Many people are confused by the events of the Last Supper and the night that Jesus was arrested.
What cups are they talking about and what do they mean?
Why is Jesus so hard on His disciples who are tired?
Why did they come to arrest Him at night?
How did the leaders get so many people together for a rowdy crowd during the trials?
Why would they conduct a trial at night and violate normal judicial procedure?
Much of these can be understood if you take into account the practices during the Jewish Passover.
The Jewish days start at 6 PM, so the day the Passover meal is eaten continues through the night until 6 PM the following day. All of the events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happen on the same “day” in the Jewish mind.
I’ve always wondered about these questions until my wife and I found something to explain the custom of the Jewish people on the day of Passover. It stems from Exodus 12:42—“If was a night of vigil in honor of the LORD, because He would bring them out of the land of Egypt. This same night is in honor of the LORD, a night vigil for all the Israelites throughout their generations.”
After the Passover meal, they were supposed to stay awake all night. So when Jesus comes back from prayer and finds the disciples sleeping, they are supposed to be awake, not just because He had asked them to, but because of the Passover. Incidentally, Peter and John were the ones sent ahead to prepare the Passover meal so they had been working through the day to get it ready—I’m sure they were wiped out.
The fact that they were supposed to be awake explains in part why the guards were there to arrest Jesus and they expected to find him awake. It explains how the Jewish leaders were able to rouse a sympathetic crowd at such unusual hours since they were supposed to eat the meal, not in their pajamas, not ready for bed but with their clothes on, their belt tightened, their shoes on. They were symbolically ready to move out and leave, but it also meant they could go and be anywhere at a moment’s notice.
It explains why the leadership would be able to hold a trial at night—all of the people necessary would be awake and available. Normally, it would not be proper to conduct such a trial at night, many people unavailable, many others still sleepy and not ready for the day, but this was not an ordinary night. Enough people were awake and present to conduct these events—the normal routine beginning at dawn—all giving enough time to have Jesus up on the Cross by 9 am. He was taken down off the Cross not long after the 9th hour (according to Mark) which is 3 pm. That makes all these events of Messiah occurring on the same day as the Passover (by Jewish reckoning).
The Jewish Passover ceremony with it’s four cups is also why Jesus was praying about “cups” in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup of Sin & Judgment and Wrath was the cup that was about to be poured out on Him. It was this cup that makes the next cup of the feast, the Cup of Redemption possible. Jesus’ blood was poured out to cover over, to atone for our sin. The wrath passes over us when the Blood is seen.
There are several other points that I may make about the Passover at in a later post