Was Judas present for the Last Supper? This isn’t meant to be a trick question, but it might turn into one. So, I’ll give you a hint. The Last Supper was an event that tied together the Passover ceremony of the Old Testament with Communion in the New Testament. One was the Old Covenant. The other was the New Covenant. So, the question is really about whether Judas was present for that event. The Passover celebration. And, as it turns out, what we could call the first Communion.
Have you got it? Yes, most people probably know Jesus was present in the room. How else could much of what we (think) we know about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus have taken place?
But, was Judas present when Jesus broke bread and shared wine as His body and blood?
Does it matter? Yes, it does. We’ll find out more as the series moves along. But I don’t want to give away the ending, so for now, let’s just focus on whether or not Judas was there for that portion of time.
It turns out, it’s not as obvious as we might think. There isn’t one place to look to get the answer.
But we can kind of play detective here. Get a timeline of who was where at what time
Was Judas present for the last supper in Matthew’s Gospel?
. How are we going to solve this mystery? By “interviewing” the witnesses. Our first witness is Matthew. His deposition, of sorts, is in his Gospel.
26:17-19 pp — Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13
26:20-24 pp — Mk 14:17-21
Mt 26:26-29 pp — Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:17-20; 1Co 11:23-25
Mt 26:17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
Mt 26:18 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.
So we start with some verses to give us enough information to set up what’s about to follow. The Passover is coming, and things are divinely set up for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate it.
Mt 26:20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
Since we already know Judas is the one who betrayed Jesus, and Jesus Himself says “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me”, then we know for sure that Judas was present for that statement.
Mt 26:22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
This verse is fascinating. It’s not related to what we’re looking at today, but it does show something we should be able to see about ourselves. Something they knew, and something we should know. Each disciple knew that he could be the one who was going to betray Jesus. That’s amazing.
Mt 26:23 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.”
Now, Jesus lets them know who He spoke of. Who was going to betray Him. And Jesus says a few words about the betrayer.
Mt 26:25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”
Maybe I need to take back part of what I just said about what each of the twelve knew about themselves. Yes, Judas knew what he was going to do. But asking the question at this time, especially with the Surely not I, Rabbi? – that’s just trying to get away with a lie to the other eleven.
And now, we’re about to get to the first Communion.
Mt 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Mt 26:27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered 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 of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
As I said, it seems so simple. But wait a minute. What about Judas? Was Judas present for that first Communion? We just can’t tell from what we read in Matthew’s Gospel. Does it matter? Well, let me put it this way. At a minimum, it might say something about who’s allowed to receive Communion in churches today.
Conclusions from Matthew’s Gospel.
OK – so Matthew was a good witness. We got a lot of detail. Even some background information. However, it’s not enough to answer our question. We cannot tell if Judas was still there for the breaking of the bread, or when they drank the wine. Being good detectives. we won’t assume that Judas was still in the room. After all, he might have left after that comment from Jesus – It would be better for him if he had not been born. That was embarrassing enough to cause many people to just get up and storm out.
So we’ll keep going.
Was Judas present for the last supper in John’s Gospel?
Our next witness is John. Let’s check out his “deposition”. John’s Gospel.
Jn 13:18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’
Jn 13:19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
Jn 13:21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
OK – we’ve got a match here with what we just read from Matthew. Timelines are synched. Let’s keep going.
Jn 13:22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Jn 13:25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jn 13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.
No, it’s not quite identical. However, John did reference himself in the manner we read in verses 23-24. So, while it’s not exact, it’s certainly within the realm of an expected version of the same event, as told by John.
Jn 13:27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So, Jesus dipped the piece of bread, which we know wasn’t the “Communion” bread, and gave it to Judas. Then, Satan entered Judas. The other key to the timing of all this is coming next.
“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
And there it is. Jesus gave the bread to Judas. Then tells Judas to do what he’s about to do, namely to set up the betrayal. And then Judas left. “As soon as” is the way it’s worded.
Conclusions from John’s Gospel.
In other words, before Jesus shared the bread and wine that represented His body and blood. Before the ceremony we celebrate today as Communion. Communion without Judas.
Conclusion – Was Judas present for the Last Supper?
After reviewing the evidence, we can conclude that Judas was present for the beginning of the event that we read about in the gospels, and that we tend to refer to as “The Last Supper”. However, we also found that that Judas left before that event ended. In regard to the actual ceremony – the Passover celebration / the first Communion, Judas was not present.
Why does that matter? Well, there’s more evidence to unravel as we examine the rest of the questions in this series. Later on, we’ll get to one about whether we can learn anything about Communion for Christians from what we’re examining here. So I’ll just ask you to hold that question for the moment.
Hope to see you in the next installment – Did Judas return the thirty pieces of silver to Jewish leaders?