Last Supper: Wine, Grape Juice or Bitter Herbs?

The events in last supper of Jesus Christ causes a lot of confusion when compared with Passover of the LORD. This is because both are essentially same yet looks totally different. Why the lamb is not included in the last supper? Where is bitter herbs in the last supper? Where is wine in the Passover? This post attempts to compare and resolve the differences as written in the Scriptures and gospels.

Ingredients in Passover of the LORD

Exod 12:6-8 ‘Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter [herbs] they shall eat it.

The three ingredients to have a Passover meal is as follows:

  • Lamb
  • Unleavened Bread
  • Bitter

Ingredients in Last Supper of Jesus Christ

The last supper is essentially same as the Passover of the LORD

Luke 22:7-8 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” … (15-20) Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

On the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed, Jesus was not instituting a new unfamiliar ritual for all His followers to follow, but rather, He was explaining an already existing ritual to show how the feast of Unleavened Bread and the feast of Passover was all along pointing to Him. This is exactly why He wants us to remember Him while doing the Passover.

  • Jesus is the Passover Lamb who must suffer to redeem us
  • His body is that unleavened bread who will be broken
  • The fruit of the vine is His blood that will be poured out

Hence the last supper as many Christians part-take without the Passover lamb is incomplete primarily due to following Paul rather than Jesus.

1 Cor 11:20-21 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk… (23-26) For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

While Jesus called the supper as Passover, Paul calls it Lord’s supper. While Jesus wants us to do it as part of the Passover to remember Him in context with the Passover, Paul wants to do it as often as we want.

Wine or fruit of the vine?

Matt 26:29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Mark 14:25 “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:18 “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

While the gospel authors were well aware of the word ‘wine’, all chose to use the word ‘fruit of the vine’. However, getting drunk (referring to fermented wine) is mentioned only in Paul’s letters.

Exod 12:18-20 ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened [H2556 חָמֵץ chamets], that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread  

The question we need to ask ourselves: Is wine leavened? In Hebrew, chamets literally means fermented. Hence, the fruit of the vine used by Jesus in Passover was not fermented or leavened.

Bitter herbs or fruit of the vine?

Comparing the Passover and the Last Supper, we can match the lamb and the unleavened bread. But we cannot match bitter herbs or fruit of the vine or wine. We saw in the earlier section, that the fruit of the vine is not the fermented vine. Mismatch between Passover of the LORD and the last supper by Jesus raises lots of questions since they both refer to the same event. What does fruit of the vine doing in the last supper? Why no mention of bitter herbs? The original translation does not include “herbs” but marar which means bitter. In modern Palestine the Jews use chiefly lettuce and endive for the “bitter herbs” of their Passover.

Is there a fruit of the vine that is bitter? There are several known vines that produces bitter fruits. Bitter melons or bitter gourd (Momordica_charantia) is one example were it is a vine that produces bitter fruits. Citrullus_colocynthis of the Arabs, which grows from Jordan to southern Egypt which resembles a common watermelon vine, bears small, hard fruits with a bitter pulp. We do not know exactly which fruit of the vine did Jesus used for bitterness during the Passover.

Conclusion

The last supper of Jesus Christ is same as the Passover of the LORD. Jesus is the Passover Lamb who must suffer to redeem us. His body is that unleavened bread who will be broken for us. The fruit of the vine is His blood that will be poured out for us. We also found that the vine does not necessarily mean grape vine or wine but rather vine that produces bitter fruits. Some examples include bitter melons or bitter gourds which are also bitter fruits of the vine.