It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning
Jesus died on a Friday. He was brutally scourged, beaten, spat on, crucified, and died on a day where Jews prepare for the Sabbath. Like any detail pointed out in the Bible, along with every action taken by Christ, there has to be a reason why He died on this particular day. All the Gospel accounts tell us that Christ’s Passion took place during Passover. What Luke is referring to, as the “day of preparation,” is the Jewish tradition of preparing the lambs that were to be sacrificed for the Passover meal. Now, there is some historical debate on whether the Last Supper Christ had with His disciples the day before, on a Thursday, was an actual Passover meal in conjunction with any real Jewish tradition of that time; or whether it was a singular Passover event that only they partook in.
I’m not here to examine this argument, but I do like to think of it from a universal perspective. The idea of Christ celebrating Passover a day early, different from any other Jew, is not a farfetched one. He was surrounded by people who were obviously convinced He was the Messiah, so if He says we’re celebrating Passover a day early; then we’re celebrating Passover a day early. And if we really observe Christ’s ministry, He was all about modifying Jewish tradition. Notice that this is “modifying” and not replacing, because, as it says in Matthew, He came not to revoke the old law, but to fulfill it. For Christ to fulfill anything is to make it infinitely better. So, if we look at his adjustment to Passover, He literally gave us Holy Mass. He instituted the Eucharist and gave the disciples instructions on how to feed the world until the end of time.
Like I said, the disciples at the Last Supper were really the first Christians, as they knew He was the Son of God. If we examine all the actions Christ performed leading up to His death, beginning with the Last Supper, then we’ll start to see choices that, on the surface, seem unusual. Since we are reflecting on His death today, it is good to meditate on the events that came right before it to gain a better insight of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. Saint Paul says that he “became all things to all men” so that he may convert as many people as he possibly could. I think he took that life-model directly from Christ. The events that led to Christ’s crucifixion are a microcosm of His whole ministry and of the mission of every believer on earth. To the first Christians, He became a Christian by administering the Eucharist and washing the feet of His disciples. This showed the whole world how we are to receive Him and how we are supposed to treat one another. To the Jews, He literally became the Sacrificial Lamb of Passover the next day through His Passion and death. To the gentiles and non-believers He became their ultimate example of mercy by forgiving the good thief at the cross. So, let’s recap what He did from the day before His death until the actual moment: He celebrated Passover a day early, He gave His Body and Blood in the appearance of bread and wine, He instructed the Apostles on how to perform Mass, He washed and kissed their feet knowing that His betrayer and denier were at hand, He willfully walked into His own arrest and crucifixion, and one of the last acts He performed before He died was absolving and granting eternal paradise to a criminal right beside Him. Again, very unorthodox things to do before one’s death, but if we strive to find the reasons behind them, then we’ll find all that we need in order to gain the salvation Christ bought us by defeating death itself and literally tearing open the veil between God and man. Christ took away the separation between us, caused by sin, by taking the punishment for sin upon himself.