Jesus Christ Our Passover



Part One

The Christian world would rid itself of much confusion if it would return to the simple accuracy of God's Word rather than retaining the teachings of tradition. For example, Christians have thought that the last supper Jesus ate with his disciples was also the Passover meal. Yet the Word of God clearly teaches that Jesus himself died as the Passover lamb on the fourteenth of Nisan, before the Passover meal would have been eaten on the fifteenth. He could not possibly have eaten the Passover that year. However, even though the last supper eaten by Jesus was not  the Passover meal, it was an important occasion and we want to study it carefully.

Matthew 26: 20 and 21a -- Now when the even [Monday evening, around sunset beginning the new day of the thirteenth of Nisan] was come, he [Jesus] sat down with the twelve.

And as they did eat. . .

This evening meal occurred around sunset on Monday, ending the twelfth of Nisan and beginning the thirteenth. People have mistakenly called this meal Passover because the preceding scriptures tell of Peter and John's preparation of a room in Jerusalem for the Passover. It has been wrongly assumed from this that the next meal recorded was the Passover.

When Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the room, he himself was outside the city. The Word of God does not say that he afterward went into the city to eat this last supper there. One can more logically assume that Jesus' last supper was eaten in Bethany because every record prior to this indicates Jesus was in Bethany in the evening to dine and lodge. This would also certainly be regarded by the believers as a safer place than Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the Word of God explicitly states in Matthew 26: 20 that he sat down  with the twelve to eat. Exodus 12: 11 commands that the Passover meal was to be eaten with the loins girded, feet shod, and staff in hand. This indicates that they were to eat standing and that they were to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice. Nowhere does God in His Word instruct His people to make the change from standing to sitting.

The meal for which Peter and John had made preparations in Matthew 26: 17 to 19 was the Passover. However, it would not be eaten until the fifteenth. The meal in Matthew 26: 20 and 21 is recorded next in sequence simply because it came next chronologically. This meal was eaten on the evening ending the twelfth and beginning the thirteenth of Nisan, around forty-eight hours before the Passover meal. Look at John's record of this last supper.

John 13: 1 and 2a -- Now before the feast of the passover [the two oldest Aramaic manuscripts read, "Before the unleavened bread"], when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

And supper being ended. . .

The last supper occurred before the Feast, and thus before the Passover meal. Again, we clearly see this last supper was not the Passover meal. It was simply Jesus' last meal before his crucifixion. The "his own" toward the end of verse 1 included those of Israel to whom God had sent Jesus as a minister.

John 13: 1 says that Jesus now "knew that his hour was come." This is the first time God's Word indicates that Jesus knew the exact hour of his death. Before, he had only known he would die around Passover time, and so he arranged to eat the Passover meal in accordance with the law. Now, on the evening that ended the twelfth and began the thirteenth, Jesus had knowledge from God that he would die before the Passover meal.

In continuing our study of the last supper, we need to study Mark 14.

Mark 14: 17 -- And in the evening he [Jesus] cometh with the twelve.

Where did they come to that evening? Very simply, they came to the location where they would eat supper. Was it in Bethany? Was it in Jerusalem? Did Jesus and the twelve come to another's home to eat with the other disciples? God's Word does not say and no amount of guesswork will give us a conclusive answer. Mark 14: 17 says he came with the twelve. Nowhere does it exclude the possibility of others being present at the meal. There may have been more people dining with Jesus than his twelve apostles.

Luke 22: 14 to 16 -- And when the hour [the hour supper was to begin] was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.

And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

In verse 15 the words "with desire I have desired" are the figure of speech polyptoton  meaning the same root word is used with different inflections or forms. By this figure of speech Jesus emphasized the great desire he had to eat the Passover with his disciples. The phrase "I have desired" is in the Greek aorist tense indicating a one-time action in the past. It means "at one time I did desire." "This passover" refers to the approaching Passover meal two days hence. Jesus was not referring to the meal he was then eating, but to the impending Passover meal on the fifteenth of Nisan. In essence, Jesus was saying that at one time he desired with a great desire to eat the imminent Passover meal with them. However, he would suffer and die before that meal and therefore would not eat of it "until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God," a time which is still future. That is the simple, minute accuracy of this passage. Luke 22 continues to unfold the events of the last supper.

Luke 22: 17 and 18 -- And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it  among yourselves:

For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

Jesus was making it clear that this would be his last meal before his death. Think of the wonder and concern this must have caused the apostles. They had begun the meal thinking it would be an ordinary supper, like the others they had that week. They were anticipating more of the same, since preparations had already been made for eating the Passover together two days hence. The thought had not entered their minds that this would be their last meal with the Master.

Mark 14: 18 to 21 -- And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

And they began to be sorrowful [sad and uneasy], and to say unto him one by one, Is  it I? and another said, Is  it I?

And he answered and said unto them, It is  one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.

The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

Jesus told them quite plainly that "one of the twelve" would betray him. Why would Jesus point out that the betrayer would be "one of the twelve" if only the twelve were eating with him? This is one indication that there may have been others present besides the twelve apostles.

The statement of betrayal so stirred up those present that they immediately began inquiring among themselves with sadness and uncertainty. Each one began wondering if he himself would be the betrayer.

Jesus responded that the betrayer was one of the twelve dipping with him in the dish. In the East, meals were not eaten with utensils such as forks and spoons. Instead they used flat sheets of thin pliable bread. A piece of this bread was torn off, wrapped around a piece of food, and dipped into a common dish. Since all of those eating would be doing this, Jesus did not single out any one person by this statement. However, according to Eastern thinking a person had an unbreakable bond of friendship and commitment to anyone with whom he ate, especially if the food was salted, as it usually was. So while an Easterner would gladly serve a meal to any of his guests, he would only eat with those he trusted, such as family and intimate friends.

Revelation 3: 20 -- Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

This eating together shows the closeness of the relationship. That is the significance of Eastern hospitality when people eat with one another. For someone to betray a person with whom he has eaten is unforgivable to the true Eastern way of thinking. That was the deeper implication of what Jesus was saying when he pointed out that his betrayer was dipping his food in the same dish with Jesus; they were at present eating together. In the Gospel of Matthew we see the reaction of Judas Iscariot to this statement.

Matthew 26: 25 -- Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

Judas now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus knew he would be the betrayer. There is no indication whether or not any of the others present heard Jesus' reply to Judas. All of this happened as they were eating and obviously in general commotion as each clamored to ask, "Is it I?" "Is it I?"

Sometime later during the course of the meal Jesus performed another act of great significance.

Matthew 26: 26 -- And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it,  and brake it,  and gave it  to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

It is significant that the Greek word for "bread" is artos.  In the New Testament, artos  is never used of the unleavened bread that was required for Passover and for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Greek word invariably used for that "unleavened bread" is azumos.  In each Gospel artos  is the word used regarding the bread eaten at the last supper. Since only unleavened bread was to be eaten with the Passover, this is further evidence that this last supper was not the Passover meal. In all the records of the last supper, there is no mention of the Passover lambs being eaten. Surely reference to this would not have been omitted if this had been the Passover meal.

Sometime after this memorial of bread was instituted, the memorial of the cup was given.

Matthew 26: 27 to 29 -- And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it  to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

Again Jesus stated that he would not again drink of this fruit of the vine before his death. But he assured them he would one day "drink it new" with them in his Father's Kingdom.

Here at this last supper, Jesus instituted a memorial for his approaching death. It is a memorial to be recognized and one that may be participated in by all born again believers until he returns. It is also a symbol of the making of a new covenant with Israel, a covenant involving the shedding of blood. During the Church Age that new covenant is held in abeyance. It will again be in effect when Israel is reestablished as stated in the Book of Revelation, for then Jesus Christ will again be present to reign over Israel in the Kingdom of Heaven. The prophecy of this new covenant can be found in Jeremiah 31: 31 to 34.

Jeremiah 31: 31 to 34 -- Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that  I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

But this shall be  the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The new covenant does not apply directly to those of us in the Church of the Body. It was for Israel. However, in a very real and practical sense, we do enjoy the benefits of that covenant and all the accomplishments of Christ which made the second covenant possible. That is why we observe communion in remembrance of these things. When Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that new covenant he established was withdrawn and is being held in abeyance. But in its place God made something much greater available to both Israel and the Gentiles, namely, the great Mystery, that the Gentiles are fellowheirs and of the same Body, each individual believer having Christ in him. Only a small segment of Israel ever came to the point of accepting this opportunity to appropriate the greatness of the Mystery which God brought about.

When we during the Age of Grace observe the memorial called "holy communion," we declare that we remember the many blessings Jesus Christ made available by his death. By revelation he instituted this memorial before his suffering and death. What a loving act by our wonderful savior!

"This is my body" in Matthew 26: 26 could not be literal. We do not literally eat Jesus Christ's body. Centuries of argumentation could have been avoided if people had recognized a very simple figure of speech called metaphor. A metaphor is stronger than a simile which simply compares two things by using the words "like" or "as." In a metaphor the verb "is" can be replaced by the word "represents." Jesus was emphatically saying, "This bread represents my body." Likewise, the wine in the cup represented his blood. The Apostle Paul spoke of this memorial in I Corinthians 11.

I Corinthians 11: 23 to 30 -- For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same  night in which he was betrayed took bread:

And when he had given thanks, he brake it,  and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took  the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament [diatheke, covenant] in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this  cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that  bread, and drink of that  cup.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

For this cause many are  weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Notice that this bread and wine are to be taken "in remembrance." That is why it is a memorial rather than a sacrament (which is a rite with a mysterious meaning). We are to give proper remembrance of Jesus Christ and the accomplishments of his death. He died as Israel's last and true Passover lamb. Because he was the ultimate Passover lamb, there is no need for any more Passover sacrifices or meals because Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice. The Passover meal has been replaced with holy communion, which is the memorial of Jesus Christ's death. The cup of wine represents the blood he shed to atone for sins. The bread represents his body. The accomplishments of his bodily sufferings bring us physical deliverance. Not discerning the Lord's body has caused many Christians to become weak, sickly, and even die. They have not claimed the physical health Jesus Christ made available. Whereas Passover memorialized the children of Israel's deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, holy communion memorializes the believers' deliverance from the bondage of sin and its consequences. Communion is the only memorial God has given whereby Christians remember the atonement of His Son. And it is a memorial that, when done properly, brings immediate benefits.

After the memorial was instituted, several events took place which we will look into later. One of these events was a "praise" or the singing of a hymn.

Matthew 26: 30 -- And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14: 26 -- And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Up to this point, we have observed in a basically chronological fashion the records of the last supper as recorded in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. This was possible because each of these three Gospels records several details common to them all. However, the Gospel of John records this same meal from a totally different perspective and with many other details. With the possible exception of the proclamation that a betrayer was in their midst, [see John 13: 21 to 25] none of the details of the event recorded in John can be found in the other three Gospels. The Gospel of John relates many unique and significant truths of what happened at the last supper.

John 13: 2 and 3 -- And supper being ended [the text reads "taking place" or "beginning to take place"], the devil ["Satan", in Aramaic] having now [already] put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son,  to betray him;

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.

This knowledge of his superior calling from God contrasts vividly with the humbling service Jesus was about to perform. Usually only a slave would do what he was about to do, and only the lowest class of slave at that.

John 13: 4 and 5 -- He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them  with the towel wherewith he was girded.

In the East the lowliest bondslave, the son of a bondslave, was responsible to wash the feet of his master's family or of guests when they arrived at the house. Anytime a guest entered a house, whether it was once or fifty times a day, this procedure took place.

Occasionally when a person of high rank visited another's home, only the head of the house was allowed to wash his guest's feet, and then he, the head of the house, would serve his guest at the table. This was a very high compliment for a man to give a guest. Jesus did this humble task and thereby set an example of love, service, and humility.

The "garments" of verse 4 refer to Jesus' outer cloak. This would have left him wearing his tunic. The towel was a linen cloth. Jesus would, as a servant, tie this about his waist and use the ends of it for wiping the disciples' feet. The verb "wash" is the Greek word nipto,  meaning "to wash one part of the body."

The extraordinary point here is how Jesus in washing his disciples' feet totally broke with custom to show the extent of the love of God they were to have in their lives. These were lowly men, but Jesus treated them like royalty. His disciples were completely taken by surprise because they knew from their social status that they did not deserve such treatment, especially from their lord.

John 13: 6 to 8 -- Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Peter, who loved and respected Jesus, could not accept this act of humility from his master. Jesus reproved his beloved friend and follower. If he, Jesus, did not wash Peter's feet, then Peter could not share in Jesus' work.

John 13: 9 and 10 -- Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my  hands and my  head.

Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his  feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. [not all present are clean]

After Jesus explained the washing, Peter wanted to be completely washed. But Jesus said that he who is bathed or washed all over needs only to wash his feet, and is otherwise clean. The Greek word for "clean" is katharos,  meaning "free from impurity in every way." In the East, people would get dirty feet from wearing only sandals when walking on the dusty roads. Yet the rest of the body would remain clean. That is why it was customary to wash the feet. From this simple truth Jesus then showed them that, as a group, they were basically free from impurity, but not all of them were. The next verse explains this.

John 13: 11 -- For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

Judas was not pure. The rest of the disciples were.

John 13: 12 -- So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?

Jesus was a teacher to the end. Having performed the action, he explained it so clearly that all could learn from it.

John 13: 13 to 16 -- Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so  I am.

If I then, your  Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant [Greek: doulos,  bondslave] is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

This was one of Jesus' greatest teachings on serving. Jesus was not saying that his followers should literally always be ready to wash the feet of fellow believers. He was teaching a principle, saying that in attitude of heart his followers should be like bondslaves. Doulos,  here translated "servant," is used of a dedicated, trusted servant. When the analogy is transferred to Christian service, it expresses the highest devotion of one who is bound by love. That is what Jesus' example meant. Christians should devotedly help each other keep their walks pure before God. They should be willing to do the lowliest task in order to bless each other.

John 13: 17 and 18 -- If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.

Jesus quoted the Old Testament, namely Psalms 41: 9, in declaring that there was a betrayer among them, one who would betray him even though they had eaten together.

John 13: 19 to 23 -- Now I tell you before it [his betrayal] come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.

Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.

Theologians, artists, and tradition have proclaimed that this disciple "whom Jesus loved" was the Apostle John. As so often happens, people have assumed this to be correct and have made a doctrine out of it. We cannot do that and stand approved before God. The Word of God never tells us who this disciple was. The argument can more convincingly be made that this disciple was Lazarus. Although Jesus surely loved John, never does God's Word emphatically declare his love for John as an individual. However, the Word does state this of Lazarus.

End Of Part One