Jesus’ Last Supper: Passover Meal with Disciples Explained

Last week we had a whole discussion about how God instituted the Passover and the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. It’s an incredible story of God’s provision for His chosen people, the Israelites, and how He saved them from His judgment of death against the Egyptians (The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World). If you’ve never studied the Exodus story, it’s worth your time to investigate.
(Read the Exodus story here)

This week we’ll take a look at what’s known as “The Last Supper”.

First, let’s read Matthew’s account of the Last Supper:

17 Now on the first day of the Feast 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 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ‘ ”
19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.
21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”
23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me.
24 “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.”
26 And as they were eating, Jesus 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 covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
~ Matthew 26:17-30

Now let’s break it down starting with verse 17. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted 7 days, starting with the Passover Meal. The Jewish day begins at sundown, so their “Thursday” was just starting that evening. Like many holiday meals we enjoy today, the Passover meal required some preparation which was done the day or afternoon before the meal itself.

Verses 18 and 19 tell us that Jesus instructed them to go talk to a certain man and that man will let them use his home for their meal.

Luke offers us a little more detail:

    And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall 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?” ’ Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
    ~ Luke 22:10-13

So the act of simply finding the man, his house, and his room – Jesus has turned into a miracle.

The Traitor

The next two verses, 20 and 21, they sit down for the meal and Jesus issues a prophecy. He foretells that one of the disciples will betray Him to the Jews that want him killed (in effect delivering Him up for execution).

Luke also tells us Jesus prophesies His suffering death when He tells them how eager He’s been to eat with them:

    Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; “for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
    ~ Luke 22:15-16

In each of the Gospels’ Last Supper accounts, Judas as the betrayer is revealed. And in each account, each of the disciples was particularly concerned if it was himself.

    “It is a beautiful trait in the character of the disciples that they did not suspect one another, but every one of them inquired, almost incredulously, as the form of the question implies, ‘Lord, is it I?’ No one said, ‘Lord is it Judas?'” (Spurgeon)

I often personally find myself praying that I will never turn away from Christ, that He will always cause my heart to cling to Him. It appears this was a concern for the disciples as well.

    Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~ Psalm 51:10

Yet, Jesus knew it would be Judas. It was even foretold in the Old Testament:

    Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. ~ Psalm 41:9

When Jesus responds to Judas “You have said it”, He means Judas didn’t even need to ask since he knew it was him. How many times have we sinned, knowing in that very moment that it was wrong! Yet we still push away the Holy Spirit who is prompting our hearts to avoid the infraction.

From David Guzik:

    “Jesus did not say this to condemn Judas, but to call him to repentance. It is fair to assume that He said it with love in His eyes, and Jesus showed Judas that He loved him, even knowing his treachery.”

That is God’s heart for us, one of love and not condemnation. And how many times have I, as a Dad, condemned my own kids (or other people) for their actions instead of correcting them in love. Sigh.

The bread and the wine, His body and blood

Next we have Jesus talking about the bread and the wine stating that it is His own body and blood (vs 26). What’s up with that?

Guzik puts it this way:

    When the bread was lifted up at Passover, the head of the meal would say: ‘This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.’ Everything eaten at the Passover meal had a symbolic meaning. The bitter herbs recalled the bitterness of slavery; the salt water remembered the tears shed under Egypt’s oppression. The main course of the meal – a lamb freshly sacrificed for that particular household – did not symbolize anything connected to the agonies of Egypt. It was the sin-bearing sacrifice that allowed the judgment of God to pass over the household that believed.

    The Passover created a nation; a mob of slave was freed from Egypt and became a nation. This new Passover also creates a people; those united in Jesus Christ, remembering and trusting His sacrifice for us.

    Jesus didn’t give the normal explanation of the meaning of each of the foods. He reinterpreted them in Himself, and the focus was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the sin-bearing suffering of Jesus on their behalf.

    “The words ‘this is my body’ had no place in the Passover ritual; and as an innovation, they must have had a stunning effect, an effect that would grow with the increased understanding gained after Easter.” (Carson)

    This is how we remember what Jesus did for us. As we eat the bread we should remember how Jesus was broken, pierced, and beaten with stripes for our redemption. As we drink the cup we should remember that His blood, His life was poured out on Calvary for us.

    This is how we fellowship with Jesus. Because His redemption has reconciled us to God, we can now sit down to a meal with Jesus, and enjoy each other’s company.

You may have noticed that there was bread served, and wine, but no Passover lamb. Yet this was supposed to be a Passover supper right? Jesus was the lamb at the meal. In fact, Jesus would be crucified later that day (after sunrise) about the same time the lambs were being sacrificed for the Jewish Passover meals in Jerusalem.

Then Jesus talks about the blood of the “new covenant” in verses 27 and 28. This New Covenant shows us why we have the New Testament versus the Old Testament. The OT presents the old promise/law/covenant that God instituted as a way of accessing Him while still pointing to Jesus. The NT presents the new promise/law/covenant where we/people can now fellowship with God in Christ Jesus.

It’s incredible to me how God created this old/new dichotomy to point to Jesus. Even in our calendar with BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini – or Latin for “In the year of our Lord”) God has created a sense of the old and the new.

    The new covenant concerns an inner transformation that cleanses us from all sin: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
    This transformation puts God’s Word and will in us: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).
    This covenant is all about a new, close, relationship with God: I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33).
    We can say that the blood of Jesus made the new covenant possible, and it also made it sure and reliable. It is confirmed with the life of God Himself. ~ Guzik

There have been centuries of debate over whether the bread and wine actually become Jesus’ body. Again, I fall upon Guzik’s wise response to the issue:

    We can’t get so caught up in debating what the bread and the cup mean that we forget to do what Jesus said to do with them. We must take and eat.

    What is certain is that Jesus bids us commemorate, not his birth, nor his life, nor his miracles, but his death. (Carson)

Thanks for the food!

All through the New Testament when Jesus shares a meal, he gives thanks for it (vs 27). Let that be an example to me Lord! And I love that Jesus is looking forward to sharing a meal with us in heaven someday (vs 29). Oh how I long to be there with Him! Can you imagine how good that food will taste?

And oh the worship they had!

Lastly, I included verse 30 because I was completely surprised that on this night, Jesus sang worship songs with His disciples (“and when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”).

I leave you with the words of Guzik and Morgan:

    We don’t often think of Jesus singing, but He did. He lifted His voice in adoration and worship to God the Father. We can endlessly wonder what His voice sounded like, but we know for certain that He sang with more than His voice, and He lifted His whole heart up in praise. This reminds us that God wants to be praised with singing.

    “These words, interpreted by a reverent imagination, present one of the most wonderful pictures. . . . They sing, and it is impossible to doubt that He led the singing.” (Morgan)

    It is remarkable that Jesus could sing on this night before His crucifixion. Could we sing in such circumstances? Jesus can truly be our worship leader. We should sing to God our Father – just as Jesus did – because this is something that pleases Him, and when we love someone we want to do the things that please them. It really doesn’t matter if it does or doesn’t please us.

    “No sweeter singing, no mightier music ever sounded amid the darkness of the sad world’s night than the sing of Jesus and His first disciples, as they moved out to the Cross of His Passion, and their redemption.” (Morgan)

    It is wonderful that Jesus sang, but what did He sing? A Passover meal always ended with singing three Psalms known as the Hallel, Psalms 116-118. Think of how the words of these Psalms would have ministered to Jesus as He sang them on the night before His crucifixion:

    – The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” (Psalm 116:3-4)

    – For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:8-9)

    – I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:13-15)

    – Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! (Psalm 117:1)

    – You pushed me violently, that I might fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:13-14)

    – I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. (Psalm 118:17-19)

    – The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22-23)

    – God is the LORD, and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. (Psalm 118:27-28)

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