It is against the background of the annual feasts during the time of the Seond Temple that many of Jesus’ actions and teachings recorded in the Gospels are set.


Seven feasts are mentioned in the gospels (Lk. 2:42; Mt. 26:2, 17; 27:15, 62; Mk. 14:1, 12, 14; 15:6; Lk. 22:1, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15; 23:17, 54; Jn. 2:13-25; 5:1; 6:4; 7; 10:22-39; 11:55; 12:1; 13:1, 29; 18:28; 19:14, 31, 42), six of which Jesus is recorded as having attended, beginning with a Passover which Jesus observed with his parents in Jerusalem at the age of twelve (Lk. 2:42); including one further Passover (Jn. 2:13-25), which he attended in the first year of his earthly ministry; an unnamed feast (Jn.5:1), which may or may not have been a Passover; a Feast of Tabernacles, which he attended in the final year of his earthly ministry (Jn. 7); a Feast of Dedication (Jn. 10:22-39); and finishing with that Passover which, according to the traditional understanding of the accounts given in the gospels of the Last Supper, he celebrated with his disciples “on the night that he was betrayed”.

These have been tabulated for ease of reference, as follows: 

Feast Event Scripture references
Passover The boy Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem Lk. 2:42
Passover The first cleansing of the Temple Jn. 2:13-25
A feast of the Jews (Purim?) The healing of the paralytic man Jn. 5:1
Passover The feeding of the five thousand Jn. 6:4
The Feast of Tabernacles “He also went up to the Feast” Jn. 7:2-53
The Feast of Dedication “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” Jn. 10:22-39
The Final Passover The Last Supper Mt. 26:2, 17; 27:15, 62; Mk. 14:1, 12, 14; 15:6; Lk. 22:1, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15; 23:17, 54; Jn. 11:55; 12:1; 13:1, 29; 18:28; 19:14, 31, 42

From the number of Passovers mentioned in the Gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus, it would seem that his ministry lasted a little over two years, unless the unnamed feast of John 5:1 was a Passover, or unless there was a Passover which has gone unmentioned.

Concerning the precise nature of the unnamed “feast of the Jews” of John 5:1, Frederic W. (Dean) Farrar says that this “is in all probability a question which, though interesting and important in settling the length of our Lord’s ministry, will never receive a final answer. Whole volumes have been written on it, and to enter upon all the discussions which they open would be idle, and endless, and, after all, unconvincing. In spite of the patient thought and consummate learning which have been devoted to the consideration, the data are clearly insufficient to decide convincingly how long Christ publicly taught on earth, nor shall we ever be able to attain any certainty on that deeply-interesting question.”[i] This does not discourage Farrar from presenting some fairly cogent reasons for identifying this feast as Purim, with which identification Edersheim agrees.


In his account of the one and only incident concerning the boy Jesus which has been recorded in Scripture, Luke begins: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.” (Lk. 2:41, 42, AV).Commenting on Mary’s presence at the Feast, Farrar, writes: “Women were, indeed, not mentioned in the law which required the annual presence of all males at the three great yearly feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; but Mary, in pious observance of the rule recommended by Hillel, accompanied her husband every year, and on this occasion they took with them the boy Jesus, who was beginning to be of an age to assume the responsibilities of the Law.”[1][ii]Speculating on the impact of this “first break in the secluded life” upon the boy Jesus, Farrar writes: “We can easily imagine how powerful must have been the influence upon His human development of this break in the still secluded life; of this glimpse into the great outer world; of this journey through a land of which every hill and every village teemed with sacred memories; of this first visit to that Temple of His Father which was associated with so many mighty events in the story of the kings His ancestors and the prophets His forerunners.”Basing his description of their journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem on a visit which he himself made to the scenes which he describes in the spring of 1870, Farrar writes: “Nazareth lies from Jerusalem at a distance of about eighty miles, and, in spite of the intense and jealous hostility of the Samaritans, it is probable that the vast caravan of Galilæan pilgrims on their way to the feast would go by the most direct and the least dangerous route, which lay through the old tribal territories of Manasseh and Ephraim. Leaving the garland of hills which encircle the little town in a manner compared by St. Jerome to the petals of an opening rose, they would descend the narrow flower-bordered limestone path into the great plain of Jezreel. As the Passover falls at the end of March and the beginning of April, the country would be wearing its brightest, greenest, loveliest aspect, and the edges of the vast cornfields on either side of the road through the broad plain would be woven, like the High Priest’s robe, with the blue and purple and scarlet of innumerable flowers. Over the streams of that ancient river, the river Kishon—past Shunem, recalling memories of Elisha as it lay nestling on the southern slopes of Little Hermon—past royal Jezreel, with the sculptured sarcophagi that alone bore witness to its departed splendour—past the picturesque outline of bare and dewless Gilboa—past Sandy Taanach, with its memories of Sisera and Barak—past Megiddo, where He might first have seen the helmets and broadswords and eagles of the Roman legionary—the road would lie to En-Gannîm, where, beside the fountains, and amid the shady and lovely gardens which still mark the spot, they would probably have halted for their first night’s rest. Next day they would begin to ascend the mountains of Manasseh, and crossing the ‘Drowning Meadow,’ as it is now called, and winding through the rich fig-yards and olive groves that fill the valleys of that district, they would leave upon the right the hills which, in their glorious beauty, formed the “crown of pride” of which Samaria boasted, but which, as the prophet foretold, should be as a ‘fading flower.’ Their second encampment would probably be near Jacob’s well, in the beautiful and fertile valley between Ebal and Gerizim, and not far from ancient Shechem. A third day’s journey would take them past Shiloh, Bethel and Beeroth, to Gibeah of Saul; and from the pleasant springs by which they would there encamp a short and easy stage would bring them in sight of the towers of Jerusalem. The profane plumage of the eagle-wings of Rome was already overshadowing the Holy City; but, towering above the walls, still glittered the great Temple, with its gilded roofs and marble colonnades, and it was still the Jerusalem of which royal David sang, and for which the exiles by the waters of Babylon had yearned with such deep emotion, when they took their harps from the willows to wail the remorseful dirge that they would remember her until their right hands forgot their cunning.”

Concluding his description of the boy Jesus’ arrival before the gates of Jerusalem, Farrar asks: “Who shall fathom the unspeakable emotion with which the boy Jesus gazed on that memorable and never-to-be-forgotten scene?”[2][iii]


Describing events which took place after, perhaps the very day after, Jesus’ return from the “temptation in the wilderness”, and the day after “the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?” (Jn. 1:19), John, in his gospel, writes, concerning John the Baptist: “The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29, ESV) Commenting on these words, Farrar writes: “Whether the prominent conception in the Baptist’s mind was the Paschal Lamb, or the Lamb of the morning and evening sacrifice; whether ‘the world’…was the actual expression which he used, or is merely a Greek rendering of the word…‘people’… ; whether he understood the profound and awful impact of his own utterance, or was carried by prophetic inspiration beyond himself—we cannot tell. But this much is clear, that since his whole imagery, and indeed the very description of his own function and position is, as we have already seen, borrowed from the Evangelical prophet, he must have used the expression with distinct reference to the picture of Divine patience and mediatorial suffering in Isa. liii. 7 (cf. Jer. xi. 19). His words could hardly have involved less meaning than this—that the gentle and sinless man to whom he pointed should be a man of sorrows, and that these sorrows should be for the salvation of His race.”[iv]


Describing that first Passover which Jesus attended during his earthly ministry, Farrar, drawing on the account given in John’s gospel (Jn. 2:13-17), writes: “We have already seen what vast crowds flocked to the Holy City at the great annual feast. Then, as now, that immense multitude, composed of pilgrims from every land, and proselytes of every nation, brought with them many needs. The traveller who visits Jerusalem at Easter time will make his way to the gates of the Church of the Sepulchre through a crowd of vendors of relics, souvenirs, and all kinds of objects, who, squatting on the ground, fill all the vacant space before the church, and overflow into the adjoining street. Far more numerous and far more noisome must have been the buyers and sellers who choked the avenues leading to the Temple in the Passover to which Jesus now went among the other pilgrims; for what they had to sell were not only trinkets and knick-knacks, such as now are sold to Easter pilgrims, but oxen, sheep, and doves. On both sides of the eastern gate—the gate Shushan—as far as Solomon’s porch, there had long been established the shops of merchants and the banks of money-changers. The latter were almost a necessity; for, twenty days before the Passover, the priests began to collect the old sacred tribute of half a shekel paid yearly by every Israelite, whether rich or poor, as atonement money for his soul, and applied to the expenses of the Tabernacle service. Now it would not be lawful to pay this in the coinage brought from all kinds of governments, sometimes represented by wretched counters of brass and copper, and always defiled with heathen symbols and heathen inscriptions. It was lawful to send this money to the priests from a distance, but every Jew who presented himself to the Temple preferred to pay it in person. He was therefore obliged to procure the little silver coin in return for his own currency, and the money-changers charged him five per cent as the usual kolbon or agio.”[v]Although the Jews were careful to observe the Passover, together with the other feasts prescribed in the Law, during that period following their return from the Babylonian captivity known as the post-exilic theocracy, it is clear that, by the time that Jesus came to attend that first Passover during his earthly ministry, it was being exploited for monetary ends both by those who sold oxen and sheep and pigeons for sacrifice, to those who were unable to bring their own animals, and the money-changers, who were no doubt exchanging money at extortionate rates, and, speculates Matthew Henry, by the religious authorities of the day: “The market perhaps had been kept by the pool of Bethesda… , but was admitted into the temple by the chief priests, for filthy lucre; for, no doubt, the rents for standing there, and fees for searching the beasts sold there, and certifying that they were without blemish, would be a considerable revenue to them.”Farrar continues his description of this Passover: “Had this trafficking been confined to the streets immediately adjacent to the holy building, it would have been excusable, though not altogether seemly. Such scenes are described by heathen writers as occurring round the Temple of Venus at Mount Eryx, and of the Syrian goddess at Heirapolis—nay, even to come nearer home, such scenes once occurred in our own St. Paul’s. But the mischief had not stopped here. The vicinity of the Court of the Gentiles, with its broad spaces and long arcades, had been too tempting to Jewish greed [sic]. We learn from the Talmud that Babha Ben Buta had introduced ‘3,000 sheep of the flocks of Kedar into the Mountain of the House’—i.e., into the Court of the Gentiles, and therefore within the consecrated precincts. The profane example was eagerly followed. The chanujôth of the shopkeepers, the exchange booths of the usurers, gradually crept into the sacred enclosure. There, in the actual Court of the Gentiles Court of the Gentiles, steaming with heat in the burning April day, and filling the Temple with stench and filth, were penned whole flocks of sheep and oxen, while the drovers and pilgrims stood bartering and bargaining around them. There were the men with their great wicker cages filled with doves, and under the shadow of the arcades, formed by quadruple rows of Corinthian columns, sat the money-changers, with their tables covered with piles of various small coins, while, as they reckoned and wrangled in the midst of the most dishonest of trades, their greedy eyes twinkled with the lust of gain. And this was the entrance-court to the Temple of the Most High! The court which was a witness that that house should be a House of Prayer for all nations had been degraded into a place which, for foulness, was more like shambles, and for bustling commerce more like a densely-crowded bazaar; while the lowing of oxen, the bleating of sheep, the Babel of many languages, the huckstering and wrangling, and the clinking of money and of balances (perhaps not always just), might be heard in the adjoining courts, disturbing the chant of the Levites and the prayers of priests!“Filled with righteous scorn at all this mean irreverence, burning with irresistible and holy indignation, Jesus, on entering the Temple, made a scourge of the rushes that lay on the floor; and, in order to cleanse the sacred court of its worst pollutions, first drove out, indiscriminately, the sheep and oxen, and the low crowd who tended them. Then, going to the tables of the money-changers, He overthrew them where they stood, upsetting the carefully-arranged heaps of heterogeneous coinage, and leaving the owners to grope and hunt for their scattered money on the polluted floor. Even to those who sold doves He issued the mandate to depart, less sternly indeed, because the dove was the offering of the poor, and there was less desecration ands foulness in the presence there of those lovely emblems of innocence and purity; nor could he overturn the tables of the dove-sellers, lest the birds should be hurt in their cages; but still, even to those who sold doves He authoritatively exclaimed, ‘Take these things hence,’ justifying His action to the whole terrified, injured, muttering, ignoble crowd in no other words than the high rebuke, ‘Make not my Father’s house into a house of merchandise.’ And His disciples, seeing this transport of inspiring and glorious anger, recalled to mind what David had once written ‘to the chief musician upon Shoshannim,’ for the service of the very Temple, ‘The zeal of thine house shall even devour me.’”When the Priests and Pharisees, and Scribes and Levites “had heard of this deed, or witnessed it, and had time to recover from the breathless mixture of admiration, disgust, and astonishment which it inspired, they came to Jesus, and, though they did not dare to condemn what He had done, yet half indignantly asked Him for some sign that He had a right to act thus.“Our Lord’s answer in its full meaning was far beyond their comprehension, and in what appeared to be its meaning filled them with a perfect stupor of angry amazement. ‘Destroy,’ He said, ‘this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’“Destroy this Temple!—the Temple on which a king pre-eminent for his wealth and magnificence, a king wealthy and powerful as Solomon himself, had lavished his most splendid resources, and thereby almost reconciled the Jews to an intolerable tyranny; the Temple for the construction of which one thousand wagons had been required, and ten thousand workmen enrolled, and a thousand priests in sacerdotal vestments employed to lay the stones which the workmen had already hewn; the Temple which was a marvel to the world for its colossal substructions of marble, its costly mosaics, its fragrant woods, its glittering roofs, the golden vine with its hanging clusters sculptured over the entrance door, the embroidered vails enwoven with flowers of purple, the profuse magnificence of its silver, gold, and precious stones. It had already been forty-six years in building, and was yet far from finished; and this unknown Galilæan youth bade them destroy it, and He would raise it in three days! Such was the literal and evidently false construction which they chose to put upon His words, though the recorded practice of their own great prophets might have shown them that a mystery lay hidden in this sign which He gave… .”“‘But He spake,’ says St. John, ‘of the Temple of His body,’ and he adds that it was not until His resurrection that His disciples fully understood His words. Nor is this astonishing, for they were words of very deep significance. Hitherto there had been but one Temple of the true God, the Temple in which He then stood—the Temple which symbolised, and had once at least, as the Jews believed, enshrined that Shechînah, or cloud of glory, which was the living witness to God’s presence in the world. But now the Spirit of God abode in a Temple not made with hands, even in the sacred Body of the Son of God made flesh.”[vi] It was during Passover, two, or possibly three, years later, that Jesus was put to death at the behest of those selfsame religious authorities.


On his return to Nazareth, Farrar tells us, Jesus, “according to His usual custom, for He had doubtless been a silent worshipper in that humble place Sabbath after Sabbath from boyhood upwards… , entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.“There was but one synagogue in the little town… . It was simply a rectangular hall, with a pillared portico of Grecian architecture, of which the further extremity (where the ‘sanctuary’ was placed) usually pointed towards Jerusalem, which, since the time of Solomon, had always been the kiblehi.e., the consecrated direction—of a Jew’s worship, as Meccah is of a Mohammedan’s. …On entering there were seats on one side for the men; on the other, behind a lattice, were seated the women, shrouded in their long veils. At one end was the tebhah, or ark of painted wood, which contained the sacred scriptures; and at one side was the bîma, or elevated seat for the reader or preacher. Clergy, properly speaking, there was none; but in the chief seats were the ten or more batlanîm, ‘men of leisure,’ or leading elders; and pre-eminent among these the chief of the synagogue, or rosh hak-kenéseth. Inferior in rank to these were the chazzan, or clerk, whose duty it was to keep the sacred books; the shelîach, corresponding to our sacristan or verger; and the parnasîm, or shepherds, who in some respects acted as deacons. “The service of the synagogue was not unlike our own. After the prayers two lessons were always read, one from the Law called parashah, and one from the Prophets called haphtarah; and as there were no ordained ministers to conduct the services—for the office of priests and Levites at Jerusalem was wholly different—these lessons might not only be read by any competent person who received permission from the rosh hak-kenéseth, but he was even at liberty to add his own midrash, or comment.“The reading of the parashah, or lesson from the Pentateuch, was apparently over when Jesus ascended the steps of the bîma. Recognising his claim to perform the honourable function of a maphtîr or reader, the chazzân drew aside the silk curtain of the painted ark which contained the sacred manuscripts, and handed Him the megillah or roll of the Prophet Isaiah, which contained the haphtarah of the day. Our Lord unrolled the volume, and found the well-known passage in Isaiah lxi. The whole congregation stood up to listen to Him. The length of the haphtarah might be from three to twenty-one verses, but Jesus only read the first and part of the second; stopping short, in a spirit of tenderness, before the stern expression, ‘The day of vengeance of our God,’ so that the gracious words, ‘The acceptable year of the Lord’ might rest last upon their ears and form the text of His discourse.” The precise word which Jesus read out were: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. ” (Lk. 4:16-19, RSV) The “acceptable year of the Lord” refers either to the Year of Jubilee or the Year of Release.Having read out these words, Jesus then “rolled up the megillah, handed it back to the chazzan, and, as was customary among the Jews, sat down to deliver his sermon”. Jesus “began to say” (AV), or rather, “began by saying to them” (NIV): “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:21)Farrar continues: “The passage which He had read, whether a part of the ordinary lesson for the day, or chosen by Himself, was a very remarkable one, and it must have derived additional grandeur and solemnity from the lips of Him in whom was fulfilled. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed upon Him with a gaze of intense earnestness, and we may imagine the thrill of awful expectation and excitement which passed through the heart of the listeners as, in a discourse of which the subject only is preserved for us by the Evangelist, He developed the theme that He was Himself the Messiah, of whom the Prophet had sing some 700 years before.”[vii] On the basis of Jesus reference to the “acceptable year of the Lord”, some commentators have speculated whether the first year of Jesus’ ministry coincided with a Year of Jubilee, and, indeed, have construed from his words that his ministry lasted for but one year.


Concerning the unnamed “feast of the Jews” (Jn. 5:1), which, according to John, Jesus attended some time after this, and which, according to Farrar, was Purim, Farrar writes: “But how came Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for such a feast as this—a feast which was the saturnalia of Judaism; a feast which was without divine authority, and had its roots in the most intensely exclusive, not to say vindictive, feelings of the nation; of the East of Merriment and masquerade, which was purely social and often discreditably convivial; a feast which was unconnected with religious services, and was observed, not in the Temple, not even necessarily in the synagogues, but mainly in the private houses of the Jews?“The answer seems to be that, although Jesus was in Jerusalem at this feast, and went up about the time that it was held, the words of St. John do not necessarily imply that he went up for the express purpose of being present at this particular festival. The Passover took place only a month afterwards, and He may well have gone up mainly with the intention of being present at the Passover, although he gladly availed himself of an opportunity for being in Judæa and Jerusalem a month before that, both that He might once more preach in those neighbourhoods, and that He might avoid the publicity and dangerous excitement involved in His joining the caravan of the Passover pilgrims from Galilee.”[viii]  


  The second Passover mentioned in the Gospel of John (Jn. 6:4), provides the background to one of Jesus’ greatest miracles, as well as explaining the presence of so many people who were present at it. In an abortive attempt to escape the crowds who had been drawn to him by his increasing celebrity, and to restore their spirits following the news of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee in search of rest and solitude. But it was not to be, for, “private as the departure had been, it had not passed unobserved. It is but six miles by sea from Capernaum to the retired strand which was their destination. The little vessel, evidently retarded by unfavourable winds, made its way slowly at no great distance from the shore, and by the time it reached its destination, the object which their Master’s kindness had desired for His Apostles was completely frustrated. Some of the multitude had outrun the vessel, and were thronging about the landing place when the prow touched the pebbly beach; while in the distance were seen the thronging groups of Passover pilgrims, who were attracted out of their course by the increasing celebrity of this Unknown Prophet.”[ix]


John, in his gospel, describes at some considerable length Jesus’ actions and teachings at a feast of Tabernacles which was observed in the final year of his earthly ministry.

Jesus’ brothers urge him to go to Tabernacles

Describing the circumstance in which Jesus went up to the Feast, he writes: “Now the Jew’s feast of Tabernacles was at hand. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go into Judea, that your disciples [also] may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his brothers did not believe in him.” (Jn. 7:1-5, RSV)Bob Richards, President of the (Anglican) Church’s Mission to the Jews (CMJ) suggests, in his book, Has God Finished With Israel, that, “in telling him that he should go and reveal himself (Jn. 7:3)”, Jesus’ brothers “verbalised the Jewish belief that the Messiah would reveal himself at Tabernacles”.[4][x]Continuing his account of the last feast of Tabernacles which Jesus attended during his earthly ministry, John writes: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me you, because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come. When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” (Jn. 7:6-10, NKJ)Farrar writes: “By what route He had reached the Holy City—how He had passed through the bright thronged the streets unnoticed—whether He joined in the innocent mirth of the festival—whether He too lived in a little succah of palm-leaves during the remainder of the week, and wandered among the brightly-dressed crowds of an Oriental gala-day with the branch (lulab) and citron-fruit (aethrog) in His hands—whether His voice was heard in the Hallel, or Great Hosanna—we do not know. All that is told us is that, throwing Himself, as it were, in full confidence on the protection of His disciples from Galilee and those in Jerusalem, He was suddenly found seated in one of the large halls which opened out of the Temple courts, and there he taught.”[xi]

In the last day, that great day of the feast

Having recorded some of Jesus’ teachings, as well as the reaction of the people to his words, John writes: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me, and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn. 7:37-39, NKJ) It is not clear whether, by the expression, “that great day of the feast”, John was referring to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Hoshana Rabbah), or to the day following the Feast of Tabernacles, on which a Sabbath was observed (Lev. 23:36). It would seem from John 8:1 and 2, and 9:14 that the following day was a Sabbath, and if the Sabbath in question was not the weekly Sabbath, but the Sabbath which was observed on the day following the Feast of Tabernacles, then the day in question was the seventh and final day of the Feast of Tabernacles.Whatever the case, the water-drawing ceremony would have been in people’s minds when Jesus spoke these words, and he was clearly using this ceremony in order to present an important truth about himself, just as he had done with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (Jn. 4:10, 13, 14).On the figure of the “living waters”, Kevin Howard, in a book which he co-wrote with Marvin Rosenthal, provides us with the following background information: “There are three types of water sources in the land of Israel. Huge, rock-hewn collection tanks, known as cisterns, are used to collect rainwater during the rainy months. Massive cisterns, capable of holding millions of gallons of water, still exist today at the Masada stronghold. However, cisterns are the least desirable and valuable water source in Israel—they can easily become contaminated or stagnant and are not replenishable until the next rainy season. Wells are a more valuable water source. They provide fresh, replenished water, but even they can dry up during a drought. The most valued water source in Israel are [sic] brooks and rivers which are fed by springs (such as those at Ein Gedi). These were known in the Bible as ‘living waters’ or, in other words, waters with movement.” Still on the subject of the “living waters”, Howard adds: “This was the purest water, the most valued water, water that would never dry up.” Quoting Jeremiah 2:13 (“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”), he says: “The Lord used this truth to illustrate Israel’s rebellion and idolatry.” When, therefore, on “the last day, that great day of the feast”, Jesus made his declaration, “He alluded to the same fact”.[xii]

The woman caught in adultery

At this point, our English translations of the Bible recount an incident included in some, but by no means all, manuscripts of John’s Gospel.[5] At the close of the day, our English versions read, those present at the Feast “went each to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes   and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.’” (Jn. 8:1-4)Concerning this incident, Farrar, who assumes that the account of the woman caught in adultery recorded in John 8:1-11 in some manuscripts has been rightly placed, writes: “it is probable that the hilarity and abandonment of the Feast of Tabernacles, which had grown to be a kind of vintage festival, would often degenerate into acts of licence and immorality; and these would find more numerous opportunities in the general disturbance of ordinary life caused by the dwelling of the whole people in their little leafy booths. One such act had been detected during the previous night, and the guilty woman had been handed over to the Scribes and Pharisees.”[xiii]    

“I am the light of the world”

It was on “the last day, that great day of the feast”, if the account of the woman caught in adultery has been wrongly placed, or the day after the feast if it belongs to the true sequence of events that “Jesus continued those interrupted discourses which were intended almost for the last time to set clearly before the Jewish nation His divine claims.Farrar writes: “he was seated at that moment in the Treasury—either some special building in the Temple so called, or that part of the court of the women which contained the thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped openings—called shopherôth—into which the people, and especially the Pharisees, used to cast their gifts. In this court, and therefore close beside Him, were two gigantic candelabra, fifty cubits high and sumptuously gilded, on the summit of which, nightly, during the Feast of Tabernacles lamps were lit which shed their soft light all over the city. Round these lamps the people, in their joyful enthusiasm, and even the stateliest Priests and Pharisees, joined in festal dances, while, to the sound of flutes and other music, the Levites, drawn up in array on the fifteen steps which led to the court, chanted the beautiful Psalms which early received the title of ‘Songs of Degrees.’“In allusion to these great lamps, on which some circumstance of the moment may have concentrated the attention of the hearers, Christ explained to them, ‘I am the light of the world.’”[xiv] Unlike the Temple lamps, which gave light only to Jerusalem, Jesus gives light to the whole world.In a number of Old Testament passages, the Messiah is presented under the figure of “light” (Isa. 9:2; 49:6; 60:1-3). He is also described as “a star out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17), as being “like a refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2), and as “the Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). Matthew Henry adds: “One of the rabbis saith, Light is the name of the Messiah, as it is written, Dan. 2:22, And light dwelleth with him.” In stating that he was “the light of the world”, Jesus may also, therefore, have been identifying himself as the Messiah.Whatever the case, the claims which Jesus made about himself at the feast led to one of his bitterest disputations with unbelieving Jews, culminating in an unequivocal statement concerning his divinity: “Before Abraham came into existence, I am.” (Jn. 8:58, Farrar)[6]


John, in his gospel records a confrontation between Jesus and some Jews at the Feast of Lights, or Dedication, as he calls it, while Jesus was walking “in the temple in Solomon’s porch” (Jn. 10:23), or eastern porch of the Temple, and which, Farrar tells us, “still retained the name of Solomon’s Porch, because it was at least built of the materials which had formed part of the ancient Temple”. This “bright colonnade”, as he calls it, would have been “decked for the feast with glittering trophies”; and he envisages Jesus “walking up and down, quietly, and apparently without companions, sometimes, perhaps, gazing across the valley of the Kidron at the whited sepulchres of the prophets, whom generations of Jews had slain, and enjoying the mild winter sunlight, when, as though by a preconcerted movement, the Pharisaic party and their leaders suddenly surrounded and began to question Him”.[xv]“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (Jn. 10:24, RSV)What prompted their urgent appeal? Farrar elucidates: “The place where they were speaking recalled the most gorgeous dreams of their ancient monarchy; the occasion was rife with the memories of one of their bravest warriors; the political conditions which surrounded them were exactly such as those from which the heroic Asmonaean had delivered them.” He conjectures: “Perhaps the very spot where He was walking, recalling as it did the memories of their ancient glory—perhaps the memories of the feast which they were celebrating, as the anniversary of a deliverance wrought by a handful of brave men who had overthrown a colossal tyranny—inspired their appeal.” Hence their “strange, impetuous, impatient appeal”, as Farrar describes it: “‘How long,’ they inquired, ‘dost You hold our souls in painful suspense? If You really art the Messiah, tell us with confidence. Tell us here, in Solomon’s porch, now, while the sight of these shields and golden crowns, and the melody of these citherns and cymbals, recall the glory of Judas the Asmonæan—wilt You be a mightier Maccabæus, a more glorious Solomon? Shall these citrons, and fair boughs, and palms, which we carry in honour of this day’s victory, be carried some day for you?’”Farrar speculates: “One spark of that ancient flame would have kindled their spirits into such a blaze of fanaticism as might for the time have swept away both the Romans and the Herods. …But the day for political deliverances was past; the day for a higher, deeper, more eternal deliverance had come.”[xvi]


We come now to the start of the final week of Jesus’ public ministry at the end of which that “higher, deeper, more eternal deliverance” was obtained.According to John, Jesus came to Bethany “six days before the Passover” (Jn. 12:1), which, because it is improbable that Jesus would have completed a journey on a Sabbath, Farrar dates to “the evening of Friday, Nisan 8, A. U. C. 780 (March 31, A.D. 30), six days before the Passover, and before sunset had commenced the Sabbath hours”. The following day, which was a Sabbath, “was spent in quiet”, and the supper which John goes on to describe (Jn. 12:2-8) was made on the evening of the Sabbath. Following his arrival in Bethany, Farrar continues, Jesus “would part from His train of pilgrims, some of whom would go to enjoy the hospitality of their friends in the city, and others, as they do at the present day, would make for themselves rude booths in the valley of the Kedron, and about the western slopes of the Mount of Olives”.[xvii]It was while Jesus was at Bethany that “they made him a supper” and that Mary “took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (Jn. 12:3)—much to the indignation of Judas Iscariot (Jn. 12:4), and, indeed, the rest of the disciples, if Matthew and Mark in their gospels describe the one and the same incident (Mt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9).[7] It was the reason which Jesus ascribed to her apparent extravagance (“she did it for my burial”, Mt. 26:12, AV; “she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial”, Mk. 14:8, NASB; “she has kept this for the day of My burial”, Jn. 12:7, NKJ, or, “let her keep it for the day of my burial”, Jn. 12:7, RSV), as much as the loss of potential income which her deed of devotion represented, which so scandalised the by now deeply disillusioned Judas, and decided him in his resolve to betray Jesus. Indeed, it was on “that [very] night”, says Farrar, that Judas, his hopes of achieving “earthly wealth” and “regal elevation” now dashed, “slunk away from Bethany… , and made his way to Jerusalem, and got introduced into the council-room of the chief priests in the house of Caiaphas, and had that first fatal interview in which he bargained with them to betray his Lord”.[8][xviii]


On the day following his anointing in Bethany, which, if this former event took place on a Saturday, must have been a Sunday, and which, on the basis of the calculation made above, was the 10th Nisan, Jesus left Bethany and began to make his way towards Jerusalem.

Jesus’ progress into Jerusalem

“He started on foot”, says Farrar, taking what “is, and always must have been, the main road”, which “sweeps round the southern shoulder of the central mass, between it and the ‘Hill of Evil Counsel.’  “Passing from under the palm-trees of Bethany, they approached the fig-gardens of Bethphage, the “House of Figs,” a small suburb or hamlet of undiscovered site, which lay probably a little to the south of Bethany, and in sight of it. To this village, or some other hamlet which lay near it, Jesus dispatched two of his disciples.” Following his instructions, they found an ass and a foal tied up at the back of a house just as he had described to them and these “they led to Jesus, putting their garments over them to do Him regal honour. Then they lifted Him onto the colt, and the triumphal procession set forth.”

Why the palms?

John, in his gospel, says that as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, “a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!’” (Jn. 12:12, 13, NKJ) In a previous chapter, we saw that at the ceremony of the pouring out of water at Tabernacles, the Hallel was sung, and that when the choir came to these words, “O give thanks to the Lord” (Ps. 118:1), and again when they sang, “O work then now salvation, Jehovah” (Ps. 118:25), and once more at the close, “O give thanks to the Lord” (Ps. 118:29), all the worshippers shook their lulavim towards the altar. Commenting on this, Edersheim writes: “When, therefore, the multitudes from Jerusalem, on meeting Jesus, ‘cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way, and…cried, saying, O then, work now salvation to the Son of David!’ (Matt 21:8,9; John 12:12,13) they applied, in reference to Christ, what was regarded as one of the chief ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, praying that God would now from the highest heavens manifest and send that salvation in connection with the Son of David, which was symbolised by the pouring out of water. For though that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as bearing a subordinate reference to the dispensation of the rain, the annual fall of which they imagined was determined by God at that feast, its main and real application was to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as predicted—probably in allusion to this very rite—by Isaiah the prophet (Isa 12:3).”[xix]

Jesus’ progress into Jerusalem continued

Continuing his reconstruction of Jesus’ progress, Farrar writes: “The road slopes by a gradual ascent up the Mount of Olives, through green fields and under shady trees, till it suddenly sweeps round to the northward. It is that this angle of the road that Jerusalem, which hitherto has been hidden by the shoulder of the hill, bursts full upon the view. There, through the clear atmosphere, rising out of the deep umbrageous valleys which surround it, the city of ten thousand memories stood clear before Him, on the morning sunlight, as it blazed on the marble pinnacles and gilded roofs of the Temple buildings, was reflected in a very fiery splendour to avert his glance. Such a glimpse of such a city is at all times affecting, and many a Jewish and Gentile travel has reined his horse that this sport, and gazed upon the scene in emotion too deep for speech. But the Jerusalem of that day, with ‘its imperial mantle of proud towers,’ was regarded as one of the wonders of the world, and was a spectacle incomparably more magnificent than the decayed and crumbling city of to-day. And who can interpret, who can enter into the mighty rush of divine compassion which, at that spectacle, shook the Saviour’s soul. As he gazed on that ‘mass of gold and snow,’ was there no pride, no exultation in the heart of its true King? Far from it! He had dropped silent tears at the grave of Lazarus; here He wept aloud. All the shame of His mockery, all the anguish of His torture, was powerless, five days afterwards, to extort from Him a single groan or to wet His eyelids with one trickling tear; but here, all the pity that was within Him overmastered His human spirit, and He not only wept, but broke into a passion of lamentation, in which the choked voice seemed to struggle for its utterance. A strange Messianic triumph! a strange interruption of the festal cries! The Deliverer weeps over the city which it is too late to save; the King prophecies the utter ruin of the nation which He came to rule! ‘If thou hadst known,’ He cried—while the wondering multitudes looked on, and knew not what to think or say—‘If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace!’—and there sorrow interrupted the sentence, and, when He had found voice to continue, He could only add, ‘but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the day’s shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.’ It was the last invitation from ‘the Glory of God on the Mount of Olives,’ before that Shechînah vanished from their eyes for ever.”After discussing the fulfilment of that prophecy, Farrar continues: “There had been a pause in the procession while Jesus shed His bitter tears and uttered his prophetic lamentation. But now the people in the value of Kedron, and about the walls of Jerusalem, and the pilgrims whose booths and tents stood so thickly on the green slopes below, had caught sight of the approaching company, and heard the echo of the glad shouts, and knew what the commotion meant. At that time the palms were numerous in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, though now but a few remaining: and tearing their green and graceful branches, the people streamed up the road to meet the approaching Prophet. And when the two streams of people met—those who had accompanied Him from Bethany, and those who had come to meet Him from Jerusalem—they left Him riding in the midst, and some preceding, some following Him, advanced, shouting ‘Hosannas’ and waving branches, to the gate of Jerusalem.Mingled among the crowd were some of the Pharisees, and the joy of the multitude was to them gall and wormwood. What meant these Messianic cries and kingly titles? Why did He allow them? ‘Master, rebuke Thy disciples.’ But he would not do so. ‘If these should hold their peace,’ He said, ‘the stones would immediately cry out.’ …The Pharisees felt that they were powerless to stay the flood of enthusiasm.And when they reached the walls the whole city was stirred with powerful excitement and alarm. ‘Who is this?’ they asked, as they leaned out of the lattices and from the roofs, and stood aside in the bazaars and streets to let them pass; and the multitude answered, with something of pride in their great countryman… ‘This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth.’ The actual procession would not proceed farther then the foot of Mount Moriah (the Har ha-beit, Isa. Ii. 2), beyond which they might not advance in the travelling array, or with dusty feet. Before they had reached the Shushan gate of the Temple they dispersed, and Jesus entered. The Lord whom they sought had come suddenly to his Temple—even the messenger of the covenant; but they neither recognised Him, nor delighted in Him, though His first act was to purify it and purge it, than they might offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

Christ, the  Passover lamb

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes: “For indeed, Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7, NKJ) The Passover lamb was, therefore, a “type” (that is a person, an event, a thing, an institution, or a ceremonial, which somehow foreshadows, preadumbrates or prefigures, and aspect of the redemptive work of Christ, either fulfilled or, as we shall see in a later chapter, unfulfilled), of Christ’s supreme sacrifice of himself upon the cross. With this in mind, a number of other events associated with Passover take on added significance.Regarding the preparations for the First, or Egyptian, Passover, on the “tenth day of the month”, the people of Israel were to “every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household” (Ex. 12:3, NKJ). Thus, it was on the tenth day of Abib that the Passover lambs were chosen. It is possible that this practice was continued into the time of the first and second Temples by some, if not all, the Israelites. If, as we have suggested above, Jesus made his triumphal entry on Sunday, 15th Nisan, then Jesus, whom Paul describes as “Christ our passover” (1 Cor. 5:7), made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the very day on which the passover lambs were chosen.The immense symbolic significance of this has not been lost on Christian commentators, Matthew Henry, for example, writing: “The passover was on the fourteenth day of the month, and this was the tenth; on which day the law appointed that the paschal lamb should be taken up (Ex. 12:3), and set apart for that service; on that day therefore Christ our Passover, who was to be sacrificed for us, was publicly showed.”


Following his damning indictment of the religious authorities of the day (Mt. 23), his heartbroken lament over Jerusalem (Mt. 23:37-39), his assurance of the eventual conversion of the Jews (Mt. 23:39), and his final departure from the Temple and prediction of its eventual destruction (Mt. 24:1-2), four of Jesus’ disciples came to him privately with the question, “when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” (Mk. 13:4, NKJ) His lengthy reply to his disciples’ question, which is known as the “Olivet Discourse”, constitutes a classic example of what has been called “prophetic foreshortening”, in which two (from the point of view of the speaker) future events, separated by a great space of time, are viewed together like distant mountain ranges which, though far apart, seem close together. Speaking in the same breath both of his invisible “coming in judgment” upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and his physical and visible return to earth at his Second Coming, Jesus said: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun be will darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt. 24:29-31, NKJ)Although some commentators believe that the “trumpet” to which Jesus refers is that which will be sounded at the “translation of the saints”, or Rapture of the Church, as this event is more usually referred to today (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16), and have seen in the “trumpet” an allusion to the shofar which was sounded at the Feast of Trumpets, I think, for reasons which I will give in a later chapter, that it alludes, rather, to the trumpet which was sounded once every 50 years on the 10th Tishri, heralding the beginning of the Year of Jubilee.


We come now to the final Passover which Jesus celebrated during his earthly ministry, and which was immediately followed upon by his arrest, trial and crucifixion.[9]

The Preparations for the Passover

 Farrar observes that the upper house, where Jesus wished to keep the Passover with his disciples and where Peter and Joihn made ready the Passover, is, in the Authorised Version, described as “furnished and prepared”, whereas Farrar translates the original Greek as, “spread with carpets”, and which he understands to mean, “provided with the requisite table and couches”.[xx] Concerning the purchase and sacrifice of a lamb, which, he says, would have formed part of Peter and John’s preparations (though might not this job have been left to Judas, the treasurer of the disciples?), Edersheim writes: “Probably they may have purchased it in the Holy City, though not, as in the majority of cases, within the Temple-court itself, where a brisk and very profitable traffic in all such offerings was carried on by the priests. For against this the Lord Jesus had inveighed only a few days before, when He ‘cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers’ (Matt 21:12,13), to the astonishment and indignation of those who would intensely resent His interference with their authority and gains (John 2:13-18).”[xxi]After they had purchased their lamb, Peter and John “followed the motley crowd, all leading their sacrificial lambs up the Temple-mount”. On arriving within the Temple, they joined one of the three divisions into which the worshippers were grouped, as described in the previous chapter, and, after each of the divisions were, one by one, admitted into the court of the priests, and the massive gates were closed behind them, the passover lambs were sacrificed. Farrar finds it probable that, at that Passover, as many as 260,000 lambs were slain.[xxii]Turning his attention now to the Saviour and the other disciples, who, while Peter and John were completing their preparations, had tarried outside the city, Edersheim provides us with a vivid description of their descent from the mount of Olives to Jerusalem in order to rejoin Peter and John in the upper room and to celebrate there the Passover together: “It was probably as the sun was beginning to decline on the horizon that Jesus and the other ten disciples descended once more over the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. Before them lay Jerusalem in her festive attire. All around pilgrims were hastening towards it. White tents dotted the sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or peered out from the gardens and the darker foliage of the olive plantations. From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the smoke of the altar and of burnt-offering. These courts were now crowded with eager worshippers, offering for the last time, in the real sense, their Paschal lambs. The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with a first sight of the Sacred City for which they had so often longed, or else once more rejoiced in view of the well-remembered localities. It was the last day-view which the Lord himself had of the Holy City—till His resurrection! Once more in the approaching night of His betrayal was He to look upon it in the pale light of the full moon. He was going forward to ‘accomplish His death’ in Jerusalem; to fulfil type and prophecy, and to offer Himself up as the true Passover Lamb—‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ They who followed Him were busy with many thoughts. They knew that terrible events awaited them, and they had only a few days before being told that these glorious Temple-buildings, to which, with a national pride not unnatural, they had directed the attention of the Master, were to become desolate, not one stone being left upon the other. Among them, revolving his dark plans, and goaded on by the great Enemy, moved the betrayer. And now they were within the city. Its Temple, its royal bridge, its splendid palaces, its busy marts, its streets filled with festive pilgrims, were well known to them, as they made their way to the house where the guest-chamber had been prepared for them. Meanwhile the crowd came down from the Temple-mount, each bearing on his shoulders the sacrificial lamb, to make ready for the Paschal Supper.”[xxiii]

The Upper Room

Farrar describes the scene which would have greeted the disciples’ eyes when they arrived in the upper room: “When they arrived, the meal was ready, the table spread, the triclinia [mats] laid with cushions for the guests. Imagination loves to reproduce all the probable details of that moving and sacred scene; and if we compare the notices of ancient Jewish custom, with the immemorial fashions still existing in the changeless East, we can feel but little doubt as to the general nature of the arrangements. They were totally unlike those with which the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and other great painters, has made us so familiar. The room probably had white walls, and was bare of all except the most necessary furniture and adornment. The couches or cushions, each large enough to hold three persons, were placed around three sides of one or more low tables of gaily painted wood, each scarcely higher than stools. The seat of honour was the central one of the central triclinium, or mat. This was, of course, occupied by the Lord. Each guest reclined at full length, leaning on his left elbow, that his right hand might be free.”[xxiv]

“With desire I have desired to eat this Passover…”

After sitting down or, rather, reclining with his twelve disciples in the upper room where Peter and John had prepared the Passover, Jesus said to his disciples: “With…desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it, until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 22:15, 16, NKJ) We will look at these words in greater depth when we come to look at the feasts and the World to Come in a later chapter.

The Kiddush

In the book, Feasts of the Lord, which he co-authored with Marvin Rosenthal, Howard says that, as leader of the Passover Seder, Jesus would have begun the proceedings by first reciting the Kiddush.

The First Cup

He then “took the cup” (Lk. 22:17). Luke later describes Jesus as taking “the cup after supper”, with which he instituted the “new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20, ESV), assuming, of course, that Luke 22:20 is original to Luke and has not been imported from 1 Corinthians 11:25 by a later copyist; and it would appear that the cup referred to in Luke 22:17 was the first of the four cups which were drunk at the Passover Seder.According to Lightfoot, the words used by the Officiator, as he calls him, or the “president of the feast”, as Edersheim refers to him, to give thanks for the wine were the following: “Blessed be thou O Lord who have created the fruit of the Vine”. Lightfoot says that he would also have given thanks for the day, using such words as these: “Blessed bee thou for this good day, and for this holy convocation, which thou have given us for joy and rejoycing: Blessed be thou O Lord, who have sanctified Israel and the times.”[xxv]Edersheim gives a fuller version of the words of this prayer: “Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who hast created the fruit of the vine! Blessed are Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the Universe, who hast chosen us from among all people, and exalted us from among all languages, and sanctified us with Thy commandments! And Thou hast given us, O Jehovah our God, in love, the solemn days for joy, and the festivals and appointed seasons for gladness; and this the day of the feast of unleavened bread, the season of our freedom, a holy convocation, the memorial of our departure from Egypt. For us hast Thou chosen; and us hast Thou sanctified from among all nations, and Thy holy festivals with joy and with gladness hast Thou caused us to inherit. Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah, who sanctifiest Israel and the appointed seasons! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, King of the Universe, who hast preserved us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season!” Although such, “according to the best criticism, were the words of this prayer at the time of Christ”, Edersheim nevertheless states his suspicion that “they rather indicate the spirit and direction of a prayer than embody the ipsissima verba.” [xxvi]Having given thanks, Jesus said: “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk. 22:17, 18, RSV) Luke records words similar to those which Matthew and Mark record Jesus as having spoken after he had taken the third (or fourth) cup with which he instituted the “new covenant in my blood”. If Luke has recorded this earlier statement of Jesus in its original context (the first of the four cups which were drunk at the Passover Seder), these words might imply that Jesus did not drink from any of the following three cups which were later drunk.With regard to the precise meaning of Jesus’ words, again, as with those recorded in Luke 22:16, we will look at these in greater depth in a later chapter.

The Passover Questions

In his description of what Lightfoot believes to have been an earlier supper, eaten in Bethany, John, in his gospel, describes the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who is traditionally identified with John himself, as “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” (Jn. 13:23, AV), or, “reclining next to him” (NIV). According to Howard, this would indicate that John sat to the right of the Saviour and was the youngest at the meal — a position consistent with early Church tradition that John was the youngest apostle. He also says that it would have fallen to him, as the youngest at the meal, to recite the traditional Passover questions. While it is possible that the youngest disciple present did indeed ask the Passover questions, I personally think it more probable that the focus of Jesus’ thoughts was less on the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt than on his own exodus (to use the original Greek word which the Authorised and Revised Standard Versions respectively translate as, “decease” and “departure”), “which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31, Marshall’s Literal English Translation).

The Normal Procedure at this Point

The normal procedure at this point was for Ø       the Passover dishes to be brought back to the table;Ø       the president, as Edersheim calls him, to explain the meaning of each of the dishes;Ø       the first part of the Hallel (Ps 113 and 114), with a brief thanksgiving at the close, to be sung; Ø       the second cup to be drunk;Ø       hands to be washed a second time, with the same prayer as before; Ø       one of the two unleavened cakes to be broken; and Ø       thanks to be given.

Jesus Reverses the Normal Procedure

Whereas the normal procedure was for one of the two unleavened cakes to be broken, and then for thanks to be given, Jesus, it seems, reversed the order in which these actions were carried out, Matthew telling us that Jesus “took bread”, that is, the matzah, or “unleavened bread”, “blessed it and broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’” (Mt. 26:26, NKJ; see also Mk. 14:22), and Luke saying that “when he had given thanks, he broke it”, which amounts to very much the same thing, and including the words, “which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19, RSV; see also 1 Cor. 11:24).Concerning the reverse order in which Jesus carried out the last two of these actions, Edersheim writes: “Rabbinical authorities distinctly state that this thanksgiving was to follow not to precede, the breaking of the bread, because it was the bread of poverty, ‘and the poor have not whole cakes, but broken pieces.’ The distinction is important, as proving that since the Lord in instituting His Supper, according to the uniform testimony of the three Gospels and of St. Paul (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24), first gave thanks and then brake the bread (‘having given thanks, He brake it’), [the thanksgiving] must have been at a later period of the service.”[xxvii]Concerning the order in which the various foodstuffs which constituted the Passover Supper were eaten during the time of the Second Temple, and the change which the destruction of the Temple and, with it, the cessation of the Paschal Sacrifice, imposed on the Passover Seder, Edersheim writes: “The Paschal Supper itself consisted of the unleavened bread with bitter herbs, of the so-called Chagigah, or festive offering (when brought), and, lastly, of the Paschal lamb itself. After that nothing more was to be eaten, so that the flesh of the Paschal Sacrifice might be the last meat partaken of. But since the cessation of the Paschal Sacrifice the Jews conclude the Supper with a piece of unleavened cake, which they call the Aphikomen, or after-dish. Then, having again washed hands, the third cup is filled, and grace after meat said.” Concerning the precise timing of Jesus’ action in breaking the bread, he writes: “Now, it is very remarkable that our Lord seems so far to have anticipated the present Jewish practice that He brake the bread ‘when He had given thanks,’ instead of adhering to the old injunction of not eating anything after the Passover lamb. And yet in so doing He only carried out the spirit of the Paschal feast. For, as we have already explained, it was commemorative and typical. It commemorated an event which pointed to and merged in another event—even the offering of the better Lamb, and the better freedom connected with that sacrifice. Hence, after the night of His betrayal, the Paschal lamb could have no further meaning, and it was right that the commemorative Aphikomen should take its place. The symbolical cord, if the figure may be allowed, had stretched to its goal—the offering up of the Lamb of God; and though again continued from that point onwards till His second coming, yet it was, in a sense, as from a new beginning.”[xxviii]It is indeed, as Edersheim says, “very remarkable that our Lord seems so far to have anticipated the present Jewish practice that He brake the bread ‘when He had given thanks’. While that would in itself indeed be remarkable, Jesus may, far from merely having anticipated the practice, even more remarkably, actually have instituted it! We will look at the evidence for this when we come to look at the practice of feasting in present-day Judaism in a later chapter.

The Third and/or Fourth, Cups/Cup

After the Passover Supper had been eaten, a blessing was said over the third cup, which Edersheim calls “the cup of blessing”,[xxix] and which Howard calls, “the Cup of Redemption”; it was then drunk; the second part of the Hallel (Ps. 115 to 118), ending with the blessing of the song was sung; and finally the fourth cup was drunk.Concerning this part of the Passover Seder, Matthew, in his gospel, gives us the fullest account: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  (Mt. 26:27-29, RSV) Luke, in his gospel, specifies this cup as, “the cup after supper” (Lk. 22:20), and Paul, in his account of the institution of the eucharist in his first letter to the Corinthians, includes Jesus’ command, “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:25, NKJ)In an earlier chapter in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul declares, concerning “the cup”: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16, AV) In Jewish writings, Edersheim informs us, the third cup was called “the cup of blessing”, and there cannot be any reasonable doubt, therefore, that “the cup” to which all three synoptic evangelists and Paul refer was the third of the four cups of wine which were drunk at the Passover.[xxx] Commenting on Luke 22:20, Howard likewise concurs that the third cup, which he calls, “the Cup of Redemption”, was the cup “that Jesus chose to be a reminder of His work on the cross”. However, concerning Jesus declaration recorded in Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25, he says that this is a reference to the fourth cup, the “Cup of Acceptance”, or “Cup of Praise”: “It was this cup which the Messiah said He would not drink until he drank it with his disciples in the Kingdom (Mt. 26:29). He knew that the hour of His acceptance by His Jewish nation was yet future, and therefore His joy would not be full until then.”[xxxi] We earlier pointed out that the words which Matthew and Mark, on the one hand, record as having been spoken after the third (or fourth) cup, Luke, on the other, records as having been uttered following the first cup. According to Matthew and Mark’s testimony, Jesus did not drink from the cup with which he instituted the “new testament in my blood”, and which Edersheim and Howard identify respectively as the third and fourth cups. Whichever cup we are to identify as this cup, it seems highly improbable that Jesus would have drunk from it, having declared that it was his blood in the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.Concerning the precise meaning of the words recorded in Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25, as with other similar statements, we will look at these in greater depth in a later chapter.

It was probably at the Last Supper itself, and immediately following his statement to the effect that he would “not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom”, and not immediately following his departure from the supper described in the previous two chapters, that Jesus gave his teachings, beginning with the immortal words, “I am the true vine”, recorded in chapters 15, 16, and 17 of John’s gospel.[10]

A traitor in the midst!

All three synoptic evangelists record Jesus’ announcement of his betrayal. (It is my contention that the incident described in John 13:21-30 is a separate incident which took place at a supper given in Bethany some days earlier.) Both Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus made his announcement concerning his betrayer “as they ate”. A literal translation of Jesus’ words, in which the traitor is identified as, “The [one] dipping with me the (his) hand in the dish” (Mt. 26:23, Marshall’s literal translation), might suggest that Jesus made this announcement while they were actually eating the bitter herbs. However, it could also mean nothing more than that it was one of the disciples who had dipped his hand in the bitter herbs at some earlier point—something which could have applied to each of the disciples and which would have made precise identification of the traitor impossible. (Jesus’ statement, concerning the identity of the betrayer, is not to be confused with the similar statement, recorded in John 13:26, in which he expressly, but privately, disclosed the identity of his betrayer to the beloved disciple alone, and which, I believe, was made at an earlier supper given in Bethany. Indeed, it is unlikely that Judas would have left the Last Supper alive had he been openly identified. As it is, the disciples were none the wiser as to the true reasons for Judas’ sudden departure at that earlier supper.)Luke places Jesus’ declaration concerning his betrayer immediately following “the cup after supper”—proof positive, if Luke has placed these words in their correct context, that Judas was still present at that later point of the Passover Seder. Although the account given in Luke seems to conflict with that given in Matthew and Mark, Jesus may well have reiterated his remarks concerning his betrayer at a later stage of the Seder. Of possible significance is the fact that, whereas the other disciples addressed Jesus as “Lord”, Judas addresses him only as rabbi!—“Master”.

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial

All three synoptic evangelists record Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial (Mt. 26:31-35; Mk. 14:27-31; Lk. 31-34), although, of the three, only Luke records it as having been uttered during the course of the Last Supper. (The others record it as having been uttered after Jesus had left the Upper Room and as they were making their way towards the Mount of Olives; the similar prediction, recorded in John 13:36-38, took place, I believe, at that earlier supper which was given in Bethany a few days earlier.)


As we have seen, at some point in the proceedings, Jesus “took bread”, that is the matzah, or “unleavened bread”, “and when he had 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”. (Lk. 22:19, RSV) Marshall, in his literal, “word for word”, translation of the phrase which, in the Revised Standard Version, has been translated, “do this in remembrance of me”, translates these words: “…this do you for my memorial”. The word which Marshall translates, “memorial”, is, in the original Greek, “anamnēsis”. It is used four times in the New Testament, on three occasions in the context of Jesus’ words given at the Last Supper, and, in the Authorised Version, is always translated, “remembrance” (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24, 25; Heb. 10:3). ). It is one of five Greek words which are translated in this way, the others being the verb, “mnaomai”, and the cognate nouns, “mneia”, “mnēmē” and “hupomnēsis”. The literal meaning of these last four Young, in his Analytical Concordance, gives as, respectively, “To remember”; “Remembrance, mention, memory”; “Remembrance, memory”; and “Remembrance, recollection”. Anamnēsis, however, he translates, “A remembering again”. In his book, The Sacraments in Protestant Practice and Faith, James F. White considers the word, “commemoration”, to be its closest English equivalent. But even this is inadequate to express its full meaning. He writes: “…when Luke and Paul use the term anámnesis in the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, they are speaking of something much stronger than ‘in remembrance of me,’ something which defies our ability to translate in its full meaning. Anámnesis suggests the power to experience anew the reality of Christ. Commemoration thus has the power of reliving the event in all its power to save and it frees us from our captivity to the present by making all God’s saving acts present for us to appropriate.”[xxxii] 

Greek words translated “remembrance” Translation (as given in Young)
Anamnēsis A remembering again
Mnaomai To remember
Mneia Remembrance, mention, memory
Mnēmē Remembrance, memory
Hupomnēsis Remembrance, recollection

 From the foregoing, it is clear that the Lord’s Supper is partly commemorative in nature. Jesus does, however, speak several times of eating once again of the Passover with his disciples when “it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:16), of drinking this fruit of the vine again “that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt. 26:29), or “in the kingdom of God” (Mk. 14:25), or when “the kingdom of God comes” (Lk. 22:18). Thus the Lord’s Supper is both commemorative and anticipatory. As stated earlier concerning each of these statements, we will come to look at what exactly Jesus meant by them in a later chapter.

The Hymn

Both Matthew and Mark conclude their account of the last Passover which Jesus was to participate in during his earthly ministry, or Last Supper, as this meal has universally come to be known, with the words: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mt. 26:30; Mk. 16:26) Edersheim identifies this “hymn” with the second half of the Hallel (Ps. 115-118), the first half of which (Ps. 113, 114) would have been sung earlier in the Passover Seder, and the so-called “blessing of the song”.


John, in his gospel, tells us that, after his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, the band of soldiers and the captain and officers of the Jews, led Jesus away first to Annas, “for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year” (Jn. 18:13). After questioning him, Annas “sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest” (Jn, 18:24), where he was accused of blasphemy and reviled, and from there they led him to “the hall of judgment” (Jn. 18:28a, AV), which was situated in the Praetorium, which served as the Roman governor’s residence during the festivals. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, sent him to Herod, and Herod sent him back to Pilate. John adds that “it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover” (Jn. 18:28b), which, Edersheim, who is in complete agreement on this with Lightfoot, says, “refers not to the Paschal lamb, but to the Chagigah”.[11][xxxiii]

Describing the last of these gatherings, Edersheim writes: “And so in that grey morning light of the first day of unleavened bread the saddest and strangest scene in Jewish history was enacted. The chief priests and elders, and the most fanatical of the people were gathered in Fort Antonia. From where they stood outside the Praetorium they would, in all probability, have a full view of the Temple buildings, just below the rocky fort; they could see the morning sacrifice offered, and the column of sacrificial smoke and of incense rise from the great altar towards heaven. At any rate, even if they had not seen the multitude that thronged the sacred buildings, they could hear the Levites’ song and the blasts of the priests’ trumpets. And now the ordinary morning service was over, and the festive sacrifices were offered. It only remained to bring the private burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice the Chagigah, which they must offer undefiled, if they were to bring it at all, or to share in the festive meal that would afterwards ensue. And so the strangest contradiction was enacted. They who had not hesitated to break every law of God’s and of their own making, would not enter the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled and prevented from the Chagigah! Surely, the logic of inconsistency could go no further in punctiliously observing the letter and violating the spirit of the law.”[xxxiv]


Matthew in his gospel tells us what happened at that point in time when, in the afternoon of that same first Passover day, Jesus “cried again with a loud voice”, which many believe to have been a shout of triumph or cry of victory, and “yielded up his spirit” (Mt. 27:50, RSV): “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.” (Mt. 27:51, RSV) By rending the veil of the Temple, which represented the sin which separated man from his maker, God demonstrated that by Christ’s sacrifice of himself upon the cross, full atonement for sin had been made.Edersheim adds that this would have taken place “just about the time when the evening sacrifice had been offered, so that the incensing priest standing in the Holy Place must have witnessed the awful sight”.[xxxv]


Describing the offering of the omer on the evening following the crucifixion, at which time, according to Jewish reckoning, 16th Nisan, on which the omer was offered, had already begun, Edersheim says: “A little later on in the evening of that same day, just as it was growing dark, a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrim outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a very different purpose, from the small band of mourners which, just about the same time, carried the body of the dead Saviour from the cross to the rock-hewn tomb wherein no man had yet been laid. While the one turned into ‘the garden’ (John 20:15), perhaps to one side, the other emerged, amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for the purpose. They were to be engaged in a service most important to them. It was probably to this circumstance that Joseph of Arimathea owed their non-interference with his request for the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus and the women, that they could go undisturbed about the last sad offices of loving mourners.”[xxxvi]


Having looked at each of the historical instances of the observation of the Feasts which formed the background to a number of events associated with Christ’s earthly ministry, let us see how, if at all, Christ fulfils the Feasts.

“Christ our Passover”

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7, NKJ) The Passover lamb was, therefore, a “type” of Jesus, and Jesus was its “antitype”. Another aspect of Passover has drawn the attention of a number of Christian commentators.In his instructions to Moses and Aaron concerning the “ordinance of the passover” (Ex. 12:43), which were given at Succoth on the night that the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, and which were repeated (Num. 9:12), the Israelites were instructed, concerning the Passover: “you shall not break a bone of it.” (Ex. 12:46, RSV) In his account of the crucifixion, John recounts the following incident: “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not brake His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out… . For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.” (Jn. 19:31-34, 36, NKJ)Although it is not clear whether the scripture to which John refers is Exodus 12:46 or Psalm 34:20 (“He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken”, RSV), some commentators have seen a connection between these instructions concerning the passover lamb and this incident recorded by John, Matthew Henry, for example, writing: “There was a type of this in the paschal lamb, which seems to be specially referred to here (Ex. 12:46)… ; for which law the will of the lawmaker is the reason, but the antitype must answer the type. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, 1 Co. 5:7. He is the lamb of God (ch. 1:29), and as the true passover, his bones were kept unbroken. …The Hebrew word for the bones signifies its strength, and therefore not a bone of Christ must be broken, to show that though he be crucified in weakness, his strength to save is not at all broken. Sin breaks our bones, as it broke David’s (Ps. 51:8); but it did not break Christ’s bones; he stood firm under the burden, mighty to save.”

Does Jesus fulfil the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

On several occasions, Jesus warned his disciples to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Mt. 16:6; cf. Mk. 8:15), by which he meant “the teaching of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Mt. 16:12, RSV), and which meaning was initially lost on his disciples; “the leaven of Herod” (Mk. 8:15); and “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1). Although the figure of “leaven” and the “three measures of meal” in the third of Jesus’ parables of the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Mt. 13:33) have been interpreted respectively to refer to “the gospel” and “the human heart”,[xxxvii] or “the influence of the kingdom upon human society”, or “the pervasiveness of the kingdom”, and the “secret, inconspicuous way the kingdom of heaven takes effect”,[xxxviii] its may, rather, refer to the way in which Christ’s teachings, and those of the Early Church were later corrupted. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul uses the word “leaven” with reference to the efforts of Pharisaical believers to persuade his Galatian converts to accept circumcision: “This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:1-9)In an allusion to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, writes: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:6-8, NKJ)The later rabbinical writers used the word “leaven” used in a figurative and pejorative sense, Morris Joseph quoting “one of the Sages”, who “was accustomed to pray, ‘You knowest that our desire is to do Your will; if we fail, it is because of the leaven that works within us”, and Kevin Howard, who similarly quotes from the Talmud, stating: “The ancient rabbis also believed that ‘leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart’ (Berachot 17a).”In view of the foregoing, it is not surprising that both Jewish and Christian commentators see leaven as typifying corruption or sin, Joseph, a practicing Jew, stating that “fermentation, as science declares, is a process of disintegration and decay; it is itself corruption”, and Howard, a Christian Gentile, concurring: “Leaven is well-suited as a picture of sin since it rapidly permeates the dough, contaminating it, souring it, fermenting it, and swelling it to many times its original size without changing its weight. In fact, this souring process (the first stage of decay) is operative solely because of the curse of death decreed by God when Adam sinned.”[xxxix] Applying this insight to the Feasts of the Lord, Joseph says: “No leaven was allowed in certain sacrifices, for they were to represent the purity and the sincerity of the heart that brought them.”Is it possible to see a deeper significance in the absence of leaven in Hebrew homes at this time?After the LORD God took Adam, and put him in the Garden of Eden, he “commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16, 17, NKJ). After our first fathers fell, the LORD God said to Adam: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19, NKJ) That “all have sinned” is clearly stated by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23, AV) In the same letter, he writes: “Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so also death to all men passed, inasmuch as all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12, Marshall, Literal English Translation) He also states that death is the direct consequence of sin: “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) He states the same truth in his first letter to the Corinthians: “The sting of death is sin.” (1 Cor. 15:56)Jesus, alone of all mankind, was sinless, and it was impossible, therefore, for death to retain its grasp over him. (For me, the strongest argument, perhaps, for the resurrection of Christ is not the empty tomb, or the flimsiness of the arguments of those who would find alternative explanations for why the tomb was found empty, but that it was a theological necessity!) It is for this reason, amongst others, that, by his death, Jesus, alone of all mankind, could obtain complete satisfaction for sin.

Does Jesus fulfil the Feast of Firstfruits?

When I first began writing this book, it was with the conviction that, not only does each Feast of the Lord typify a particular aspect of the past or future redemptive work of Christ, but that the particular aspect of his redemptive work which each feast typifies was carried out, or will be carried out, on the very day on which the Feast which typifies that aspect of Christ’s redemptive work was observed. Thus Christ, whom the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, calls, “our Passover.” (1 Cor. 5:7), died on the cross not, as has traditionally been believed, on the day after Passover, but at the very time that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple.The same apostle, in that same letter to the Corinthians, goes on to declare: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:20-23, ESV) If Christ died not, as has traditionally been supposed, on the 15th Nisan, but on the 14th, then his lifeless body would have lain in the tomb on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a special Sabbath and which, that year, also fell on the Weekly Sabbath (or “Sabbath of creation”), and he would have risen again on the 16th Nisan, which was the day on which the Omer, or “firstfruits” of the barley harvest, was offered.Since reading the appendix (“Did the Lord Institute his ‘Supper’ on the Paschal Night?”), to Edersheim’s, The Temple: It’s Ministry and Services, I find myself no longer able to subscribe to the view that Jesus was crucified at Passover, and the view that Firstfruits typifies his resurrection is seriously weakened thereby. Interestingly, Lightfoot, who, I have recently discovered, subscribed to a very similar view of the typological significance of Passover, the Feasts of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, but who, with his vast knowledge of Jewish beliefs and customs, was unable to accept that Christ was crucified on any other day than that which is the traditional view of the Church, namely on the 15th Nisan, the day following Passover, came up with the following solution to this problem: “It is worthy our observation, that Christ the antitype, in answering some types that represented him, did not tie himself up to the very day of the type itself for fulfilling of it, but put it off to the very day following. So it was not upon the very day of the Passover, but the day following, that…Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us: it was not on the very day that the sheaf of the firstfruits was offered, but the day following, that Christ became…the firstfruits of them that slept. So also did he institute the Christian sabbath not the same day with the Jewish sabbath, wherein God had finished the work of his creation, but the day following, wherein Christ had finished the work of his redemption.”[xl] Lightfoot, logically, and for additional reasons which we shall see in the following chapter, goes on to argue that the coming of the Holy Spirit on what Christians the wide world over refer to as the Day of Pentecost did not in fact take place on the day on which the Feast of Weeks, to give it its Old Testament name, was observed, but on the following day, which, he calculates, was a Sunday!However, the authors of the New Testament used the figure of “firstfruits” in too varied a way in order for us to be dogmatic about their precise typological significance. (See Appendix ?: Festive Imagery in the New Testament.)


In the previous chapter, we saw that, on the Day of Atonement, the “later Jews had a custom to tie one shred of scarlet cloth to the horns of the goat and another to the gate of the temple, or to the top of the rock where the goat was lost, and they concluded that if it turned white, as they say it usually did, the sins of Israel were forgiven, as it is written, Though your sins have been as scarlet, they shall be as wool”. Drawing on the Talmud, Matthew Henry says that “they add that for forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans the scarlet cloth never changed colour at all, which”, he says, “is a fair confession that, having rejected the substance, the shadow stood them in no stead”.[xli] If, as I think probable, the crucifixion took place on 15th Nisan, or 7th April, AD 30, then the forty years in question would coincide with that very same forty years, beginning with the year of the crucifixion, when, on the first Day of Atonement to be observed thereafter, the scarlet cloth failed to change colour, and ending with the destruction of the temple, which took place at the time of the Passover in AD 70!It is one of the tragedies of Jewish history that the (to the Christian believer, at any rate) obvious connection between the failure of the scarlet cloth to change colour following Christ’s crucifixion, and the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, has, hitherto, been lost on a large part of the Jewish people. 

[1] Regarding Hillel, Farrar (p. 50) cites “Caspari, [Chronologische – Geographische Einleitung in das Leben Jesu, Hamburg, 1869] p. 64.-“Pascha feminarum est arbitrarium” (Kiddushin. f. 61, 3). Edersheim (p. 168) is more explicit in citing Yoma 82a, as the rabbinical law which required the twelve-year-old Jesus’s presence at Passover, although the Oral Law, or Mishna, would not at this stage have yet been committed to writing.

[2] In a footnote to his book, Farrar (p. 51): writes “Two other routes were open to them: one by the sea-coast, past Carmel and Cæsaria to Joppa, and so across the plain to Jerusalem; the other to Tiberias, and then on the eastern bank of the Jordan to the fords of Bethabara. Both of these routes were longer, less frequented, and more liable to the attacks of roving bands.”

[3] I have dated the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry to AD 28, although this cannot be established with certainty. I have done so on the basis of the fairly common dating of his crucifixion to AD 30, and, on the basis of the number of Passovers mentioned by name in John’s gospel (there are three, including the one at which he was crucified), have arrived at the date 28. This, of course, assumes that the unnamed feast of John 5:1 was not a Passover, or that another Passover did not fall during Jesus’ ministry which has gone unmentioned in the Gospels. Other commentators, usually from within the dispensationalist camp, prefer the date 33 AD for the crucifixion, because it fits in with their (in my opinion, mistaken) view of Daniel’s 69 weeks as ending with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem rather than with his baptism, and thus creating a hiatus, or gap, between the 69th and 70th “weeks”—a gap which, hitherto, has lasted for nearly 2,000 years.

[4] That the Jews expected the Messiah to reveal himself at Tabernacles may also explain, says Richards (p. 192), “the curious response by Peter as he sees the Messiah in his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, ‘Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ (Lk. 9:33). He did not know what he was saying, but his immediate reaction was to build a booth or shelter as he would at Tabernacles, for there in front of him was the glorified Messiah!” Richards also states his conviction that Jesus will return at Tabernacles, although, in keeping with the Church’s traditional understanding of “that day and hour” of Matthew 24:36 as referring to his second coming, he says that we do not know the year. 

[5] While agreeing that this section records a genuine incident in the life of Jesus, some scholars (e.g. Tasker, p. 110), have doubts about its current position in the AV for the following reasons: “the overwhelming majority of ancient Greek manuscripts omit it at this point”; “many of the later manuscripts which include it here mark it with asterisks denoting that there was doubt about its position”; it is found in other places in other manuscripts—one group of manuscripts (presumably on account of the mention of “the mount of Olives” in Luke 21:38) inserting it after Luke 21:38, one manuscript having it after John 7:36, and a few others after John 21:24; a large number of variant readings can be found in this one section; “In its present position it clearly disrupts the discourse at the festival of Tabernacles”; “it contains phrases, such as ‘the scribes and the Pharisees’, which occur nowhere else in this Gospel”; its general style is “more Lucan than Johannine”. Farrar, who provides a number of arguments in its favour, says (p. 381): “On the other hand, if it has no connection with the Feast of Tabernacles, and no tinge of Johannean authorship, why should so many MSS. (including even such important ones as D, F, G) place it here? Commenting on suggestions that the story may have been imported into John’s Gospel from elsewhere (e.g. the Gospel to the Hebrews, current synoptic tradition, from Papias, the Pupil of St. John, or the “Ur-Marcus”, or ground document of the Synoptists), he says: “Whoever embodied into the Gospels this traditionally-remembered story deserved well of the world.”

[6] “The fact that the Jews attempted to stone him after hearing the words I am shows that it suggested to them the divine name so translated in the LXX version of Ex. Iii.14.” (Tasker, p. 122).  Farrar (p. 394) says, concerning Jesus’ statement: “There could be no more distinct assertion of His Divine nature.”

[7] Concerning the incident described by Matthew and Mark in their gospels, Farrar, in a footnote, says (p. 469): “It is only in appearance that the Synoptists seem to place this feast two days before the Passover. They narrate it there to account for the treachery of Judas, which was consummated by his final arrangements with the Sanhedrin on the Wednesday of Holy Week; but we see from St. John that this latter must have been his second interview with them; at the first interview all details had been left indefinite.”

[8] Matthew’s statement that “from that time [Judas] sought opportunity” (Mt. 26:16) would appear to suggest that Judas’ initial meeting with the chief priests occurred considerably earlier than the assembly of “the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, to the palace of the high priest”, which was held only two days before the Passover and Jesus’ arrest (Mt. 26:2-5).

[9] In my reconstruction of the Last Supper, as this event is called, I have drawn on Matthew 26:20-29, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:14, 21-23, and chapters 15 to 17 of John’s gospel. In other words, I have left out chapters 13 and 14 of John’s gospel which many assume to be part of John’s description of the Last Supper but which, I believe, was a separate supper, eaten on the Tuesday or Wednesday night of Holy Week.It should be clear to anyone who has carefully read and compared what both Luke and John have to say about Judas that the supper described in John 13-14 could not possibly have been the Last Supper. Luke, in his gospel, says: “Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. Then he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude. Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.” (Lk. 22:1-7, NKJ, my italics) In his description of the supper he describes in chapters 13 and 14 of his gospel, John tells us: “And after the sop Satan entered into him” (Jn. 13:27, AV). According to Luke, Satan “entered Judas” at some point before “the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed” (Lk. 22:7), and, therefore, the Last Supper. This same event John places after Judas took the sop at the supper he describes in John 13-14. This supper must, therefore, have taken place some time before the Last Supper. It is clear from John’s gospel that either Judas’ first, or second (if Farrar is correct in suggesting that Judas first went to the chief priests etc., after the anointing in Bethany) meeting with the chief priests etc., took place after the supper described in John 13-14, and that the supper described in John 13-14 took place either on the Tuesday or Wednesday night of Holy Week, following which Judas went (for the first, or second, time) to the high priests, etc. Regarding the “sop”, those who assume that the supper described here was a Passover sometimes suggest that it was the matzah, and that Jesus dipped it in the charoseth. According to the view advanced here, however, it would have been just an ordinary sop which Jesus dipped to make up Judas’s supper so that rather than stay until supper had ended, he could go quickly about his business of betraying Jesus to the religious authorities. In fact, the word which, in the Authorised Version, is translated “sop” (Jn. 13: 26, 27, 30)), is, in the original Greek, psomion, the literal meaning of which Young, in his Analytical Concordance to the Bible, gives as A morsel. That which, in the same version of the Bible, is translated, “bread” (Mt. 26:26; Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:19), and which, in the context of the Last Supper, was the matzot, which was eaten at the Passover Seder, is artos, the literal meaning of which Young, in his Analytical Concordance to the Bible, gives as loaf (of wheat). The word which, in the Authorised Version, is translated “unleavened bread” is, in the original Greek, azumos, which, says Young, refers to Any thing unleavened. That Christ was crucified on the afternoon before Passover at that precise time when the Passover lambs were being killed and that the Last Supper was not in fact a Passover, but an ordinary meal eaten on the night before Passover has been proposed by a number of commentators, inclusing Farrar, who present arguments in favour of this view in an appendix to his book, The Life of Christ. His arguments have been comprehensively demolished by Edersheim in an appendix to his book, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. 

[10] Cf. John 14:31, in which Jesus states, “Arise, let us go hence”, and John 18:1, in which we are told that when Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron”, providing further evidence that the supper described in John 13 and 14 and that described in John 15, 16, and 17 are two separate suppers, and that it is unlikely, therefore, that Jesus had already left the upper room at this point.

[11] Edersheim (p. 202) says that the evidence for this “is exceedingly strong, in fact, such as to have even convinced an eminent but impartial Jewish writer (Saalschütz, Mos. Recht. P. 414). It does seem strange that it should be either unknown to, or ignored by, ‘Christian’ writers”.

[i] Farrar, p. 666.

[ii] Ibid, p. 50.

[iii] Ibid., pp. 51-52.

[iv] Ibid., pp. 103-104.

[v] Farrar., pp. 132.

[vi] Farrar, pp. 132-137.

[vii] Farrar, pp. 157-159.

[viii] Farrar, p. 261.

[ix] Farrar, p. 283.

[x] Rob Richards, pp. 188-189.

[xi] Farrar, p. 375.

[xii] Howard and Rosenthal, p. 147.

[xiii] Farrar, p. 383.

[xiv] Farrar, p. 390-391

[xv] Farrar, p. 439

[xvi] Ibid. p. 440

[xvii] Ibid. p. 469.

[xviii] Farrar, p. 473.

[xix] Edersheim, p. 211.

[xx] Farrar, p. 531 and footnote.

[xxi] Edersheim, p. 173-174.

[xxii] Farrar, p. 531.

[xxiii] Edersheim, p. 178-179.

[xxiv] Farrar, p. 532.

[xxv] Lightfoot, The Temple Service… , p. 148.

[xxvi] Edersheim, p. 187-8.

[xxvii] Edersheim, p. 190.

[xxviii] Ibid., pp. 191-192.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 192.

[xxx] Ibid., p. 192.

[xxxi] Howard and Rosenthal, p. 59.

[xxxii] White, p. 104.

[xxxiii] Edersheim, p 202.

[xxxiv] Edersheim, p. 201-202.

[xxxv] Ibid., p. 202.

[xxxvi] Ibid., p. 203.

[xxxvii] Henry.

[xxxviii] France, p. 228.

[xxxix] Howard and Rosenthal, p. 68.

[xl] Lightfoot, Exercitations… , p. 25.

[xli] Henry, on Lev. 16:20-28.



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