The Order of Yeshua’s Pesach Seder

Editor’s Note: Click here to read a Spanish translation of this article.

One of the most moving events in Yeshua’s life was the last meal that he shared with his Talmidim prior to his becoming the Pesach sacrifice. It is ironic that although this meal is called a Seder, which literally means order, because the exact order of that evening’s events is not definitively laid out in Scripture.

Each of the Four Gospels only presents a partial view of the Seder. Based on the details found in Mattityahu, Mark, Luke, and Yochanan, as well as current Jewish scholarship (1). I reconstructed the order of Yeshua’s Pesach Seder.

Please remember that even though Yeshua’s Seder shares similarities with the Pesach Seder that we observe today, DIFFERENCES exist with the order, scope, and sequence of a first century Seder. Especially a Seder that was conducted prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

The table that Yeshua and his talmidim “reclined” at was known as a Triclinium, which was a low three sided table with the fourth side of the table left open, presumably to allow service to the table.

Jews reclined throughout much of the Seder, a tradition that is mentioned in the Mishnah. The common explanation is that reclining was a sign of freedom in ancient days.

The seating arrangements had a specific order. Facing the Triclinium from the open side – and then looking to the left side of the table – Yochanan would have been “reclining” on the first seat followed by Yeshua “reclining” on the second seat. On the third seat and to the left of Yeshua was Y’hudah from K’riot. Y’hudah’s seat – the third seat was known as the seat of HONOR!! (Yochanan 13:23)

Yeshua began the Seder with Kiddush – the sanctification of the meal by the blessing over the first cup of wine. There were only two cups that were used in first century Seders that were conducted prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. (Luke 22:17-18)

After everyone washed their hands (implied), Yeshua added to the order of the Seder by washing his talmidim’s feet. (Yochanan 13:1-17)

Yeshua continued with Korech – He dipped the Matzah into the Maror and gave it to Y’hudah. It is possible that the act of dipping included the making of a Matzah sandwich of Maror and Charoses(2). ( Yochanan 13:26)

Yeshua then preceded to explain the meaning of Pesach as it related to his death and resurrection. His explanation is the equivalent of the Maggid or the telling of the Pesach story. Some of the topics covered are – Love one another, I Am the Way, I will send you the Comforter, I am the True Vine. (Yochanan 13:34; 14:6; 14:15-21;15:1)

Buried in the text is the concept of the “Four Questions.” Scholarship claims that there were only three questions at that time. Yeshua is explaining to his talmidim “Mah nishtanah halaylah hazeh mikol halaylot?” Or “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Yochanan records an extensive interchange of questions and answers between Yeshua and his talmidim. In Yochanan 13:33, Yeshua calls his talmidim “My Children,” which I believe is an implicit reference to the Three Questions. (Yochanan 13:31- 17:33)

They now eat the Pesach meal which is known as Shulchan Orech.

At the end of the meal Yeshua broke the Matzah and gave a piece to each of his talmidim. This section of the Seder is known as Tzafun. (Luke 22:19) It is not quite clear if the concept of the Afikomen had been included into Tzafun prior to the destruction of the Temple.

Yeshua then blessed over the second cup of wine and tied the significance of the second cup to the Brit Hadashah [New Covenant]. (Luke 22:20) The second cup of wine was included in the section of the Seder known as Barech which also includes a prayer of “Thanksgiving” for the meal.

Yeshua and his talmidim concluded their Seder by singing the Hallel – Tehillim (Psalms) 113-118. (Mattityahu 26:30)

I hope that this brief article has clarified the order, as well as the scope and sequence of Yesua’s Pesach Seder.

!לשנה הבאה בירושלים

L’Shanah Habah-ah Bee-Yerushalayim! Next Year in Jerusalem!

1.The Best book on the Subject : “The Historical And Biblical Background of the Jewish Holy Days,” by Abraham P. Bloch

2. Charoset, haroset, or charoses (Hebrew: חֲרֽוֹסֶת [ḥărōset]) is a sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits and nuts eaten at the Passover Seder. Its color and texture are meant to recall mortar (or mud used to make adobe bricks) which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt as mentioned in Tractate Pesahim (page 116a) of the Talmud. The word “charoset” comes from the Hebrew word cheres — חרס — “clay.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charoset

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Yosef Koelner
Yosef Koelner was born in Chicago and raised in a Jewish home that his parents characterized as “Orthodox”. At birth he was given two first names, an English one, Harvey, and a Hebrew name, Yosef, which was given to him in remembrance of his mother’s deceased brother, Chaim Yosef. Rabbi Yosef’s education includes but is not limited to a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Illinois State University and a MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College as well as a Doctor of Practical Ministry from Wagner Leadership Institute. He also graduated from Ulpan Alef (Hebrew language studies) Katsrin, Israel. Additional studies include The University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and an Orthodox Yeshivah in Tzfat Yisrael. His ministry spans four decades and he is currently the Rabbi of Kehilat Bet Avinu. He can be contacted at ravko@ix.netcom.com