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Matthew 26:17-30: The Last Supper
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: If you had to pick your last meal on earth, what would you choose? Who would you eat it with? Why?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
What is the context for today’s passage?
The story for today’s passage comes toward the end of Jesus’ ministry time on earth. He has already ridden the donkey into Jerusalem, with people proclaiming “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). We remember this day when we celebrate Palm Sunday.
Over the next several days, Jesus spends a lot of time in the temple and elsewhere teaching the people and condemning the teachers of the law and Pharisees. Jesus warns his disciples that he will be handed over to be crucified (Matthew 26:2) while the chief priests and elders secretly plot to kill him (Matthew 26:3-4). We also read that Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, is ready to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). This sets the stage for today’s passage.
Read today’s passage: Matthew 26:17-30.
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Matthew 26 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God (Jesus)?
Jesus participates in the festivals from the Old Testament. The first Passover happened as the Israelites were preparing to leave Egypt in Exodus 12. God commanded the Israelites to kill and eat a lamb and to spread the blood over the doorposts. Any door with the blood of the lamb on it, God would pass over. If the door did not have the blood of the lamb, God would kill any firstborn child in that house. God commanded the Israelites to commemorate this day as a festival for the years to come. Here, we see that the tradition has continued, and Jesus participates in that tradition with his disciples. This also gives us the picture of Jesus as the Passover lamb—if anyone is covered by the blood of Christ, God will spare that person from his wrath.
Jesus knew his plan for the Passover meal. When the disciples asked Jesus what to do to make preparations for the Passover, Jesus knew exactly what to tell them. He sent them to a specific man who had a room that they could use for the Passover meal. And it appears that the man was ready for them.
Jesus has foreknowledge about events. A couple different times in this passage, it is evident that Jesus knew the future. He knew that he would be betrayed, and he knew exactly who would betray him. He also knew that this would be his last meal on earth before his death.
Jesus knew Scriptures/prophecy. Jesus knew from the Scripture that the Son of Man had to die (Matthew 26:24), and he knew that now was the time. Throughout his ministry, we see substantial evidence that Jesus was an expert in the Scriptures, especially prophecies about the Messiah.
Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Jesus clearly indicated to the disciples that his blood would be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus would be that perfect sacrifice—the only one that would satisfy God’s wrath for all people for all time.
2. What does the passage say about people?
The disciples also participate in the festivals from the Old Testament. The disciples were the ones to approach Jesus about preparing for the Passover. Very likely, this was not the first time Jesus and the disciples would be celebrating Passover together, although it is the only recorded time.
The disciples depended on Jesus for instructions. When it came time for the Passover, the disciples didn’t go off and do their own thing. They knew that Jesus would have a plan and that they would follow that plan. So they asked Jesus what his plan was for the Passover. As Christians, we also need to trust in God’s plan for our lives and for the whole world.
The disciples were obedient to Jesus. Once the disciples knew Jesus’ plan for the Passover, they didn’t argue and say that their plan was better. They immediately obeyed. They found the man that Jesus told them about and made preparations for the Passover. As Christians, we also need to be obedient to Christ, even in those times when his instructions don’t make sense.
The disciples were sad at the thought of betraying Jesus. When Jesus informed the disciples that one of them would betray him, the disciples were “very sad.” Each one of them seemed offended and said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” What the disciples hadn’t realized yet was that this was part of God’s plan—this is how Jesus would be handed over to be killed.
Judas pretends he’s not the betrayer. Like so many of us when we are caught doing something wrong, Judas tried to pretend it wasn’t him. Judas made plans to betray Jesus earlier in the chapter (Matthew 26:14-16). Yet here, Judas tries to act like all the others: “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Remember that Jesus knows your heart. Trying to hide your sins from him won’t get you very far. It’s better to confess and repent than to try to pretend you haven’t sinned.
The disciples and all of us are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ death on the cross. This passage tells us that Jesus’ blood will be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This isn’t just for the disciples. This is for all of us. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, his blood covers our sins, just like the blood of the Passover lamb when God killed the firstborns in Egypt. That’s why it is so fitting that Jesus’ death comes during the time of the Passover festival.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan was for Judas to betray Jesus to set in motion Jesus’ death. This chapter shows us the first glimpse of how Jesus’ death would come about. One of the men who had seen all his miracles, heard all his teachings, been there to get the scoop on the meaning of his parables—one of these men would betray Jesus for a few coins. But this was God’s plan. This was the event that would set in motion Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.
God’s plan was for Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus shows clear understanding of God’s plan in this passage. He knows that “the Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” Jesus knows the prophecies about his death. He is also God the Son, and he understands why his death needs to happen. He knows that his blood must be shed to cover the sins of the world. This was the reason he was sent to earth. This is THE plan of the Bible.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
The story of the Bible is all about God redeeming his people. This redemption happens through God sending his Son, Jesus, to earth to die as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Today’s passage shows Jesus preparing for his death. He knows that this will be his last meal before he is betrayed and handed over to be killed. He is not only preparing himself mentally and spiritually for death, he is preparing his disciples for his death.
At the end of this passage, we see that Jesus and his disciples go to the Mount of Olives. Here, Jesus commits to God’s will while his disciples fall asleep (Matthew 26:36-46). This is where Judas will betray Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56), setting off the events of Jesus’ trial (Matthew 26:57-27:26) and eventual crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-56).
This passage is also important because it sets the precedent for all Christians to participate in the sacrament of communion. Communion is when we eat the bread and drink the cup (wine/juice) to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. It is a time of repentance as well as a time of thankfulness.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Matthew 26 Resources