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Was the Last Supper a Passover meal?

It is probably safe to say that when most people think about the Last Supper, they naturally assume that it was an observance of the Passover feast. This makes sense since each of the synoptic gospels seem to indicate this. However, John’s gospel appears to contradict the timing apparent in the synoptics, so this is far from a settled matter. So was the Last Supper a Passover meal or not?

Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure the last supper did not look like this!


First, a little review of the timing of the festival itself. In Leviticus 23 God commanded Moses, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.” The day after the Sabbath following Pentecost is called the Feast of Firstfruits.

Gospel Record

With this in mind, let’s see what each of the gospel accounts record:

Matthew 26:17-20: Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.

Mark 14:12-17: And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.

Luke 22:7-16: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

John 13:1-4: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it 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 had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.

The synoptics all record the day of the Last Supper as “the first day of Unleavened Bread.” Already this is a bit confusing and does not appear to correspond to the timing in the Law. However, when we remember that unleavened bread was also eaten during the Passover meal (for that is what was eaten on the eve of the original Passover), it is plausible that Passover itself was also considered part of the seven-day period of eating unleavened bread even though the Feast of Unleavened Bread was technically not until the day following Passover. In fact, Josephus likewise calls this day the first day of Unleavened Bread, so it is likely that this was a common, although not technically correct, way to refer to the day.

But that’s not even the most puzzling part. While the synoptics each associate the Last Supper with the Passover supper, John records the supper as occurring “before the Feast of the Passover.” Further, John 18:28 indicates that when the Jewish leaders took Jesus to Caiaphas’s headquarters (early Friday morning), they did not go in “so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” This seems to indicate that the Passover meal had not yet occurred, even after the Last Supper. Further, John 19:31 clearly indicates that the day on which Jesus died (Friday) was the “day of Preparation” for Passover.

So the synoptics seem to indicate that the Last Supper was the Passover Feast, but John appears as if Jesus died during the time of preparation for Passover. Both can’t be true, can they?

The Options

Some argue that the Last Supper was not the Passover feast. Reasons include the following:

  1. The Gospels make no mention of the Passover lamb as part of the supper.
  2. The word used for “bread” (artos) designated leavened bread.
  3. The traditional four cups of the Passover celebration are not mentioned.

Others suggest that Jesus and his disciples ate the meal a day early since Jesus knew he was going to die the next day.

However, one additional alternative exists. Some scholars note that Jews from Galilee measured days differently than Jews from Judea. Galileans measured their day from sunrise to sunrise, while Judeans measured their day from sunset to sunset (similarly to how we do it today). This being the case, Galilean Jews would have slaughtered their Passover animals during the afternoon of Thursday (the day they considered Nisan 14) and eaten their Passover meal later that evening. Judean Jews would have waited another half day, killing their animals Friday afternoon and eating the meal Friday evening.

Jesus and his disciples, being Galileans, would have naturally celebrated Passover on Thursday. The Jewish leaders and others in Jerusalem, and indeed any formal celebrations in the Temple itself, would have occurred on Friday.

Thus Jesus could have both celebrated the Passover Feast on Thursday in Galilean fashion and been killed as our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) on Friday.

For Discussion

  1. Which option do you find most convincing, and why?
  2. If the Last Supper was not a Passover meal, what implications might this have for observances of the Lord’s Supper today?
  3. If the Last Supper was a Passover meal, what implications might this have for observances of the Lord’s Supper today?
  4. What implications do the act of a “Supper” with the Lord have for Christian worship today?
Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

30 Responses to Was the Last Supper a Passover meal?

  1. Thanks! I will definitely take a look at this. I’ve heard this view before but have never seen it explained. I actually did a quick search for it yesterday when composing this post.

    So, do you date the last supper on Wednesday, then? If so, do you run into the same quandary regarding whether the supper was a Passover feast?

    Maybe I should just read your article, huh? :)

    Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Yes, Wednesday evening (start of day on Hebrew Thursday) for the Last Supper. It appears that (as with almost everything else) the Sadducees were at odds with the Pharisees concerning the timing of the Passover meal. The Lev 23 passage you quoted could be seen as ambiguous. Was it on the 14th at twilight which actually started the 15th? Or was it the twilight which began the 14th of Nisan? The Pharisees (of Jesus’ day) decided on the former while the Sadducees held to the latter. Thus, Jesus could eat the Last Supper as the Passover on Wednesday evening, while still being the Passover Lamb killed according to Pharisee custom on the next day. Really interesting that God would merge these two diverse views into satisfying all perspectives for what Christ accomplished.
    (By the way, I’ve got additional explanation here–
    which actually is a bit clearer. You have to overlook, however, the main thrust of this article because it is promoting amillennialism. But just fast forward to the section labeled in bold type “Stop 1” and that (plus Stops 2 and 3) offers more information on the question at hand.)

  3. I would say that Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples during the Last Supper. There are two reasons that convince me. First, it is the events that happened during the first Passover and the Last Supper. Second, it is the food that they ate during the first Passover and the Last Supper.
    The events that happened during the first Passover and the Last Supper convinces me that Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples during the Last Supper if it is analogically analyzed. God gave Moses instructions to prepare for the first Passover. One of the instructions was that Israel had to take the “blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal”. (Exodus 12:7, NLT) This was a sign for the Lord to pass over Israel households when the Lord struck the first born of Egypt. I would call this step is a preparation step for the salvation. This preparation step also happened at the Last Supper. “And he (Jesus) said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’”. (Luke 22:15, NIV) In this verse, Jesus clearly told His disciples about and prepared their hearts for His suffering. But the disciples did not get it. They did not have a clue that Jesus would be crucified for our sins. They were too consumed with earthly stuff, such as who would betray Jesus, and who would be the greatest among them. Besides than the preparation steps, the food that was eaten during the first Passover and the Last Supper is also an evidence that Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples during the Last Supper.
    The article mentions that some argue the food in the Passover was not as part of the Last Supper. If analogically analyze these two events, I notice that the food from Passover was actually symbolically appeared in the Last Supper. I would like to discuss about the food in the Passover that is not mentioned in the Last Supper, which is the lamb. We all know that Jesus Himself is the lamb. When I was reading the Passover passage in the bible, there was one point that really proved that Jesus is the lamb. “
The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.” (Exodus 12:5) Israel had to choose a year-old male lamb without defeat among their lambs and to use the blood as a sign to spare them from God’s wrath. Jesus was a human as you and I are before his resurrection; yet, he never sinned. Jesus was the perfect or without defeat man among mankind. Don’t you think Jesus Himself was the Passover lamb that was symbolically eaten at the Last Supper?
    The preparation events and the food both in the Passover and the Last Supper really convince me that Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples during Passover.

  4. I’m quite agree with the idea “Jesus could have both celebrated the Passover Feast and been killed as our Passover Lamb.” Jesus said in Matthew 26:18:“ My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” It clears that the last super is Passover Feast; otherwise Jesus won’t say that to his disciples. John 13:4 and Cor 5:7 give us another clear clue that Jesus sacrificed Himself as our Passover Lamb.
    One of the argument opinions mentioned in this article: “Jesus and his disciples ate the meal a day early since Jesus knew he was going to die the next day.” Jesus knew he was going to die the next day, but his disciples don’t know. Jewish people quite follow the traditions, and there are no record in four Gospels mentioned about they celebrates the Passover feast one day earlier; I read that as they did the Passover feast in the regular date.
    Thus, the only question is how to count the date. I do not have a clear idea about how to count the date, but I’m learning from Dan Salter’s two websites mentioned above, it helps!(I’m still in the process)

  5. In comparison with the origin of the Passover, found in Exodus 12, and the Last Supper that Jesus took with His disciples, I believe the Last Supper was not a Passover meal. My first reason derives from the lack thereof a lamb in the meal, which was crucial in the Passover as stated in Exodus 12:3 “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ household, a lamb for each household.” An explanation for the missing lamb could be because Jesus and His disciples were too poor to afford a lamb; however, Exodus 12:4 goes on to explain “Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.” In other words, if Jesus and His disciples were truly unable to afford a lamb for the Passover, they should still have access to a lamb through a neighbor (which would probably have been the master of the house they were eating their meal at). My second reason is the manner they were eating the Last Supper, in a large furnished upper room, while Exodus 12:11 outlines: “Now you shall eat it in this matter: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover.” If the Last Supper was indeed the Passover, the meal would not have been eaten in the comfort of a home. Hence, I argue the Last Supper was not the Passover meal since there is no mention of the lamb and the manner in which was consumed in.

    Therefore, the implication of the Lord’s Supper is prophetic as Jesus alludes to the future when we shall drink with Him in Heaven. This prophetic message is mentioned in three out of the four gospels. Matthew 26:29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Mark 14:25 “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:18 “For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” John makes no mention of the Last Supper with the bread and wine, which may be because Jesus always gives thanks before the meal begins hence he decided not to record it. Whatever the reason may be, the implication of the Lord’s Supper represents our hope in salvation that we will one day be joined with Jesus again in Heaven.

  6. I found this discussion as well as our classroom discussion quite informative. I have always wondered about the differences in dates between the Synoptic gospels and John. I had never heard anyone explain how both preparation times could be true until our discussion in class the other day. Either counting days differently (Galilean Jews vs Judean Jews) or celebrating on different days (Sadducees vs Pharisees) seem like two very plausible explanations for the different accounts in the Synoptic Gospels and John. I also am still learning about both ideas in order to fully form an opinion.

    However, I do strongly think that the Last Supper was a Passover meal. When I was in high school some Messianic Jewish friends of mine let us celebrate the Passover feast with them. There were so many parts of the ceremony that were clearly shadows of Jesus. The part I remember the most was how my friends explained that the cup Jesus took when saying, “this is my blood of the covenant” in Matthew 26:28, was a cup that Jews set at their Passover table every year. No one ever drank from it, but it was reserved for Elijah who would return and tell them of the Messiah. I know there is so much more symbolism with the ceremony, order of the meal, prayers, etc. I would love to look through that again to learn more because I remember being so fascinated.

    I also think that John was writing very intentionally when choosing to use the Judean date for the Passover (if that is why/how the differing dates is explained). The entire Gospel of John is very intentional in the way that it shows how Jesus brings analogical fulfillment to many Old Testament prophecies and symbolism. Therefore, it is not surprising that he would have Jesus crucified in his gospel at the very same hour that Jews would have been sacrificing their lambs for the Passover meal. To me that seems quite obvious that he was purposefully highlighting Jesus as the sacrificial atonement for the sins of mankind.

  7. I think that it is perfectly legitimate to label the Last Supper as the Passover meal. As the article and others have mentioned there is clear scriptural evidence pointing to this fact. One thing we must remember about the Gospels is that while they do record history their purpose is not to present all the miscellaneous facts from the point of view of a neutral observer. John 20:30-31 makes this clear. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The writers of the Gospels were “biased” in their perspective and each wrote with a specific purpose, to lead the reader to faith in Christ. Praise the Lord that they did for it has been to our eternal benefit.

    Now, having a bias and purpose behind these historical texts is nothing to be concerned about as long as we remember that they are 1st century documents. We only make it a problem if we try to force our modern, “scientific” conception of history on these documents. For instance, none of the records mention the Passover lamb during the meal so our modern minds automatically assume that they must not have eaten it. However, perhaps there are reasons it was not mentioned such as the importance of Christ’s own sacrifice as the Lamb of God far outweighed that aspect of the meal which foreshadowed it. Another possibility, just speculation mind you, is that the most significant part of the meal, in relation to redemptive history, was Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper.

    Personally, the solution offered by the article that attributes the supposed variances between the time and day of the meal to a difference in measuring the day seems plausible and even poetic; only God could set it up so that Christ would fulfill the requirements of Moses by eating the Passover meal and then go on to actually offer himself as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” when others were sacrificing their Passover lambs. As with our conception of history, we must remember not to superimpose our strict conception of time upon the text. After all, I don’t recall ever seeing any statement like this in the bible: [Then Jesus checked his watch and said,] “See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mat 26:45b… sort of). Humor aside, whatever the actual case may be it does not change the fact that these are trustworthy, inspired accounts which are perfectly fitted to accomplish their salvific purpose.

  8. There are two questions that came to my mind. When exactly did the crucifixion take place? Also, how was the preparation day measured? What Matthew said “the first day of unleavened bread” clearly contradicts John’s statement which claims the last supper occurred before the feast of passover. Do additional details of Mark and Luke not clarify the time? Luke 22:7, “then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. Mark 14:12 “Now the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the passover lamb.” So, I think the passover lamb must be killed in the afternoon of Nisan 14 according to Jewish Law. (Thanks Dan for the links !) Isn’t that 14th of Nisan until the evening the preparation for the passover? Jesus was crucified on the preparation according to the three Synoptic Gospels which was on the 14th . The time that the disciples came to Jesus could have been the beginning of preparation day (Nisan 14th), probably sunset. They would have prepared the meal the next night.

  9. I cannot make a decision which option is most convincing. However, it is true that Jesus fulfilled His father’s command through the Last supper as a perfect sacrificial lamb. So I agree with that the Last Supper was a passover meal. Whenever Israelity ‘eat’ the lamb, they can remember their exodus from Egypt and God’s great protection; Passover. In the Last Supper, Jesus said that “take , eat; this is my body, Drink of it…this is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt26:26-28) Eating body and drink blood means sacrifice so maybe discples realized after Jesus’s ressurection that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Whenever early church eat a bread, they would remember Body of Christ as a completed sacrifice like a lamb. And also whenever they drink wine, they would remember blood of Jesus like blood of lamb in Passover. Including these means, for Christian worship today, we(church, worshipper) also eat and drink in the Lord Supper to remember what Jesus had done for us.

  10. I would assume the act of “Supper” as a regular dinner with friends. When my girl friends and I have dinner together, we will spend at least 2 to 3 hours. We have fun chatting topics that girls usually chat. We share our praises and our prayer requests. We share our weaknesses, and we encourage and pray for each other. We also cry and laugh together. We use our suppertime to build relationship with each other. Likewise, if we spend our suppertime with our lover, King Jesus, we will definitely be able to build a close relationship with Him.
    When we worship someone, we enjoy spending time with the person who we worship. Spending time with the Lord is part of the act of worship. Remember the story of Martha and Mary. Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her. But Jesus replied to Martha that Mary had chosen what was better. Clearly we can see Jesus enjoyed better talking to Mary compare to the service of Martha. King Jesus does not need us to serve Him. He desires for us to build a close relationship with Him. If we can spend our time with Him daily, I am sure we will build a close relationship with Him. How I wish I would not only spend my suppertime with King Jesus but my breakfast and my lunch as well. Or even having a tea party with my lover, King Jesus. ☺

  11. Ok, first of all, I would like to point out the fact that we’re talking about the Bible. Before you say, “Duh…,” please give me a second. Like I was saying, we’re talking about the Bible. You either believe it or you don’t. If one thing is “janky” (messed up) and classified as falsehood, then why on earth would one believe the rest of it?

    I choose to believe that God’s Word is true. So, what is the answer for “discrepancies” like those mentioned above? Harmonization. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. If we believe the Bible is truth, then we have to see this stuff from the author’s perspective. That being said, I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people hold the belief that this meal was not the Passover meal. Let me just be honest. (I feel like we sugar-coat things way too much these days.) If one believes that this meal and the Passover meal were not one and the same, then he is calling Matthew, Mark, and Luke liars. It sounds harsh, but that’s the truth. In all three of these Gospel passages above, the authors are VERY clear that this meal is the Passover.

    Let’s take another discrepancy: the angel/angels at Jesus’ tomb. Mark 15:32 and Matthew 27:44 describe one angel at the tomb while Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 claim that two angels were seen. As in the Passover discrepancy mentioned above, one would have to incorporate harmonization. Saying that the meal was not the Passover meal is like saying that the second angel never existed. Once again, someone is being called a liar. Therefore, since I believe the Bible is true, I definitely do not feel comfortable indirectly calling biblical authors liars.

    So…if I believe this was a Passover meal, then what next? The second option mentioned above in Dr. Aniol’s article is the belief that Jesus may have eaten the Passover meal a day early. This seems very much out of character for Jesus. As discussed in class, many (if not most) of the things Jesus did were always connecting with the religious traditions of the Jews. His whole plan somehow seemed to fit perfectly in with whatever the people were doing around Him. With that being said, I find that the third option makes the most sense.

    The time issue between the two cultures promotes a very reasonable argument. Looking at various cultures in the world today, time is always viewed differently. Honestly, MANY other things besides time are viewed from a different angle amidst cultures (using the bathroom, eating, etc.). All in all, this third option is a fantastic example of solid harmonization. Moreover, I would like to point out the fact that Dan’s article was helpful, but I found the exact same argument in his articles as was found in the third option. The same “time difference” exists, but just bumped back a day. Perhaps this fourth option provides one with a better view of the pre-resurrection week, but once again, it just did not seem that much like a fresh argument. (I may have not read it thoroughly enough, but this is what I gathered from it :D)

  12. Timing discussions have always fascinated me. If Jesus was crucified on Friday, how did he resurrect on Sunday and still be considered dead for 3 days? I am not 100% sure where I stand in the debate of “this happened here, this happened next this day” and so on. One thing I do know is that I stand by the complete infallibility of God’s Word. I would not trust a God whose Scripture was considered direct revelation, yet riddled with discrepancies.

    All that to say I agree with Laura. I know that all my questions will one day be answered, but I will trust God and see that apparent contradictions are simply points that need more light shed on them (culturally, historically, etc.).

    I am in agreement with Ai-Chin and the others that say that the Lord’s Supper was a Passover supper. There are several questions that jump to mind as I am seeing the conversation going on above… Does the lamb need to be mentioned? Could it not be that that was a “duh” moment for the gospel writers (as if to say “of course there was a lamb”)? Was Jesus the lamb when he said, “this is my body, take, and eat”?

    When reading Jess’s comment, I began to wonder about the practice of Passover. With sandals fastened and ready to go, God’s people observed the first Passover. However, when looking at Leviticus 23:5-8 (the Passover directive in relation to the giving of the Law by Moses) it does not reiterate this. Could it be that God wanted them ready to evacuate that first Passover, but the following are observances to simply remind Israel of God’s goodness? This could mean that the location and style of partaking was not of importance when applied to Jesus and His disciples. Just some food for thought and some questions.

  13. Are you telling me that Jesus and the disciples didn’t all sit in western style chairs, on one-side of the table, in broad daylight?  That Da Vinci guy has some explaining to do. 
            It seems to me that there are five options to consider regarding whether or not the last supper was a passover.  (1) We could simply determine that is was, as 3 out of 4 gospels record it that way.  This is mathematically convenient but not likely to satisfy anyone.  (2) It is possible that the apparent conflict is due to the difference in Galilean versus Judean method of defining a “day”.  (3) We could give preference to John’s account as he was possibly the only gospel writer that was there.  (4) It is possible that this took place earlier as part of the passover week, and referred to generically as the passover.  Of the first four I feel this is the most likely.  
            (5) The last option, coming at the risk of seminarian heresy, is that we just don’t know.  We may have to put aside our hyper-apologetic seminarianism and zeal to know the answer to every detail of the Bible.  A wise man once told me that if there is something that God absolutely wanted us to know, he absolutely would have spelled it out.  This will no doubt seem too simplistic to some, but it really is OK to say you don’t know, particularly if you other options are to make something up or just avoid the question.  Your congregations will know the difference.
            If we determine that this is not part of the passover, I do not feel that it affects either our view of the event or its significance to us today.  I fear that to get mired in the discussion of the supper is to miss that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment (anti-type) of the passover, and yet the last supper, regardless of when it took place, did actually take place.  Today we still observe this event, not because of its Hebrew connection but because Christ gave it to us.  Sadly the significance and means of the observance varies widely from denomination to denomination and from congregation to congregation.

    Ryan Thiessen
    September 13, 2013

  14. I think the last option—the different ways to measure the day in Galileans and Judean fashion—is most convincing. Although the Gospel are recorded and written by different people, I believe that there shouldn’t be any contradiction in the Bible. If the last supper is not the Passover meal, how can one explains the coherence in the other three synoptic gospels? Even if the last supper may not occurred exactly on the day of the Passover celebration, it is generically associates with the Passover feast. In my opinion, we should focus more on the death of Jesus with regard to the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb.

    According to Mathew 26:26-28, (Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink form it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.) what Jesus did in the Lord’s Supper is ritually significant to our worship today. The observances of the Lord’s supper bring up the issues about the prophetic fulfillment of Jesus Christ.

    The day of the Passover and the death of Jesus share two common things: blood and sacrifice. Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. Because of Jesus death, people do not need to sacrifice animal anymore, which lead to a huge reformation of worship in the New Testament, and hence, in today’s worship.

    The Lord’s supper that we have today reminds us the fulfillment of Jesus as the Passover lamb. It also reminds us that although the ritual scarification didn’t exist anymore, God didn’t abundant the concept and logic behind scarification. We should always remember that it is the Lord who takes the active role to offer His salvation to us sinners.

  15. The article and lecture raised an interesting point regarding the Last Supper and the Passover, which scholars have been wrestling with for quite some time.
    The possibility of the two events celebrating the same occasion has been addressed supported above. Yet, this position has also been denied.
    It is highly unlikely Jesus failed to keep the prescription for Passover observance. But, it’s also not possible for Him to fulfill His role as the paschal Lamb and partake of it simultaneously. Scholarly propositions abound, and as Dr. Aniol said, “this is far from a settled matter.”
    Some hold it possible that the discrepancy between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John is the result of conservative and liberal calendrical interpretation between the Pharisees–who held a traditional interpretation and the more liberal Boethusian Sadducees (SDABC, V. 5; 534).
    On the other hand, Ralph Martin proposes there to be no discrepancy between the Last Supper and the Passover, as the officiating priests who were to serve in the Temple during Passover would also partake of the paschal meal on the preceding day (Where the Action Is, 126-127).
    Although we lack information and convincing support to any of the many theorems, whichever the case, I am certain Jesus’ decision to partake of the meal preemptively was neither reckless nor dismissive of the customs, for He came to fulfill the commandments (Matt. 5:17). Ultimately, I believe, the Last Supper provided Him the opportunity to fellowship with His disciples a final time before the cross, and that as such, it was representative of what was to come: His death, but also the fulfillment of the kingdom (Luke 22:16).

  16. I think one of the most interesting parts of this essay is that the Greek word used for bread was the one used for leavened bread. I know the Eastern Orthodox church uses leavened bread because they believe the last supper did not occur during the Passover meal. This does bring up the question whether our churches should use unleavened bread or leavened bread when taking communion. If it was leavened bread used by Christ in the last supper (as the Greek suggest) then should we not use leavened bread? In my opinion, this is the strongest case for those that believe the last supper did occur before the sabbath.

    I am curious of the explanation given by Dr. Aniol of the differing calender of the Judeans and the Galileans. Would this make the last supper to occur shortly after the Judean Passover began and before the sunrise of the Galilean Passover? I believe this explanation makes the most sense.

    This also makes me wonder If Christ was following the Galilean calender because of the word artos used for the bread. Christ being from Capernaum, just north of Galilee. This really makes me wonder if we should use leavened bread instead of unleavened bread. All in all, the most important part is that we do the commanded ordinance with the right heart (we must totally surrender to Christ in this as in every issue).

  17. Like Laura said,Indeed it is the word of God and I also stand with the fact that in Matthew, Mark and Luke, they used the word “Passover”. And, we all have read and know Exodus 12 about the Passover meal instructed to Moses by God which many of us have mentioned. They were instructed to slaughter a lamb and take some of the blood and put in on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lamb (Exodus 12:7). So, that their households will be passed over from death when God strikes every Egyptians first born. Reflecting on this story, I am of the opinion that the Last Supper was a Passover meal in which Jesus was implying that by laying down His life (like the lamb was slaughtered), we pass over our sins, condemnation, death and gave us eternal

  18. In class, it was interesting that Galileans and Judeans measured the Passover differently. In the Old Testament, there were many strong descriptions that God commanded the Israelites to follow and celebrate the Passover (Levitucus, Numbers, Exodus..). The most incredible thing is that Jesus fulfilled Galilean and Judean Passover by the Lord’s Supper and the crucifixcion. When I read the article, I was anxious of how the author was explaining the different descriptions of the Lord’s Supper between the synoptics and the gospel of John because it was debatable. The authors of the synoptics seemed to follow Galilean tradition while John seemed to follow Judean tradition on the Lord’s Supper. We are not able to know specific description on the Lord’s Supper whether Jesus prefered to follow which tradition on the Passover. I believe that what tradition Jesus prefered are not important. The important thing is that Jesus fulfilled both traditions. He fulfilled the will of God by performing the Lord’s Supper and sacrificing himself as “Passover Lamb.”

  19. I find an interesting tie between Brian’s comment that the gospel writers were biased and Ryan’s statement that there are just somethings that God left a mystery. Any bias that the gospel writers had was intended by God. If the Word is the true, inspired, inherent Word of God, than he meant for every word to be written just the way it was. God knew all the gospel writers intimately. He shaped their lives and gave them the experiences needed to write the scriptures the way they did. Perhaps the fact that they celebrated the Passover and Jesus was sacrificed as the Passover lamb later just shows how God can defy any situation. He may have not made this information clear to us for a reason- it was a miracle beyond our understanding. Laura made a great point that the Word is truth. The last supper was clearly the Passover meal and it is written as a special revelation. So in this case the only possible theory would be the time lapse theory. But this brings a question to my mind: if the Jews from Galilee and Judea are celebrating at different times and the crucifixion happened to be during the time frame of one and not the other, does this mean that the other would not accept Christ as the Passover lamb for the reason that he was not sacrificed during their timing of Passover? Or does this mystery point us to the meaning that the answer of timing is really irrelevant because no matter when Jesus was crucified, he was the ultimate sacrifice to save us of our sins-on the day of Passover or not on the day of Passover.

  20. I find that Jesus could have both celebrated the Passover Feast Thursday in Galilean fashion and been killed as our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) on Friday is most convincing. The first reason that convinced me is that according to what Jesus said himself in Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14 ; Luke 22:8 These verses all clearly stated that Jesus wanted to have the Passover meal with his disciples. The second reason that hit me is that Jesus said “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” (Luke 22:15). This verse not only claimed that the Last Supper is the Passover feast, but also tells the reason why Jesus wanted to do that. He knew his time had come that he would be sacrificed as the Lamb of God the next day, so he wanted to have the Last Supper with his disciples for the last time. Even if the Last Supper is not actually “on time ” of the regular Passover Feast, it is still reasonable that since he would not have the chance to celebrate the Passover Feast with his disciples, he just “eagerly desired” to eat this Passover before he suffered. The third reason that makes my mind settled is the explanation of the difference between how Galileans and Jews measures days. I think that really explained the issue well, that Jesus have both celebrated the Passover Feast Thursday in Galilean fashion and been killed as our Passover Lamb on Friday.
    While reading through this article, I was actually not curious about which “option” is more convincing, but amazed by the fact that Jesus set up a New Passover through the Last Supper and his death and resurrection. We are just like the Israelites, living in the dark with no hope to escape from sin and judgment, but by the precious blood God judgment would Passover us and we are forgiven by His son. We had a chance to live a new life, a life away from “Egypt” and promised by a “blessed land”. What an amazing link between the Passover Feast and the Last Supper!!! “Precious love, how can it be? That you my king have died for me”.

  21. The fact that Jewish leaders feared ( according to John 18:28) that they might not be able to eat the passover could have been the feast that occurred the day following the main passover supper. The view, Chagigah (sacrificial meal), defended by great scholars Edersheim and Lenski should be given serious consideration. ( American Catholic apologist holds pretty much the same position as the above mentioned view. (http://jimmyakin-com/was-the last-supper-a-pass)Just suggesting!!

  22. I find most convincing Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover on Thursday; because they were Galileans and they measured the time in a different way than Jews from Judea, as is written in this article. But, it is not so important the fact of the day itself, rather than the meaning of the Last Supper event, which is the critical point of this matter. The Last Supper that Jesus celebrated with their disciples was the beginning of a new covenant with God. This celebration was the climatic point of Jesus Ministry because He presents Himself as the Lamb of God.
    I firmly believe that Passover celebration was Thursday because the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Christ had to be done exactly inside of the Kairos of God( Greek term to say time of opportunity ). It was not an accident, it was not a coincidence. Jesus was aware of His time. He knew perfectly the divine chronogram for his life. There are a lot of moments in the Bible when Jesus talks about his dead and resurrection, and often He claims “my time has not yet come” (John 2:4). Evidently Jesus created the environment of His departure, inside of Passover celebration. Every detail was perfectly prepared by God. It is a transition between Jews culture celebration (Passover), to a new eternal celebration of the Church of Christ (Last Supper).

  23. Before Jesus die, he gave us the last suffer with the Passover meal. I believe that it includes very meaningful symbol, because the last suffer represent the communion to unite between Christ and us. Jesus was perfectly satisfied the different measure days of both Galilean Jews and Judean Jews.(I never noticed that the measure time was differents before!!!!!)
    That means that Jesus completed not only his covenant but also the law. I though Jesus doesn’t open this meaningful event, the last supper to only partial people. Jesus wants to invite all people and save them. And Jesus completed the atonement as being the sacrifice himself as he did after the last supper. In our church, we have the communion part during the worship service. Through this ceremony, we should remind the importance of the union with Christ. We are far from the past life, but we gain new life through Jesus’ grace.

  24. You’re right Dr. Aniol, the theory that Tito mentioned is very interesting. Thanks. The idea that Christ purposely celebrated the Passover meal a day early, as was the practice of the priests who were to serve in the temple and offer the sacrifices during the Passover, ties in perfectly with how his priestly office is portrayed in Hebrews. In light of this theory it makes sense that Jesus, being our God-ordained sinless high priest, would choose to celebrate the Passover meal early because he knew he had priestly duties to perform the next day.

    What I find very interesting is that the priestly duties he performed the next day, as described in Hebrews (especially chapters 9 and 10), were not those related to the Passover but to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). At the same time there are obvious typological/analogical connections between the Passover requirements (Exodus 12) and the events of the Passion (e.g. John 19). While the two festivals were celebrated during different times of the year (Passover in the spring and Day of Atonement in the fall) it does not seem problematic to say that Christ fulfilled both of these ceremonies on the same day. There is ample scriptural support which points to Christ’s sacrifice as both satisfying God’s wrath and atoning for sin; in fact the meaning of the term propitiation has both these ideas in view, e.g. Romans 3:21-26. In addition to this, the account of the torn curtain in the Synoptic Gospels also displays a connection to what takes place on the Day of Atonement, i.e. entering the Most Holy Place, an act also alluded to in Hebrews 6:19-20 and 9:11-12, 24.

  25. I believe that the last meal was a Passover meal. I think the text makes that clear through the three gospels. I think that it has a lot of impact on the Lords Supper today. It is keeping us reverent with Gods command on taking the bread like he told Moses. I also think this impacts worship greatly today by fellowshiping with the communion because it in retrospect symbolizes Jesus’s body being broken and his blood being spilled. He was the sacrifice for our sins.

    And for which option I agree with more it would be option 3 of the time being off between the cultures.

  26. It is amazing to me how understanding the culture of Biblical times sheds so much light on our understanding of Scripture. The fact that Galileans and Judeans had different ways of measuring their days and so, would have celebrated Passover on different days makes sense out of what seems on the surface to be an error. I love what Dan Salter said, “Really interesting that God would merge these two diverse views into satisfying all perspectives for what Christ accomplished.” What an awesome God we serve!

    I, as well, believe that Jesus did, in fact, eat the Passover meal with his disciples at the Last Supper. The Gospel writers would not have needed to mention all the details of the Passover meal because the original recipients of the Gospels would have known the traditional meal well; they wouldn’t have needed an explanation. Further, I reject the idea that the synoptic Gospels could be in mistaken or misleading, and argue that what seems to be a contradiction in John is a lack of understanding on our part.

    My former pastor would disagree with the argument that there is no mention of the four cups. He preached a sermon on that very thing from the Gospel of Luke. I do not recall everything he said, but Luke mentions Jesus taking multiple cups. The Gospel writers’ audience would have seen the connections made between Jesus actions and the parts of the Passover meal because the tradition was such a part of their consciousness. Luke, in particular, was drawing intentional parallels to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Passover celebration. As Megan demonstrated, Messianic Jews have a beautiful grasp on the symbolic meaning of each part of the Passover meal and its fulfillment in Christ.

  27. That Paul fellow knew a thing or two when he said (more than once) “this mystery if great”.  

            As I read the four accounts in scripture I am puzzled by something that may simply be my own ignorance.  I read John’s account of the crucifixion in ESV, HCSB, NASB, AMPLIFIED, KJV, NKJV, NLT, and NIV, they all indicate that the concern was not that Jesus would be left on the cross during Passover (Nisan 15) but that He would be left there during the Sabbath (Nisan 16).  It does not appear that there was ever an issue of the Passover but over the Sabbath that occurred during the Passover period.

    Ryan Thiessen
    September 15, 2013

  28. This is in response to Ryan’s comment, so Ryan (and everyone too), please do correct me if I am wrong.

    I think your conclusion came from John 19:31, where my NASB Bible says: “Then the Jews because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” I continued reading in the same chapter until verse 42, which states: “Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” On the word “preparation” my cross-referenced Bible linked it to verse 14 (of the same chapter), which writes: “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover, it was about the sixth hours. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold Your King.” In other words, what can be implied from verse 14 onto verses 31 and 42 is that the Jews were concerned with leaving Jesus on the cross during Passover.

    As I reread the passage again, I noticed a reference to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where it says: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.” Hence, the removal of Jesus’ body could have also been a requirement in the Jewish law and not only an issue of the Sabbath or the Passover.

  29. Wow Jessica that is a great connection of the Old Law into the NT times. I need to get me a better study bible. Lol Mine doesn’t have a lot of cross references to connect passages like that. That is a great insight and new way to view why they might have taken Him down. Very Interesting….I feel like this is something like the discussion of creation that can be debated until we are blue in the face.

  30. My thinking is the last supper was the passover meal. because so clealy bible mentions about the last supper and passover in the book of Luck 22:7,8,14-20 and Matthew 26:17. also the gospel of John appears to place the last supper on the day before the Passover. In the class I learn that the Hebrew day began at sunset, rather than dawn. If the “day” begins at sunset, then the last supper was eaten on the Passover. Because bible writes that Jesus was crucified on the passover, the day before the Sabbath.

  31. 4.What implications do the act of a “Supper” with the Lord have for Christian worship today?

    I have a Jewish friend. He and his wife are followers of Christ. On one occasion we celebrated the Last Supper and they explained to me the profound implications of this celebration.
    Regrettably, in this time, many Christians do not know the importance and the significance of this act. There is a custom in Israel for young couples to get married. The man comes to the girl with a cup of wine in his hands. He asks her, “Will you drink my blood to become one body and flesh with me?” If she drinks the cup, it means she is betrothed to that man. After that ritual, he goes to make preparations for marriage. He builds a house for her, and waits one year before they marry according to tradition. After this year he comes back and throws a big celebration with his friends and family. It is the moment when the bridegroom takes his bride, and they drink the cup of wine again to seal their covenant of holy marriage.
    At the Last Supper something similar happened. Jesus took the cup and said “Drink my blood,” and He took the bread and said, “Eat my flesh.” The disciples were not thinking of this as an act of cannibalism as many Christians think today; they understood Jesus was making a covenant with his Church. He was presenting himself as the bridegroom of the Church. He said “I won’t drink this wine until I come back again and take you with me.” Just as the bridegroom goes to prepare a place for his bride, Jesus explains to his disciples, “I will go to prepare a place for you. In my father’s House there are many rooms.”
    To make this covenant real and perfect, it needed to be sealed with blood, so Jesus died the next day to fullfil the plan of God. In the same way, in Israel, when a man takes a women in marriage on the next day, he needs to show the sheets of their bed with blood on it to the people ,as the evidence that the bride was a virgin. The blood represents the marriage covenant. The Lord created this interesting and peculiar fact among husband and wife to represent the bond between Christ and the Church.
    Every time we take communion at Church, it means that we are the bride of Jesus, and we are waiting as brides for the coming of our bridegroom, Jesus the Lord. It has profound meaning. It is not possible to take this holy act as merely a casual thing. So as Christians and brides of Jesus, God incarnate, this is the most important celebration of our relationship. Sharing in the Lord’s Supper is to present ourselves without spots or blemishes to God as His precious possession. In this era, we need to understand the significance of this magnanimous celebration in an intimate way and in a corporate way.

  32. Laura and Ben. I fully agree with the infallibility and inherency of scripture. I do believe it does say it was during the passover in Mathew, Mark, and Luke. I also do believe that it happened before the passover as said in John. The question is how does this go together. Many times in the fallibility of human brains we can not comprehend it fully. For example, I can not comprehend why a Holy God would love a sinner such as me, but by God’s grace through faith he saved me. We do not always need to wrap stuff in a neat bow. What we need to do is proclaim scripture for what it says. This being said I do believe that the calender difference makes the most since to me in my fallibility of mind. SCRIPTURE HAS NO PROBLEM WITH CONTRADICTION, THE ISSUE IS HUMAN COMPREHENSION.

  33. Again, I would still address that Jesus could have both celebrated the Passover Feast Thursday in Galilean fashion and been killed as the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) on Friday is most convincing. My focus on the Last Supper is not how to count the date, whether it is a Passover meal or not; it is how Jesus told us the way we should remember His death and His resurrections. I believe that is a mystery of Christ, until the day we meet Him face to face, we’ll find out the answer.

  34. No matter the Last Supper was the Passover meal or not, I agree with Tito that the Last Supper did provide a time for Jesus to have fellowship with His disciples. In the supper, Jesus revealed His close relationship with the disciples.
    John 13: 5-11 mentioned that during the Last Supper, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Jesus intentionally showed his love to His disciples during the meal. He gave the disciples and example that “you also should do as I did to you.”

    The observance of the Lord’s supper in nowadays worship service is commonly known as Communion. With regard to the relationship between Jesus and His disciples that revealed in the Last supper, we should treat the Communion as a fellowship with Christ. The Last supper reminds us that our faith is rooted in the relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants us to understand what he had done for us and why he died for us, just like He wanted the disciples to understand what He did.

    Although the Last Supper may not be the Passover meal, it is a good reminder that God always wants us to have close relationship with Him and to understand what He had done for us.

  35. What implications do the act of a “Supper” with the Lord have for Christian worship today?

    Firstly, as Jesus himself said in Luke 22: 19 “And he took bread and, having given praise, he gave it to them when it had been broken, saying, This is my body, which is given for you: do this in memory of me”, the most important purpose of a “Supper” with the Lord is in memory of the Lord. As an implication for today’s Christian worship, the act of a “Supper” is a reminder to remind us what our Lord had done for us. Secondly, the act of a “Supper” is a way for today’s Christian to have communion with God. Thinking about having supper with family and friends, it is usually a time of fellowship and communion. During the supper, we get to know each other’s current situation and usually would draw each other to a closer relationship. I still remember that Dr. Aniol stated that worship is a communion with our Creator on His terms. The “Supper” should play an important part in Christian worship, because the act of a “Supper” is an action of communion with our Lord.
    These are what my mind could come up with. I wonder what other implications could have for Christians worship today.

  36. Tito, as others have stated, thank you for sharing the extra “option.” When we think about God, we realize that He intricately plans things. He is the ultimately planner and He is, after all, all-knowing. He is the one who set up the final plague. He gave specific instructions regarding the blood on the door, knowing full well that Jesus would eventually come and serve in the same manner. Why else would he ask for the Israelites to do something like this? Whether or not Jesus had the Passover meal a day earlier, on the exact day, or whatever may be the case, I believe it is very clear that the meal was connected with the Passover.

    Ryan, you present “five options.” The fifth option is that we just don’t know. That should not even in the slightest be considered “seminarian heresy.” There is absolutely no doubt that we don’t know. We would not be having such circular arguments if we did know. The question to be considered is that though we don’t know, what could the possibilities be?

    John, you discuss whether or not we should practice the Lord’s supper with leavened or unleavened bread. Although it is interesting as to which bread was used, does it really even matter??? I believe John 6:35 sheds light on this question. It reads: “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. The whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice has always been about life. Jesus is our source of nourishment (our savior from eternal death)—the bread of life. Though unleavened bread was aspect of the Israelite worship, the point remains the same. Life.

    John, you mentioned in your latter blog about the “need to wrap stuff in a neat bow.” I am not sure how I came across, but I assure you that I am one of the last people who likes to place the Bible and its theological contents in a nice, little box. I agree, human comprehension is definitely an issue. The other issue that must not be neglected is that we don’t have everything spelled out for us in the Scriptures. There is MUCH MORE mystery in the Bible than many people (especially Baptists) account for. Above, I simply discussed the fact that this questioning of Scripture needs to be taken at its word and the use of harmonization must be administered.

    All in all, guys, we don’t know. But 1 Peter 1:18-21 does tell us that Jesus is the ultimate lamb that enables death to pass over us. He is life/salvation. Amidst all the discussion and circular stuff, let’s always come back to simplicity.

  37. Malena, thank you so much for that insight you provided on what the Supper symbolizes. It is beautiful the way God ties together the picture of marriage with Christ and His people and how the Last Supper reflects this.

    I have gone to a Baptist church all my life and I have always thought of taking communion as a monthly remembrance to cleanse myself of sin before God. But this is not so at all! At my church back in Florida the emphasis was seek forgiveness but now I have come to understand it more as a celebration of Christ and of the covenant we have with Him. As you said this is a period of betrothal we have with Christ before His return. What a beautiful image we can tie with this time of waiting for His second coming. Communion is more of a celebration and fellowship with God after we have repented and not a means to repentance. And to think of it as a marriage covenant is such a beautiful way to partake in it with Christ, waiting until it is sealed and to exist with Him for all of eternity.

  38. I agree with Tito’s idea that the Lord’s Supper became the opportunity to fellowship with disciples for Jesus. Jesus fulfilled communion and sacrifice in his last days. Communion and sacrifice are belonged in the elements of worship. That means Jesus showed how worshipers do communion and sacrifice in worship. Jesus showed how worshipers worship God through what He did and taught.

  39. Malena, I remember hearing about the wedding ceremony, drinking wine and its connection with communion, I am sure Jesus was very intentional about his word choice, as well as the author’s of the Gospels. If there was specific language that was tied to certain ceremonies or traditions, this would become very apparent to the readers who understood these traditions. There seem to be many Jewish traditions that when investigated, would make the specific word choice in the Bible so much more vibrant.

  40. Forgot to do this last night… I know it’s late, but here goes… It’s awesome what Jess did to connect the OT text of Law with NT practices in answer to questions surrounding the crucifixion and burial of Jesus! I’ve never thought about it that way before.
    To gain any more understanding, I think that this would have to be an area of intense study on culture, targeted audiences of the gospels, and the biblical texts themselves. Not quite sure that I could do all that without devoting a good chunk of time to this pursuit solely.

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