The precise nature of the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, as well as the day and the date of His crucifixion, have been among the most debated topics throughout the history of the New Testament. In my last post, I discussed the traditional understanding of the story: The Last Supper was indeed the Passover meal (Seder) that took place on Thursday night, and on Friday, Jesus was crucified. This view seems to be supported by the Synoptic Gospels. However, there is a well-known problem of discrepancy between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, which apparently dates all these events a day earlier than the Synoptics. Numerous attempts were made to harmonize all the Gospels, in particular with the help of the ‘different calendars’ concept: If different calendars were in use, then the feast days were calculated differently by different groups. First, the scholars distinguished between the Pharisaic date of the Passover and the Saduccean date a day earlier, which might lie behind the Gospel of John. Even more evidence points to the fact that the Essenes also used their own calendar. The famous story of the man with a water jar is based on that: a man carrying water could only have been an Essene; Essenes had their communities in various towns, and also in Jerusalem, and since they used a different calendar, their guest rooms were still available. That’s why Jesus knew that a room would be available for the Last Supper – and He may have followed their calendar as well.
We are going to discuss the alternative scenarios today. Once again, I want to emphasize that I don’t claim to have the final answers, nobody can be one hundred percent certain exactly how and when these events took place, however, we don’t have to stumble over this story: there are several plausible scenarios presenting the final days of Jesus. Moreover, even though I will share with you some Hebrew insights here, I still want us to remember that there is always the possibility that we are missing something. “The secret things belong to the Lord”…
Personally, I don’t think it was the traditional Passover meal. Why? First of all, as I’ve already mentioned, I have always been perplexed by the fact that when Judah left in the middle of the Last Supper “some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast”. In today’s Israel, everything would be closed during the Feast, but even if something was open, no pious Jew would think of buying something with the money on the Feast day. However, the most important argument, I believe, is found in a rule in the Mishnah:
A paschal lamb is invalid if it was slaughtered for those who will not eat it… 
The paschal lamb had to be eaten during the Passover meal. The eating of the paschal sacrifice was the principal part of Seder, and therefore the meal that happened BEFORE the sacrifice, by definition, could have not been Seder.
However, if it was not Seder, what was it? What was the nature of this meal? Before we actually start our discourse, let me share with you some additional quotations from Mishna, from the same tractate Pesachim:
… The sages say that in Judah they would work on the day before Pesacĥ until noon, whereas in the Galilee they did not work at all. As far as the [previous] night is concerned: Bet Shammai prohibit whereas Bet Hillel permit until sunrise.
Where it is customary to work until noon on the day before Passover, people may work; where it is not customary to do so, people may not. When someone goes from a place where they do work to a place where they do not (or from a place where they do not to a place where they do) we apply the more severe restrictions of both the place where he comes from and the place he is going to…
We see that there were different festival traditions in different places. As we all know, Jesus and his disciples were Galileans, therefore they would have observed the Galilean traditions. There were several differences between Judean and Galilean Passover observance, but the most important one was a special fast – the Fast of the Firstborns, in remembrance of the firstborn Israelites who were saved from death (that is why we read in Mishna that “in the Galilee, they didn’t work at all” on Passover day). The fast took place on Nisan 14, on the day of Passover.
In Hebrew, the last meal before the fast is called seudah maphsehket (if you have ever been in Israel for Yom Kippur, you would know that seudah maphsehket, the last meal before Yom Kippur fast, is a very special event indeed). Thus, in the Galilean tradition, there had to be this special meal at the beginning of Passover (Nisan 14th) called seudah maphsehket. After this meal, there would be a whole day fast – and the next meal would be the Passover meal, the Seder. In this sense, this meal was indeed the Last Supper.
Let us now try to figure out the days of the week when all of this was happening. We will definitely need the sign of Jonah here, because there is no question that we can’t get three full days and nights from 3 pm on Friday till the early hours of Sunday. Sunday is a given, so to make it simple, we will just count three nights back and arrive at Thursday, and then everything else falls into place. It was on Wednesday Nisan 13 that the disciples prepared this special meal that we call the Last Supper and that was, in fact, seudah maphsehket – the last meal before the Fast of the Firstborns. Jesus and the disciples ate this meal on Wednesday night, at the beginning of the Passover, as the day changed to Nisan 14. Then Jesus was arrested at night, tried and convicted early on the Thursday morning, and then crucified during the day – and all this happened during Passover day, Nisan 14, Thursday. Thus, on Thursday, Nisan 14, Jesus died on the cross; and on Sunday, Nisan 17 – the Feast of Firstfruits – Jesus was resurrected.
I would like to finish this article with the words from a wonderful study of L. Piperov: “Crucifixion on 14th Nisan, Thursday, followed by the Day of Resurrection, by Sunday dawn, on 17th Nisan, would be an amazing confirmation of the Lord Jesus’ own prophetic words based on the prophet Jonah (Jonah 1:17):
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40; NIV)
Note that the Lord Jesus said days and nights, not nights and days! Indeed, arrest on late Wednesday night, followed by the terrible ordeal, including trial/humiliation/crucifixion and death and burial before sunset on the next day, Thursday (Day One in the heart of the earth), and Resurrection shortly before dawn on Sunday, correspond … accurately to these words”
 Mark 14:13
 Deut. 29:29
 John 13:29
 Mishna, Tractate Pesachim, Chapter 5 Mishna 3
 Mishna, Tractate Pesachim, Chapter 4 Mishna 5
 Mishna, Pesachim, Chapter 4, Mishna 1
 You can read more about it in: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1995, p. 77
 For this idea, I am indebted to Tom Bradford from TorahClass.com
 Lyuben Piperov, A Tale of Two Gospels, p.22; this study on Bible codes also confirms Thursday, 14th Nisan as the day of the Crucifixion