Did Jesus celebrate the Jewish passover at the last supper?
, Professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University
At the Last Supper Jesus commemorated the traditional Passover meal but also dramatically transformed it. Thus, many details of the Last Supper are but faintly understood if we don’t know the outlines of the traditional Passover of Jesus’ time. For instance, Matthew 26 and Mark 14 both relate the sequence of this first Christian sacrament as first bread and then wine, an order that Paul also agrees with. [Matt. 26; Mark 14] (See 1 Cor. 11:23–25.) But Luke 22 narrates Jesus’ distribution of wine, then bread, and then wine again (Luke 22:15–20), a source of some confusion. But Luke plainly says that only the bread and the second cup of wine were given “in remembrance of me.” He also says that the second cup of wine was “the cup after supper.” Thus Luke reports the Jewish meal first, then uses its bread and wine for the new purpose of commemorating Christ’s sacrifice that was soon to be made.
The Jewish Passover meal is described in part in Exodus 12, with its early symbolism of God’s salvation to Israel in her trials and departure from Egypt. [Ex. 12] Technical questions of the Passover meal’s development do not concern us if we seek to envision the feast that Jesus and his apostles kept. The ritual near their time appears quite clearly in the Passover section of the Mishnah, the early law written at the end of the first century after Christ. Following Herbert Danby’s translation, one may relive the ancient service, which has not radically changed since that time. Four cups of wine were prescribed, and the initial one called for blessings, including one on the wine. As the meal progressed, the father of the household explained the significance of the Passover feast, and at intervals during the meal the entire group sang or chanted Psalms 113–118, such recitation being completed with the final cup of wine. [Ps. 113–118]
The New Testament accounts of the Last Supper obviously fit into the above structure. Luke relates how Jesus opened the feast with a first cup of wine, blessing it and stating that this would be his last Passover with the apostles before his death. Matthew and Mark relate how all sang the hymn before leaving their room. (See Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26.) During the meal proper Jesus taught much, as hinted at by Luke and as recorded in detail by John. Luke knew that the new Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper began with “the cup after supper” (Luke 22:20), the same Greek phrase used by Paul, though somewhat quaintly translated as “when he had supped.” (1 Cor. 11:25.)
In other words, the feast marking Israel’s past salvation was elevated by Jesus into the remembrance of the world’s salvation through his final sacrifice. From the Passover service he selected bread and wine, and consecrated them as symbols of his body and blood. (See 1 Cor. 10:16–17.) What began with Moses in Egypt culminated with Christ in Jerusalem. Throughout his final Passover meal the Lord stressed the future and not the past. His teachings rose in crescendo to the final act of blessing the bread and wine in remembrance of his new work for man. Thus he taught in action that there was a greater act of God than bringing Israel from Egypt. For through Christ’s sacrifice, God would pass over the sins of all who obeyed him.
As we eat “in remembrance of the body of thy Son” (D&C 20:77) and drink “in remembrance of the blood of thy Son” (D&C 20:79), we partly look back to an upper room in ancient Palestine. Yet the vitality of that act is its power today. For through remembering Jesus’ past sacrifice, we promise to transform our own lives in preparation for an eternal future with him.
We hear so much about alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee. But what about overeating? I have read that obesity kills many people—shouldn’t it also be a “sin” to overeat?
Let’s first discuss Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known as the Word of Wisdom. This revelation was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in direct answer to a question. He had been offended at the density of the smoke in the room where he was attempting to hold the School of the Prophets, the same room in which many of his other revelations were also received. [D&C 89]
The prophet’s wife, Emma, was also offended by some of the men spitting tobacco on the floor. As a result, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord about the use of tobacco by the elders. He received as an answer the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom.
The Word of Wisdom was not intended to be a complete law of health. It answered the Prophet’s questions about tobacco, prohibited the use of alcohol and hot drinks, and counseled us to eat meat sparingly. It also made some remarkable promises about the blessings we shall receive if we obey this counsel.
Now, what about overeating? I am reminded of the admonition found in Section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “For behold it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant. …” (D&C 58:26.)
The Lord hasn’t given us a specific revelation on overeating, but neither has he given us a specific one on narcotics, sleeping pills, pep pills, or tranquilizers, or on rest or exercise. He has, however, given us some excellent guidelines. We have been taught that our body is a holy temple and that we must take care of it. Through his servants we have been counseled to develop good habits of rest, exercise, and physical hygiene.
The Lord does not want us to become a slave to anything, whether it is alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, food, or just plain laziness. We are on earth to learn to discipline our minds and our bodies in order to become capable of even greater things.
When our appetites control us, when we neglect to keep our bodies and minds in the best possible condition, we may not be literally breaking the Word of Wisdom, but we are neglecting a sacred trust that the Lord has given to us when he gave us our marvelous bodies.
As is usual, the counsel from the Lord on this subject is reinforced by medical research. Studies around the world show a correlation between high blood pressure and obesity, which probably accounts for the greatly increased death rate of obese persons. Individuals with mildly elevated blood pressure have a death rate two and a half times higher than those with normal blood pressure. As the blood pressure increases, so does the death rate.
Other diseases and ailments are also more common in obese individuals, including diabetes, which is four times more common in this group.
In addition to the above problems, an obese person is often unhappy with himself and his appearance, and his activities may be restricted by his excess weight.
How shall I read the parables of preparation in Matthew 25 in the context of the last days? [Matt. 25]
, Instructor, Salt Lake Institute of Religion, University of Utah
Our times are not called “the last days” for nothing! They are indeed perilous times. The Savior himself declared that in these last days we “shall hear of wars and rumors of wars … wars. …
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
“And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold.” (JS—M 1:28–30.)
“The whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them.” (D&C 45:26.)
The last days are clearly times of peril in which even the “elect” will be sorely challenged.
But our age is also a period of unparalleled promise. When Jesus’ disciples were troubled anciently over the ills of our day, Jesus responded: “Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.” (D&C 45:35.)
Ancient prophets looked with enthusiastic anticipation to our dispensation when the fulness of the gospel would be restored and preached among all nations, and when final preparations would be made for the Second Coming and ultimate reign of the King of Kings, our Savior. Great eternal blessings, keys, and secrets of the gospel, which have been kept “hid from before the foundation of the world,” were reserved to come forth in this final dispensation to bless our lives. (See D&C 124:41; D&C 121:26–32; D&C 128:18.) How privileged we are to live in these momentous times!
Whether to us these days are ultimately times of peril or of promise depends upon our own spiritual receptivity and individual preparedness. Though all of us may be challenged, even alarmed, by the events of our day, the Savior assures us that we can acquire the spiritual resilience to hold up under the immense pressures of our time and prepare for his coming by faithful discipleship to him. This message seems to be the thrust of the parables of preparation in Matthew 25.
The parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) calls us to prepare diligently and watch for the Savior’s Second Coming. The five wise virgins are faithful Saints who build a spiritual reserve. They “have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived.” (D&C 45:57.) They have “spiritual oil” in their vessels against times of darkness. For these there is no ultimate doom or gloom; they are not panic-stricken by the last days. The Second Coming is an exhilarating prospect. We are not told in the parable specifically of the virgins’ thrill at entering into the marriage with the Lamb, but who can doubt the inestimable joy of at last receiving personal communion with the Bridegroom! For these, the Lord’s coming is a day to be anticipated and relished; it is a great day.
The unwise virgins are not so fortunate. They are not seemingly bad people; they are not the rogues of earth. Rather, they are members of the Church, indifferent or lackadaisical, but members nevertheless. They are spiritually unprepared. They will discover the futility of trying to buy oil at midnight, that is, of trying to “catch up” spiritually at the last minute. Significantly, the Bridegroom shuts the door on them. For these, the tribulations of our day are overpowering, and the Second Coming is a dreadful, rather than a glorious, day.
The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) reveals to us the inevitability of our being called upon to give an accounting of our stewardship. We are enjoined to magnify our gifts and to use our talents in promoting the Kingdom of God. It is a negative parable. The concern seems to be for the individual who does not prepare by enlarging his divine endowments. For him, the future is ominous, for “from him … shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matt. 25:29.) It is at the end of the world, at harvest time, when he shall be reduced. Thus, for him also, the Second Coming is a terrible day.
Equally sobering is the parable of the sheep and goats. (See Matt. 25:21–46.) The Lord again declares the inevitability of a future judgment in which the righteous and the wicked, who for a time are gathered together in the kingdom, shall be separated. The righteous prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and the parable focuses on one of the most significant aspects of these preparations: the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, and the comforting of the sick and imprisoned.
Our days are perilous, but are latent with promise to those who prepare. And how, specifically, shall we further prepare? Counsel from the Lord’s anointed comes regularly, urgently: Do exactly as you should do, even if the days were not perilous, but with “a lengthened stride.” Place your trust in God. Seek his Spirit. Put your own house and family in order. Seek diligently to be a missionary. Do the Lord’s work in the wards and branches faithfully. Seek after your dead. Cultivate godliness. Be charitable and compassionate in your service. And, don’t panic; don’t run Jonah-like to the foothills. Build positively. Look forward with hope to the great day of the Lord. Elder Boyd K. Packer speaks with this timely counsel:
“I do not doubt that we are sailing into troubled waters. There are storms to ride out; there are reefs and shoals to negotiate ere we reach port. But we have been through them before and have found safe passage. ‘… the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulation shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve.’ (Moses 7:61.) ‘Steady as she goes.’ Our craft has weathered storms before. It is seaworthy. What a glorious time to be alive! What a marvelous age to live! Thank the Lord for the privilege of living in an adventuresome day of challenge. There is celestial radar—revelation from God—guiding us. There is an inspired captain, a prophet of God, leading us.
“I want to bear witness to you, my young friends, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on the right course. It is led by inspiration, and I say to you, to all of us, ‘steady as she goes.’ I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. It was formulated for strength and direction in stormy times.” (“Steady As She Goes,” address given at Brigham Young University, January 7, 1969.)