The Last Passover and the First Lord’s Supper
From: Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective – The Abridged Version pp503 – 521
By Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum
a. The Preparation for the Seder
Matthew 26:17-19, Mark 14:12-16, Luke 22:7-13
It was now Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, or April 6, A.D. 30. At sundown, the Passover began, ending 24 hours later, on the evening of the 15th. At that point, the first of the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread began (Ex. 12:1-20; Deut. 16:1-8).
Often, these two festivals are mistaken as being one, and when one is referred to, both are meant. However, while God commanded that both feasts should be observed by the Jewish people, they commemorate different events.
In the Scriptures, the Feast of Passover is mentioned more than any other feast of Israel, over fifty times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 27 times in the New Testament. Within the framework of Judaism, this is the most important festival of the entire Jewish religious calendar.
Two different names are given for this feast. The first name, Pesach, is the Hebrew word meaning “Passover,” originating with the angel of death motif found in Exodus 12.8 The Jews were commanded to take a lamb, slay it, and sprinkle its blood upon the lintel and doorposts of each home. That night the angel of death passed through the land of Egypt. When he came to a Jewish home and saw the blood upon the 8 lintel and doorposts, he passed over that home. But when he came to an Egyptian home and did not see the blood upon the lintel and doorposts, instead of “passing over,” he would “pass-through” and slay the firstborn son of that Egyptian family. This is the origin of the name for this feast: the passing-over of the Jewish homes by the angel of death.
8 Biblically, it was the Lord Himself who passed through the land of Egypt (Ex. 12:23). In rabbinic tradition, it was the angel of death.
The second Hebrew name for this festival is zman cheruteinu, which means the “season of our emancipation.” This name emphasizes the result of the first Passover: freedom from Egyptian slavery.
As soon as Passover ends at sundown on the 15th of Nisan, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. Moses described its observance in Leviticus 23:6-8. The main component of this seven-day festival is God’s commandment to not eat any leavened bread. The Hebrew name for this feast is Hag haMatzot, which simply means “the feast of unleavened bread.”
Leaven is a symbol of sin when used symbolically in the Scriptures. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is fulfilled by the offering of the sinless, unleavened blood of the Messiah (Heb. 9:11-10:18). While the actual death of Yeshua fulfilled the Passover, the offering of His sinless blood fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
During Passover, Jewish pilgrims from all over the region and the Roman Empire flocked into Jerusalem for this national celebration. The main part of the Feast of Passover was the Seder, a meal whose Hebrew name means “order.” When the disciples asked Yeshua,
Where will you that we make ready for you to eat the Passover?(Mt. 26:17)
they were referring to the Passover meal. Luke added:
And he sent Peter and Yochanan, saying, Go and make ready for us the Passover, that we may eat .(Lk. 22:8)
Peter and Yochanan were assigned to prepare the meal. Before they performed their duties, they had to first deliver the Passover lamb to the Temple compound. The lamb was killed, and its blood was poured into a bowl, carried to the altar, and poured out at the base of the altar. During the process, they sang Psalms 113-118, known as the Hallel (praise) palms. The lamb was then cleaned, meaning it was skinned and the entrails removed. Parts of the lamb were burned on the altar; the rest was taken home and roasted. Then, additional Passover items were prepared: unleavened bread; wine; bitter herbs; and a concoction called charoset, a combination of apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon, lemon juice, and wine, chopped and mixed together until it turned a deep brown colour. This is what was involved in making ready the Passover.
It was impossible to house the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover within the city walls. Therefore, huge tent cities were erected around the walls where the people ate the Seder meal with their families and others. Some residents of Jerusalem were asked to arrange special accommodations for other people, and this year, Yeshua was one of them:
Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water(Lk. 22:10a)
Yeshua had made previous arrangements for the place where He and His disciples would observe the Passover within the city walls. Peter and Yochanan were to go into Jerusalem and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water, a notable detail because in the Middle East, even to this day, only women, not men, carry the water. To see a man carrying water would be unusual and therefore a sign. Upon seeing this, they were to follow him into the house whereinto he goes (Lk. 22:10b). Then, upon arrival, ye shall say unto the master of the house, The Teacher said unto you, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples? (Lk. 22:11). The Matthew account shows the significance of this Passover: The Teacher said, My time is at hand; I keep the Passover at your house with my disciples (Mt. 26:18). Yeshua had observed the Passover with His disciples before, but this was to be the Passover of fulfilment, the Passover of His coming death. The result would be this:
Now before the feast of the Passover, Yeshua knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end(Jn. 13:1)
The awareness of this last Passover came before the feast, so Yeshua knew this was to be the special Passover of fulfilment.
And he will show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready(Lk. 22:12)
A large upper room like this was called the Aliyah, the best room in the house, located on the second level, with an outdoor stairwell leading up to it, making it unnecessary to enter the first floor. While the disciples had to prepare the meal, everything else had been prearranged by Yeshua:
And he will himself show you a large upper room furnished ready.(Mk. 14:15)
The room was already furnished with a low table and pillows for reclining and was ready for the Passover with all the other necessary provisions, such as the water to wash the hands, etc.
The church tradition that this upper room was in the home of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, and that in this same room the church was born (Acts 1:13), is unsubstantiated.
Not every detail of the Passover is actually mentioned in the Gospels, but those that are will be noted here.
b. The Start of the Passover Observance
Matthew 26:20, Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14-16
Yeshua made the point that He had been looking forward to this particular Passover because He would now fulfil the Passover by His death. He said:
I shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God(Lk. 22:16)
meaning this was the last Passover He would observe until the kingdom is established. Ezekiel prophesied that the Passover observance will be reinstituted when the messianic kingdom is established (Ez. 45:21). The basis of the kingdom is the New Covenant, and on this Passover, the New Covenant would be ratified by His blood. We will now explore the world’s best known Passover celebration.
c. The First Cup
During the Jewish Passover, four cups of wine are drunk. According to rabbinic law, even the poor had to purchase wine to partake of these four cups. The wine is consumed at specific points of the Seder, so the names of the cups reflect the part of the celebration during which they are drunk. The first cup is called “the cup of blessing” because it is for the Kiddush, a prayer of blessing said at the beginning of the Seder. The Hebrew term Kiddush means “sanctification.” Therefore, the cup is also called “the cup of sanctification.” The second cup is called “the cup of plagues” or “the cup of deliverance.” The third is “the cup of redemption,” and the last is “the cup of Hallel,” or “the cup of praise.” The Hallel is a prayer during which the Jewish people recite Psalms 113- 118. The gospels deal only with the first and third cups. The second cup is not mentioned at all, and there is only an indirect reference to the fourth cup. Over each cup, a special prayer is recited.
The Passover begins with the kindling of lights, after which Yeshua received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves (Lk. 22:17). This was the first of the four cups of the Jewish Passover Seder. While all cups are preceded by a blessing, the first cup receives the longest of the blessings, called “the Kiddush.” Because of the nature and content of the prayer, this cup is also called “the cup of blessing.” Its beginning stanza says, Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei peri hagafen, which means, “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the
The phrase fruit of the vine is a technical Jewish term for Passover wine. Passover wine must be fermented naturally, without any additives that would speed up the fermentation process. To this day, Passover wine is still referred to as the fruit of the vine. Yeshua then repeated that this was the last time He would observe the Passover until the kingdom is established:
for I say unto you, I shall not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come(Lk. 22:18)
d. The Washing of the Feet and the First Prediction of Betrayal by Judas
Following the first cup of the Passover, observance is the washing of hands, called Ur’chatz. Before reporting on this part of the Seder, Yochanan repeated a point of crucial importance:
And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Yehudah Ish Kriyot, Shimon’s , to betray him(Jn. 13:2).9
This verse reiterates the fact that Satan had entered Judas.
9 For John 13:1, see § 150.
Yeshua had come from God, and as a result of the events of this Passover season, He would soon return to God, emphasizing His divine origin (Jn. 13:3). In Philippians 2:6-8, Paul teaches that although Yeshua was in the form of God, He did not consider existing only in the form of God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself into the role of a servant. He did not cease to be God, but added human nature to His divine nature, taking on the role of a servant. What happened during the Passover Seder and especially during this stage, the washing of hands, exemplifies what Paul taught in the Philippians passage. During the hand washing ceremony, the one who takes the servant role (usually the mother or daughter) goes from person to person with a pitcher of water, a bowl, and a towel. The participants would place their fingers over the bowl, the mother or daughter would pour water over them, and then they would dry their hands with the towel. Yeshua followed this Jewish procedure during certain portions of the ceremony at the proper time. However, He did two things differently: He took the servant’s role by performing the washing, and He washed the disciples’ feet instead of their hands.
Laying aside His garments, Yeshua took a towel and girded Himself. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded (Jn. 13:5). Although normally performed by the woman in the household following the first cup, the Messiah Himself took on the role of a servant. The second departure from the norm was His going from person to person to wash their feet, not their hands. While they might have felt uneasy about their Messiah washing their feet, nobody verbally objected until Yeshua came to Simon Peter, who said, Lord, do you wash my feet? (Jn. 13:6). The Greek is emphatic, reading, “Is such a one as you going to wash the feet of such a one as I?” It was beyond Peter’s comprehension that the Messiah would take on this kind of role.
Yeshua initially explained:
What I do you know not now; but you shall understand hereafter (Jn. 13:7).(Jn. 13:7).
A time would come when Peter would fully understand Yeshua’s motive behind this act of service. Now, however, he still objected:
You shall never wash my feet(Jn.13:8a).
Peter’s logic was contradictory. He called Yeshua Lord, then he told Him what He could or could not do by saying, “You will never wash my feet!” Yeshua did not try to explain His motive at that point, but He told Peter,
If I wash you not, you have no part with me(Jn.13:8b).
The disciple did not yet understand that Yeshua was to die and be resurrected. He assumed that the Messiah would soon be setting up His kingdom, so he believed that he was being threatened with loss of position in the kingdom. So he changed his mind and said,
Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head(Jn. 13:9).
In other words, “If that is the case, then go ahead and give me a bath!”
Then Yeshua made the application:
He that is bathed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean(Jn. 13:10).
During the Second Temple period, only the wealthy class had a private bathhouse. Most people went to a public bathhouse to wash themselves. On the way home, because the streets of Israel were dusty, one’s feet would be dirty by the time they arrived home. So, a small bowl or pitcher of water for washing the feet was always at the entry of the door to the home. Since one was already bathed and clean, only their dirty feet needed to be cleaned again. The contrast was between the body and the feet. By way of application, the washing of the body happens at salvation, when the believer is thoroughly washed clean. Because believers still sin in this life (i.e., their feet still get dirty), they must continue to have their feet washed. This happens by means of I John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.I John 1:9
The body is washed and saved by salvation, but our dirty feet, our daily sins, are cleansed by confessing those sins to God.
After declaring in verse 10 that they were all clean, Yeshua made one exception:
For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean(Jn. 13:11).
Although Yeshua did not name anyone at this stage, this was the first implication of a betrayal. Later in the Passover observance, Yeshua gave two clues that showed Judas was not saved.
The lesson the apostles were to learn from this was the principle of servanthood. They recognized Yeshua to be Master and Lord, and that was a correct conclusion:
For so I am(Jn. 13:13).
If their Master and Lord willingly took on the role of a servant and washed their feet, then they should do the same:
For I have given you an example(Jn. 13:15).
The principle is this: If the Lord was willing to take on the role of a servant, how much more should those who are His servants take on the role of servanthood (Jn. 13:16)? Yeshua promised that their obedience would bring a reward:
If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them(Jn. 13:17).
Finally, Yeshua repeated that He would be betrayed:
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled: He that eats my bread lifted up his heel against me(Jn. 13:18).
He still did not clearly identify His betrayer, but when He said, He that eats my bread, He implied it would be someone within His close circle of companions.
e. Karpas: The Second Prediction of the Betrayal by Judas
Matthew 26:21-25, Mark 14:18-21, Luke 22:21-23
The ceremony that follows the washing of hands is called karpas. This Hebrew term comes from the Greek “karpos,” which refers to a fresh, raw vegetable. The ceremony consists of everyone dipping a piece of green vegetable (usually parsley or celery) into saltwater and then eating it. Green is a symbol of spring, the symbol of youth, reminding the Jewish people that when Israel was young, in the springtime of her nationhood, God saved her by means of saltwater when God divided the Red Sea, allowing the Jews to cross on dry land, but drowning the Egyptian army.
Mark mentioned the timing:
And as they sat and were eating (Mk.14:18).(Mk.14:18).
The Greek word for sat is anakeimai, which means “to be laid up,” “to recline.” At certain intervals during Passover, one reclines towards the left when eating. One such time for reclining is during the ceremony of the karpas, and so, as Yeshua and His disciples observed the Passover, reclining, the Messiah made a prediction:
Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me(Mt. 26:21).
This was more specific than His previous statement. Luke’s account points out that this was already determined through the counsel of God and had been prophesied:
For the Son of man indeed goes, as it has been determined: but woe unto that man through whom he is betrayed!(Lk. 22:22).
Yeshua clearly stated that one of the twelve men would betray Him. When they all wanted to know who it was, He named no one, but gave a clue:
He that dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me(Mt.26:23).
With at least 13 people present, this was a rather large Passover. Therefore, several saltwater dishes were placed upon the table so that at least one dish would be within easy reach of three or four people. The answer to the question was that whoever dipped his vegetable in the same dish as Yeshua was the betrayer. This was the second prediction, but the first clear identification of the traitor. The context shows that the disciples missed the clue. However, Judas knew, because he had already made the bargain:
And Yehuda, who betrayed Him, answered and said, Is it I, Rabbi? He said unto him, You have said(Mt. 26:25),
a Greek idiom meaning, “Yes, indeed.”
f. The Breaking of the Middle Matzah
Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, I Corinthians 11:23-24
On the Passover table lies a linen bag with three compartments called the matzah tosh. If no such bag is available, a linen cloth is folded into quarters to create the three compartments. Three loaves of matzah, or unleavened bread, are placed into each one of the compartments. The matzot10 are the focus of a special ritual known as the afikomen ceremony, which occurs in two stages. The middle matzah is taken out and broken in half. The larger of the two pieces are wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden. This is done before the main course. After the main course, the hidden matzah, or the afikomen, is retrieved, unwrapped, broken into smaller pieces, and distributed among the Seder guests as their “desserts.”
10 Plural for matzah.
By Jewish law, the Passover bread must meet three requirements. It must be unleavened, striped, and pierced so that when held up against a candle or a lamp, the light can be seen through the holes. The holes are poked into the bread in rows, so when it is baked it comes out striped. The rabbinic reason given for the striping and piercing was to impede leavening. However, Yeshua identified His body specifically with the Passover matzah:
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you;(Lk. 22:19)
Take, eat; this is my body.(Mt. 26:26)
It is important to remember that when Yeshua said, this is my body, He specifically referred to the Jewish Passover bread, and no other bread. The Passover bread was a fitting symbol of His body for three reasons. First, it is unleavened. Leaven is the symbol of sin. Since Yeshua was the only Jew whoever kept the Mosaic Law perfectly, down to every jot and tittle (Mt. 5:17-18), His body was unleavened, or sinless. If He had commit ted even one sin, it would have disqualified Him from being the Passover sacrifice.
Second, the matzah bread had to be stripped. The body of Yeshua was also striped by way of the Roman whip during the time of His scourging. Third, the bread had to be pierced, and the body of Yeshua was pierced twice, by the nails at the crucifixion, and by the spear thrust into His side.
Another element of the afikomen ceremony also has messianic relevance. The three compartments of the matzah tosh are a picture of one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The middle matzah is the only one removed during the ceremony,11 a picture of the incarnation, when the second person of the Trinity became man and took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. The breaking of the bread is a picture of His death. When Yeshua reached this part of the ceremony, He said, This is my body which is given for you (Lk. 22:19). The matzah is then wrapped in a linen cloth. When the body of Yeshua was taken from the cross, it was also wrapped in a linen cloth (Jn. 19:40). Hiding the matzah is a picture of the burial. The removal and unwrapping is a picture of the resurrection. This is done in connection with the third cup, the cup of redemption, because after dying for the sins of the world, Yeshua rose again on the third day. The distribution of the pieces of matzah is a picture of what Yeshua taught in the discourse on the bread of life: One must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life (Jn. 6:53). As § 78 explained, that meant believing He is the Messiah. Notably, Judas was only present during the first part of the afikomen ceremony, until the matzah was hidden. He was not present during the unwrapping and the distribution.
11 The other two loaves can be eaten during the meal, but they do not have a ceremonial purpose.
The key symbolic meaning of this whole ritual is remembrance:
This do in remembrance of me(Lk. 22:19; I Cor. 11:24).
In fact, remembrance is the keyword for the entire Passover ceremony.
g. The Sop: The Third Prediction of Judas’ Betrayal
One of the ceremonial items prepared for the Passover is called charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon, lemon juice, and wine. It is prepared the day before Passover so that by Passover night, it has a deep brown colour, symbolizing brick mortar as a reminder that when the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they had to make bricks and mortar to build the cities of Pharaoh. The officiator of the Seder dips a piece of unleavened bread first into the charoset and then into bitter herbs, such as horseradish. He then passes the sop on to one of the guests and repeats this procedure until he and all the participants received their portion.12
12 Before the dipping of the sop, the second cup, called the cup of plagues, is drunk. Although not mentioned in the Gospels, it symbolizes the ten plagues that fell upon Egypt. Before anyone can drink the second cup, they must first spill out ten drops of wine. As the ten drops fall, the guests call out the names of the ten plagues. They can only drink the second cup after all ten drops are spilled and the names are called. Drinking wine symbolizes joy, but Jewish law forbade rejoicing over the misfortunes of others, even if they happened to be one’s worst enemies. Therefore, the ten drops are spilled as a sign of mourning.
For the third time during the Passover observance, Yeshua announced that one of the men sitting with Him would betray Him (Jn.13:21). Again, the disciples wanted to know who it was:
The disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spoke(Jn. 13:22).
This occurred during a part of the Seder when the guests again were reclining at the table (Jn. 13:23a). They leaned to the left against pillows as they partook of certain ceremonial items, and in Yeshua’s bosom [reclined] one of his disciples, whom Yeshua loved (Jn. 13:23b). Typically, ancient biographers showed the reader that they were eyewitnesses of a certain event by writing themselves into the story without actually identifying themselves. Here, Yochanan the apostle identified himself as the disciple whom Yeshua loved by stating that he was reclining against the Messiah’s chest. However, some artists have inaccurately portrayed this scene, showing Yochanan’s head on the bosom of Yeshua who Himself sits up straight. Since Yeshua was officiating, He would have been sitting at the head of the table, reclining to the left. The apostle, therefore, was at His right side, also reclining towards the left. Peter, who was too far away to ask Yeshua himself, signalled to Yochanan to raise the question, Tell who it is of whom he speaks (Jn. 13:24b). Yochanan, already reclining left towards Yeshua, had only to recline a bit further to question Yeshua:
He leaning back, as he was, on Yeshua’s breast said unto him, Lord, who is it?(Jn. 13:25).
Again, Yeshua named no one, but provided a second clue:
He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. So when he had dipped the sop he took and gave it to Yehudah, of Shimon Ish Kriyot(Jn. 13:26).
The answer to Yochanan’s question was that the first person to receive the sop was the betrayer, and so it went. Yeshua dipped the unleavened bread into the charoset and the bitter herbs and gave it to Judas. The disciples did not understand Yeshua’s clue;
yet, after the sop, then entered Satan into him (Jn. 13:27a).(Jn. 13:27a).
The devil first entered into Judas when he made the commitment to betray the Messiah and bargained with the chief priests about the price. Here, Satan entered Judas a second time so that he would follow through with the act of betrayal. Yeshua said,
What you do, do quickly(Jn. 13:27b).
The disciples completely misunderstood the scene (Jn. 13:29), assuming that because Judas had the moneybag, he either had to buy some missing items or give to the poor.13 Now, Judas left the feast:
He then having received the sop went out straightway: and it was night (Jn. 13:30).(Jn. 13:30).
Normally, the phrase and it was night would be irrelevant because Passover is only observed at night, never in the daytime. However, Yochanan recorded this, and it supports his sub-theme of the conflict of light and darkness. Obviously, it was nighttime, but Judas himself was of the night and of the darkness, and the deed he was about to perform was one of the night and of the darkness. 13 To this day, it is a Jewish practice to give alms to the poor at Passover time.
Remembering that a part of the original conspiracy was to prevent Yeshua’s crucifixion on Passover, this was the chief satanic element of the plot. When Yeshua identified Judas as the betrayer, He forced the conspirators’ hands; they had to act on the very night they were trying to avoid, resulting in confusion and disorganization during the initial stages of the Jewish trial. The elders and chief priests did not have the false witnesses lined up, so they were delayed and subsequently disorganized in getting everything together. Yeshua forced their hand, showing that even in the death of the Messiah, God was in full control.
h. The Third Cup
Matthew 26:27-29, Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:20, I Corinthians 11:25-26
Following the dipping of the sop, the Seder guests enjoy the main course, which consists of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. Then the second part of the afikomen ceremony occurs, with the unwrapping, breaking, and distribution of the hidden matzah, followed by the third of the four cups of wine, called “the cup of the redemption.” In Judaism, this cup symbolizes the blood of the lamb that saved the Jewish firstborns from the last plague in Egypt. Yeshua identified His blood with this cup. Luke made that clear when he specified:
And the cup in like manner after supper(Lk. 22:20a).
The first two cups are drunk before supper. The cup of redemption comes after the meal: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, that which is poured out for you (Lk. 22:20b). Matthew stated:
for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins (Mt. 26:28).(Mt. 26:28).
The third cup, which reminds the Seder guests of the shed blood of the innocent lamb that brought redemption from Egypt, now becomes the symbol of the blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. When Yeshua handed out the cup to His disciples, He repeated what He had said about the first cup:
Verily I say unto you, I shall no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God(Mk. 14:25).
This was the last Passover He would celebrate and the last time He would drink Passover wine until His return. Matthew added a special emphasis:
I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Mt. 26:29).(Mt. 26:29).
Yeshua addressed the eleven disciples who remained with Him; Judas had left. The first Passover Yeshua will observe in the messianic kingdom will be in the presence of these apostles. Paul explains the basic meaning of the ceremony:
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come(I Cor. 11:26).
Israel once had a sacrificial system and will again have a sacrificial system in the messianic kingdom.14 Meanwhile, one of the ways the church must proclaim the Lord’s death till he come is by partaking of the bread and the cup. The ceremony, an abridged version of the Jewish Passover, is known by different names. Some churches call it communion,” others call it “the Lord’s Supper,” and others simply call it “the breaking of bread.” The phrase till he come indicates that this ceremony will terminate with the second coming. The bread of which the church partakes is the middle of the three matzah loaves. The cup of which the church partakes is the third of the four cups of the Passover. This is done to proclaim Yeshua’s death, because by that death came the remission of sins. Once the Messiah returns, the ceremony will be replaced by the sacrificial system described in Ezekiel.
14 This sacrificial system is described in Ezekiel 40-48.
The phrase this do in remembrance of me is key. When believers in Yeshua shares the bread and the cup, they are to remember the Messiah’s death and resurrection and to look for His glorious return in the future. It is not transubstantiation, as taught in Catholicism. The elements do not turn into the actual body and blood of Messiah. Nor is it consubstantiation, as taught in Lutheranism. The elements do not contain the actual body and blood of Messiah. The ceremony is simply commemorative, in keeping with the Jewish Passover motif. Every part of the Passover Feast is to remind the participants of something. This remembrance motif is ascribed to the elements of the Lord’s Supper, and those who partake of the bread and the cup are to do it in remembrance of Him. That is the meaning of communion from its Jewish frame of reference, and it is to be done until He returns.
Yeshua also stated, as often as ye eat this bread and drink the cup (I Cor. 11:26), which raises the question: How often is “often”? Passover was celebrated once a year, which establishes that minimally, every church should observe communion once a year. Beyond that, the frequency is a question of preference. Some churches observe communion weekly; some monthly; and others observe it periodically, three or four times a year. Biblically, all are equal options.
i. A Lesson in Greatness
During the Passover Seder, the third cup initiates a second ceremony, which tends to be less formal and can include readings and recitations as well as singing and discussions. This was the setting for the lesson of this passage, which was brought about by a dispute among the disciples:
And there arose a contention among them, which of them was accounted to be greatest(Lk. 22:24).
The rivalry is ironic in light of the fact that earlier the same evening, Yeshua taught His disciples the principle of servanthood (Jn. 13:1-20). The lesson was that there must be a distinction between the world and the body of believers. The world exercises lordship by man-made authority and/or position; but for the body of believers, greatness is to be shown by serving. Yeshua’s life exemplified this kind of greatness (Lk. 22:25-27).
After admonishing His disciples with these words and reminding them of the lesson they had already been taught, Yeshua repeated an earlier promise: that in the messianic kingdom twelve thrones will be set up, and the apostles will sit upon those thrones and rule the twelve tribes of Israel (Lk. 22:28-30). An absolute monarchy will administer the kingdom. The king will be Yeshua the Messiah (e.g., Ps. 2:6-8; Is. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5-6; Zech. 14:9). His government will consist of two branches, one Jewish and one Gentile. The church and tribulation saints will co-rule with Yeshua over the Gentile branch of government (e.g., Rev. 20:4-6). Under them will be earthly kings in natural bodies, and below them will be the Gentile nations. Co-ruling with Yeshua over the Jewish branch of government will be the resurrected King David (Jer. 30:9; Ez. 34:23-24, 37:24-25; Hos. 3:5). Under David will be the twelve apostles, ruling the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28).15
j. The Prediction of Peter’s Denial
Matthew 26:31-35, Mark 14:27-31, Luke 22:31-38, John 13:31-38
The Passover observance continued, and Yochanan noted the departure of Judas from the scene:
When therefore he was gone out(Jn. 13:31a).
Judas’ departure guaranteed the betrayal, and the betrayal, in turn, assured the coming death of Yeshua. By His death, both the Father and the Son would be glorified (Jn. 13:31b-32). His death also guaranteed that He would soon leave this world:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come(Jn. 13:33a).
In light of His imminent departure, Yeshua gave a commandment, which in one sense was new, but in another sense, it was not:
love one another(Jn. 13:34a).
This was a well-established rule insofar as the second most important commandment of the Mosaic Law was to love your neighbour as yourself (Lev. 19:18). So, the standard for loving one’s neighbour was love of self. The new facet of this commandment was:
love one another; even as I have loved you(Jn. 13:34b).
The standard was no longer an individual’s love for himself, but Yeshua’s love for him, and He loved us perfectly and unconditionally—enough to die for us. The way the world will know whether someone is a disciple of Yeshua is if he has the same kind of unconditional love for others (Jn. 13:35).
Having said this, Yeshua announced that after His arrest, the disciples would soon scatter (Mt. 26:31, quoting Zech. 13:7). Knowing that they would forsake Him, He left them clear instructions to leave Jerusalem immediately and go to Galilee (Mt. 26:32). This was the first of three such commands; however, as often as He had taught them the whole program of death and resurrection, the disciples never understood it, so they never obeyed this order.
15 For details on these prophetic themes, see the author’s book The Footsteps of the
Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2003); chapter 18 details the governments of the messianic kingdom.
Hearing Yeshua’s words, Peter asked:
Lord, whither go you?(Jn.13:36).
Whither I go, you cannot follow now; but you shall follow afterwards(Jn. 13:36).
He referred to His return to heaven after His death, something Peter did not yet understand:
Lord, why cannot I follow you even now? I will lay down my life for you(Jn. 13:37).
Maybe all the other disciples would fall away from Yeshua, but Peter was sure that he would not. He was confident that he would follow Yeshua to the point of laying down his life. Yeshua informed Peter that unbeknownst to him, a spiritual war was underway. Just as he had once requested regarding Job, Satan had asked God to let him have Peter, that he might sift him as wheat (Lk. 22:31). However, Yeshua interceded on the apostle’s behalf that his faith fails not (Lk. 22:32a). Due to this satanic sifting, Peter would stumble, but would not permanently fall from the faith. Yeshua instructed him that once you have turned again, meaning once he had repented, establish your brethren (Lk. 22:32b). Peter’s response was self-assured:
If all shall be offended in you, I will never be offended(Mt. 26:33).
Even if all the other disciples deserted Yeshua, he would never do so! In response to Peter’s adamant proclamation of allegiance, Yeshua uttered yet another prophecy:
Verily I say unto you, that you today, this night, before the cock crow twice, shall deny me thrice.(Mk.14:30)
This is not to be taken as an actual rooster crowing, because roosters are unreliable timepieces. The term the cock crow referred to specific times of day. There were four watches of the night. The first watch began at midnight, and the second watch began at 3:00 a.m. So by the second cock crow, or between the first watch at midnight and the second watch at 3:00 a.m., Peter would have denied Yeshua three times. Peter was not the only one who swore allegiance to Yeshua:
Likewise said all the disciples(Mt. 26:35b),
promising not to deny nor betray Him, nor would they scatter from Him. Yeshua chose not to argue the point, and that night He saw His prophecies fulfilled. The repeal of a previous commission followed next (Lk. 22:35). Twice before, Yeshua commanded the apostles not to take a purse, a wallet, or shoes. As long as He was visibly and physically present on earth, all these things were automatically provided for them. However, certain things that were true when the Messiah was present are not true now that He is in heaven. Yeshua would soon leave the apostles, so He repealed the previous commission, and gave them a new one:
And he said unto them, When I sent you forth without purse, and wallet, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. And he said unto them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that has none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword(Lk. 22:35-36).
Now that Yeshua was going to depart from them, the disciples must even buy a sword for personal protection rather than to defend the faith. This is a good example of why careful study of the context of each passage is important to determine if personal application is appropriate. People have claimed for themselves the previous admonitions but ignored this one, although it negates Yeshua’s previous orders. The previous commissions were intended only for the apostles and only while the Messiah was with them. Others incorrectly teach that Yeshua’s supernatural acts on earth—such as healing all who came to Him—automatically transferred to His followers. Certain conditions existed and were true while He was on earth, but they are not true in His absence. When He returns, He might reestablish certain commissions, and He will reinstate certain conditions, such as physically healing all who come to Him. However, as long as He is in heaven, we must carefully study the verses to discern correct application for believers today.
k. The Hallel
Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26
To bring the Passover observance to a close, the Seder guests sing Psalms 113-118, especially focusing on Psalms 117 and 118. While singing, they drink the fourth cup, called hallel, or “the cup of praise,” which gives this last part of the Passover observance its name. Matthew and Mark did not specifically mention the fourth cup, but they hinted at it:
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out unto the mount of Olives(Mt. 26:30).
As this passage reads in English, the word hymn appears as a noun. Yeshua and the disciples sang a single hymn. In the Greek, it is a verb: They “hymned.” They hymned the Psalms in connection with the fourth cup, the cup of praise, with Psalm 118 holding great messianic significance.