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The Synoptics on the Last Supper

Matt 26: (web)
17  Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
18  He said, "Go into the city to a certain person, and tell him, ĎThe Teacher says, "My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples."Ď"
19  The disciples did as Jesus commanded them, and they prepared the Passover.

20  Now when evening had come, he was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
21  As they were eating, he said,
"Most assuredly I tell you that one of you will betray me."
22  They were exceedingly sorrowful,
and each began to ask him, "It isnít me, is it, Lord?"
23  He answered,
"He who dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same will betray me.
24  The Son of Man goes, even as it is written of him,
but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed!
It would be better for that man if he had not been born."
25  Judas, who betrayed him, answered,
"It isnít me, is it, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You said it."

26  As they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it,
and broke it. He gave to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."
27  He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, "All of you drink it,
28  for this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.
29  But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on,
until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Fatherís kingdom."
30  When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Luke 22: (web)
19  He took bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it, and gave to them, saying,
"This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me."
20  Likewise, he took the cup after supper, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


The Passover

The Last Supper was also the Passover meal instituted in the Law of Moses to remember Israel's exodus from slavery in Egypt to start their journey to the promise land. At that time God was going to bring the last plague on Egypt. He would send an angel of death who would kill all the firstborn. God told Israel to sacrifice lambs and to paint the blood of the lamb on their door posts. Upon seeing the blood of the lamb, the angel of death would PASS OVER that house. They were also to eat the lamb that night along with unleavened bread. (Bread without yeast)

In a similar manner Jesus Christ was our Passover. "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" 1Cor 5:7b. There are many metaphors of Christ in the Old Testament. He was the lamb that Abel sacrificed of which God was pleased. He was the ram which God provided as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of Isaac when Abraham took him up the mountain. He was the two goats of Yum Kippur (The Day of Atonement) mentioned in Leviticus 16, one sacrificed for the people and the sins placed upon the other which was led outside the city into the wilderness.

The Christian Communion

The Wine and the Blood

But rather than directly speaking of the blood of the lamb, Jesus speaks metaphorically of the cup of wine being his blood pour out for the forgiveness of sins. For his sacrifice paid for our sins. But the wine is different than blood in that you drink wine. It was unlawful to drink blood. "But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water." Deut 12:23,24  Jesus' blood is also life-giving.  Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." John 6:53-55 But again it is clear that he is not speaking of physically eating his flesh nor drinking his blood, but rather he is speaking metaphorically - and so also in the Last Supper - and so also concerning the Christian communion service.

The New Covenant

The New Covenant he spoke of was already prophecied by Jeremiah saying,
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jer 31:31-34
While the Old Covenant had to do with conforming oneself to obey a set of commands, and justification was based upon the degree of one's obedience, the New Covenant had to do with God changing a person within, and justification was based upon the forgiveness (or literally the "forgetting") of sins.

The Unleavened Bread

Jesus associated his flesh with the unleavened bread of the Passover meal. Leaven (or "yeast") commonly has a negative connotation in the Bible. Jesus told his disciples to "But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matt 16:11 meaning their false teachings as is clarified in verse 12. And he spoke in a parable that "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Matt 13:33. But this was a negative connotation as Paul clarifies in Galatians 5:9 and in 1Cor 5:6-8
"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-- as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."
The blood concerns God's holiness - his hatred of sin. It deals with a judicial matter of paying for sin. The bread deals with sincerity and truth. It deals with right doctine and right living. While Israel was wandering in the desert God sustained them with bread ("manna") from heaven. It was not for justification. It was not in order to be saved from God's wrath. It was simply a matter of living life. So also with Jesus who said:
"I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:48-51
Just as there are two aspects to the New Covenant, so there are these two aspects of bread and wine - body and blood - in the Christian communion.
New Covenant
I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts
I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.

And  the New Covenant also incorporates the ultimate redemption of one's body in the coming resurrection. And thus not only is one justified, but salvation also includes the whole person - heart, mind and soul.


Judas was the leaven to be removed from the feast, just as Paul wrote of the Judaizers - false brethren who introduced false teachings into the Christian community.
That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough."  I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.  Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.  As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! Gal 5:8-12
There are legalistic false teachers who represent the yeast, and then there are also the lawless licentious Christians who influence by their behavior, of whom Paul condemns such a one
"When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast." 1Cor 5:4-7
These are some of the Judases of the Christian community and the Bible speaks of them with similar harshness as Jesus does of Judas. Thus even concerning the communion service Paul writes:
"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." 1Cor 11:27-29

Timing - a technical point

The paschal feast, the feast of the Passover, extending from the 14th to the 20th day of the month Nisan

Understand that Jewish days go from sunset (twilight) to sunset.

Lev 23:
The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins;
for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.
Ex 12:
1  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,
2  "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
3  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
4  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.
5  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
6  Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
7  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
9  Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire-- head, legs and inner parts.
10  Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.
11  This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover.

Ex 34:25  "Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Feast remain until morning."

The twilight of the 14th day of the month is also the beginning of the 15th day of the month as Jewish days go from sunset to sunset. You would have a special meal each day of the week of Passover feast, but only on the first day would you eat the Passover lamb. However the first day would cover all the way from 6:00 pm to 6:00 pm. So we have the following time scheme.

The Last Supper which was the Passover meal in which the Passover lamb was eaten may have occurred from something like 5:00 pm at the end of the 14th Day of Nisan to 7 pm at the beginning of the 15th Day of Nisan. Then they went to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and the disciples fell asleep. In the middle of the night Judas and the guards came taking Jesus away. Jesus hung on the cross on the 15th Day of Nisan from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm when he died.

Some have proposed that the gospel of John places the Last Supper on the day before the Passover when he says, "It was just before the Passover Feast." John 13:1 But John could have been referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a week long feast also known as the Passover Feast, following the Passover meal as Leviticus 23:6 reveals. So also in John 18:28 "By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." He was referring to the meals associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was also known as the Passover Feast. Then also in Joh 19:14  "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week". This was a Friday of Passover Week which was a preparation day for the Sabbath (Saturday). Reading it this way we see that John is completely consistent with the timing of the Synoptics.

NIV used in comments
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 29,2022