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The Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples was a traditional Hagigah, a pre-Passover festivity with family and friends that was often held a day or two before the feast. Luke 22:7 says,
7 Then came [i.e., “came near”] the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
This does not mean that this day had actually arrived, but that it was drawing near. The Passover lamb was sacrificed on the afternoon of Abib 14 (also called alternately, Nisan 14) before the first day of Unleavened Bread (Abib 15).
This feast was not the actual Passover, for they did not kill the lambs until the next day. The hagigah was a peace offering festival.
In their reference work, McClintock and Strong inform us that these offerings (especially those made on the first day of Unleavened Bread) were called hagigah (sometimes also transliterated chagigah), which means “festivity.” These offerings were a festivity, something given in order to have a feast, a happy, festive time. If a person wanted to give God a peace offering, it was divided three ways: some to God, some to the priest, and the remainder came back to the offerer. With his portion, he would invite his family and friends, and they would have a fine time, eating a sumptuous meal and fellowshipping together.
The above article continues, telling us that the hagigah was based on the peace offerings of Num. 10:10 and was mentioned in Hezekiah’s great Passover (2 Chron. 30:22). A hagigah was originally kept before all of the three main feasts and were known as Remembrance Meals.
These festive meals were kept one, two, or even three days before the feast days themselves. Since the Remembrance Meal was not mandated in the law, it simply provided an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. So Jesus desired to keep this final “Passover Remembrance” (as it was called) with His disciples in order to give them final instructions and teachings prior to His arrest, trial, and death on the cross.
This was also a feast by which to “remember” Jesus, for in his comments on communion (based upon the hagigah, or The Last Supper), Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:25, “do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Wine signifies both blood and rejoicing in Scripture. The Last Supper was instructive about His blood that was soon to be shed, but the rejoicing would come later at the coming of the Kingdom. (This would be David’s kingdom, not Saul’s kingdom.) Luke 22:14-16 says,
14 And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16 for I say to you, I shall never again [“not,” as in verse 18] eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”
Matt. 26:27-29 indicates that Jesus said these words well into the Supper, while He was explaining to them that the bread was His body and the wine was His blood. In fact, both Matthew and Mark indicate that it was Jesus’ final statement before they left the room and went to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:29, 30).
After Jesus’ resurrection, when He appeared to the disciples, He often ate with them, but there is no record that He drank wine with them. He ate bread (Luke 24:30) and fish (Luke 24:42, 43; John 21:13) but no wine is mentioned. Because Jesus specifically mentioned not drinking wine with them until the coming of the Kingdom, this seems to be an important prophetic gesture.
It appears, then, that the role of the wine in The Last Supper was to signify Christ’s blood being shed for us at Passover, but its role in the Kingdom signifies rejoicing, for the feast of Tabernacles, preceded by the Jubilee, was to be a time of jubilation, or rejoicing (Lev. 23:40).
Luke’s account of the Communion omits any reference to Judas and how he left the supper to finish his act of betrayal. However, Matt. 26:21-25 tells us,
21 And as they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 And being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said it yourself.”
John is more specific, telling us that Jesus first washed the disciples’ feet—including the feet of Judas (John 13:5). This was apparently motivated by another dispute among the disciples about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24). This was in addition to the earlier dispute in Luke 9:46. So Jesus washed their feet as a lesson in humility.
Afterward, Jesus brought up the fact that one of them would betray Him. They were all incredulous. Even Judas apparently thought that He could hide his betrayal from Jesus (Matt. 26:25). He was unaware that prophecy itself had exposed him, for although the disciples failed to understand the prophecy, Jesus certainly knew it well.
The betrayal of David had occurred at Hebron (2 Sam. 15:10), whose old name was Kerioth-arba (Joshua 14:15). Judas “Iscariot” is the Greek form of the Hebrew Ish-Kerioth and means “a man from Kerioth. In other words, Judas was from Hebron, where, a thousand years earlier, Ahithophel had betrayed David. Jesus knew the story and understood that He was to repeat it in His own way.
Though Matthew tells how Jesus identified the betrayer, he says nothing about Judas leaving immediately to do his work of betrayal. John alone gives that account in John 13:23-30. During the Last Supper, John was on one side of Jesus, while Judas was on His other side. Peter was down the row at some distance, but he gestured to John to ask Jesus specifically who was to betray Him. John then asked, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25). Jesus told him that He would give the betrayer a morsel of bread. He then gave it to Judas. This answered John’s question, and Peter probably understood it as well from sign language and eye contact.
John 13:27-30 concludes,
27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 And so after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.
This must have occurred near the start of the meal, otherwise, there would be no reason for some of the disciples to think that Judas had to buy what was needed for the feast.
Jesus had already washed Judas’ feet as an example of humility even to a betrayer. But John indicates that Judas had to leave before Jesus could begin sharing His heart with the disciples. So we read in John 13:31,
31 When therefore he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”
This is the introduction to Jesus’ discourse, which extends through chapter 17. Very little of this had been recorded in the earlier gospels, and so John felt it was necessary to tell us these omitted details.
Some believe that Judas participated in the Communion. If so, he did so “unworthily” (1 Cor. 11:27), and his suicide would indicate divine judgment. Luke’s account says little about the actual Communion, but he places the Communion before Judas’ exposure. Luke 22:17-20 says,
17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
Only then does Luke speak of Jesus telling the disciples about Judas’ betrayal.
21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table. 22 For indeed the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
In Matthew’s account, we see the order reversed. After speaking of the betrayal in Matt. 26:21-24 and then identifying Judas in verse 25, we then read of the Communion afterward in verses 26-29. Matthew does not tell us that Judas left the room after his exposure, but John does tell us that Judas left “immediately” (John 13:30). Hence, we understand that only after Judas left the room did Jesus institute Communion, in spite of the reversed order of events in Luke’s account.
Mark’s account agrees with Matthew’s in the order of events, though he too omits any reference to Judas leaving the room. We are fully dependent, then, upon John to answer the question about Judas taking Communion.
It seems that Jesus did not want Judas to participate in the Communion unworthily.
The greater prophetic question remains, however, when we seek to understand how this may apply to the scenario surrounding the second coming of Christ. Jesus said that He would not drink of the cup until He drank it with them in the Kingdom. These words provide us with the link between the first and second coming. Perhaps, too, the story of Joseph hints of this, for when he was reunited with his brethren, he provided them with a feast (Gen. 43:31-34).
Perhaps also the Last Supper in Luke 22:15-20 finds its parallel in the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
There are some similarities and some differences between the two comings of Christ that may affect the two Remembrance Meals. The main difference is that Christ came the first time of the tribe of Judah in order to claim His throne rights—that is, the scepter. The second time He comes as the Heir of Joseph in order to claim His birthright.
Although this Hagigah meal was not the Passover itself, in some ways it was treated in that manner. This is seen in the four cups of wine that were drunk on Passover, for this appears to have been done at the Last Supper when Jesus instituted Communion.
The four cups of wine are:
1. The Cup of Blessing or Sanctification
2. The Cup of Plagues (deliverance from the plagues)
3. The Cup of Redemption
4. The Cup of Praise.
To these are sometimes added a fifth cup called the Cup of Elijah, but this is disputed among scholars, because it may have been a later development in Judaism. The tradition of the four cups was based on Exodus 6:6, 7,
6 Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
The key words for each cup are: (1) Take, (2) Rescue or Deliver, (3) Redeem, and (4) Bring. These were the four great things that God was to do for Israel at the time of Passover. The first Cup was of Blessing or Sanctification and answers to the word “take.” It implies that God took Israel and separated them for divine service as a priestly nation. This is the meaning of sanctification. It is not really about coming into perfection, but of being taken or chosen for the divine purpose of blessing others. It is always a blessed privilege to do the work of God.
That purpose, of course, was to fulfill the Abrahamic calling. It was to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). Even as an individual priest or high priest served the nation of Israel, so also was the priestly nation to serve other nations, sharing with them the revelation of God, so that God might inherit all nations of the earth.
It appears that Jesus offered His disciples only the first three Cups at that Communion. It appears that the final cup was that which Jesus referred to in Matt. 26:29,
29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.
That fourth cup (of Praise) was reserved for the time of rejoicing at the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the interim, between the Passover Age and the Tabernacles Age, the disciples were to remember His blood during the Pentecostal Age.
This is the origin of the Communion Table, which Christians have celebrated since it was instituted. So Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 11:23,
23 For I received from the Lord which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread…
Paul had taught the Corinthian church about Communion, delivering to them the revelation of its origin and its prophetic significance.
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
It was about the Remembrance Meal (hagigah). Earlier, Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 10:16, 17,
16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
Here Paul identifies the cup that Jesus gave the disciples in Luke 22:20. It was the first cup—the Cup of Blessing—which has become the cup used in Christian Communion, wherein we fellowship (or commune) with Christ. Since this was written more than twenty years after the day of Pentecost, it is clear that the Christians were not yet communing with Christ in the Kingdom, because they were not yet partaking of the Cup of Praise.
Likewise, the bread of Communion, Paul says, does not speak of the body of Jesus, but the body of Christ. The body of Jesus was broken for them, but the body had taken on new significance in later years. Paul says “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body.” In other words, all true believers who are in fellowship with Jesus are represented by the “bread” and included in the “body.”
Hence, when believers break the bread with each other, they signify by doing this that they too are willing to be broken for each other. This is a covenant of fellowship, not only between Christ and His body, but also between members of that body.
When Jesus shared the cup of blessing with His disciples, He explained its significance, saying,
20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
The New Covenant was necessary because the Old Covenant had been broken by the sins of the people. The vows that Israel had made to God in Exodus 19:8 were not kept, and so the judgments of the law had been justly applied to them, wherein God expelled them from the land, ending His covenant relationship with them. However, the promises of God, which was called in Jer. 31:31 a “new covenant,” revealed God’s intent to save Israel and Judah—and ultimately the whole creation.
The New Covenant, was pictured in the promises to Noah (Genesis 9:9-17), Abraham (Gen. 15:6-21), Isaac (Gen. 21:12), Jacob (Gen. 35:9-12), Moses (Deut. 29:10-15), David (Psalm 89:3, 4), and others. They are all promises, vows, or oaths that God made to us, as distinct from vows that man has made to God.
These are the promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20), which neither the Old Covenant nor the judgment of the law had power to annul (Gal. 3:21). The law establishes the justice of God and measures out its judgments upon sin, but in the end they cannot prevail against the promises of God.
All families of the earth will indeed be blessed in the end, once the law’s judgments have run their course.
In 1 Cor. 10:21 Paul speaks of Communion as being “the Lord’s table.” This is taken from Luke 22:29, 30, where Jesus says,
29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Here we see the underlying meaning of Communion. Those who loyally served the King were said to eat and drink at the King’s table, having been given positions of authority as counselors or judges. This was a Hebrew idiom for being supported financially by the Kingdom treasury as government officials, (1 Sam. 20:29; 2 Sam. 9:13).
Since Judas was a betrayer, he was barred from eating at the King’s table, indicating that he would not receive authority to rule one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Note that Jesus did not say that the original twelve disciples would judge the twelve tribes. Judas was being excluded from this list. Luke would later write the book of Acts, showing how Judas was replaced, first by Matthias, the temporary stand-in, and later, I believe, by Paul himself.