A name applied to the day preceding the weekly Sabbath, during which the Jews prepared for the Sabbath.
When Jehovah began to provide manna in the wilderness he directed that a double portion be collected on the sixth day, since the people were not to gather manna on the Sabbath, or seventh day. So, in preparation for the weekly Sabbath, the Jews collected and baked or boiled extra manna. (Ex 16:5, 22-27) In time “the day before the sabbath” came to be termed “Preparation,” as Mark explained. (Mr 15:42) (Somewhat similarly, in German Samstag [Saturday] is also called Sonnabend [literally, “Sun evening”] or “evening before Sunday [Sonntag].”) The Jewish Preparation day would end at sundown of what is today called Friday, at which time the Sabbath would commence, the Jewish day running from evening to evening.
On Preparation the people prepared meals for the next day, the Sabbath, and completed any other pressing work that could not wait until after the Sabbath. (Ex 20:10) The Law stipulated that the body of a man executed and hung on a stake “should not stay all night on the stake.” (De 21:22, 23; compare Jos 8:29; 10:26, 27.) Since Jesus and those impaled with him were on stakes on the afternoon of Preparation, it was important to the Jews that their deaths be hastened if necessary so that they could be buried before sunset. This was especially so since the day soon to begin at sundown was a regular Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) and also a Sabbath because of being Nisan 15 (Le 23:5-7), hence it was a “great” Sabbath. (Joh 19:31, 42; Mr 15:42, 43; Lu 23:54) Josephus quoted a decree of Caesar Augustus that said the Jews “need not give bond (to appear in court) on the Sabbath or on the day of preparation for it (Sabbath Eve) after the ninth hour,” indicating that they began to prepare for the Sabbath at the ninth hour on Friday.—Jewish Antiquities, XVI, 163 (vi, 2).
Regarding the morning of Jesus’ trial and appearance before Pilate, which was in the morning period of Nisan 14 (the Passover day having begun the evening before), John 19:14 says: “Now it was preparation of the passover.” (NW, KJ, Da) Some commentators have understood this to mean “preparation for the passover,” and certain translations so render the verse. (AT, We, CC) This, though, suggests that the Passover had not yet been celebrated, whereas the Gospel accounts explicitly show that Jesus and the apostles had celebrated it the night before. (Lu 22:15; Mt 26:18-20; Mr 14:14-17) Christ perfectly carried out the regulations of the Law, including the requirement to celebrate the Passover on Nisan 14. (Ex 12:6; Le 23:5; see PASSOVER.) The day of Jesus’ trial and death could be viewed as the “preparation of the passover” in the sense that it was the preparation for the seven-day Festival of Unfermented Cakes that began the next day. Because of their closeness on the calendar, the entire festival itself was often included in the term “Passover.” And the day after Nisan 14 was always a Sabbath; additionally, in 33 C.E., Nisan 15 fell on the regular Sabbath, making the day a “great” or double Sabbath.