Last Supper: The Gospel Accounts: A Chronological Harmony

Last Supper

The Passover Meal (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-18)

            Nothing much is said about the actual Passover meal that was eaten. It wasn’t that important other than commentary as to the setting in which the Lord’s Supper was instituted. The meal was actually eaten on the Preparation Day instead of the Passover Day itself. Present were Jesus and his twelve apostles.

            Jesus told his apostles that he strongly wanted to eat this meal with them before he suffered because he would not have another opportunity to eat with them until after what has been prophesied has been fulfilled in the kingdom.

            During the meal Jesus took a cup of grape juice, blessed it, and asked the disciples to divided it between themselves (Luke 22:17-18). Once again he mentions that this would be the last time he would be able to drink with them until the kingdom is established. There are a few religious groups who insist that only one cup be used for the Lord’s Supper, insisting that in this meal there is only one cup. However, Luke is quite clear that each disciple had his own cup.

The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20)

            At some point during the Passover meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and then gave it to the disciples. He told them that it represented his body which was given for them. They were to eat the bread in remembrance of him. He then took the cup again blessed it and told them to drink of the fruit of the vine. This, he said, represents his shed blood that established the new covenant for them.

            Because this was the Passover, no leavening (yeast) was allowed in Jewish homes (Exodus 12:15; 13:7). Thus we understand that the Lord’s Supper is composed of unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice. The lack of leavening becomes a representation of an absence of sin (I Corinthians 5:7-8), which is a fitting representation of Christ (II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:22; I John 3:5).

            By calling it a new covenant, Jesus was indicating that the covenant brought by Moses was about to be replaced (Hebrews 8:13). Another word for a covenant is a testament. Like our “last will and testaments,” testaments are written out in advance and then come into force when there is a death (Hebrews 9:15-17). And like the covenant made through Moses, there is a requirement that blood be used to dedicate the covenant (Hebrews 9:18-22).

            All the disciples were required to partake of the two elements. Since Jesus associated the meal with the new covenant, we understand that it is a covenant meal. In ancient times, covenants were established between two parties, often to make peace between them (Ephesians 2:14-18). After the covenant is established, the parties sit down to share a meal to show that they are in fellowship (I Corinthians 10:16-17; I Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34). The covenant be Jacob and Laban illustrates this (Genesis 31:46, 54). There was a fellowship meal eaten by the elders of Israel in the presence of God after the Law of Moses was given (Exodus 24:9-11). The meal established by the Lord is in the same vein. That is why Jesus said earlier that one cannot have life unless he eats of his flesh and drinks of his blood (John 6:53-57). Jesus is not talking about his literal flesh and blood, but he is alluding to the fellowship meal whose elements represent his body and his blood. Unless one is willing to demonstrate his fellowship with Christ by sitting down to the covenant meal with him, he cannot be saved.

            The purpose of the meal is to remember Jesus death (I Corinthians 11:24-25). Its purpose is to be a memorial, so that we never forget why we are Christians. It also states our hope for the future because we partake until he comes again (I Corinthians 11:26). We learn from Acts 20:7 that this mean was something the early disciples did weekly on the first day of the week. From Acts 2:42 we learn that they keep this and other parts of worship steadfastly.

            Though this occurred during the Passover meal, it is clear that this memorial was separate from the meal – it was something different. The eating of unleaven bread and drinking the fruit of the vine as a memorial of Jesus’ death is not found in any regulation of the Passover meal. The Passover was eaten only once a year, while the disciples partook of the Lord’s Supper weekly (Acts 20:7). And in every discussion of the Lord’s Supper after its institution, there is no mention of any part of the Passover meal. But all of this makes sense as the two meals memorialize two different incidences.