I Desire to Eat the Passover With You Before I Suffer

Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16

After sundown on Friday the fifteenth of Nisan

Estimated Times for Friday the fifteenth of Nisan: In the era before the modern clock, a specific hour of the night could not be precisely known, whereas an hour of the day was easily determined by sighting the location of the sun. Thus, the day had to begin by precise, simple and universally recognized standards. This meant that the day had to be reckoned either from the beginning of night or the beginning of day. Taking the pattern from Genesis, where Moshe wrote: And there was evening, and there was morning – the next day, the Jews reckoned the day beginning in the evening at sundown. Beginning the day with the night is, in a sense, a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb, then bursts into the brightness of the light and eventually settles into the darkness of the grave, which, in turn, is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.

When evening came. The Jews waited until after Tzeith HaKochavim (the stars come out), which is seen as definitely after nightfall, to start the Seder. The reason is to make sure that the Mitzvoth (unleavened bread) of the Seder, and indeed even Kiddush meal, are definitely done at night (see Mishnah Berurah 472:1:1 for example). Just like the Oral Law (see Ei – The Oral Law), it was a precaution against violating the Torah, waiting until the stars come out is a precaution against starting the Seder to soon. Yeshua arrived and was reclining at the table with the Twelve (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17). For many centuries, the Jews had taken their meals as the pleased, but the Greeks had pointed out that only free men are permitted to recline while eating, slaves must stand, and so the Jews had adopted the custom after they learned it from their conquerors, the Romans.

The table from which Jesus and the Twelve ate was called triclinia (singular) or triclinium (plural). They came indifferent sizes, from about seven to twelve feet. Only about eighteen inches tall, they were long rectangular U-shaped tables. Guests would stretch out on the floor with their heads facing a low table. Propping up with loose cushions to best suit their comfort, they leaned on their left elbows, keeping the right hand free to eat.

Among the Jews, the curved part of the U was considered a place of special favor, and three places were set there. As host, Yeshua would sit in the middle. The place of honor was to His left where Judas reclined on that particular night. In the formality of Jewish dining, it was considered to be a higher privilege to be at the left hand of the host – behind Him as they reclined – than to be before him on the right. Christ made sure that Judas was the honored guest on His left that particularly important night. The second place of honor was to the right of the Master where young John, the talmid whom Jesus loved, reclined.

The talmidim had eaten with Messiah in the homes of the rich and they had eaten with Him sitting on hillsides. Some of them were jealous of their assigned places in relation to the Master, so that after Jesus, Peter and John were seated, the remaining ten would often jostle for position. They didn’t want to be too obvious – foolishly thinking that Yeshua wouldn’t notice – but the apostles would whisper and shove and try to recline at the table as close to the Good Shepherd as possible.1379

When the hour came, Jesus said to them: I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover [Seder] with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:14-16). They looked at each other, as they often did, for a greater understanding of His words. They were confused. Perhaps the Master meant that He loved them and desperately wanted to eat this important feast with them, and that He would not eat it again until Judea, which had rejected Him, had recognized as the Meshiach.

Since the days of Moshe, it has been a requirement to not only have a Passover dinner but to retell the story of Jewish redemption (see my commentary on Exodus Bz – Redemption). Down through the centuries, the written story called the haggadah meaning the telling was compiled and has been read every year to fulfill the commandment to tell your son about the events of that great day (Exodus 13:8). It is in the haggadah that Jews are told specifically to recline at the table, as this was also a sign of their newfound freedom. In the ancient world, only the free people had time to relax in such a way. What a beautiful picture this is, as the Messiah is relaxing before His ultimate act of redemption!1380


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