The Third-from-Last Supper

The Third-from-Last Supper, by Paul Hayden

In Matthew and Mark’s gospels, there is an account of a supper Christ attended just before what we usually call “The Last Supper.” Just for brevity, I will only give Mark’s account of it, Matthew’s is not much different:

Mark 14:1-11

1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. 

2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 

4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 

5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 

6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 

7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 

8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. 

11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.


This was a supper which took place in Bethany, in the house of a man called Simon the leper. A woman came with very precious ointment and poured it on Christ’s head. The disciples were annoyed at this, because they thought the ointment could be sold and given to the poor. Christ rebuked them for this. Judas Iscariot was so incensed that he left the supper early and went to the chief priests to inform them he was willing to betray Him.

This supper appears to have happened two days before the feast of the Passover. The reference to two days could just refer to the chief priests seeking to put Christ to death, not necessarily the supper, but it most likely refers to the supper as well.

In Luke 7:36-50 we have a similar supper mentioned, but I don’t think that’s the same one. In Luke, it appears a lot earlier in the narrative, and although Luke’s gospel might not be chronological, it’s unlikely. That supper was held in the house of a Pharisee. A woman “which was a sinner” stood at Christ’s feet and began to wash them with her tears, wiped them with her hair, then she anointed them with the ointment. The Pharisee, whose is named as Simon, complained at this because “she is a sinner.”

This is a similar occasion to the supper in Bethany, but the differences are too great to really equate them: the woman was a notorious sinner, she anointed Christ’s feet not His head, the ointment is not spoken of as particularly costly, and the only one who complained was the Pharisee, not the disciples or Judas. The only similarities are that the host’s name was Simon, and an alabaster box of ointment is mentioned 

Luke does not give an account of the supper in Bethany, we simply read:

Luke 22:1-6

1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. 

2 And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.

3 Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. 4 And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. 

5 And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. 

6 And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.


And then we have John’s account of the supper in Bethany:

John 12:1-8

1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 

2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 

3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 

4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 

5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 

6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 

7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 

8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

There are a few differences here from Matthew and Mark, but it’s obviously the same supper. First of all it mentions “six days before the Passover.” But that’s only when Christ came to Bethany. In v.12 we read that “the next day” was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The narrative of the supper is sandwiched in between these two events, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it occurred then, it just says, “there they made a Him a supper,” which could have been at any time during those six days.

We also find out in John’s account that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were all in attendance at the supper, and that it was Mary who anointed Christ. We are told she anointed His feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. This is different from Matthew and Mark, who record that she poured it on His head. It is similar to Luke’s account of the earlier supper, but even then, the order is different. In Luke, the woman “which was a sinner” washed His feet with her tears, then wiped them with her hair, then anointed them with the ointment, whereas here Mary simply anointed His feet with the ointment and wiped them with her hair. In any case, we have no indication anywhere else in Scripture that Mary was a particularly notorious sinner.

And the other thing we find out in John’s account, which is not in the others, is that Judas complained about the waste because he was a thief.

Well, that’s all very interesting. But I now want to concentrate on John chapter 13:

John 13:1-2

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 

2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.... 

In the past I have always seen the phrase “And supper being ended” in v. 2 and assumed it referred to what we commonly call “the Last Supper.”  But now, I don’t think it does. I think we’re still talking about the supper in Bethany 

In which case, what follows in the rest of the chapter didn’t occur at the Last Supper at all, but at the supper in Bethany. This would include Christ washing the disciples’ feet, the giving of the sop to Judas, Satan entering Judas and Judas leaving early.

The reasons I come to this conclusion are as follows:

(1.) In John’s gospel there is no mention at all of the institution of what we call the Lord’s Supper, i.e. Christ giving the disciples bread and wine and saying “This is my body,” and “This is my blood.” It would be very odd to miss this out if the passage referred to the Last Supper.

(2.) In verse 1 we are told that this meal occurred “before the feast of the Passover.” So it wasn’t the Passover meal itself.

(3.) After Jesus gave Judas the sop, the disciples thought that Jesus was asking him to “buy those things that we have need of against the feast” (John 13:29), i.e. the Passover, which was still two days away. 

(4.) Christ prophesying Peter’s denial is in all four gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke it was indeed prophesied at the Last Supper, but notice that in those accounts Christ stated that it would happen "this night" (Matthew 26:34), "this day, even in this night" (Mark 14:30) and "this day" (Luke 22:34). Here, in John 13:38, it is significant that no time is mentioned. In other words, Christ actually prophesied Peter’s denial twice, once here, two days before it took place, and again at the Last Supper 

(5.) Judas left the supper in Bethany early, but he stayed all the way throughout the Last Supper – there is no mention of him leaving the Last Supper early, in either Matthew, Mark or Luke’s account. 

The reasons he left this supper in Bethany early were that: 

(1.) In John 12:4-6 he complained at the “waste” of ointment and would rather it have been sold and given to the poor (although he really wanted to steal the money).  

(2.) In John 13:2, we see that the devil was at work: “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.”

(3.) The last straw was that Jesus pointed him out specifically as the betrayer by giving him the sop: 

John 13:21-27,30

When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.... He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

Judas was never pointed out individually like this at the Last Supper. The nearest we get is in Matthew’s account, where we are told:

Matthew 26:21-25

And as they did eat, he [Christ] said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

All the disciples were asking, “Is it I?” Judas simply joined in with this. He was the only one to whom Christ gave an answer “Thou hast said.” That may point him out to us today, but that hardly pointed him out to the others at the time, like giving him the sop did 

As Judas never left before the end of the Last Supper, that means he was present at the institution of the Lord’s Supper and partook of the elements 

Mark 14:17

And in the evening He cometh with the twelve.

Mark 14:23

....and they all drank of it” (i.e. the cup).

Why am I telling you all this? Well, there are two applications:

Many churches want to restrict communicants at the Lord’s Table to only their membership. You have to be examined by the elders for a credible profession of faith before you are allowed to join and partake of the elements. In order to justify this practice, they have to argue that Judas wasn’t at the Last Supper, otherwise Christ Himself could be said to have given the elements to someone He knew wasn’t a true believer. Christ gave Judas the elements with full knowledge that he was about to betray Him and was not a true believer in his heart:

John 6:70

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.

Luke 22:19-21

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.

The fact that Judas did partake of the elements, proves that system all wrong. The Bible says “let a man examine himself” before partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28), not “let the elders examine him.” A council of elders who cannot see our hearts should not be the final arbiter as to whether we should partake of the Lord’s Supper or not, rather our own individual consciences should be, always being fully aware that:

1 Corinthians 11:29

He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body 

We alone ourselves are then responsible for the consequences of our action.

And then the second application. For a long time I had always assumed this passage in John 13 referred to the Last Supper, and I now find out that it doesn’t. It didn’t help that during that time I received plenty of wrong teaching to this effect. The lesson is that we should beware of our assumptions. 

A real Christian, with a living relationship with the Lord of glory, will be learning from Scripture all the time. So, as we understand Scripture more and more, we ought to be continually changing, continually correcting ourselves:

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works 

This mainly, of course, applies to our behaviour, our conduct. But our conduct is governed by how much truth we understand from Scripture:

John 17:17

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

It is the Holy Spirit within us who interprets a passage and brings us to the correct meaning, not a tradition, an author or a smooth-talking preacher:

1 John 2:27

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

There are many passages of Scripture that we, maybe for a long time, have assumed to be teaching one thing, and they really aren’t. I’m just going to leave you with some to think about (the easy ones are first!). So, read these verses, look up the context, and pray for the Holy Spirit to open up the true meaning:

John 6:53-54

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Matthew 21:22

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Matthew 24:34

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Romans 14:23

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Romans 11:26

And so all Israel shall be saved.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.