March 2013 Yavoh Article
I am perplexed! I discovered this year that there are believers (even Messianic) who believe that Yeshua did NOT keep the Passover memorial at His final meal with the disciples, which was commanded by Moses in the Torah. They are suggesting that the "Last Supper" was just a regular meal prior to Passover. Upon investigation, I have discovered that many believers are taking this position because they are totally confused about when Passover is to be kept and how to commemorate it according to the commandments.
If you think the Jewish community is keeping the Passover according the Commandments, you would be sadly mistaken. Traditional Passover for the Jewish community is according the rabbinical standard (the ancient Pharisaic standard). They do NOT keep Passover on the 14th of Nisan as stated in the Torah; instead, they keep it on the 15th (the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). Since Scripture commands that unleavened bread is to be eaten on the 14th for Passover and then from the 15th through the 21st for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, making it eight total days, the rabbis teach that Passover begins on the 15th and extends through the 22nd to complete the eight day event.
It is no wonder that Yeshua warned His disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees.” They eat leaven on the 14th!
But here is the shocker for me... Believers of Yeshua believe that the rabbis are correct on this matter and defer to their judgment on this issue. Clearly, Yeshua ate the Passover the night prior to the Pharisees. But the dispute with the Pharisees has numerous examples in the Gospels. Yeshua had many verbal conflicts with the religious authorities in His day saying, “You prefer the precepts and traditions of men to the commandments of God.”
How is it possible that believers of today would then think that Yeshua didn’t keep the Passover? How is it that believers fall prey to judgments of others and don’t defer to Yeshua God in this dispute?
I think I have discovered the answer to that question... They don’t know what Moses actually taught and they don’t understand what Yeshua was saying and doing. There came a time in the verbal conflict between Yeshua and the religious authorities where He stated this exact reason.
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” JOH 5:46-47
The implication of Yeshua’s statement and question is profound. The religious leaders did not believe Moses to begin with. They didn’t follow what he had said. Instead, they had violated the Torah, adding to and taking away from it. The end result was unbelief in the greatest prophecies of the Torah – the Messiah. By following their own way and substituting their thinking and practices for what Moses had written, they found themselves locked out of the goal of the Torah.
Today, I find the same issues. Many believers do not believe Moses (they don’t understand what he wrote) and, as a result, they can’t see how Yeshua was being presented in the Torah. Take a personal quiz for yourself. Open up the Torah and review for yourself the convincing proof that Moses was writing about Yeshua of Nazareth. List them off to yourself mentally. Having trouble putting a quick list together? I have posed this question to many believers and they cannot supply any satisfactory answers either.
Yeshua’s question about believing what Moses has written and linking his words to believing Yeshua’s words is just as applicable to the believers today as it was in the day He spoke it. While virtually all believers today confess Yeshua as Lord and Messiah, it is a much smaller group who also believe what Moses wrote. But Yeshua stated that you CANNOT believe and understand His words and teaching without first believing the words of Moses.
Based on this principled requirement for proper belief and the foundation God provided, how could any believer of Yeshua defer to the judgment of ancient Pharisees concerning the practice and observation of Passover? Yeshua came teaching and doing exactly as Moses had written.
Consider these statements and evidences that Yeshua and His disciples were in fact keeping the Passover commanded by Moses. These evidences come from all four Gospels.
According to Matthew:
You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion. MAT 26:2
Yeshua states that He will die on the Passover that is coming.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Yeshua, and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” The disciples did as Yeshua had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. MAT 26:17-19
Some brethren are confused by this first sentence. “Now on the first day...” is a simple expression that Passover was about to begin (namely, after sunset). It doesn’t mean that Passover had already begun and it was the first of the eight days of eating unleavened bread. It is clear that they are speaking of prior to Passover as they were about to prepare for the Passover. Preparation is always done before the event in Hebrew thinking.
By the way, Hebrew people also use the terms Passover and Unleavened Bread interchangeably, just as the New Testament does.
Everyone who journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover would go several days in advance. They would visit the temple for a mikveh, purchase their lambs, find a suitable place to eat the Passover meal, purchase or fix some unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and finally take their lamb to the temple to be slain. All of this happened prior to the eve of the 14th when the Passover was to be eaten. When the disciples asked Yeshua how they should prepare to eat the Passover, the final question was where were they going to eat it? It turns out that Yeshua had already prepared this part. He knew a man who would give them a place.
Finally, the Gospel is clear. The disciples prepared the lamb, the other foods, and the place for Yeshua and the disciples to eat the Passover.
At this point, it should be clear to every believer that the Gospels unequivocally state that what follows is Yeshua observing the memorial commandment to keep the Passover. Therefore, any person saying that Yeshua was eating some other meal (an ordinary meal) prior to Passover is disputing the veracity of the Gospel account and impugning Yeshua of not keeping the Passover.
The Gospel of Mark states the same evidence given by Matthew:
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” … The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. MAR 14:12, 16
The Gospel of Luke repeated the key points of Matthew and Mark but adds another point:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. LUK 22:1
Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And Yeshua sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it. And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’” And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. LUK 22:7-8, 11, 13
For those critics who argue that Yeshua never said that He was eating the Passover, read Yeshua’s words He spoke while sitting in the upper room after Peter and John had prepared the Passover meal.
And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;” LUK 22:15
If someone says that Yeshua did not keep the Passover memorial prior to His death, then he is disputing the very words of Yeshua Himself.
The Gospel of John is not a synoptic Gospel, which means that it is not presenting the story in a narrative format like the others. Instead, John focuses on specific evidences to prove that Yeshua was the Messiah. When it comes to the events of Yeshua and the Passover, John presents the event using the Jewish (Pharisaic) language. Remember, the Pharisees kept the Passover on the 15th, the day after Moses specified. Look at these examples:
Then they led Yeshua from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. JOH 18:28
At this point, Yeshua had eaten the Passover with His disciples, had gone to the garden where He was arrested, and was being led from Caiaphas (the High Priest) to Pilate the Roman Governor. This was in the middle of the night on Passover the 14th, and the Pharisees were going to eat the Passover the next night and didn’t want to defile themselves for the Passover by putting Yeshua to death themselves.
Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” JOH 19:14
During the night of the 14th and into the next morning on the 14th Yeshua was scourged by the Romans, Barabbas was freed instead of Yeshua, and the people had cried out for Yeshua to be crucified. Then at about noontime (the 6th hour) on the 14th Pilate presented Yeshua to the people as the condemned “King of the Jews.” When it says that it was the preparation day for the Passover, John was referring to how the Pharisees kept the Passover (on the 15th) as opposed to how Moses had commanded and how Yeshua had kept it (on the 14th).
If you do not know the commandment given by Moses nor the difference in observance by the Pharisees, you could easily be confused and say that Yeshua must have eaten some other kind of meal the night before instead of the Passover commanded by Moses.
Yeshua ate the Passover memorial meal; He was arrested, tried, executed, and buried on the Passover day of 14 Nisan. Just as it was said, “...the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion.”
Moses had commanded that the lamb was to be slain and eaten at the eve of the 14th (at the Passover). But there were many then who did not follow Moses. They convinced themselves that it should be done on the 15th. I can understand that some have not studied this matter out and simply defer to others around them following their example, but I don’t understand Messianic believers agreeing with the rabbinical observance and declaring that Yeshua did NOT eat the Passover.
Observe the month of Abib [Nisan] and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. ...but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. DEU 16:1, 6
The tenth judgment upon Egypt was Passover. This is when God first began to take the children of Israel out of Egypt, by delivering the firstborn. At that moment, they became free from Egypt with their loins girded, sandals on their feet, and with their staffs in hand. On the 15th (the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), they journeyed and camped at Sukkoth. Then on the 21st (seven days later) they crossed the Red Sea, completely leaving Egypt. Therefore, the memorial commandment of Passover is observed in the same manner as when the Lord passed over their houses in Egypt which set the children of Israel free. Passover is often called “the Feast of Freedom.”
Yeshua kept the Passover! He kept it on the same day just as Moses commanded, just like the children of Israel did in Egypt, but NOT like the Pharisees.
Therefore, as believers of Yeshua, and especially those of us who have the testimony of Yeshua and keep His commandments, let us testify accurately concerning this matter. Let our testimony be that of the Apostle Paul.
Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. 1COR 5:7
Yeshua’s fulfillment of the Passover and His observance of the memorial commandment is critical to our faith in Him as Messiah. Yeshua used this memorial commandment to fulfill a very important prophecy of Jeremiah.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” JER 31:31-34
The Messiah used the very same Passover commanded by Moses to establish the New Covenant with us. Yeshua, while keeping the memorial Passover, took the very same cup of deliverance and very same unleavened bread to establish a memorial for Himself as the Lamb of God and to establish His covenant.
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.” 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.” LUK 22:19-20
Those of you who keep the Passover know well that He used the Afikoman bread (the best part of the second broken piece) and the third cup of the seder (the cup of Redemption). Yeshua wasn’t eating an ordinary meal. He was fulfilling the Passover in establishing the New Covenant before He offered His own life as the Passover Lamb.
Any believer suggesting that Yeshua wasn’t keeping the Passover seder when He established the New Covenant is in need of instruction. And any Messianic believer still keeping the Passover according to rabbinic (Pharisaic) instruction is in need of instruction.
Let us follow the instructions of Moses and the example of Yeshua and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.