In the last chapter we saw how the original Passover helped prepare the children of Israel to leave Egypt (i.e., the world), and go to the land of Israel. We also saw how Shaul tells us the festivals are still prophetic shadow pictures of coming events. Because of these things, we still see the Passover as a rehearsal for leaving the world, and going back home to the land.
Not everyone agrees. Some suggest Yeshua held the Last Supper as a rabbinical seder meal—and therefore they say that we also should follow His example, and hold the Passover as a rabbinical sit-down seder. While there is an argument to be made for this, we will see that this argument is not conclusive (and it causes other conflicts).
Finally, we will also see that Yeshua did not alter the Torah, and He also did not institute any new practices (such as foot washing). This is because the Last Supper was held the night before the Passover (and therefore has no bearing on the Passover itself).
The Passover seder (“order”) service is a scripted, highly stylized meal that involves taking four cups of wine, and also eating from various bowls of dip (sop). It is also held reclining. In the Middle East, slaves typically stood to wait on their masters as they ate. However, the rabbis teach that because the Jews are no longer in slavery, they should either lean or recline at the Passover table, in order to celebrate Israel’s freedom. Some point out the parallel to the Last Supper, in which Yeshua and His disciples reclined around the table.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:20
20 Now when evening came, Yeshua was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
Further, in the seder service, one also dips one’s bread into a bowl (or dish).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:23
23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me.”
The script calls for blessing Yahweh, breaking bread, taking four cups of wine (each at specific times), and giving thanks.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:26-28
26 And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,
28 For this is My blood of the New (Renewed) Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
The seder usually concludes with the singing of one or more psalms (or hymns) in praise.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:30
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The Aramaic Peshitta says Yeshua and his disciples sang praises (i.e., Psalms), which is part of the seder script.
Mattityahu 26:30 (Murdock Peshitta)
30 And they sang praises, and went forth to the mount of Olives.
It is said that in ancient times, rabbis would sometimes hold a graduation ceremony for their disciples the night before the Passover. However, even if Yeshua did hold the Last Supper as such a graduation seder, we need to realize that the instructions for inside the land are different for the instructions outside the land. As we saw in the last chapter, outside the land, Yahweh wanted the children of Israel to prepare to leave Egypt, and go home. However, in Deuteronomy 12, Yahweh begins a long monologue about how the Passover was to be different, when one lives in the land.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:1
1 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the soil [i.e., in the land].”
In contrast, when we live in the land of Israel, we are to go up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:5-6
5 “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which Yahweh your Elohim gives you;
6 but at the place where Yahweh your Elohim chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.”
However, the Passover was still held on the afternoon of the 14th, with the meal eaten on the beginning of the evening of the 15th. This did not change.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:6
6 “Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings.”
Both the Aramaic and Greek texts suggest that the Last Supper could not have been held on the evening of Aviv 14/15, because the bread eaten during the Last Supper was leavened (and all leavened bread is destroyed on the day of Aviv 14). For example, in the Greek texts the word is artos (a;rton), which refers to a raised (i.e., leavened) loaf.
NT:740 artos (ar’-tos); from NT:142; bread (as raised) or a loaf.
26 And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread (a;rton), blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
In the Aramaic Peshitta the word bread is lechemah (לחמא). This is the Aramaic counterpart to the Hebrew word lechem (לחם, meaning regular [leavened] bread).
Matthew 26:26, Murdock Peshitta
26 And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread (לחמא), and blessed, and brake; and gave to his disciples, and said: “Take, eat; this is my body.”
This argument is critical, because if the Last Supper was the Passover meal, then Yeshua broke the Torah by eating leavened bread. It also means that He did not fulfill the feast of the Passover, in that He was not our Passover Lamb—yet this would contradict Scripture.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:7
7 For indeed Messiah our Passover was sacrificed for us.
Those who say the Last Supper was the Passover itself depend on passages such as Mark 14:12 and Matthew 26:17. In English, Matthew seems to say the disciples wanted to prepare to eat the Passover on the first day of Unleavened Bread (i.e., Aviv 15).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:17 NKJV
17 Now on the first (πρώτῃ) day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to [Yeshua], saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
The problem here is that we cannot take the English translation at its face value here, because the Passover is supposed to take place on Aviv 14, not Aviv 15. The solution is that the word first is the Greek word protos (πρώτῃ). While this word can mean first, it can also mean, “in front of,” “before,” or “prior to.” Here is the root:
pro (pro); a primary preposition; “fore”, i.e. in front of, prior (figuratively, superior) to:
KJV – above, ago, before, or ever. In comparison it retains the same significations.
In context, then, what Matthew 26:17 really says is that the Last Supper took place before the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:17
17 Now [protos: before] the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to [Yeshua], saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
John uses a related word pro (Πρὸ). Pro is related to protos, yet it is translated as “before” the feast of the Passover (which makes total sense).
Yochanan (John) 13:1
1 Now before (Πρὸ) the Feast of the Passover, when Yeshua knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Those who say the Last Supper was the Passover itself accept Matthew’s reading and ignore John, even though it requires altering the Torah.
Luke uses different phraseology, saying “then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.”
Luqa (Luke) 22:7-8
7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.
8 And He sent Kepha (Peter) and Yochanan (John), saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
The problem here is that if we take the phrase, “Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread” back to the Hebrew, we get something like, ובו היום המצות, (“u’bo ha-yom ha-matzot”). This could also be translated as, “Then the Day of Unleavened Bread approached.” This could just as easily refer to Aviv 13 as Aviv 14, which correctly places the Last Supper on the evening of Aviv 13/14 (which does not require violating the Torah).
We give more details in The Torah Calendar, but if we simply realize that the word protos means “before,” the synoptic accounts all reconcile with John, and we don’t have to imagine that Yeshua changed the Torah.
Other passages show us that the Passover and the Last Supper were held on different days. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, when Shaul writes about the Passover, he uses the Greek word for unleavened bread, which is azumois (ἄζυμος).
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:7-8
7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed.
8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread (ἄζυμος) of sincerity and truth.
This is in contrast to chapter 11, where Shaul writes about the Last Supper, in which he uses the word artos (a;rton), referring to raised (i.e., leavened) bread.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Master that which I also delivered to you: that the Master Yeshua on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread (a;rton),
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread (a;rton), and drink this cup, you proclaim the Master’s death till He comes.
All of this shows us that the Last Supper was not the Passover, and therefore the Last Supper has nothing to say about how we should keep the Passover.
Let us also realize that Yeshua was not establishing a new ceremony on the evening of Aviv 13/14, because to do so would have been to add a day of worship to the calendar, which would have been a direct violation of Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, and many other passages. Rather, all Yeshua was saying was to remember Him whenever we take bread and wine. Since our Jewish brethren traditionally take bread and wine at all Sabbaths and festivals, all Yeshua is saying is that we should remember Him at all Sabbaths and festivals.
Some believe Yeshua also instituted a new ritual of washing feet the evening before the Passover, based on John 13:14-15. However, if we read this passage closely, it does not say to institute a new festival day, and it also does not give us a literal command to wash each other’s feet the evening before the Passover. Rather, it gives us an example of how we are to love and serve each other so much that we eagerly take care of each other.
Yochanan (John) 13:14-15
14 “If I then, your Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
What shall we say, then? The first Passover prepared the people to leave the world, and go to the land of Israel. Because Yeshua and His disciples were already in Israel, they did not need to prepare to leave the world. To the contrary, they ended up going back out into the world, so as to take the Good News into every nation, and raise up a priesthood of disciples.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 28:18-20
18 And Yeshua came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in My name*,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amein.
[*For why we immerse only in Yeshua’s name, please see “Immersion in Yeshua’s Name Only,” in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume Three.]
In “About Sacrifices” (in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume One) we explain that we should not offer animal sacrifices in the dispersion—yet apart from that, now that we are back out in the world, we should perform the Passover like Exodus 12 says. We should pack our bags and eat a meal in haste, treating it like a dress rehearsal for going back to the land. Not only is this what Yahweh commands, it will also teach our children about the true meaning of the Passover at a much deeper level than any rabbinical sit-down seder.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:26-27
26 And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’
27 that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of Yahweh, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households….”
We give a short summary of recommendations in the next chapter, as well as unleavened bread recipes.