Inconsistencies Of Gospel Accounts For The Last Supper
December 5th, 2016
The Last Supper was the final official meal that Jesus had with his disciples, his closest followers and friends. This meal took place during the annual Passover meal. The Passover meal commemorated Israel’s escape from Egypt and took place on one night but the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was celebrated with it, continued for a week. The Last Supper was held in an upper room in a house in Jerusalem. The Passover meal included the Passover lamb and unleavened bread, sauces and other ceremonial foods and drinks. It was at this meal that Jesus took the bread and broke it and while passing it out to his disciples he told them, “This is my body given for you; eat this in remembrance of me.” After that he took the common cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Drink from it, all of you.” Jesus was telling the disciples that he would not be celebrating Passover with them again on earth. He was telling them of his arrest and death that was going to happen in the following hours and days.
The accounts for the Last Supper are found in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each account is somewhat different with some information being excluded and other pieces of information being included. The following is a summary of each of the four accounts of the Last Supper.
Matthew 26:17-35: The account begins with the disciples asking Jesus where he wants to make preparations to eat the Passover meal. Jesus then gives them instructions on where to go and what to do to get ready. The account then jumps to the meal and Jesus is telling the disciples that one of them will betray him and that the person who dipped his hand into the common bowl at the same time as Jesus would be the one. The account then jumps to Judas saying, “surely not I “and the reader is left to assume that Judas is the one who is to betray Jesus. The account then jumps back to the dinner with Jesus taking the bread and the cup and giving the disciples instructions for eating and drinking with him. Jesus then tells them that on that night they will all be scattered and Peter would disown him three times.
Mark 14:12-31: This account begins the same way as the Matthew account but the instructions that Jesus gives to prepare the meal are more specific. The rest of this account is the same as the Matthew account except it does not reveal that Judas is the betrayer.
Luke 22:7-38: This account is very much the same as the Matthew and Mark accounts except that it makes only a mention of a disciple that will betray Jesus and does not mention who that person is. There is additional conversation recorded during which the disciples ask Jesus who among them is the greatest and Jesus responds to their questions.
John 13: This account is the longest and most detailed of the four accounts. It begins with some background information regarding what was happening in the world at the time and that it had come time for Jesus to leave the world and go to his Father. The passage reveals almost immediately that Judas was being prompted by Satan to betray Jesus. This account then includes details of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. None of the other accounts of the Last Supper include this story. After he was finished he explained to the disciples why he washed their feet and what it meant. Jesus then told the disciples that one of them was going to betray him and that it would be the man who Jesus gave the piece of bread to after he dipped it into the bowl. Jesus then dipped the bread into the bowl and gave it to Judas. This is different because it is the only account where Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas. The other accounts state that Judas put his hand into the common bowl at the same time, as Jesus and that would be the sign that he was to betray Jesus. Jesus then sends Judas out telling him to hurry up and do whatever it is he is planning on doing. Jesus then tells his disciples that he will not be with them much longer and he gives them the command to love one another. He then tells Peter that he will disown Jesus three times that very evening. The account ends there and does not include the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine.
The different accounts of the Last Supper are all different and each includes parts of the story that the others do not include. It is important to be familiar with all of the accounts so that the entire story gets told. No one knows why the differences exactly but that each account was recorded by someone different. Each person experienced the same even in a different way and remembers different aspects of the same event.