The accepted answer on How long was Jesus in the tomb? would only have been possible if the Last Supper was not the Passover meal, which I had always thought it was. Was the Last Supper in fact not the Passover meal?
My new understanding of the Last Supper is mostly based on the information at http://www.therefinersfire.org/celebrating_passover.htm.
The key verses which indicate that Christ was actually crucified on the day before the Passover feast are John 18:28 and John 19:14.
John 18:28 NIV
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.
John 19:14 NIV
It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
The day of preparation would be when they slaughter the Passover lamb, which would then be eaten that night.
Two things are clear from scripture:
The "last supper" was in fact a passover meal. Multiple references in Mark 14, Matthew 26 and Luke 22 make it clear that the disciples prepared a passover meal. In Matthew Jesus says "I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house." In Luke it reads "So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.". Other elements of the meal are drawn directly from Passover practice. Clearly this was a Passover meal.
It is also clear that this was done on the day before Passover. John 18 and 19 indicate that it was "the day of preparation for the Passover".
There are a number of possible reconciliations of this. Some speculate that Jesus was a part of a minority Jewish sect that celebrated Passover on a different day. Others that he celebrated Passover a day early because he knew he wouldn't be able to do it on the right day (I don't know what Jewish Law would have said about that, but Jesus was never one to get hung up on legal technicalities).
Jesus entered Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). I believe John is referring to the Passover Seder on the 15th of Nisan. That would make Jesus there on the 9th of Nisan. Then the next day He entered Jerusalem (John 12:12) on the 10th of Nisan (Palm Sunday). The multitude acknowledged Him as the Messiah and shouted “Hosanna![d]” (save now) “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]“Blessed is the king of Israel!” In doing so they were also choosing Him as the True Lamb of God, on the same day as lambs are chosen for the Passover Seder.
He was examined for 4 days (10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of Nisan) (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) just like all Passover Lambs were examined for four days to make sure they were without spot or blemish. He was tested over and over by being asked question after question and they could not find any fault with His answers.
I believe the Last Supper was early on Thursday (by the Jewish day) the 14th of Nisan. Probably shortly after sundown, which began a new day. It was a Passover Meal, but it was a day earlier than the normal Passover Seder. God allows exceptions for good reasons, see Numbers 9:6-11 and II Chronicles 30:2-15. Jesus knew that He was going to die late on the 14th of Nisan as the True Lamb of God. Therefore, He would not be able to celebrate it on the 15th Nisan. In Luke 22:14 we read 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. And by having it a day early He was able to institute the Holy Communion which we cherish.
Then here is some of what happened after the Last Supper that day, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, was betrayed with a kiss, arrested, deserted and denied by those closest to Him, tried, struck, spat upon, had his beard pulled, tried again, mocked, crowned with thorns, scourged, made to carry His own cross, crucified, and entombed all done sometime before sunset on that Thursday the 14th of Nisan (the day I believe John refers to as the day of preparation for the Passover). I believe He died on the cross just outside the walls of Jerusalem at the same time that the Passover Lambs were being slain inside the walls of Jerusalem.
Then Friday the 15th of Nisan was the First Day of Unleavened Bread, a Special Sabbath or John calls it a High Sabbath.
[Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7 are very confusing. I believe they take place on Wednesday the 13th of Nisan. Since the Passover Seder for Jesus and his Apostles was a day early, the killing of the lamb for them had to be moved forward one day. Also The First Day of Unleavened Bread comes the day after the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb (Leviticus 23:4-8) however the day of the killing of the lamb commonly became known as the first of unleavened bread because it was the day they rid their homes of all leavening before the official start of the feast.]
Then the 16th of Nisan was the regular weekly Sabbath.
Then Jesus arose before dawn on the 17th of Nisan the first day of the week or to us Resurrection Sunday also the day of the Firstfruit Wave Offering.
(From Palm Sunday to Saturday in the tomb was 7 days, the number meaning complete, then Resurrection Sunday was the 8th day, the number for new beginnings.)
The Last Supper was not a Passover seder. The Passover seder occurred immediately before the Last Supper during the same evening. This is only evident when we closely examine the Gospel of Luke.
In Luke 22:7, it is written,
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread during which the Passover lamb must be killed.
Ἦλθεν δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων ἐν ᾗ ἔδει θύεσθαι τὸ πάσχα TR, 1550
This "day of Unleavened Bread" refers to Nisan 14, as the Jews reckoned even this day, although properly "the Passover" (Exo. 12:6), as the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In fact, they often called the entire "Feast of Unleavened Bread" by the name "Passover."1
Thus, on Nisan 14, the day on which the Passover lamb was to be slaughtered, the Lord Jesus Christ commands the apostles Peter and John to "go prepare the Passover so we may eat" (Luke 22:8). They then went to Jerusalem and found the man Jesus instructed them about (Luke 22:10-12), "and they prepared the Passover" (Luke 22:13).
In Luke 22:14, it is written,
And when the hour came, he reclined, and the twelve apostles [reclined] with him.
Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ δώδεκα ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ
The Lord Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles reclined and began to eat the Passover seder.2 He says to the twelve, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before my suffering" (Luke 22:15). Then he says to the twelve, "I will not eat of it anymore until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." But, that Jesus ate then and there, it is certain (cp. Matt. 26:21; Mark 14:18).
The Lord Jesus Christ then receives a cup, gives thanks to the Father, and says to the twelve, "Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves" ([Luke 22:17]]10). Based on these words, it is arguable that the Lord Jesus Christ himself drank from the cup; however, it seems likely that he did.3
Now, at this point, the Lord Jesus Christ had been eating the Passover seder with the twelve, and he drank a cup of wine and distributed to his apostles. After this, note the following:
In Luke 22:19, it is written,
And when he took bread, giving thanks, He broke [it] and gave [it] to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in my memory."
καὶ λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων, Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν
Luke 22:19 is the verse which demonstrates the commencement of the Last Supper.
In Luke 22:20, it is written,
Likewise, also the cup after eating the meal, saying, "This is the cup of the New Covenant, with my blood which is shed for you.
ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυνόμενον
Notice that the Lord Jesus Christ had already distributed a cup to the twelve (Luke 22:17) during a previous meal, and after eating that meal (μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι), he takes bread (Luke 22:19) and then another cup (Luke 22:20)! This is the evidence that two meals are involved. Two cups; two meals. The first meal was the Passover seder; the second meal is the Last Supper. They are not the same meal. The Passover seder was not the Last Supper. The first cup was actually the last of the four cups of the Passover seder, thus completing the Passover seder. The second cup was the cup of the Last Supper.
John Gill on Luke 22:19,
Here begins the account of the Lord's supper after the passover was eaten.
Count the cups...it's only in Luke's Gospel, but it's there.
2 It was custom to recline while eating the Passover seder. See Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Pesachim, Chapter 10, Folio 68b, Halakha 1: ולפי שדרך עבדים להיות אוכלין מעומד וכאן להיות אוכלין מסובין להודיע שיצאו מעבדות לחירות, that is, "Because it is the custom of slaves to eat standing, here [it is the custom] to eat reclining to proclaim that they have gone out from slavery to freedom."
3 See Meyer's commentary on Luke 22:17.
4 The phrase μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι is the preposition μετὰ, meaning "after," followed by the substantive infinitive τὸ δειπνῆσαι, meaning "dining" or "eating (a meal)." It simply refers to eating a meal. Although the KJV translates it simply as "supper," as though it was a noun, it should not be assumed that this "supper" is the "Last Supper," as many may erroneously assume. BDAG defines the verb as, "to eat a meal (without ref. to time of day or type of food), eat, dine."