Preparing the Last Supper – 13th Nissan Day

Although the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Judas’ conversation with the chief priests straight after describing the anointing of Yeshua‘s head, as they contrast this unnamed woman’s act of sacrificial love with this disciple’s horrid betrayal, such would have been late at night, and it is likely that he went at first opportunity this next morning (13th Nissan morning) to be able to get an audience with these religious leaders of their nation.

Yeshua had entered Bethany six days before Passover, on Nissan 9th. The next day, Nissan 10th, the day that lambs were chosen for the Passover Seder, Yeshua entered Jerusalem (John 12:12) through the east gate to shouts of “Hosanna!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!andBlessed is the king of Israel!” In their shouts the crowds were choosing Yeshua as the true Lamb of God, even as Yohanan the Immerser had declared: “Behold, the Lamb of Godwho takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Each Lamb for the original Passover was examined for four days after it was chosen (Exodus 12:3,6), to make sure it was without spot or blemish. Likewise, Yeshua was examined, tested over and over by being asked question after question over these four days, and they could not find any fault with His answers. He was without sin, without falsehood, without spot or blemish.

The night of the Passover was the event which initiated ADONAI bringing the Israelites out of Egypt; yet Pharaoh’s decree: ““Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested.  Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me” (Exodus 12:31b-32) was only the beginning of the journey. The Israelites were still in Egypt as they walked to the Red Sea border. So, the full remembrance of God’s deliverance consisted of two separate feasts: Passover on the 14th and seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, from the 15th to the 21st. The Feasts were consecutive, and they shared a common food, Matzot (Unleavened Bread). Pesach (Passover) and Matzot (Unleavened Bread) are two separate remembrances which are inexorably connected and intertwined.

Matthew, Mark and Luke describe Yeshua’s last supper as a Passover meal, whereas John makes it clear that the temple sacrifice of the Passover lambs was the following afternoon, at the time of Yeshua‘s death, and describes Yeshua’s last meal as just before the feast of Passover.

Scholars have proposed many different theories for this apparent contradiction, but none has been able to provide an uncontested argument. One possible explanation relates to the interpretation of the Hebrew phrase: ben ha arbayim, which is literally translated as “between the evenings” and was used in regard to when on Nissan 14th the lambs were to be sacrificed. The original meaning was between sunset and dark, a period of about an hour, and some schools of thought among the Second Temple Jews (including Hasidim, Essenes and Samaritans) still held to this, which meant that they sacrificed their Passover lambs once the sun set to mark the beginning of Nissan 14, roasted it and ate it that night. Karaite Jews continue to this day celebrating Passover on the eve of Nissan 14. Such a brief time was insufficient to sacrifice all the lambs for the multitudes that now flocked to Jerusalem each year for Passover, so ‘ben ha arbayim’ had been reinterpreted by the temple authorities to mean “between the ninth hour (3pm) and sunset“, which meant that they sacrificed the Passover lambs in the temple on the afternoon of Nissan 14. With the Jewish day beginning at sunset, they now ate the Passover meal at the beginning of the fifteenth day of the month, which is also the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Rabbinic Jews still celebrate Passover on the night of Nissan 15. It appears that Yeshua and His talmidim joined those who ate the Passover on fourteenth Nissan, and thus He was able to institute a commemoration of what was to take place the following afternoon as the Pascal lambs were sacrificed in the temple.

What is clear is that God wants us to associate both Yeshua’s death on the cross and His last meal with His disciples, which foretold and illustrated this death, with Passover and the redemption of the Jews from slavery to live as His people in the promised land. Just as the Passover lamb was killed and its blood on the doorposts of their houses protected the Israelites from the destroying angel and redeemed them from Egyptian slavery, so Christ’s blood redeems us from slavery to sin and death.

On the morning of Nissan 13th, Yeshua‘s disciples asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the Passover meal for Him. He responded by sending two of them, Peter and John, with cryptic instructions that gave nothing away except for the known that their Passover meal would be in Jerusalem as per the Torah. Even if Judas had incited the question in order to find out the location so he could tell the chief priests he would have been left none the wiser by Yeshua’s reply. Likewise, if Judas had been in Jerusalem dealing with the chief priests at this time and then sort information from the other disciples when he returned, they would have had nothing that he could use to betray their location for the meal that night. There would be no alteration to God’s perfect timing for Yeshua’s arrest, this last meal together would not be interrupted, it was too important to the Father’s plan.

In ancient Israel, getting the family’s supply of water from the well was women’s work. It was carried by them in pitchers of earthenware either upon their shoulder or head. Some have proposed that there was a group of Jewish men who would have carried water jars – the Essenes. Certain groups of Essenes were celibate, and their men also did women’s work. Essenes had their communities, not only in Qumran where the dead sea scrolls were found, but also in various towns throughout Judea. These were also one of the groups that ate their Passover meal during the night of Nissan 14th, a day earlier than the temple authorities.

The Essenes are thought to have had a community in Jerusalem. It is argued that the southwest edge of Jerusalem, which was topographically higher even than the temple mount, contained an “Essene Quarter,” and had its own “Essene Gate” mentioned by Josephus, through which they went down to collect water from the Pool of Siloam in the southern part of the ‘lower city’ of Jerusalem.

Whether the man carrying the jar of water, who met Peter and John in Jerusalem, was an Essene or not we don’t know. What we can deduce from the text is that he, and the owner of the house he took them to, were unknown to Peter and John, yet knew who they were talking about when they said “the Teacher” and welcomed this opportunity to host Yeshua and His talmidim for such an important occasion.

While Yeshua still tarried with the other disciples outside the city, Peter and John were doing their preparations. These would have included ensuring that there was not even a crumb of leavened bread in the room, slaughtering their lamb and roasting it without breaking any of its bones (Exodus 12:46), and purchasing the other foods for the meal from the many Passover street markets in Jerusalem during the feast days. “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus12:8).

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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 how the Passover lamb provided a picture of Messiah.
* What is the significance of Passover and why do you think God chose this time of year for Jesus to die for us?
* Does your culture have any ceremonial feasts? If so please describe them and their significance.
* Are there any household tasks in your culture that are considered “woman’s work” like carrying the water jar was in Jesus’ time? What do people think of a man doing this “woman’s work”?