Guest post by Estella Young, Lay Dominican, Singapore.
Ever wondered why Jesus told his disciples to look for a man carrying a water jar when they entered Jerusalem for his Last Supper?
Carrying water was women’s work. The most likely reason a man would be fetching water was for the ritual washing of the Essenes (a sect of the Pharisees). The Essenes celebrated Passover on Thursday, not Friday — as all the other Jews did.
Scholars like Pope Benedict think that Jesus was an Essene. This explains why He would have celebrated the Passover on Thursday, before His death on Friday — at literally the hour the lambs were slaughtered in the Temple for the Passover that the other Jews celebrated. Because Jesus is the true and eternal Lamb.
So there you have it — so much theological significance wrapped up in one tiny detail about meeting a guy with a jar. It wasn’t random chance that the guy “happened” to have a spare room. It had all been organized in advance because he and Jesus were of the same sect.
And don’t take my word for it, listen to the Pope Emeritus:
There is an apparent discrepancy in the Evangelists’ accounts, between John’s Gospel on the one hand, and what on the other Mathew, Mark and Luke tell us.
According to John, Jesus died on the Cross at the very moment when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. The death of Jesus and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided.
However, this means that he must have died the day before Easter and could not, therefore, have celebrated the Passover meal in person – this, at any rate, is how it appears.
According to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper of Jesus was instead a Passover meal into whose traditional form he integrated the innovation of the gift of his Body and Blood.
This contradiction seemed unsolvable until a few years ago. The majority of exegetes were of the opinion that John was reluctant to tell us the true historical date of Jesus’ death, but rather chose a symbolic date to highlight the deeper truth: Jesus is the new, true Lamb who poured out his Blood for us all.
In the meantime, the discovery of the [Dead Sea] Scrolls at Qumran has led us to a possible and convincing solution which, although it is not yet accepted by everyone, is a highly plausible hypothesis. We can now say that John’s account is historically precise.
Jesus truly shed his blood on the eve of Easter at the time of the immolation of the lambs.
In all likelihood, however, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the Qumran calendar, hence, at least one day earlier; he celebrated it without a lamb, like the Qumran community which did not recognize Herod’s temple and was waiting for the new temple.
Consequently, Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb — no, not without a lamb: instead of the lamb he gave himself, his Body and his Blood. Thus, he anticipated his death in a manner consistent with his words: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn 10: 18).
At the time when he offered his Body and his Blood to the disciples, he was truly fulfilling this affirmation. He himself offered his own life. Only in this way did the ancient Passover acquire its true meaning.