Whereas Matthew's account has Jesus saying, “I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples” (Matthew 26:18), Mark's clarifies the phrase “keep the Passover” with “eat the Passover.” This is an essential detail because some have tried to explain His words away by claiming He merely mentions preparing for the Passover. But Mark brings out the fact that on this same occasion He meant He would eat the Passover with His disciples, not simply make preparations.
We again see His intention to use the guest (or upper) room of that certain man's house. Did our Messiah mean what He said? Are any words of God untrustworthy? If He did not mean what He said here, it means that either the sovereign God's will was thwarted, or else Jesus duplicitously said one thing while intending to do another. As Paul says, God forbid!
David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part One)
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
The word first can also mean "before" or "the beginning." The word translated as "day," heeméra, can refer to a literal 24-hour period of time, but it can also indicate a general period of time or a season (see Luke 9:51; 17:24; 19:42; 23:7; John 8:56; Acts 2:20; 8:1; 17:31; Romans 2:5; I Corinthians 3:13; II Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 6:13; Hebrews 3:8). So the first part of Mark 14:12 could also be translated, "Now at the beginning of the season of Unleavened Bread . . ." or "Now at the beginning of the time of Unleavened Bread . . ." Nothing dictates that in this case heeméra designates a specific 24-hour period, and much argues against it.
As the notes for Matthew 26:17 show, the disciples asked this question before the Feast of Unleavened Bread and before they had kept the Passover. But how are we to understand the explanation, "when they killed the Passover lamb"? In the Greek, the word translated as "killed" is éthuon. It can indeed refer to the singular act of slaying an animal (Acts 11:7), but also to a religious sacrifice (Acts 14:13) or to the entire occasion of which a slaughtered animal was paramount, such as the fatted calf being killed for the prodigal son (Luke 15:23, 27, 30). In addition, in the sentence in question, the verb tense indicates an action in progress but not yet completed.
In other words, the sacrificing of the Passover lamb—or preparations for doing so—was taking place at the time the disciples asked their question! Remember, most of the people did not observe a Temple-kept Passover; in Mark 14:12, the common people were sacrificing lambs throughout the city, not the priests. The priests would not slay the Temple Passover lambs until the following afternoon. But as Abib 14 was drawing near, the disciples observed people around them on the outskirts of Jerusalem in the process of sacrificing—at least engaging in the necessary preparations, even if they did not perform the sacrifice itself until after sunset—prompting them to ask Jesus where He wanted them to likewise prepare for Passover.
David C. Grabbe
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Mark 14:12: