Hidden in the Greek of Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; and Luke 22:7 is a reference to Passover as "the first of the unleaveneds." This is because unleavened bread is indeed used on the 14th as part of the Passover service. A comparison with the Old Testament, however, discloses this to be only the popular usage of some during New Testament times. In the Old Testament, something akin to this is found in Deuteronomy 16, where the first day of Unleavened Bread is called "Passover," while the context clearly describes the first day of Unleavened Bread. People popularly used Passover and Unleavened Bread interchangeably, and the Bible notes this practice, though "Passover" was the term most generally used for the whole period.
Doing things like this is not uncommon. Today, we commonly refer to the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day as either the "Feast" or "Tabernacles," even though we clearly understand that the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day are separate festivals. So it was with Passover in the time of Christ and the apostles. Neither our use of "Tabernacles" nor the Jews use of "Passover" alters the authority of God's intent in the Scriptures.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
There is no equivocation in Jesus' words. The stated will and intent of the Son of Man was to keep the Passover with His disciples in the house of that certain man. He knew He would be betrayed and crucified, but He, God in the flesh, said with full assurance that He would be keeping the Passover with His disciples in that house.
When He was crucified, though, He was not in any man's house, nor was He with His disciples—they had all fled!—so that was not when He or they kept the Passover. Did Jesus' words return to Him void (see Isaiah 55:11)? If the Messiah's words hold any weight with us, we can be confident that His will came to pass, and that the meal He shared with His disciples—including the bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-29)—was the Passover.
David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part One)
This translation introduces an impossibility due to the fact that God's instructions to Israel plainly state that Passover is the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread—and we can be sure that Christ and the disciples were not late! That the disciples inquired about making preparations—and later that night assumed Judas would be purchasing something "for the feast" (John 13:29)—shows that the time in question could not have been the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Why? That day is a holy convocation on which no customary work is to be done (Leviticus 23:7), if God's instructions are to remain unbroken.
So how are we to understand this verse? First, notice that the words "day of the Feast of" are italicized, showing that the translators added them to the text. The Greek literally reads, "And on the first unleavened. . . ." The word translated as "first," protos, typically signifies a thing that is first in a sequence or first in prominence. However, it can also indicate an order of events, as well as whether an event occurs before or concurrently with another.
For example, in John 1:15 John the Baptist acknowledges Christ's pre-existence, saying, "He who comes after me is preferred before [above] me, for He was before [protos] me" (see also verse 30). Also, in II Peter 2:20, Peter says of those who become entangled in the world again, "the latter end is worse for them than the beginning [protos]," again showing an order of events.
Matthew 26:17, then, can more accurately be translated, "Now before [the Feast of] Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, 'Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?'" In other words, this incident happened before the Feast of Unleavened Bread had begun. Since they were inquiring about preparing the Passover, this could have taken place either late in the day on Abib 13 or possibly just after sunset on Abib 14 (since the Passover lamb was to be killed between sunset and dark as the 14th began).
David C. Grabbe
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 26:17: