Passover or Last Supper:
Did Yeshua Invent Spurious Commandments for His Followers to Obey?
Without the Old Testament, the New Testament writings can be quite confusing to say the least. Take for instance what many call the “Last Supper”. The Last Supper, held about 24 hours prior to the national Passover celebration, gives modern believers (who have no foundation in the Old Testament writings) the impression that the Messiah was a rogue leader. He appears to be drifting away from the Mosaic code to establish a new and a more inclusive system of worship.
Proofs texts for this change can be provided in the New Testament writings:
Yeshua eliminates the Passover and implemented the “Lords Supper” in its place (Luke 22:19).
Yeshua permits his disciples to celebrate the “Lords Supper” whenever they want rather than once yearly (1 Corinthians 11:25).
But the Law of Moses is especially harsh when it comes to prophets falsely speaking in YHWH’s name. Those intent on Christ’s death were keenly aware of the following statute and attempted to use it to their advantage at the Messiah's trial: “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams … says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul… That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God … You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
But the church at large is conflicted. She claims that Jesus lived a perfect life, never breaching the commandments given by Yeshua's forefathers. In other words, Jesus was the perfect lamb. But looking at the communion service at face value, there seems to be a great contradiction. In the words of John the Baptist, we must ask "Are you (Jesus) the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else” (Matthew 11:3)?
Was Yeshua really attempting to overthrow the Mosaic code to create new worship and moral standards for believers? In order to resolve these contradictions, is important that the Messiah's actions are explained in the light of the Law of Moses. As we do this, we will find that Yeshua was in complete compliance to the Mosaic code rather than undermining it. Before we start, it is important to understand that those who celebrate the spring feasts today often interchange the names of the biblical feast days or apply these names to the weeklong festival period. You can see what I mean as Luke writes “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching” (Luke:22:1). If we do not understand how the Jews loosely applied these terms as we read these passages, we will get confused!
The final four and a half days the Messiah’s life were spent in Jerusalem. During that time, the Jewish leaders were looking for a way to legitimize a death sentence against him; their spies were watching his every move! The scriptures says “The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him” (Mark 14:1). If Jesus had really changed a major part of the law standards commanded by Moses by eliminating the Passover and substituting it with a new service one day earlier than what the Law required, this would have become immediately known and reported. Evidence like this would make an excellent case for his death. And I find it notable that at the time of his trial, they could not find any fault in him, but rather, had to falsify charges against him. This tells me that what Yeshua and his disciples were celebrating that evening was lawful.
Observe next that the celebratory meal of the Passover at the onset of the 14th day was first suggested by the disciples. “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" (Matthew: 26:17). This question by his disciples shows that Jesus was not springing any new changes to undermine the Mosaic worship system. Eating the Passover one day early appears to be perfectly natural and lawful to them. To be clear, Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover a full 24 hours ahead of their Jewish leaders as can be seen in the following verse, “Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” (John: 18:28).
When the gospel writers speak of "eating the Passover" it is specifically in reference eating the roasted flesh of the lamb. Apparently the act of eating eating Passover Lamb before the national sacrifice did not constitute a breach in the Law of Moses. But how could that be? YHWH clearly commanded that “On the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it (the Passover Lamb) in haste; it is the LORD's Passover" (Exodus 12:3-11).
We must understand these specific instructions were commanded for Israel when they were in living in Egypt. But once a national worship center was established in Israel, the Passover festival would be conducted differently. YHWH commanded that "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD” (Exodus 23:17). Whereas the people of Israel slaughtered, ate and burnt up the remains on their own property in Egypt; all this would be conducted differently once a national worship center was consecrated. “There (at the temple) you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD” (Deuteronomy 12:10-11).
There was a national sacrifice made by the Aaronic Priest and the blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts of the temple at 3:00 PM on the 14th day of the month. The officiating priest and his family were to partake of this lamb. But every family of Israel was to eat lamb as well. To accomplish this, there was an organized system developed so that every family could bring their sacrifice to the altar and slaughter it. We have two examples in the Old Testament that describe how this system worked; one Passover orchestrated by Hezekiah and the other by his great grandson Josiah.
Hezekiah’s Passover included the people of the upper 10 tribes of Israel during the time Israel was being deported by the Assyrians. Some of these Israelites were not permitted to pass into the temple area to slaughter their own lambs because of ritual impurity. In such cases, the Levites stepped in and slaughtered the lambs for them. “The priests sprinkled the blood handed to them by the Levites. Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate their lambs to the LORD. (2 Chronicles 30:16-17).
If ritually pure, an Israelite or Alien, could bring their Passover lamb up the steps and into the inner court of the temple. There they would sacrifice the lamb in the presence of YHWH. The Bible says “The Passover lambs were slaughtered, and the priests sprinkled the blood handed to them, while the Levites skinned the animals” (2 Chronicles 35:11). The Priests would present the blood of the lamb before YHWH and the Levite would skin and remove the entrails of the animal, then burn them up. Its meat would be roasted, then taken by the head of household to his temporary dwelling to be consumed by his family and guests. During this time, the story of the Passover story was recited.
Now let us now consider the logistics involved in conducting these festivals in one place as commanded by Moses. At the time of King David “Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand” (2 Samuel 24:9). That represents a man, wife, a few children and possibly servants. We must imagine a city commanded to accommodate upwards of 5 or 6 million guests. There was simply no room for everyone to celebrate the Passover in the city of Jerusalem at the same time.
More importantly, it was impossible for all the heads of household to slaughter their lambs at the inner court of the sanctuary on the 14th day of the month between 3:00- 6:00 PM. For this feast to function in an organized fashion, each head of household had to take their turn to enter the temple. Many would have waited many days for the honor of offering their lamb before the presence of the Creator and returning to their families with the sacred meat. This is why we read about extended Passover celebrations in the Old Testament. It was written that “Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites, who showed good understanding of the service of the LORD. For the seven days they ate their assigned portion and offered fellowship offerings and praised the LORD, the God of their fathers. The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully” (2 Chronicles 30:22-23).
With a deeper understanding of the Torah, we understand how Passover is to be celebrated when a national place worship is established. We also see that Jesus and his disciples were lawfully taking part in the Passover celebration as commanded by Moses.