Harmonizing the Gospels Concerning The Last Passover of Christ
Three Gospels are eye witness accounts of these events by their writers, from the different perspectives of the three eye witness writers; who may have attached a different level of importance to various events and so have emphasized different parts of the narrative. Therefore each of their reports are only partial reports of the overall event.
Luke on the other hand is not an eye witness and writes much later, his presentation is based on his personal investigation of multiple eye witness accounts; and putting together a broad spectrum of witnesses. Luke produces a more complete history much as a judge would hear many witnesses to discover the whole truth.
Like any courtroom, as many witnesses as possible should be heard to establish the fullest facts and narrative possible. Therefore it is very important to compare all of the Gospel messages with one another in order to gain a full understanding of the last Passover of Jesus Christ on this earth.
The Feast of Passover, also called “The Feast of Redemption” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and 9:26).
Matthew 26:17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? 26:18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
The Passover is here called the first day of unleavened bread, not because the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on that day, but because unleavened bread was commanded to be eaten with the Passover and it was simply convenient to call the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread by one general name: This, in the same way that we call Tabernacles and the Eighth Day, collectively Tabernacles.
While not clearly stated, these disciples would have made arrangements with the inn keeper and then taken a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed after the sun had set ending the 13th day and beginning Passover the 14th day of the first month; and then brought it back to the inn where it would be skinned and cooked and where there they would later dine.
This means that not even the Passover had come, when Jesus bid his disciples to make arrangements with the inn keeper, since the sun had not yet set on the 13th day. Matthew 26:17 would be better translated as: When the Feast of Unleavened Bread WAS APPROACHING.
In those temple period days, they began to sacrifice the Passover lambs just after sunset ending the 13th and beginning the 14th day; then because of the vast multitudes of lambs to be killed, the sacrifices continued until the afternoon of the 14th day.
In Matthew 26:19 it is clearly stated that this was the Passover that they will eat, on the evening beginning the 14th day of the first month.
It was also clearly commanded that the Passover is to be eaten with Unleavened Bread, in addition to eating unleavened bread every day of the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”.
Exodus 12:8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
Matthew 26:19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. 26:20 Now when the even [night, as in before midnight] was come, he sat down with the twelve. 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 26:22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? 26:23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
Here we have an interesting point. Matthew report’s that the disciples were told during the meal, that he who dips his morsel would betray him, when John says that Judas dips his hand in the dish, AFTER the meal and the ULB and wine, and AFTER the foot washing.?
HOW do we reconcile these two apparently contradictory reports?
By not jumping to conclusions!
Matthew reports that Jesus said during the meal that:
Matthew 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 26:22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? 26:23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
Notice that NOWHERE in Matthew’s account does it say that at that precise moment Judas dipped his morsel!
Jesus only said that the betrayer WOULD dip at some point! Judas did not dip immediately during the meal!
John reveals that Judas dipped later; AFTER the meal, and After the unleavened bread, and wine, and AFTER the foot washing! (more below)
Matthew 26:24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. 26:25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
Christ reveals personally to Judas that he knows of his plans, but Judas does not yet dip his morsel or leave!
Then after this incident with Judas during the meal, Jesus blesses the bread and wine; showing that the blessing of the bread and wine came AFTER the main Passover meal of the Lamb.
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Now according to Luke, Christ blessed a cup of wine to begin the meal and later broke and blessed the Bread and Wine at the end of supper; Since Luke is NOT contradicting himself, it is obvious then, that he is speaking of two different cups of wine! Which is consistent with Mathew.
Matthew 26:29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. 26:30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Luke 22:13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. 22:14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
Jesus then opened the Passover service with a cup of wine!
Luke 22:15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 22:16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat [would not eat another Passover meal before Christ dies] thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 22:17 And he took the [traditional Passover first cup of wine] cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 22:18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine [Not drink wine after this Passover meal until he has fulfilled his mission to die and be resurrected so that the Kingdom could come], until the kingdom of God shall come.
In Luke 22:17 Christ opens the Passover service with the first cup of wine; and in Luke 22:19, Luke records the blessing of the unleavened bread and another cup of wine.
Luke reports that at least two cups of Wine were blessed and drunk, one as the meal began and one later when the sanctified Unleavened Bread was taken.
This issue is resolved when we consider that the temple period Passover service had at least FOUR cups of wine!
The Temple Passover service had FOUR cups of wine; One at the beginning of the service, One when the plagues were listed, One at the close of the meal, and One with the final Hallel Psalm!
Luke is emphasizing two specific cups of wine, and does not mention the other two; because he assumes that his readers know that FOUR cups of wine are drunk during a temple Passover service!
We need to understand that Luke reports that Jesus blessed and they drank the traditional cup of wine opening the Passover service; and Luke later reports on the third cup because of its special significance and what Jesus taught concerning its meaning with the explanation of the bread and wine that Jesus gave.
The Passover meal would be opened with prayer and a FIRST cup of wine called the “Cup of Deliverance” was drunk; then a second cup was taken when the plagues were listed; this was followed at the end of the meal [with Christ taking the Unleavened Bread from the meal and explaining its meaning] and the third cup of wine called the “Cup of Redemption.” Finally at the end of the service as the Hallel was sung a fourth “Cup of Reconciliation” was drunk.
These four Passover service cups of wine were so well known that the disciples thought it unnecessary to explain.
The four sanctified cups of Passover wine of The Temple Period Passover
The Four Cups of Passover Wine
The Four “I Wills”
During the Ezra Temple period Passover that Jesus Christ observed, the participants in the celebration, partook of four cups of wine. This is what has become known as the four “I Wills.” It is taken from Exodus 6:6-7.
Exodus 6:6-7 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and
I will rid you out of their bondage, and
I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And
I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God:
and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
The first Passover cup, “I will bring you out,” is the “Cup of Deliverance” [Sanctification, or Calling Out; to Set Apart a people to God]. This pictures Israel “Called Out” of Egypt and is an allegory of God calling a spiritual people, out from their bondage of sin.
The second cup, “I will rid you out of their bondage,” is the “Cup of Praise and Rejoicing” at deliverance from bondage in Egypt and spiritually from bondage to sin.
The third cup, “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm,” is the “Cup of Redemption” picturing the redeeming sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
The fourth cup, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God,” is the “Cup of Acceptance” of the called out people by God.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
They would then have discussed the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and the first Passover, and a second cup, the “Cup of Rejoicing” was then drunk after the list of plagues was recited. The second cup, “I will rid you out of their bondage,” is the cup of praise and rejoicing. We rejoice over our deliverance from bondage to sin as physical Israel rejoiced over their bondage in Egypt.
Then a third cup of wine, the “Cup of Redemption” was drunk at the END of the meal, which cup represented redemption through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God; and was the cup that Jesus blessed “at the end of the meal” as representative of his shed blood.
Then following the foot washing and the last teachings of Christ, after which the final Psalms 115-118, were sung: The fourth cup, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God,” the cup of Acceptance was drunk. Representing the acceptance of the Called Out, by God the Father, after sincere repentance and the application of the redeeming sacrifice of the Lamb of God is applied.
The unleavened bread was always commanded to be eaten with the lamb, and now Christ explained the meaning of the unleavened bread and the wine [drink offering] that he had commanded to be eaten with the lamb in Egypt; and which had always been taken with the sacrificial lamb. No animal could be sacrificed without an accompanying drink [wine] and Unleavened Bread [meat] offering.
As the meal was ending, Jesus revealed the meaning of the Unleavened Bread and Wine; and taught us to partake of those symbols in remembrance of his Passover sacrifice as the lamb of God; providing the Unleavened Bread and the third cup of Wine at the end of the meal, or as the meal was ending.
Notice the following two verses of Luke, now at the end of the meal where Christ does take the Unleavened Bread FIRST and then the third cup of Wine
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
Luke clearly says that this cup of symbolic Wine is taken AFTER [as the meal was concluding] supper, and AFTER the Unleavened Bread; to differentiate it from the other cups of wine!
There is NO contradiction in Luke, if we just remember that not just one but several cups of wine were taken during the temple period Passover!
Next in the timeline is the comment that the traitor was still sitting at the table with them; AFTER the Passover symbols were taken by all present.
Did Judas take of the unleavened bread and the wine? Why not? Is everyone who takes Passover converted? Do not many partake unworthily without sincere repentance?
Luke 22:21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.22:22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!
22:23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
Here we find that it was AFTER the Passover meal, and AFTER the unleavened bred and wine; that they began to strive among themselves as to who would be the greatest.
One could easily speculate that they were relaxed by meal and wine and this statement by Christ about betrayal caused the disciples to start protesting the words of Christ saying that they would never betray Christ, with protests of loyalty burgeoning into an argument over who was the most loyal and the greatest.
Mark 14:17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. 14:18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. 14:19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? 14:20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. 14:21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.
Here Christ merely says that one of those eating and dunking in the common dish of bitter herbs with him would betray him, nothing is said that Judas immediately did dip his morsel at that time, indeed everyone would have been afraid to immediately dip! Only later is Judas specifically revealed to John.
Mark reports, consistent with the others, that Jesus then takes the bread and wine to give to his disciples before Judas dips and leaves.
Mark 14:22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 14:23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
Mark also puts the breaking and eating of the Unleavened Bread before the final symbolic cup of Wine; as they were eating supper or were nearing the end of the Passover meal!
Notice also that they ALL drank of it; that would certainly include Judas who had not yet left.
Mark completely skips the foot washing, the departure of Judas and the last words of Christ
Mark 14:24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 14:26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
John 13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover,
The words “before Passover” here are a mistranslation due to ignorance by the translators of the difference between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Here the word used is not Strong’s 3957 Pascha [Passover] but: a festival.
Strongs Number: G1859
Orig: of uncertain affinity; a festival:–feast, holyday.
Use: Noun Feminine
Heb Strong: H2282 H2320 H4150
1) a feast day, festival
We know from other scriptures that the meal was the Passover. Luke 22:15; therefore the proper translation is not; before the Passover, but “on the Passover before the Holy Day”
John 13:1 . . . when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; [Judas then decided to betray Christ; that does not mean that he left to do so immediately]
13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 13:4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
Those who would say that this foot washing was at the beginning as they arrived, and that it was considered the duty of a host to wash the guests feet; are not only WRONG; they are minimalizing the import and significance of the very Creator, and coming Ruler of the world; minimizing this extraordinary example of humble service he was setting.
This was no ordinary washing; it was a most PROFOUND and EXTRAORDINARY EVENT!
Hosts normally provided water to guests, but did not wash their feet, although a slave in a wealthy household might do so.
This foot washing did not remove the road dirt as they arrived, it was done AFTER dinner.
This washing was not the normal washing upon arrival, it was after the Passover meal and symbols; for “supper being ended”; “he arose from supper” [the Passover table] to wash their feet.
Jesus Christ knowing that he was Messiah and Lord of all the earth, humbled himself to perform an example of service; setting an example for his disciples that they should also serve God and one another.
In deep anguish of spirit and probably a little disgusted with this seemingly never ending issue of selfishness by his disciples while he was preparing to endure the most selfless act in history; Christ then resolves to give them a graphic lesson in service that they will remember and understand after he is killed and then resurrected and sends the Comforter to them.
This was a physical act to teach the principle of godly leadership, in response to the continual bickering among the disciples over who should be the greatest.
Notice that the Passover meal had ended with the ULB and the third cup of wine taken; and also notice that Christ KNEW of the betrayal of Judas; and yet washed the feet of Judas also!
John 13:5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 13:6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 13:7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Christ declared that when he is gone to the Father, and the Comforter is sent to them: that they WILL understand the attitude of service through the Holy Spirit of understanding required of a man of God in order to serve God and to love our very enemies!
We are to follow the example and instructions of our Lord to do good to those who hate us and abuse us. Does that mean coddling sin? NO, NO, NO: It means rebuking sin, and setting a sinless example as Christ did!
It does mean forgiving our enemies as Christ has forgiven us!
13:8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 13:9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
To have a part with Christ, we must follow this example that he set for us; and that means doing God’s will in humble service, as Christ served his Father! That means allowing God’s word to instruct and correct us. We are not to seek the chief seats but are to humbly serve our Father, faithfully keeping his word and doing his will.
13:10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all [of you are clean spiriually]. 13:11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
This proves that Judas was among them at that mo0ment and that Christ washed his feet also, for one of those that was washed was still not clean!
Christ is saying that the eleven are spiritually clean, as opposed to Judas who was still among them and was spiritually unclean. He then begins to explain what he has done and the type of leaders he expects them and us to become.
It is not until John 13:22-27 that Judas leaves!
John 13:12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Brethren, it is NOT enough that we wash someone’s feet at Passover and then forget Christ’s example of serving God the Father and the flock. It is NOT enough that we say this is a lesson in humility and forget, or marginalize the FACT that this IS a lesson in service and how we are to behave towards God and others, and how we are to behave in our lives.
13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Consider that “THESE THINGS” are plural; this is NOT just talking about washing someone’s feet: This is speaking about taking the Passover Symbols as well as washing feet, and it is speaking of our attitude and actions throughout our whole lives; our whole attitude towards God and humanity; and how we live our lives; it is about our DUTY to God our Father and our brethren and towards all of humanity.
Again Jesus speaks of Judas, After the bread and wine; and AFTER the foot washing!
13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
This is speaking of the Passover Unleavened Bread eaten by Judas; showing that even the taking of Passover, like baptism or ordination by men; is no proof of godliness or conversion. We shall be judged by our DEEDS and obedience to the Word of God; not by what appearances we put on.
Now for the third time Jesus mentions his betrayal!
John 13:19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 13:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 13:21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
They had returned to the table AFTER the Passover meal, the Unleavened Bread and third cup of Wine; and AFTER the foot washing and the lesson on servant leadership.
It is only then: after he has partaken of the meal, the Unleavened Bread and Wine, and after Christ has washed his feet; that Judas is singled out and leaves to betray him.
Here Judas finally does dip his morsel into the cup of bitter herbs and is revealed as the traitor to John and Peter; and Judas rushes out to betray him to the chief priests.
13:22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 13:23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 13:24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 13:25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
13:26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 13:27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
13:28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 13:29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast [Buy the necessary things to prepare for the Holy Day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover is the preparation day for the High Day, as no work of any kind could be done on any Holy Day or Sabbath, including cooking or buying food from others (John 19:31). The allowance on the very first High Days in Egypt was an ox in the ditch unexpected emergency situation as they were marching out of Egypt and did not justify breaking the High Days with cooking or going into restaurants, on ANY subsequent Sabbath or High Day.]; or, that he should give something to the poor.
13:30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
This last Passover of Christ was full of drama, instruction and emotion!
When properly understood there is no discrepancy in the accounts; there is a tremendous lesson in how all of the saints are to serve God and humanity the whole year round and throughout their lifetimes:
We are to follow the instructions and example of Jesus Christ in all things!
First the Unleavened Bread, then the Wine, then the foot washing and then the lesson on service; including serving our very enemies through proclaiming the Gospel of Warning, repentance, and the Gospel of The Way Into the Kingdom. Condemning sin to save the sinner and forgiving all who offend us.
Let us condemn all sin while forgiving sinners, and let God condemn persons, for only he has the wisdom to do so.
Here were a group of twelve disciples who lacked God’s Spirit and had almost no understanding of spiritual matters. Jesus had been teaching them for 3 1/2 years and they knew and could repeat his words; yet lacked understanding of what those words really meant.
They were coming together to celebrate Passover and the saving of Israel out of Egypt, having no clue as to the spiritual implications of that event.
And despite the many warnings and teachings from Christ about his soon coming death, they just could not grasp that; and after receiving a King’s welcome entering Jerusalem, quite probably expected the Kingdom to be set up at any moment.
While they were rejoicing over the deliverance from Egypt and over what they thought would be their soon coming elevation as kings; here was Jesus, deeply sorrowful over what he was about to suffer and with no one understanding to give him moral support.
Eating the Passover meal and taking two cups of wine with the meal, they were presented with a sanctified by prayer, piece of Unleavened Bread and a sanctified third cup of Wine; with Christ’s instructions to do this in memory of him. This must have been incomprehensible to them, yet they obediently did as they were bidden.
Now the Passover meal and symbols being over; and the foot washing illustration and instruction being ended; Christ reveals to them that one of them would betray him, and Judas leaves
This action of foot-washing sobers the disciples and opens the door for Christ to give his final instructions and guidance to his disciples. Knowing that they did not understand; and knowing that they will soon understand; he begins to teach them things of great importance for their future activities and for all the saints since that time.
After saying these things he goes to a place of peace in the garden to pray; and is there found by his betrayer and his enemies.
The Last Passover of Christ Timeline
1. The Passover Service and meal begins with prayer and singing Psalm 136, the first cup of wine and a message on the Egyptian Passover, then during the meal Jesus mentions for the first time that he will be betrayed.
2. When the list of plagues is recited, a second cup of blessed wine is taken.
3. They then sang the Egyptian Hallel Psalms 113-114 before the blessing at the end of the meal, when the unleavened bread is blessed and broken and taken, and a third cup of wine; the Cup of Redemption, is blessed and taken.
4. After the unleavened bread and wine is blessed and taken, Christ mentions his betrayal a second time, and the disciples begin to argue among themselves as to who will be the greatest.
5. Jesus then washes their feet and gives them a lesson in their duty of service
6. Jesus returns to the table and Judas dips his morsel and leaves;
7. Jesus gives has last message to his disciples, and they drink a fourth cup of wine, the cup of reconciliation and acceptance; which Judas could not drink of, being in rebellion against and betraying his Lord. Remember that this is over about two or three hours.
8. They then sang Psalms 115-118 at the end of the service as the diners left for the garden to pray.