Jesus, the Disciples, and the Traditional Passover

During the life of Jesus, the traditional Passover (Pesach) was prepared just as in ancient times; the lamb was selected on the 10th day of 1st month, slain on the 14th day prior to sunset, and roasted and eaten after sunset on the 15th.

The following analysis presents, in chronological order, the traditional Passover meal of the time and the Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples ate. A comparison of the two reveals similarities which support the fact that Jesus and his disciples did indeed observe the Passover ceremony including the traditional meal.


Traditional Passover Meal  (TPM)

Christ's Passover Meal   (CPM)

TPM 1. The first cup of wine was blessed and drank. TPM 2. Hands were washed while a blessing was said.

CPM Step 2 seems to correspond to the foot-washing ceremony being instituted (Jn.13:2-17). Then Jesus warns of a traitor (Jn.13: 18-25).

TPM 3. Bitter herbs were eaten dipped in sour broth made of vinegar and bruised fruit.

CPM This seems to correspond to the event in which Jesus dipped the sop and gave it to Judas (Jn.13:26-32).

TPM 4. The son of the house asked his father to explain the origin of the observance.

TPM 5. The lamb and the flesh of the Thank Offering were placed on the table and the first part of the Hallel was sung (Psa.113; 114).

TPM 6. The second cup of wine was blessed and drunk (followed by a 2nd hand washing).

CPM Notice that this 2nd cup of wine was blessed and drunk; This seems to correspond to the event in Lk.22:17: "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves." This event occurred before he took the bread and blessed and broke it; therefore, it supports the sequence of events which were occurring.

TPM 7. Unleavened bread was blessed and broken, a fragment of it was eaten, and then a fragment of the Thank Offering was eaten, and then a piece of the lamb was eaten.

TPM 8. After the preliminary part of the ceremony was finished, the feast proceeded, leisurely until everything was consumed. Then, there was a 3rd hand washing.

TPM 9. After the lamb and the 3rd cup of wine were finished, the cup of blessing was blessed and drunk.

CPM Notice the 3rd cup of wine, which was called the cup of blessing was blessed and drunk. This seems to correspond to what Jesus   did when he instituted the new symbol of the wine. Paul refers to this and even uses the same expression "the cup of blessing":

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1.Cor.10:16). This, together with Matthew 26: 26-28, supports the position that Jesus was following the sequence of the traditional Passover and instituting the new events and their symbolic meanings as the proper events occurred in that sequence.

TPM 10. The fourth cup of wine was drunk and the 2nd part of the Hallel was sung (Psa.115-118).

CPM Notice it was the tradition to sing the 2nd part of the Hallel (Psa.115-118); Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn, and then they left for the Mount of Olives (Matt.26.30). This again supports the traditional sequence of events.


The internal evidence of the gospel accounts surrounding the events of Jesus' last meal with his disciples supports the position that he was following the chronological sequence of the traditional Passover meal.

Jesus amplified and extended the meaning and understanding of each symbol. He also introduced the washing of feet in addition to these amplified symbols as a part of the Passover observance for his followers.

This supports that what was occurring was indeed a Passover meal and not something different, such as a Hagigah or Lord's supper. Therefore, in order for this to be a Passover meal, the meal must have occurred on the Passover, or Jesus would have violated the law, which he could not have done and still be our Savior.


The One Volume Commentary, J. R. Dummelow, Queens College, Cambridge, 1908. See page 710.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, 1967 in German, 1976 in English. Pages 521-522, item 3. p. 528, item (b) (ii).

The Mishnah, Order Moed, Tractate Pesachim 10.9.

By Charles E. Barrett       b5w40