the requirements of being nominal Christians.
The symbols of Easter are likewise associated with fertility rites, not with the resurrection of God’s Son. Easter eggs are fertility symbols given as offerings to Ishtar. As for Easter bunnies, who can deny that rabbits are particularly meaningful as fertility symbols? However, originally the animal revered in these rites was the hare, a creature that not only reproduced rapidly, but also was associated with familiar spirits and occult practices.
God specifically banned the worship of Asherah and other false gods, calling it evil (Judges 3:7), and cited many instances when the people of Israel and Judah defiled themselves with Asherah worship (I Kings 15:13, 18:19; II Kings 21:7, 23:4; II Chronicles 15:16; Jeremiah 7:18, 44:15-29).
But does Easter, as Christians observe it, really constitute pagan idolatry? Ask the Lord what He thinks. Consider this: parents do not want their children to hang out with friends who drink, smoke, use drugs, and engage in other harmful behavior. Why? Obviously it is because they want to protect their children from such practices, but there is another reason as well: they want to protect their children’s reputation, which would be in danger if they associate with such people. All of us at one time or another have been accused of wrongdoing, not because we were actually committing mischief, but because we were in “the wrong crowd”. It is the same in Christian association with pagan rites, and that is why Paul says:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:14-18 NKJV)
The Conclusion of the Matter
Those who are serious about following the example of their Lord Jesus should consider this information prayerfully. The great question is this: Should the people of God continue to regard this substitute Christianized pagan celebration, or should they observe the appointed time that God Himself established and which His Son sanctified with His own blood? It is a matter of choosing between the real and the counterfeit.
In all our consideration, the one thing we should not do is condemn our fathers and mothers. Satan has conspired for centuries to rob us of the rich heritage God gives us through His Passover. Let us not pass judgment on those who, being deceived themselves, followed the traditions of men out of ignorance. If God is indeed calling His people even now to come out of these traditions and embrace His truth, then we should repent on behalf of our ancestors and ask His grace to walk in truth from this moment onward.