A Fresh Look at the Passover/Last Supper Connection

by Sue Priebe

This year (2019) the celebration of the Feasts of the Lord of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits converges with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. May the Lord bless you as you celebrate these days in remembrance of Him.  

The story told in the Gospels of the last supper is one that is very familiar to most people who attend church, but recently I watched a series by Ran Vander Laan that brought me to a deeper understanding of Jesus’ actions during that last Passover meal He ate with His disciples.

It is easy to miss important details when the story is so familiar…

But digging into those details can help us to more fully understand what Jesus did for us when He suffered and died on the cross.  Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:15-16,I have really wanted so much to celebrate this Seder with you before I die!  For I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” (CJB)

I am sure the disciples didn’t understand what He was saying.  They were probably even more confused when Jesus said,  referring to a cup of wine,  “Take this and share it among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the ‘fruit of the vine’ until the Kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18 NLT) Luke’s rendering makes it seem as if Jesus didn’t drink any wine at the supper.

Both Matthew and Mark include this statement, but the timing is a little different.  They indicate that Jesus said He wouldn’t drink wine again right after He said “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.  It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.  I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:24-25 NLT)  So why is that statement of Jesus so significant?

In order to understand Jesus’ actions on the night He instituted what we now call The Lord’s Supper, or communion, we have to remember what was being celebrated at the Passover meal.

Passover commemorates God bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt.

During the meal the story of the Exodus is retold; in key places during the telling of the story, wine is drunk. Traditionally there are four cups of wine involved although in Jesus’ time there may have only been one cup which was sipped four times.

The drinking corresponds to the four promises of deliverance found in Exodus 6:6-7:  “Therefore, say to the people of Israel:  ‘I am the Lord. (1) I will free you from your oppression and (2) will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt.  (3)  I will redeem you with a powerful arm and greats acts of judgment.  (4) I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God.’

The promises include:

  1. Physical deliverance from Egypt;
  2. A removing of the slave nature;
  3. A cleansing from the sin of Egypt; and
  4. A promise of protection as God claims them for His own.

Putting the Gospels together, we see from Luke that Jesus offered them the cup of the new covenant “after they had eaten.”  This is significant because it would indicate that this would have been the third cup of the Seder meal, the cup of redemption, which was always drunk after the meal.  It is very clear in Matthew and Mark that Jesus did not drink after that, and Luke might make us wonder if He drank any of the wine that night.  Why did Jesus break with tradition and refrain from drinking the wine during the Passover meal?

Why did He skip that fourth cup?

That fourth cup representing the fourth promise was the one in which God declared He would take the Children of Israel as His own; it was the promise of God’s protection. You see, Jesus knew for Him on that night there would be no protection by the Father.  His arrest and conviction would lead Him to the cross where He “became sin.”  His own dear Father would turn away from Him; there would be no rescue for Jesus, no protection.

There is also a fifth cup in the Seder that no one drinks.  It has traditionally become Elijah’s cup.  The original meaning has been lost over time; it has become a symbol of waiting for Elijah, who is to come before the Messiah.

During the second century, rabbis debated about this fifth cup of the Seder.  Some thought that there was a fifth promise in Exodus 6, the promise of the land; others thought the fifth cup should be the cup mentioned in Jeremiah 25:15-17…the “cup of iniquity” or the “cup of wrath” that God declared to Jeremiah He would cause the nations to drink.

“Take from my hand this cup filled to the brim with my anger, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink from it.”  The rabbis couldn’t agree about this fifth cup, so they said they would wait and let Elijah answer the question when he came; therefore, there is a cup in the Seder which is left for Elijah.

I am convinced that the fifth cup is the “cup of iniquity” described by Jeremiah.  Remember in the Garden Jesus prayed, “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”  Could it have been that fifth cup that Jesus was praying about.  He was about to drink the cup of iniquity…the sins of mankind were placed upon Him.  He was to suffer as no man has ever suffered.

He drank that cup willingly.  He refused the protection of the Father, and He drank the cup of God’s wrath so we would never have to drink from it.

What a sacrifice He made and what love He showed.  That sacrifice and that love guaranteed that the promises of Exodus 6, and all of the promises of the Bible, are available to us.  God promises to deliver us, to take away our slave nature, to redeem us, and to claim us as His own people!  “For as many as are the promises of God, in Christ they are all answered ‘Yes.’ So through Him we say our ‘Amen” to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 AMP)

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Sue Priebe is Associate Pastor at City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, a Chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location. The above teaching was recently shared by Sue at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem during the Amazing Israel Adventure Tour

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Betsy Roy

Director and President of Women of the Word. Professional Background - Registered Nurse Married to Jim for over 30 years. 3 daughters, 3 grandchildren.