Last Supper – 14th Nissan Night

Yeshua began the Passover Seder with His expressed longing to partake of this with them before His suffering and the announcement that this would be the last Passover that He would eat with them until its fulfilment in the Kingdom of God. The main theme of Yeshua’s Haggadah is “the Passover foreshadows the Messiah.” Judaism teaches that, at the Messianic banquet in the kingdom, the Messiah will receive his coronation rites, take four cups in his hands, and pronounce the blessings over wine preserved in its grapes since the foundation of the world.

Yeshua took the first cup of wine and blessed it. The blessing over wine was simply, “Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.” Yeshua may have added a second blessing pertaining to the festival day, making mention of the Exodus from Egypt and the sanctity of the festival season. The first cup is called “The Cup of Sanctification.” Sanctification means to be set apart for a special purpose. Israel was sanctified and set apart by God to be His chosen people. The twelve men at the Seder table with Yeshua were also set apart and specially chosen by Him to be His talmidim. This cup is associated with the first of four divine promises from Exodus 6:6-8, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” 

Yeshua then repeated His reference to kingdom come: “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). In Jewish imagination the Messiah was coming to overthrow Roman oppression throughout Judea and inaugurate His kingdom. Did the disciples think Yeshua was saying He would do this before the next Passover and were they looking forward to reigning with Him and enjoying all the privileges of leadership?

Still His disciples could not imagine what Yeshua meant by His “suffering“, but they were excited about being part of the Kingdom of God, important parts of this kingdom. Once again, they started arguing over who would be the most important.

It seemed that whenever Yeshua talked of the kingdom His disciples thought in terms of their exalted position in this kingdom – surely being those closest to the king would give them special rank and privileges, others would have to bow to them and serve them. Yeshua kept telling them His kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world and doesn’t operate that way. Now He showed them what He meant. As the lord and king of all the world He took the position of the lowliest servant in the house and began washing their feet – such loving service is what greatness in God’s kingdom looks like.

After the first cup, a bowl of water is passed around for everyone to dip their hands into so they can wash before eating (Yeshua had just washed their feet). Then they took part in a ritual involving karpas (green vegetables) dipped into a red wine vinegar or saltwater sop.  The karpas symbolizes the initial flourishing of the Israelites in Egypt after Israel and his sons moved there under the protection of Joseph. After the leader of the Seder praises God for the karpas, everyone eats their dipped vegetables. The second blessing is: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who creates the fruits of the earth.” A saltwater sop represents the tears of slavery in Egypt and/or the tears of the mothers whose sons were killed by Pharaoh’s decree, and a red wine vinegar sop represents the lamb’s blood of the first Passover that the hyssop was dipped into to mark the lintels of their doors so the angel of death would pass over the Israelite houses.

The one who dipped his hand in the bowl with Me, he’s the one who will betray Me.” (Matthew 26:23 TLV). The other disciples had not observed whose hand dipped into the vinegar simultaneously with their Rabbi, but Judas Iscariot knew. Judas alone knew that his hand had dipped the karpas into the vinegar at the same moment as the hand of Yeshua. This indicates that Judas must have been reclining next to Yeshua at the table. Carrying on the pretense of ignorance, Judas turned to Messiah and asked, along with the others, “Rabbi, is it I?
Yeshua said to him privately, “You have said it.” Imagine how uncomfortable Judas would have felt, sitting there trying to pretend that everything was normal while having already been paid to betray Yeshua and just now discovering that his Master knew what he was doing.

Before eating the lamb, the participants at a seder had to discharge their obligation to eat unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs. Yeshua continued leading them through this ceremonial meal, adding new meaning to the familiar elements of it as He showed how everything pointed to His upcoming suffering and death.

It is customary to have three matzah stacked on the table for the Passover seder. Two are traditional for Sabbath and festivals (when they usually use a leavened bread), as a reminder of the double portion of manna the Israelites gathered before every day of rest in the desert (Exodus 16:11-22). The third on Passover is to break at the beginning of the seder service. The number three has symbolic significance. It represents the three measures of fine meal from which Sarah baked cakes for her husband Abraham’s three angelic visitors (Genesis 18:6); the three categories of Jews – Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael – that make up the Jewish people; the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who received the promises which ensured they would be redeemed from Egypt and whose covenant with God Israel was redeemed to fulfill. For us the three matzah also represent God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yeshua pronounced the  bracha (blessing for bread): “Blessed are you, LORD our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” He may have added the additional blessing for the festival, “… who has sanctified us with his commandments and has commanded us about eating matzah.” Then He broke the bread of affliction, ate some, and distributed it among his disciples, telling them, Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. Yeshua, who said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48) was the true bread from Heaven. He was unleavened and without sin. Yeshua was uncorrupted by the world and completely without sin, and because He allowed Himself to be broken by laying His life down on our behalf His sinless death made it possible for us to have eternal life. The broken unleavened bread of Passover now represented His sinless life and His crucifixion.  Yeshua instructed His disciples to henceforth eat the bread in remembrance of Him. With those words, He invested the Passover ritual (and every eating of bread, their stable food) with new, additional significance. Previously, His disciples ate the unleavened bread at Passover in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. Now it is in remembrance of the One who brought a greater deliverance to us through the affliction of His own body. As Paul says,For as often as you eat this bread … you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes(1 Corinthians 11:26).

Yeshua distributed the unleavened matzah– the bread (lekhem) of affliction (oni) reminding them of their slavery in Egypt – according to seder custom, and turned His attention to the bitter herbs and Passover lamb. After a blessing for the bitter herbs and the lamb, they began to eat the main course.

Again the disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one Yeshua spoke. The twelve men had spent the last three years together in the most incredible of adventures. They had walked and talked, learned and argued, eaten and drank, camped and travelled together. They had seen the sea calmed, the sick healed, demons cast out, and the dead raised. Their shared experiences forged a close bond out of which betrayal must have seemed unimaginable. The unspeakable thought broke their hearts.

The ‘disciple Yeshua loved’ reclined at the table beside the Master. Judas may have reclined in the place of honor on Messiah’s left. That arrangement explains how Judas dipped into the dish (karpas) at the same time as their Rabbi and how Yeshua could easily give him the morsel. This ritual is called “korech.” According to the custom, one should combine the matzah, the Passover lamb, and the bitter herbs, and eat them together (korech) as a sort of sandwich to literally fulfill the verse that says, “They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Numbers 9:11).

The bitter herbs remind the participants in a seder of the bitterness of the suffering in Egypt. For disciples of Messiah, the bitter herbs would now remind them even more strongly of the bitterness of the night He was betrayed and of the onset of His suffering.

How did Judas know where Yeshua would be found that night? Luke tells us: So during the days Yeshua was teaching in the Temple, but in the nights He went out and stayed on the Mount of Olives. (Luke 21:37 TLV). This pattern was disrupted on the nights when they dined in Bethany, but by this time in the evening it was clear there would be no sojourn in Bethany this night. Judas knew where they stayed among all the groups of festival pilgrims who camped on the Mount of Olives during Passover, their respite was taken in the walled garden of Gethsemane – a secluded place, separated from the other pilgrims, and thus perfect for the betrayal.

It was night; and Judas stepped forth from light out into darkness; from the presence and guidance of the Light of the World, to be possessed by and guided by the prince of darkness. It was night; and John could hardly have written these words without remembering those he had written but a short time before: “If a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.  (John 11:10). It was night, and the darkest deed since creation was about to unfold.

After eating the Passover meal, participants in a Passover Seder pour a third cup of wine to accompany grace after meals. Some refer to the third cup as the cup of thanksgiving because it accompanies the prayer of thanks for the food. Likewise, Paul refers to the cup of the Master as “the cup of thanksgiving.” (1 Corinthians 10:16)  Our Master said the blessing for wine and distributed the cup to His disciples, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” The third cup of wine is also called “The Cup of Redemption.” It is associated with the third promise of Exodus 6:6-8, which is: “I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm.” The normal symbolism of this cup is emblematic of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, now the Lamb of God used it to signify His own sacrifice.

They sang with gusto. They sang with all their hearts. These words they’d know since childhood, now taking on new meaning. Their beloved Yeshua, the light of the world, the stone the builders rejected, was to become the festival sacrifice, bound with cords. They sang for some time; this was not a brief chorus. Song was very much part of their Jewish culture and worship of God.

Here’s a video that gives some idea of what Yeshua and His talmidim‘s singing of the Hallel may have been like as an exuberant expression of praise: HALLEL at The Western Wall | Psalm 113-118 | English Subtitles | JEWISH CELEBRATIONS (

Yeshua had been so insistent and persistent in training His talmidim to lead by serving because of the great responsibility of leadership He was to bestow on them – they were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. That is part of the reason that the first thing the eleven apostles did after Yeshua‘s ascension was to choose someone to replace Judas and return their number to twelve: “one of the men who have been with us continuously throughout the time the Lord Yeshua traveled around among us, from the time Yochanan was immersing people until the day Yeshua was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to His resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22 CJB) This suggests that there may have been more than just the twelve at the last supper, although the focus was clearly on Yeshua teaching them.

In the days of Yeshua, participants in a Passover Seder sang through the Hallel (Psalms 113–118). They recited a portion of the psalms before the food in conjunction with the second cup, and they recited the remainder of the psalms after the meal in conjunction with the fourth cup. The Gospels mention Yeshua and the talmidim keeping the same custom: “After singing the Hallel, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26 TLV). Before they left for the Mount of Olives, however, they lingered over the fourth cup. Yeshua said the blessing for the last cup. In conjunction with the last blessings over the fruit of the vine, He said:

As they were preparing to leave the upper room for the journey to Gethsemane, Yeshua took advantage of the opportunity of their very last cup of wine together to share a parable of the grape vine and its branches, teaching us of the need to always abide in Him. We cannot produce fruit by our own efforts, but only as the life of Christ flows through us.

Once more Messiah emphasized the necessity of loving one another, which again is only possible through abiding in His love. The conversation turned to the focus of this evening, that Yeshua was about to lay down His life for them (and for us). He called them friends, not because of what they had done, but because He had shared with them everything He’d received from the Father. His command to them was simple, love one another. With that they left the upper room.

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In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* Describe leadership in the Kingdom of God and how it differs from leadership in the world.
* What sort of leadership do you see in the churches in your region and nation?
* What would it look like for our leadership to follow the pattern set by Jesus?
* How do we demonstrate that we are loving one another as Christ lovers us?