Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?

This question comes up every so often so let’s deal with this and look into it. Rabbinical Judaism has made the same mistake Christianity has by following the traditions of men rather than the commandments of God given by Moses. Christianity follows the Church Fathers and teachers down through the centuries and Rabbinical Judaism follows Rabbinical oral law through their rabbis, sages and scholars.

There are several reasons why Yeshua did not have a Passover Seder the night he was arrested, as some teach. This meal took place on the night of the 13th of Nisan, after sunset leading to the 14th of Nisan, or Passover. Yeshua fulfilled Passover by being the lamb later that day, as we all know. In Luke 22.13-23 we have the basic story, and it is told in the other Gospels as well, but Luke has a simplicity about it that we will follow.

The days of Unleavened Bread were approaching and in the first century, using the term “Passover” can mean Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread. When we say “the holidays” today it can refer to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, and all the days in-between, and this is the case here. It was just the way people thought back then. So, when it says Unleavened Bread was coming on which the Passover lamb was slain, it was just a Hebraic way of saying Passover.

The Passover lamb cannot be killed on any other day other than the 14th of Nisan and neither could Yeshua (except for the provision in Num 9.9-12). Many people have tried to get around that fact and make the Last Supper a Passover Seder, but it doesn’t work. Some say the lamb was killed on the night of the 13th leading to the 14th so that Yeshua could eat a Passover Seder and then be put on the cross later on that day, but the Passover lamb could not be killed that early. The Temple was the only place a Passover lamb could be killed and that didn’t happen until after the morning Tamid service on the 14th, and that wouldn’t be till after mid-day.

The worshippers in Jerusalem were divided into three groups and each group would come to have their lambs killed, and then roasted that afternoon. They tried to have their lambs killed “between the evenings” of the 14th and this was around 3 pm. The true lamb (Yeshua) died around that time (ninth hour) to fulfill this commandment, so we know what the term “between the evenings” meant.

So, on Nisan 13 Yeshua sends his men ahead to prepare a room where the Passover can be eaten on the 15th at sunset, only Yrshua won’t be there. That is no easy task. You have to “de-leaven” the room, get tables, cushions, kasher utensils and get water and anything else you might need. This was done at least a day early, so when Yeshua talks about getting a place ready for Passover, that doesn’t mean that he will eat it that night. The lamb had to be killed on the afternoon of the 14th and he would be on the cross.

In Luke 22.5 he says that he earnestly desired to eat this Passover with them, but that again doesn’t mean that he was going to eat it that night. He said that because he wouldn’t be able to eat it with them the next night because he would already be dead when the meal was eaten. In fact, the Talmidim (disciples) didn’t really know what he was referring to because they didn’t understand he was going to be crucified on Passover. What he was doing at that meal was getting together one last time with his students for one last night of instruction.

This meal was known as a “Seudat Mitzvah” or a consecrated meal that accompanied any good work, or mitzvah. It was called the “last supper” because it was the last supper that leavened bread could be eaten before the start of the seven days of Unleavened Bread that began as the sun set on the 14th, which is the time they were burying Yeshua. The Passover lamb was eaten with unleavened bread on what was actually the 15th of Nisan.

The supper described in the Gospels does not resemble a Passover Seder either. The lamb is never mentioned. You would think Yeshua would have taught that the lamb was a symbol of his body with no unbroken bones and so on. But he never mentioned it. There is no mention of the unleavened bread, either.  In fact, Luke 22.19 says that the bread used at the supper was leavened. Bread and wine was eaten at many meals, not just Passover. Yeshua gives meaning to the bread and wine and then he ties it into the New (renewed, rebuilt) Covenant mentioned in Jer 31 and tells them they will symbolize the ratification of this covenant in his own body and with his own blood (Luke 22.19-20).

Yeshua never broke a commandment of God and so he did not have a Passover lamb killed on the 13th, a day early. There is some Jewish tradition that said that you could in the Tosefta, tractate Pisha, but that is a man-made oral tradition, not God’s. That oral law was eventually discarded anyway.

He was killed on the afternoon of the 14th, between the evenings as prophesied and he was buried on Unleavened Bread. He rose from the dead on the feast of First Fruits, all within that week, all within three days and three nights. It was probable that a lamb had been killed while Yeshua was on the cross. John is the only one mentioned as being there at the cross. They probably met in that room to eat the Passover as commanded by the Lord (he told them to prepare the Passover) and it was not a very happy place that night.

What they had just seen and heard was too much for them, not realizing they were eating a meal that told of these very things. They were very afraid and confused about it all. Even though Yeshua warned them, they did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer and die on the 14th of Nisan. They didn’t understand that he was to be buried on Unleavened Bread and they certainly did not understand that he was going to rise again on First Fruits a few days later. But, it is not possible, according to the Scriptures, that Yeshua and his Talmidim ate a Passover meal.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, Understanding the New Testament

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