The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 14

Lesson 14: Chapter 22
The Preparation for the Passover and the Last Supper

Lord of Mercy,
The cup of the New Covenant which the Christ anticipated when He offered Himself to the disciples at the Last Supper is the same cup accepted by Him from Your hands in His agony in the garden at Gethsemane and in the final drink in His last moments on the Cross.  In accepting His cup of suffering, He made Himself “obedient unto death.”  Give us the same courage to take up our daily crosses of obedience in serving Christ and His Church.  And in receiving the gift of Your Son in the Eucharistic Bread of Life and the cup of His Precious Blood, help us to persevere in holiness so that we might also present our lives to You as a pure and holy sacrifice.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit “One Holy and Eternal God forever and even.  Amen.

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Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrificed that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 613

It was God’s plan to set the sacrifice and resurrection of the Christ and the redemption of mankind that would open the gates of heaven (CCC 1026) within the context of three annual sacred feasts.  These feasts remembered the salvation and redemption of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and the celebration of the Israelites as the “First Fruits” of the covenant people in the Promised Land (Ex 12-13; Lev 23:4-14):

  • The Passover sacrifice on Nisan 14th (Lev 23:4-5)
  • The pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread on Nisan 15th      ” 21st (Lev 23:6-8)
  • The feast of Firstfriuts on the day after the     Sabbath (Saturday) on the first day of the week (Sunday) during the holy     week of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14).

Contrary to Sacred Scripture and almost 2 thousand years of Christian tradition, some scholars have suggested:

  1. That the Passover sacrifice did not take place on the Thursday of Holy Week; instead the Passover sacrifice took place on Friday as Jesus was dying on the Cross.(1)
  2. That Jesus did not celebrate the sacred meal of the Passover victim at the Last Supper at the time appointed by the Sanhedrin and the Temple hierarchy.
  3. That those at the Last Supper only consumed the bread and wine that became His Body and Blood and not the entire ritual meal of the Passover.
  4. That Jesus only suffered three hours on the Cross instead of seven.

There is absolutely nothing in either sacred Scripture or in our Sacred Tradition to support such theories:

  1. St. John’s Gospel sets the countdown to the Passover sacrifice as six days from Jesus’ dinner in Bethany the day before He rode into Jerusalem on Palm/Passion Sunday, identifying the Passover sacrifice that must be kept on the 14th of Nisan as Thursday (as the ancients counted).
  2. The date of the Passover and all the annual feasts were set by the religious hierarchy according to the lunar calendar.  That Jesus would use another calendar is preposterous “it would be a violation of the Law.  The 1st century AD Jews knew that the solar calendar was more accurate than a lunar calendar, but they were obligated under the Law to set all the feast days according to the lunar calendar (Num 28:11, literally = at the new moons).  The sacred feast of the Passover victim had to be celebrated after sundown on the first day of Unleavened Bread on the first full moon after the spring equinox on the 15th of the lunar month (Ex 12:8; Lev 23:6; Num 28:17). (4)  Jesus announced His commitment to the Law “until all things have taken place” (Mt 5:18-19), and He also announced His support of those of made those decisions who sat on the “chair of Moses” (Mt 23:1-3).  It was necessary that the first sacred meal of the New Covenant was to take place on the night the Old Covenant sacred meal was celebrated.  Jesus would never have encouraged His disciples to violate the Law in an illicit Passover meal.
  3. All the Gospels agree that Jesus’ Last Supper took place on the night the Old Covenant people celebrated the eating of the Passover sacrifice and that Jesus and those assembled with Him ate the meal beforeHe offered Himself, Body and Blood, in what had been the unleavened bread and the wine of the sacred feast (Mt 26:21; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:14-15; Jn 12:1; 13:26b).
    Some of the confusion over the day of the Passover sacrifice comes from the Jewish leaders’ refusal to enter Pilate’s Praetorium to prevent becoming ritually unclean and unable “to eat the Passover” (Jn 18:28).  However, St. John’s Gospel always refers to the entire 8-days from the Passover sacrifice to the Sacred Assembly at the end of the feast of Unleavened Bread as “Passover,” as does the Jewish Mishnah and Jews today.  The faithful brought their festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) to the Temple during the holy week of Unleavened Bread and ate communal meals at noontime with family and friends in the city of Jerusalem (Dt 12:5-7, 11-12; Lev 6:17/24-23/30; 7:11/7:1-34/24; Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:1-1:6; Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4).  If a Jew became ritually unclean on the day of the Passover sacrifice, he could ritually immerse at one of the Jerusalem mikvot (ritual cleansing pools) and be declared ritually clean again by sundown, at which time the Passover meal began (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:8E).  But if he became ritually unclean on the first morning of Unleavened Bread, he would not attend the required morning Sacred Assembly at the Temple (Lev 23:7-8; Num 28:18) nor could he present his communion hagigah sacrifice.
  4. 4. Mark 15:25 states that Jesus was crucified at the third hour “9 AM our time.  Then, after Jesus was crucified, darkness fell from noon to the ninth hour “3 PM our time; and at the ninth hour “3 PM, He gave up His spirit (Mt 27:45-50; Mk 15:33-37; Lk 23:44-46).  The confusion is over the misinterpretation of John 19:14 where St. John records that it was “about the sixth hour” when Jesus was being tried by Pilate, which some scholars have interpreted to be noon Jewish time.  The other Gospels, however, record that Jesus was with Pilate just after dawn.  John’s Gospel is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels is John is using Roman time.  The sixth hour Roman time is from dawn (6 AM) to 7 AM.  It is inconceivable that Jesus was still being tried by Pilate at noon, since “all the world” turned totally dark at noon.  Would the superstitious Romans have continued with the crucifixion of Jesus?  Then too, there needs to be time to have Jesus mocked by the soldiers, His walk to Golgotha and His crucifixion (see the chart on the Crucifixion compared in the Gospels in the Chart section of the website:

Wednesday, Nisan the 13th

It is now Wednesday of Jesus’ last week teaching in Jerusalem.  Jesus told His disciples “You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Mt 26:1-2; also see Mk 14:1).(2) As the ancients counted, Wednesday is day #1 and Thursday is day #2 in agreement with the countdown to Passover given by St. John in Jn 12:1.  Wednesday was Jesus’ last day of teaching in the city of Jerusalem and when He left the city, He went to the home of His friend Simon in the village of Bethany on the Mt. of Olives to have dinner with His friends (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9).  It was at dinner that an unnamed woman disciple (probably Mary of Bethany), anointed His head(Mt 26:7; Mk 14:4).  You will recall that Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus feeton the Sabbath dinner Jesus shared with His Bethany friends earlier in the week at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus (Jn 12:1-11).  At the Saturday anointing, Jesus instructed Mary to save some of the ointment for His burial (Jn 12:7).  On Wednesday when some protested that the woman was wasting the ointment, Jesus told them She has done what she could.  She has anticipated anointing my body for burial (Mk 14:8).  Those who objected that the expensive ointment was being wasted were probably taking up the protest Judas made at the Sabbath dinner when he said it would be better if the ointment was sold and the money given to the poor.  St. John records that He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal from the contributions (Jn 12:6).  See the chart in Matthew Lesson 24 on the comparison between the accounts of the two dinners at Bethany on Saturday and Wednesday of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem handout 2 of Matthew Lesson 24.

Judas left the dinner party at the home of Simon the (former) Leper.  If it was after sundown, it was already the next day, Thursday.  He immediately went to the chief priests to betray Jesus (Mt 26:14-16; Mk 14:10-11).  When Jesus first predicted His betrayal by one of the Twelve at the beginning of the second year of His ministry, near the Passover (Jn 6:4), St. John wrote: Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve?  Yet is not one of you a devil?  He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve (Jn 6:70-71).

The Apostle Judas Iscariot was the son of a man named Simon (Jn 6:71; 13:26) and was probably from the Judean village of Kariot (ishmeans man as in ish Kariot “man of Kariot”).
Question: What do we know about Judas’ character from the Gospels?  See Jn 6:70-71; 8:44; 12:4-6; 13:26-29 and Mt 26:15.
Answer: Jesus said he had an evil nature.  He was the treasurer of Jesus’ community, but he was a thief and stole from the contributions collected for the poor.  His offer to betray Jesus for money reveals his motive and shows that he loved money more than he loved Christ.

It is ludicrous for some to suggest that Judas was really loyal to Jesus and was trying to bring about His Kingdom more quickly.  This theory is clearly not supported by Scripture.  Also, that “Satan entered Judas” (Lk 22:3; Jn 13:27) is not to say that Judas didn’t have the freedom of will to choose to be faithful to Jesus or to betray Him.  His final decision to reject Jesus was the moment Satan used his influence over Judas.  Judas has now become one of the “enemies” who rejected the king in Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Coins, and his fate will be the same “death (Lk 19:27).
Question: What is the significance of Judas being identified as one of the “Twelve,” twice in John 6:70-71?  What is the warning for us today?  See Acts 20:29-30.
Answer: Judas was one of those personally selected by Jesus to be one of the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant Church.  Each man Jesus called had the free will choice to accept or reject his divine election.  Judas didn’t believe that Jesus was the divine Messiah, yet he stayed until he found the opportunity to receive a material reward for betraying Jesus.  That Jesus chose him, knowing Judas would betray Him (Jn 6:70), is a warning to us that not all those who profess Christ in the Church leadership are worthy of the office.  There will be wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:29-30)!

Chapter 22: The Passion Narrative

Luke 22:1-6 ~ The conspiracy
1 Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, 2 and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people.  3 Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve, 4 and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them.  5 They were pleased and agreed to pay him money.  6 He accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd.

Question: What was the agreed upon price for delivering Jesus to His enemies (see Mt 26:15).   What is the connection between the amount the chief priests paid to Judas and allegory of the Shepherds inZechariah 11:4-17 that was written after the return from the Babylonian exile?  What is the connection to Exodus 21:32 and to Jesus?
Answer: Thirty pieces of silver.  It is the same wage in Zechariah 11:12.  In the allegory, the prophet becomes the “good shepherd” of God’s flock which is being “slaughtered” by bad shepherds.  He is the defender of the people exploited by their religious leaders.  The religious leaders/bad shepherds value the service of the good shepherd contemptuously at thirty pieces of silver, the legal compensation for a gored slave (Ex 21:32).  The prophet-shepherd is a type of Christ whose mission to save God’s people is appraised by the false shepherds of the Old Covenant as the base price for a damaged slave  “just as the false shepherds who are the chief priests who seek Jesus’ death value the worth of Jesus’ death with the same sum.

Thursday, Nisan the 14th  ~ The day of the Passover Sacrifice
Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household.  If the household is too small for the animal, he must join with his neighbor nearest to his house, depending on the number of persons.  When you choose the animal, you will take into account what each can eat.  It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats.  You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight”
[literally = between the twilights = noon]. Exodus 12:3-6 NJB; [..] = IBHE, vol. I, page 170

The Jewish Talmud is composed of the Mishnah and the Gemarah.The Mishnah is the sacred Oral Tradition of the covenant people which was the knowledge imparted to the priesthood that was not recorded in Scripture and includes the priestly practice of worship in the Jerusalem Temple.  It is the authoritative source of halacha (Jewish law) second only to the Bible itself.  The Gemarah is the commentary on the Mishnah (there is a Jerusalem and a Babylonian Gemarah).  The section Mishnah: Pesahim records the ritual requirements for the observance of the Passover sacrifice and the feast of Unleavened Bread.  The knowledge recorded in the Mishnah was written down after the destruction of the Temple and was completed in its final editing c. 220 AD.  We will be referring to the Mishnahfrequently in this part of the lesson.

Luke 22:7-13 ~ Preparations for the Passover
7 When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb [the word “lamb” is not in the Greek text], 8 he sent out Peter and John, instructing them, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”  9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make the preparations?”  10 And he answered them, “When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water.  Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and say to the master of the house, The teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  12 He will show you a large upper room that is furnished.  Make the preparations there.”  13 Then they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them, and there they prepared the Passover.
[..] = IBGE, vol. IV, page 234.  Literal translation is “And the Feast of Unleavened Bread, being called Passover, drew near.”  Both lambs and goat kids were the acceptable sacrifice.

St. Mark identifies the day: On the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they kill the Passover, his disciples said to him, “Where do you desire that going we may prepare that you may eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12; literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 140).  The Passover and the weeklong celebration of Unleavened Bread are listed as two separate feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex 12-13; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25), and only Unleavened Bread is listed as the pilgrim feast (Ex 23:14-17;34:18-23; Num 28:16-17 NAB; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13); however, in Jesus time (30 AD) the names of the two feasts were used interchangeably to refer to the entire 8 holy days.  Josephus (37-100 AD) records that in his time the term “Passover” came to mean the celebration of both feasts as one festival: As this happened at the time when the feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover … (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1).  Like Josephus, St. John refers to the two feasts as “Passover” as does the Mishnahand as do Jews today.  Actually, modern Jews do not keep the Passover.  They keep the feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th-21st (and a day longer in the diaspora) because there is no Temple or sacrificial altar where the Passover victims can be offered.

It is important to note that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament, the victim is never referred to as the Passover “lamb” as it is in many English translations where the word “lamb” is added.  The animal could be a lamb or a goat-kid.  The instructions for the selection of the victim in the first Passover in Egypt required the people to select A flock-animal, a perfect one, a male, a yearling shall be to you.  You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.  And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month.  And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [twilights] (Ex 12:5-6, IBHE, vol. I, page 170).  The first Passover sacrifices began at noon = “between the twilights” is between dawn and dusk of a day which is noon.  This is why the Mishnah declared a Passover sacrifice was invalid if it occurred before noon or after sunset (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:3 G-I).

Question: The Gospel of Mark tells us Jesus sent two disciples to prepare the room (Mk 14:13).  According to Luke 22:8, who were those disciples?
Answer: Sts. Peter and John Zebedee.

It was the practice of the residents of Jerusalem to generously open their homes to Jewish pilgrims during the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and to provide rooms for the sacred meal of the Passover victim, a meal that had to be eaten within the walls of the holy city on the night after the Passover sacrifice.  Sundown the day of the sacrifice was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th, the beginning of the seven-day pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17;2 Chr 8:13).

Luke 22:12 He will show you a large upper room that is furnished.  Make the preparations there.
Question: In whose home might the meal have taken place?  Whose house was the regular meeting place for the Apostles in Jerusalem and what disciples were associated with that house?  See Acts 12:12 and Col 4:10.
Answer: The house of Mary of Jerusalem was their regular meeting place; she was the mother of John-Mark and the cousin of the disciple Barnabas.

The owner of the banquet chamber must have already secured the Passover goat-kid or lamb for Jesus, perhaps on the 10th of Nisan when the Passover lambs and kids were chosen for sacrifice in the first Passover (Ex 12:3).  Choosing the Passover lambs and kids on the 10thof Nisan was a requirement that was no longer observed in the first century AD (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5).  However, that does not mean that Jesus, who clarified and fulfilled in His ministry the covenant commands and prohibitions, failed to keep this obligation like His contemporaries.  It is either an amazing coincidence that His Messianic ride into Jerusalem was on the 10thof Nisan, the day according to the commands of Exodus 12:3 that the Passover victim was to be selected, or it was the God ordained first step in the plan to fulfill the greater exodus redemption that the first Passover liberation prefigured.

The animal for the Passover sacrifice had to be an unblemished male lamb or goat-kid not younger than eight days and not older than a year (Ex 12:5; Lev 22:27).  The animal had to be large enough to feed not less than ten people and not more than twenty (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [423]).  If there were more than twenty people, two groups were formed with a separate Passover victim for the second group, or if the Passover victim was not large enough to feed a designated group, in addition to the Passover sacrifice a festival “free-will” communion hagigah offering from either the flock or the herd (male or female) was necessary (Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:1-1:6;Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-21; Dt 12:5-7, 11-13).  Adding the festival hagigahin addition to the Passover sacrifice allowed for everyone to be adequately fed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4).  The communion hagigah festival peace offerings were the way the people ate together for the entire week long celebration of Passover/Unleavened Bread after the morning Tamid service in meals of joyous celebration (Jn 18:28): A. A festival offering derives from the flock of sheep or from the herd of oxen, from lambs or from goats, from males or from females.  B. And it is eaten for two days and the intervening night [to the night of the fifteenth of Nisan] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4).

When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room had already been arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15a).  However, as Jesus told them, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19).  They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet’s four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume in their individual cups during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C).  They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings (see Jn 2:6 where there were 6 stone jars each holding 20-30 gallons of water for the ritual washings at the wedding banquet in Cana).  They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal.  And if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B).  Jesus’ mother, the mother of the Zebedee brothers, Mary Magdalene and several other women disciples from the Galilee had accompanied Jesus and the Apostles to Jerusalem (Lk 8:1b-3; 23:55).

In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, had been removed from the premises (Ex 13:7).   According to the Law, prior to noontime on the day of the Passover sacrifice it was necessary for the covenant people to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven had been removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).  They were also required to begin their fast at noon: On the eve of Passover [meal]from just before the afternoon’s daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A).  The “afternoon’s daily whole offering” is the afternoon Tamid worship service (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8) and the “eve of Passover” refers to the Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread after the morning Passover sacrifice.  The Mishnahand the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as “Passover,” as does the Gospel of John and as in the case of the modern Jewish celebration.  The Mishnah refers to the “nights of Passover”, plural (Mishnah: Pesahim, 4:4 III A).

On Thursday, Nisan the 14th, the Passover sacrifice took place at the Jerusalem Temple after the afternoon Tamid service, which was moved forward an hour.(3)  One victim was offered per each group of 10  ” 20 people.  The lambs and kids offered in sacrifice were skinned and the bodies returned to the different households/groups that had brought the animal for sacrifice.  The body was taken back to where the groups were going to hold the sacred meal in Jerusalem and roasted on a pomegranate spit.  The other food item were prepare for the meal: the unleavened bread, the sweet mixture of chopped apple, figs and red wine (haroset), the two kinds of bitter herbs.  There was also holy water in stone vessels for ritual purification and red wine.  Four cups of communal red wine were to be ritually offered during the meal in addition to individual cups of wine.  The meal began at sundown and only those members of the covenant who were in a ritual state of purity could attend the meal.

All the Gospels and two thousand years of Christian tradition agree that the Jewish festival of the Passover, when the Passover victims were slain, took place on the Thursday of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, the day before His crucifixion on Friday (Jn 19:31).  Those of the covenant community who were offering the Passover sacrifice for their family and friends gathered at the Temple with their Passover victims at noon for the afternoon Tamid worship service.  The sacrificial ceremony of the Passover lambs and kids began immediately after the body of the afternoon Tamid lamb was placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:3).

The Passover Liturgical Service at the Temple

On the day of the Passover sacrifice, it was necessary for the afternoon Tamid lamb to be offered an hour earlier than the normal ninth hour/three o’clock in the afternoon (Antiquitues of the Jews, 14.4.3 [65]; Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1B) to give enough time for the many Passover victims to be sacrificed from 3-5 PM in the afternoon (ninth hour to the eleventh hour Jewish time): So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [423]).

The sacrifices of the Passover goat-kids and lambs took place from the ninth hour (3 PM) to the eleventh hour (5 PM) at which time the Temple services were normally completed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:8B).  There was an exception to the timing of the service if the day of the Passover sacrifice fell on a Friday, Preparation Day for the Sabbath.  In that case, the Tamid was offered even earlier so that there was enough time for the people to prepare for the Sabbath restrictions:  If, however, the eve of Passover [meal]coincided with the eve of the Sabbath [Friday], it [the Tamid] was slaughtered at half after the sixth hour [12:30 PM] and offered up at half after the seventh hour [1:30 PM] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1D). This fact absolutely refutes the claim by some scholars that Jesus died just as the Passover victims were beginning to be sacrificed at the Temple at 3 PM on what Christians call Good Friday.  The Passover was not on Friday, but if it had been, all the animals were sacrificed from 1:30-3:30 PM. 

During the Passover and the daily afternoon liturgy the Temple services, all activity was completed by 5 PM (the eleventh hour Jewish time) to give enough clean-up time before sundown and the beginning of the next day (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:8B).  The only other change in the liturgical service of the afternoon Tamid during the Passover was in the offering of the incense.  The incense was not offered until after the afternoon Tamid lamb was laid on the altar fire in the normal daily liturgy of the afternoon service.  However, on Passover the incense was offered at the conclusion of the all the Passover sacrifices.  The offering of the community’s prayers in the burning of the incense was always the climax of any worship service.

On the day of the sacrifice, the lamb or goat-kid for the Last Supper was taken to the Temple, probably by Peter and John.  It was not necessary for everyone to attend the sacrifice.  A relative or even one’s slave (if he was a Jew) could present the animal for sacrifice since the Passover sacrifice was not a pilgrim festival (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:1-8:4).  The groups that represented their households assembled at the Temple with their animals at noon.  The different groups were divided into three large divisions in fulfillment of Exodus 12:6: And the whole assembly of the congregations of Israel shall slaughter it … (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5A-B):

  • “whole” = division #1
  • “assembly” = division #2
  • “congregation” = division #3

After the afternoon Tamid was placed on the altar fire, the first division came forward with their animals into the Court of the Priests.  As soon as they entered the courtyard the doors were locked.  The priests blew three blasts on the silver trumpets as the signal that the lambs and goat-kids were to be sacrificed. The leader of each group carried a sacrificial knife with which to slit the throat of the animal, while a Levite collected its blood in a chalice (a silver shekel from year two of the first Jewish Revolt depicts an engraved image of the sacrificial chalice).  The Levite then handed the chalice to a priest who tossed/splashed (zarak) the blood against the base of the altar (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5-5:6; 2 Chr 30:16).  If the size of the Passover victim was not sufficient to feed the numbers of people included in one group, then a free-will festival sacrifice, a male or female animal from the flock or herd, was also sacrificed at the same time and its blood was collected and splashed against the altar (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4)

While the sacrifices were taking place, the Levitical choir sang the Hallel Psalms 113-118, also called the Egyptian psalms.  Psalms 113-117 recounts the story of the Exodus liberation, while Psalm 118 gives joyous thanksgiving to God the Savior and speaks of the Messiah as “the stone which the builders rejected” which “has become the cornerstone,” the verse Jesus quoted to the chief priests after the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Lk 20:9-18).  As the Levitical choir sang the first line of each verse of the Hallel Psalms, the people repeated every opening line but to the other lines the people responded with “Hallelujah,” “Praise God, Yahweh!”  However, when the Levitical choir came to the 118th Psalms, the congregation not only repeated the first line but also repeated three additional lines that promised the coming of the Messiah (Mishnah:

Pesahim, 5:7): We beg you, Yahweh, save us [Hosanna]!  We beg you, Yahweh, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming! (Ps 118:25-26 NJB; emphasis added).The first line of Psalms 118:26 contains the words the crowd shouted on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, as recorded in Matthew 21:9.  This line can also be translated “Blessed is He who is coming in the name of the LORD [literally the divine Name YHWH = Yahweh]!” as Jesus quoted this line inMatthew 23:39, applying the passage prophetically to Himself.

The Egyptian Hallel Psalms were repeated until all the animals of a division had been sacrificed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:7).  After the first division sacrificed its victims, the bodies of the animals were skinned, the entrails were removed and cleansed, the inside fat was removed, and then the fat was put in a bowl where it was salted before being placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:10).  When all was completed for the first division, the second division entered the Court of the Priests, and the same ritual of sacrifice was repeated.  When all the animals (Passover lambs and kids and the communion hagigah offerings) had been sacrificed, the Passover service was concluded by the burning of incense on the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary.

Flavius Josephus wrote that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) at one annual Passover service 256,500 sacrifices were slain.  He wrote that at the end of the afternoon the blood from the sacrificial victims splashed against the sacrificial altar reached the ankles of the priests, and the Kidron brook, where the Temple drains emptied out, became a river of blood (Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [424]).  When the liturgical celebration and sacrifice of the Passover was completed, the skinned body of every Passover lamb or goat-kid and free-will hagigah festival offering was taken by each group back into to city of Jerusalem.

The Night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Last Supper

After the Temple service, the people returned to where they were staying in Jerusalem.  There they roasted the whole body of the Passover sacrifice and in some cases, the hagigah festival offering on a spit of pomegranate wood.  They had to be careful in roasting the Passover victim so that no bones were broken.  Anyone who carelessly broke a bone of the Passover victim was punished by receiving forty lashes and the sacrifice became invalid (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B, 7:11C; Ex 12:46; Num 9:12).  It was also necessary to prepare the other foods which accompanied eating the meat of the sacrifice: the two kinds of bitter herbs, the vinegar or salted water for dipping the herbs, the chopped fruit mixture, and the baked loaves of unleavened bread (Ex 12:8-28; 13:3-10; Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3).  The pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed the Passover sacrifice allowed the covenant people to relive the themes of judgment and redemption that the Israelites experienced in the first Passover event and to eat the sacred meal of the Passover as a sign of covenant renewal and continuation.  So sacred was this meal that the penalty for deliberately failing to eat the sacrifice of the Passover on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was excommunication from the covenant people (Num 9:13).

There were some commands from the first Passover that were no longer observed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5): “A. What is the difference between the Passover of Egypt and the Passover of the succeeding generations?  B. As to the Passover of Egypt “(1) the designation took place on the tenth of Nisan. (2) It required sprinkling of the blood of the lamb with a branch of hyssop on the lintel of the door and on the two doorposts.  And (3) it was eaten in hast in a single night.  C. But the Passover observed by the succeeding generations applies [to leaven] for all seven days [and not for one night].”

The Law of Moses required that the Passover and the eating of the sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread was to take place in the early spring on the first full moon of the spring equinox (Ex 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1); this requirement continues to be observed.  The Church establishes the date for Easter in the same way “on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox.(4)  Concerning the importance of the setting of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in association with the vernal equinox, the first century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (d. 50 AD), who was a contemporary of Jesus, wrote:  And there is another festival combined with the feast of the Passover […].   This month being the seventh [in the civil calendar] both in number and order, according to the revolutions of the sun, is the first in power; on which account it is also called the first in the sacred scriptures.  And the reason, as I imagine, is as follows.  The vernal equinox is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which the world was created.  [..].  And again, this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day (Special Laws II, 150-155).

Jesus fully supported the authority of the priesthood in fulfilling the rites and rituals of the Sinai Covenant, which certainly included appointing the dates of the designated feast days.  That week, teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the issue of the authority of the Temple hierarchy: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you…(Mt 23:1-4a; emphasis added).  Jesus would not have told the people to obey the hierarchy of the Church one day and then do the exact opposite by celebrating the Passover on day other than that designated according to the liturgical calendar on the next day.  The hierarchy of the Church determined the day for the Passover sacrifice and sacred meal as prescribed by the Law of the covenant according to the lunar calendar.  The eating of this sacrificial meal in the middle of the month of Nisan in 30 AD, at the time of the full moon, was the last legitimate sacrificial meal of the Old Covenant.  It was a sacred meal that was transformed and fulfilled in the first Eucharistic sacrifice of the New Covenant people of God.  It was absolutely necessary for the faithful remnant of Jews who became the restored Israel of the New Covenant to participate in this last Old Covenant ritual meal in order to be able to comprehend its transformation and fulfillment as a true sacrificial meal in the offering of Christ the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic banquet.

Luke 22:14-16 ~ The Sacred Meal of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the First Eucharist
14 When the hour came, Jesus took his place [leaned back] at table with the Apostles.  15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16 for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  17 Then he took a cup, gave thanks and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.  [..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, page 234, “reclined” in Mt 26:20, Mk 14:18 and Jn 13:23)

Sundown began the next Jewish day, Nisan the 15th, and it signaled the beginning of the celebration of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread.  The meal began after sundown, and it had to be completed before midnight (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A; 10:9).  That night, by the light of the full moon, those invited to eat the sacred meal with Jesus made their way to an upper room (Lk 22:12; Acts 13) in the oldest section of the city known as the City of David on Mt. Zion.  Only covenant members were permitted to take part in this sacred meal, and the meal was reserved only for those in covenant with Yahweh who were circumcised (if male) and ritually clean, a condition that reflected the spiritual purity of the covenant member’s circumcised heart (Ex 12:43-51).  The requirements for this pilgrim feast included:

  • Attendance at the sacred meal of the Passover victim on     the first night of the feast of Unleavened Bread in a house that was free     of all leaven (Ex 12:8-14; 13:42-49; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).
  • The eating of bread without leaven during the seven-day     holy week (Ex 12:15-20; 13:6-10; Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5C).
  • The observances of the required Sacred Assembly during the     morning Tamid service on the 15th and the 21st of     Nisan and the other daily Tamid services to which covenant members brought     communion hagigah festival sacrifices to be eaten in communal meals     in Jerusalem during the week (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4; Mishnah: Hagigah,     1:3, 1:6).

The liturgical service of the Passover sacrifice on the 14thof Nisan was not a pilgrim feast; therefore, it was not necessary to be present at the sacrifice of the Passover victims; however, it was absolutely necessary to be present that night for the sacred meal.  The food served during the sacred meal at sundown on Nisan the 15th was prescribed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:5) included:

  • Two kinds of bitter herbs and salt water or vinegar:     representing the gift of life and the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt that caused tears and suffering.
  • Haroset/Charoset (a mixture of chopped apple or     chopped figs with red wine): representing the red clay of Egypt and the     sweetness of God’s redemption.
  • Unleavened bread: the bread they made in haste when they     escaped from Egypt.
  • Four communal cups of red wine (and additional red wine     for individual cups): the four cups stood for the four ways God promised     to redeem Israel.  The red wine also represented the blood of the     sacrificial victim that became the sign of their redemption on the     doorways of their houses from the threshold to the lintel to the door     posts, forming a cross in the first Passover event.
  • The roasted whole body of the sacrificial lamb or kid (no     bones broken) and the optional hagigah festival sacrifice: the     Passover victim represented the sacrificed animal that died in the place     of the firstborn of Israel.  The hagigah provided enough food if     the group was too large to adequately be fed by the Passover victim (Mishnah:     Pesahim, 6:3).  If the hagigah was not provided the night of     Unleavened Bread, the communion sacrifice had to be made on all the other     days of the festival (Mishnah: Hagigah, 6:1).

Four communal cups of red wine, each mixed with a little water, were consumed during the meal.  Each cup represented the blood of the victim and one of the four ways God promised to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt from Exodus 6:6-8 (NJB):  So say to the Israelites, “I am Yahweh…

  1. I shall free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians  “Cup of Sanctification
  2. I shall rescue you from their slavery “Cup of Forgiveness
  3. I shall redeem you with outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment “Cup of Blessing/Redemption
  4. I shall take you as my people and I shall be your God” “Cup of Acceptance

There is no explanation in Jewish tradition as to why a little water was added to each communal cup.  It was common to cut the wine with water at a banquet, but this was done in a large bowl and the individual cups of the guests were dipped into the bowl.

Question: When do you see a little water added to a chalice of wine in the Mass?
Answer: As the priest prepares the Eucharistic table, he pours a little water into the wine that will become Jesus’ Precious Blood.

We still add a little water to the Cup of Blessing that becomes Jesus’ Precious Blood in the Mass.  The red wine and water prefigure the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ in John 19:33-35.  This is a practice that extends back to ancient times and is included in St. Justin Martyr’s description of the celebration of the Eucharist in 150 AD where he speaks of water being brought to the altar with the red wine and mixed together by the priest (CCC 1345).

The Cup of Sanctification and the ritual prayers began the meal, and the Cup of Acceptance closed the meal and sealed the people’s commitment to the covenant for another year when the host uttered the words “It is finished.”  Jesus was the host of the sacred meal.  He came to the meal dressed in the seamless garment of a priest, signifying the liturgical nature of the meal (Jn 19:23-24).  St. John’s Gospel tells us He reclined at the table with His guests.  The Fathers of the Church identify St. John Zebedee as the “beloved disciple” who shared Jesus’ couch, reclining against Jesus’ chest (Jn 13:23).(5)

The pouring of the Cup of Sanctification to which a little water was added was followed by the Kiddush, the Prayer of Sanctification.  Holding the Cup of Sanctification in His right hand as he elevated the cup in front of those assembled, Jesus recited the ancient prayer, blessing the wine and also saying a blessing according to the day of the week.  The prayer opened with the words: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast created the fruit of the vine … The opening prayer was followed by the blessing of the day, and then the prayer was concluded with the words:Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast sustained us and enabled us to reach this season. Ritual prayers were to accompany every part of the meal. Concluding the prayer, Jesus passed the communal cup, and everyone present at the meal drank from the Cup of Sanctification which, like the events of the first Passover, sanctified and set Israel apart in holiness from all other peoples of the earth.

The drinking of the first communal cup was followed by the first of three ritual hand washings.  After the first ritual hand washing, the servants then brought in the food.  Each food item had symbolic meaning, allowing the covenant people to relive the first Passover experience.  The Mishnah records Rabbi Gamaliel’s instructions on the foods served in the ancient Passover: Whoever has not referred to these three matters connected to the Passover has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are they: Passover [victim], unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.  Passover because the Omnipresent passed over the houses of our forefathers in Egypt.  Unleavened bread “because our forefathers were redeemed in Egypt.  Bitter herbs “because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers in Egypt.  In every generation a person is duty-bond to regard himself as if he personally has gone forth from Egypt, since it is said, “And you shall tell your son in that day saying,  It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt’ (Ex. 13:8).  Therefore we are duty-bound to thank, praise, glorify, honor, exalt, extol, and bless him who did for our forefathers and for us all these miracles.  He brought us forth from slavery to freedom, anguish to joy, mourning to festival, darkness to great light, subjugation to redemption, so we should say before him, Hallelujah (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:5).

In addition to these foods, there was also the hagigahfestival peace offering that was included if it had been determined that the Passover sacrifice was not enough to feed a large group attending the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-4) and a mixture of fruit, red wine and cinnamon called haroset. The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah debated whether it was required (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3D and E).   After the food was placed on the table in front of the host, the order of the meal called for the first dipping of the bitter herb in the vinegar or salted water (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3).  The green herb was intended to remind them that God’s creation and all that it contained was good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31), but the dipping of the bitter herb in salted water represented the destructive power of sin and the tears shed by all who suffered in bondage to in Egypt.  Jesus prayed over the herbs, dipped the first bitter herb (usually lettuce), ate and then passed the herbs and the salted water around the table to those assembled to dip and eat, reflecting on both man’s blessings and the curse of sin.

The first dipping was followed by the temporary removal of the trays of food (to heighten the excitement).  Then Jesus would have poured out the second cup of wine mixed with a little water.  The second cup was called the Cup of Forgiveness, was poured out but it was not passed.  Instead, the host placed the cup on the table as He turned to the one who had the honor of asking the host, who was usually the father of an extended family, the ritual questions. This member of the assembly was usually a young son of the household or a young man selected from among the assembled covenant members in accordance with God’s command in Exodus 13:8 ~ On this day you shall explain to your son,  This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It is difficult to accept the theory that only Jesus and His Apostles attended the sacred meal since it was required by the Law that those representing the “congregation of Israel” attend and that children be instructed.  Jesus’ mother and John’s mother had accompanied their sons to Jerusalem for the festival.  Would Jesus have denied them this sacred occasion in His presence?  They were also His disciples (Lk 8:1-3).  The questions and related statements that were part of the ritual are found in the Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:4II:

  1. How different is this night from all other nights?  For on     all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night     all the bread is unleavened.
  2. For on all other nights we eat diverse vegetables, but on     this night only bitter herbs.
  3. For on all other nights we eat meat which is roasted,     stewed, or boiled.  But this night all the meat is roasted.
  4. For on all other nights we dip our food one time, but on     this night, two times.

In response to the questions Jesus, as the host, began to tell the story of God’s covenant relationship with Israel with the call of Abraham and his descendants into covenant with Yahweh and the events that led the children of Israel to migrate to Egypt during a famine when Joseph son of Jacob-Israel was Vizier of Egypt.  Then He told how the Israelites were later enslaved by the Egyptians and cried out to the God for their ancestors for deliverance.  The telling of the story of Israel’s redemption was in obedience to the three commands to recite the story every year at Passover and the command to not just remember but to relive the Passover experience (Ex 10:2; 12:26-27, 13:8).

Jesus told how Moses was sent by God to redeem the people and the ten plagues that were God’s judgment on the false gods of Egypt (Ex 12:12).  Then He told how the first Passover victims were sacrificed, how the blood was poured into the thresholds of the doorways of the houses, and how the blood was smeared on the doorposts and the lintel of the houses with a hyssop branch.  It was under the sign of the blood of sacrifice across the doorways that the angel of death “passed over” the houses of the Israelites (Ex 12:13, 22-23). It was not a coincidence in that first Passover that the sign of the blood extended from the threshold to the lintel and from doorpost to doorpost, foreshadowing the sign of the Cross.  Jesus, as the host, would have finished his summary of Israel’s early history with the story of the giving of the Law and God’s covenant with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:4-10:5).

Following Jesus’ homily on the history of Israel and the people’s redemption and liberation from Egyptian slavery in the midst of God’s divine judgment, the food was returned to the table and Jesus explained the symbolic significance of the food.  The roasted lamb or kid was the Passover victim who died in atonement for the firstborn sons of Israel, the second bitter herb signified the bitter suffering of the people in slavery to the Egyptians, the salt water symbolized the tears the Israelites shed, and the sweet chopped red apple or figs mixed with red cinnamon and red wine symbolized the red clay used to make the bricks for Pharaoh’s buildings while its sweet taste symbolized the sweetness of knowing that God heard His people’s prayers and redemption was coming.  The unleavened bread symbolized the bread the children of Israel made in haste before leaving Egypt and was also a symbol of a redeemed nation, freed from slavery and from the sins of the Egyptians.

According to the traditional order of the ritual meal, it was now time for the host to lift up the Cup of Forgiveness, say a blessing over it, and pass the communal cup.  Then Jesus led the assembly in singing the first two Egyptian Hallel Psalms, Psalms 113:1-9 and 114:1-8.  After singing the last line of Psalms 114:8: A flint into a spring of water …  those assembled again shouted, “Hallelujah!”, to which Jesus, as the host, replied with a prayer: So, Lord, our God, and God of our fathers, bring us in peace to other appointed times and festivals, rejoicing in the rejoicing in your city and joyful in your Temple worship, where we may eat of the animal sacrifices and Passover offerings …  Blessed are you, Lord who has redeemed us and redeemed our forefathers from Egypt (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:6).

Question: How many cups of wine are mentioned in Luke’s version of the Last Supper?
Answer: There are two cups mentioned: one cup of wine in verse 17 and a second in verse 20.

The Gospel of Luke identifies two of the four communal cups of wine which were consumed in the sacred meal of the Passover.  It is significant that there are two cups in Luke 22 verses 17 and 20 with the bread that became His Body offered between the two cups in verse 19.  St. Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention two cups: a cup passed prior to Jesus taking up the unleavened bread over which He said the words of consecration (Lk 22:17), and the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, which was the Eucharistic cup of Jesus’ precious blood (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 15:10:16).  The first cup St. Luke mentions in verse 17 could be the first ritual cup, the Cup of Sanctification, but it is more likely that it is the second of the four communal ritual cups of red wine served at the meal, the Cup of Forgiveness.

Question: What profound statement does Jesus make after offering the communal cup of wine in verse 17?
Answer: He swears that He will not drink wine again until He comes into His Kingdom.

St. Luke records: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:17-18).  It is significant that Jesus swore that He would not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God is established.  This vow is similar to His vow not eat the sacred meal of the Passover again until the New Covenant Passover was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Lk 22:14-16).  If the cup had been the first, He could not have drunk from the second cup.  His words “again” or “from now on” suggests that He drank from the Cup of Forgiveness, as did all the others assembled in the room, even Judas.

As the Cup of Forgiveness was passed, everyone present sang Psalms 113-114 and everyone drank from the Cup of Forgiveness.  It was now time for the second ritual hand washing.  Perhaps this was the occasion when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  The Gospel of John records: So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and book off his outer garment.  He took a towel and tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist (Jn 13:2b-5).  Since it was “during supper” the washing of His disciples’ feet, which has always been interpreted by the Church as the symbolic ordination of the ministers of His Church, had to occur during meal and most likely during the second or third ritual hand washing.  This was the first of several changes Jesus made in the order of the meal.  He took water from the stone vessels that contained the ritually blessed water and He washed the disciple’s feet in a symbolic act to inaugurate their mission as the chief servants of the Kingdom (Jn 13:3-16).  According to the Gospel of John the foot washing ritual occurred before Jesus passed the “sop” of unleavened bread and haroset (Jn 13:13:26).  The second ritual hand washing was in preparation for eating the unleavened bread.

The next part of the ritual was the eating of the prepared rounds of unleavened bread (not what was offered as Jesus’ Body).  The unleavened bread symbolized the people’s covenant holiness and the absence of sin within the community of those who ate this meal under of the atoning sacrifice of the Passover victim.  As was the custom, Jesus would have taken up the basket holding the individually wrapped rounds of unleavened bread and prayed over it.  Some Rabbis say there were three separate rounds of unleavened bread with each round wrapped separately in its own cloth, stacked one on top of the other and placed in one basket with the middle bread broken in two pieces, while other Rabbis say there were only two wrapped rounds of bread.  For Christians, the three separately wrapped rounds of unleavened bread together in one basket symbolize the mystery of the Trinity, a truth not yet revealed to the Old Covenant people of God. The torn middle round of unleavened bread is identified by Christians as the sinless Son of God whose flesh was torn for the sins of man.

Taking up a round loaf of unleavened bread and holding it in His hands, Jesus broke it into two pieces, thanking God in prayer for both the grain from which the bread was made and for the command to eat it.  Next, taking up a piece of the broken unleavened bread, Jesus dipped it into the haroset; folding the fruit mixture with the second bitter herb between the two sides of the bread.  This “second dipping” (the first dipping was the herb in the salted water).  This “dipping,” in which the haroset was folded into the unleavened bread, was called the “sop.”  The first “sop” was given to the person the host wished to honor that night.

Question: To whom did Jesus honor by the giving of the first “sop”?  See Jn 13:26.
Answer: Jesus gave the first of the sop to Judas, the one who was going to betray Him.

The Gospel of John records that the first sop was given to Judas who was probably sitting on Jesus’ left at the place traditionally reserved for one to be honored: So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him (Jn 13:26).  Jesus reached out to Judas one final time but Judas rejected Christ, and John’s Gospel records that he left the gathering (Jn 13:30).

The communal dish of the bitter herb and the haroset fruit mixture was then passed around the table with additional rounds of the unleavened bread.  After everyone had dipped the “sop,” the hagigah peace offering was brought to the table and was eaten (if the festival peace offering had been made at the time of the Passover sacrifice).  Finally the roasted flesh of Passover victim, roasted like a sacrifice and with no bones broken, was passed and eaten by those assembled.  Jesus would have pronounced separate blessings over both the hagigah peace offering and the Passover victim.  The meat of the Passover victim had to be carefully roasted and then the meat separated without breaking any of the bones (Ex 12:46).  To break a bone of the victim was a grave offense punishable by forty lashes (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:11C).  The meat of the Passover sacrifice had to be the last food consumed; no other food was to be eaten after the flesh of the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:9).

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus and those with Him at the Last Supper only ate the bread and drank the wine that became Jesus’ Body and Blood.  However, this theory is not supported by the testimony of Sacred Scripture.
Question: What do the Gospels record that shows Jesus and His disciples ate the traditional meal of the Passover?  What other passages confirm that they kept the sacred feast as God commanded?  See Mt 5:18-20; 26:20-21, 26; Mk 14:17-18, 22; Jn 13:21-30.
Answer: In the Gospels, the Last Supper assembly is clearly eating the sacred meal of the Passover prior to Jesus offering Himself in the bread and wine that become His Body and Blood.  The Gospel of John even gives the account of the group eating the “sop” which is the unleavened bread and the haroset.  In addition, Jesus swore that He would not change one part of the Law until all He had come to accomplish had been fulfilled.  He will accomplish that fulfillment when He gives up His life on the altar of the Cross.

In St. Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in c. 54 AD, he tells them because of abuses to refrain from eating a meal before receiving the Eucharist (chapter 11).   This had been the practice of the early Church in following the order of the Last Supper in which a full meal was taken before Jesus instituted the Eucharist.  We also have evidence of this practice in the Church’s first catechism, the Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”).  See  And we also have evidence that a full meal was eaten by Christians in the first decades of the Church before receiving the Eucharist in the letters of the Church fathers like St. Ignatius of Antioch (martyred c. 107 AD), in which they called the meal prior to the Eucharist an “agape meal.”

Luke 22:19-20 ~ 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.
But once again Jesus changed the order of the sacred meal as he took up the bread again and offered it to his disciples saying “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. 

Question: What do Jesus’ words in offering the unleavened bread as His Body and the cup of wine as His Blood together with the words “the new covenant” mean to the disciples?  See Jer 31:31-34; Jn 6:4, 52-56.
Answer: The words “new covenant” recalls Jeremiah’s famous passage in which the prophet promises that the Messiah will bring about a new covenant and a new knowledge of God.  The disciples must have also recalled Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse just the year before in which He gave them the unprecedented and shocking promise that eternal life was theirs if they ate His flesh and drank His blood.

In the offering of Himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to the assembly in the Upper Room, Jesus began His walk to the Cross that night in what was the first Eucharistic banquet.  He was fulfilling what He promised in the Bread of Life Discourse when Jesus told the crowds “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51) … and “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:53-56).

Luke 22:21-23 ~ Jesus announces His betrayal
21 And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; 22 for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe is that man by whom he is betrayed.”  23 And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.

Jesus makes the startling announcement that He will be betrayed by one of His own and that this will happen according to the will of God.
Question: In the Gospel of John, St. Peter asks Jesus to identify the betrayer.  What does Jesus tell John and why do they still not know the identity of the one who will betray Jesus?  See Jn 13:21-26.
Answer: Jesus told Peter it was the one who dipped the sop with Him.  The problem was, even though He first gave the sop to Judas, they all dipped the sop with Jesus.

Luke 22:24-30 ~ Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.  25 He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addresses as Benefactors’; 26 but among you it shall not be so.  Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.  27 For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves.  28 It is you who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Next, Jesus sets the standard for His disciples by telling them that the most humble of them who ranks himself the least in Jesus’ kingdom will be considered the “greatest.”  He is sending them forth as servants of the Kingdom and not like the arrogant and self-righteous chief priests, Pharisees and scribes who oppose Jesus and reject Him as the Messiah.  It is the same teaching He gave them in the washing of their feet in John 13:12-18.

Question: What three promises does Jesus make to the disciples?
Answer: Jesus promises His disciples:

  1. They will be His heirs and will inherit His kingdom (verse 29).
  2. He will serve them at His table (verse 30).
  3. They will judge the tribes of Israel (verse 30b).

Question: That they will be served at His table has what double meaning or fulfillment?  See 1 Cor 11:23-26, the Parable of the Faithful Servants in Lk 12:35-37 and Rev 19:1-9.
Answer: Jesus serves His faithful servants/disciples at His table of the altar at every Eucharistic celebration of the Mass as He has just served them His Body and Blood, but He will also serve His disciples at the eschatological banquet when He returns to claim His Bride, the Church at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Sanctuary (
Rev 19:1-9).

It is possible Jesus was visually demonstrating this teaching by having St. John Zebedee, the youngest Apostle, reclining with Him in what would be considered by the Apostles the seat of greatest honor (Jn 13:23). (5)  If that is the case, where is Peter, the leader of the Apostles?  John 13:23-25 relates that the Apostle who leaned against Jesus’ chest was next to Peter who asked him to inquire of Jesus who was the betrayer.  In the formal arrangement of the seating for a Greek style symposium (the order of which was observed by Jews in the first century AD), the host reclined to the far end of the table as the other guests were seated to his left in the U-shaped arrangement.  The only person who could be next to the host who wasn’t sharing a couch was the servant who either stood or sat on a bench at the end of the table.  Was Peter seated in the position of the servant who helped the host serve the meal?  One of the oldest titles of the Pope is “servant of the servants of God.”

Luke 22:31-38 ~ Simon-Peter’s denial foretold and instructions for the time of crisis
31 “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”  33 He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”  34 But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cockcrows this day, you will deny me three times that you know me.” 35 He then said to them, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals were you in need of anything?”  36 No, nothing,” they replied.’  He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.  37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely ,  He was counted among the wicked’; and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment.”  38 Then they said,  Lord, look, there are two swords here.’  But he replied, “It is enough!” 

Question: Jesus turns to Peter and gives him a dire warning.  What is the warning and what is Jesus’ command to Peter?
Answer: Jesus tells Peter that he will be tested by Satan and commands Simon-Peter, His Vicar, that when he has recovered from his test, to strengthen his brother Apostles.

Jesus’ instruction to Simon-Peter confirms his primacy within the Apostolic College.  Simon-Peter professes his willingness to give his life for Jesus, but Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny Him three times before the cockcrow.  The “cockcrow” was the trumpet single that announced the end of the third night Watch and the beginning of the fourth and last night Watch.  It was sounded at 3 AM.(6)  Next Jesus counsels them to be prepared for the coming crisis.  The Gospel message that they carried to the Jews on their earlier missionary journey was well received and their material needs were met by those receptive to their message, but now the climate is hostile and they will need to defend and care for themselves and their loved ones.  Again Jesus quotes a fulfillment passage from the Old Testament in Luke 22:37 from the fourth Song of the Servant in Isaiah chapter 53.

Question: What does Jesus tell His disciples concerning the coming of the crisis?  See Lk 22:37 and Is 53:12 from the Fourth Servant’s Song.  Quote the passage from Isaiah 53, underlining the words from Isaiah 53:12.
Answer: Jesus assures His disciples that the coming crisis is in fulfillment of what was prophesied in the Scriptures when He says:“… and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment.”  The fulfillment passage Jesus quotes is from is Isaiah 53:12: For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely,  He was counted among the wicked‘; (Lk 22:37).

The purpose of the two swords will not be to defend Jesus but to offer another opportunity to work a miracle in front of His detractors (Lk 22:49-51).  With the meal concluded, the ritual required the final blessing, the pouring out of the fourth communal cup mixed with a little water “the Cup of Acceptance “and the assembly singing Psalms 136 followed by the host’s announcement “It is finished” “announcing the Israel’s covenant obligation to keep the Passover meal had been fulfilled for another year and the people continued to accept their commitment to their covenant with God.  However, it is unlikely that Jesus poured and drank from the fourth cup.
Question: Why could Jesus not have completed the meal by drinking from the Cup of Acceptance?
Answer: Jesus could not have received the wine of the Cup of Acceptance because of His oath in Luke 22:17-18.

Instead, they must have sung the psalms and then they left the city and withdrew to the Mt. of Olives (Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26).   The ritual meal of the Sinai covenant was therefore, not concluded.  Jesus will take the fourth cup, the Cup of Acceptance,  from the altar of the Cross and will then announce: “teltelestai” = “It is finished” – declaring  the Old Covenant completed and finished as He promised in Matthew 5:18: Amen,  I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place (emphasis added), and the establishment of His Kingdom, as He promised: “I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).

Instead, they must have sung the psalms and then withdraw to the Mt. of Olives (Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26).   The ritual meal of the Sinai covenant was therefore, not concluded.  Jesus will take the fourth cup, the Cup of Acceptance, from the altar of the Cross and will then announce: “teltelestai” = “It is finished” “declaring the Old Covenant completed and finished as He promised in Matthew 5:18: Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place(emphasis added), and the establishment of His Kingdom, as He promised: “I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).

Jesus and the Apostles leave the Upper Room in Jerusalem and cross the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives east of the city.  They may have gone through the Temple area since the Temple was left open for those who wished to pray there after the meal.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: Have you ever felt that you were being “sifted by Satan”?  What did you do to resist a crisis of faith or a crisis of expectation?  A crisis of expectation is when our idea or expectation of God’s plan for our lives takes a decidedly different turn “sometimes resulting in suffering and loss.  What did Jesus advise His disciples to do in their “hour of grief” in Luke 22:46?


1.  It was the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs that coincided     with Jesus sacrifice on Friday, the day after the Passover sacrifices, with     the first lamb sacrificed at the third hour (9 AM) and the second lamb at     the ninth hour (3 PM).

2.  The Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach (also spelled Passah     and Pessah) may come from the word pasah which is an     Egyptian word derived from the root pash meaning “to hold” and in     Hebrew came to mean “pass over” as when the angel of death passed over the     blood stained doorways of the Israelites on the first Passover.  Or it may     come from the Egyptian root pesh, which means “to spread wings over     in order to protect.”  Some scholars believe “pesh” may be the correct     root because of the link to the symbolism of God’s wings of protection     which is so often repeated in Scripture: Ex 19:4; Ps 17:8.7; Mt 23:27; Lk 13:34; etc.

3.  It was a covenant obligation for all men of the covenant     to keep the pilgrim feats of Unleavened Bread and eat the sacred meal of     the Passover sacrifice, but exceptions were made in case of illness, or     the death of a family member, or if one was delayed because of a long     journey, or if one became ritually impure.  In those cases, it was     possible to keep the feast a month later (Num 9:9-10; Mishnah: Pesahim,     9:1-9:3).

4.  Twice a year, at the beginning of spring and at the     beginning of fall, day and night are each exactly twelve hours long.      These times are called the “equinox” meaning “equal.”  The vernal equinox     is the day of equal dark and light hours that occurs in the spring (the     word “vernal” means “spring”).  The fall equinox is called the autumnal     equinox.   The vernal equinox occurs during Lent (the period of 40 days     before sundown on Holy Thursday), and the next day the daylight hours     begin to lengthen.  The word “Lent” is related to the word “lengthen” and     is also an old Saxon word (lengthen) for springtime.

5.  Early Church Fathers who testified that John was the     “beloved disciple”: St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John), Epistles, 5.24.3;     St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1.

6.  For ancient references to the “cockcrow” see for     example: Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2 He who wants to take up the ashes     from the altar gets up early and immerses before the superintendent comes     by … Sometimes he comes at cockcrow or near then …; also Mishnah     Yoma, 1:8 Everyday they take up the ashes from the altar at cock’s     crow or near it. For Christians mentioning the hour of “cockcrow” see     Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 38, Egeria: Dairy of a     Pilgrimage, pages 28, 30, 89, 91-92, 97-98, 103, 105, 107-8, 117-8,     121, 154 and 215; also Hippolytus, Canons 27.

Additional resources used in this lesson:

  1. Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 38: Egeria:     Diary of a Pilgrimage, translated and annotated by George E. Gingras,     Catholic University of America, Newman Press, 1970.
  2. Christ in the Passover, Ceil and Moishe Rosen,     Moody Press, Chicago, 1978.
  3. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Joachim     Jeremias, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1968.
  4. The Jewish Festivals from Their Beginnings to Our Own     Day, Hayyim Schauss, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, 1938.
  5. The Jewish Study Bible, editors Adele Berlin and     Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Publication Society, Oxford University     Press, 1999 edition.
  6. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, Ronald L.     Eisenberg, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 2004.
  7. The Mishnah, editor Jacob Neusner, Yale     University Press, 1988.

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