The Feast of the Passover was at hand, and great numbers of Jews were gathering in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice in the Temple. The outer court of the shrine was noisy with vendors selling doves and other sacrificial animals, and with money-changers offering locally acceptable currency for the idolatrous coins of the Roman realm. Visiting the Temple on the day after his entry into the city, Jesus was shocked by the clamor and commercialism of the booths. In a burst of indignation he and his followers overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the dove merchants, scattered their coins on the ground, and with “a scourge of rods” drove the traders from the court. For several days thereafter he taught in the Temple, unhindered; but at night he left Jerusalem and stayed on the Mount of Olives, fearing arrest or assassination. The agents of the government- civil and ecclesiastical, Roman and Jewish- had kept watch on him probably from the time when he had taken up the mission of John the Baptist. His failure to secure a large following had inclined them to ignore him; but his enthusiastic reception in Jerusalem seems to have set the Jewish leaders wondering whether this excitement, working upon the emotional and patriotic Passover throngs, might flare up into an untimely and futile revolt against the Roman power, and issue in the suppression of all self-government and religious freedom in Judea. The high priest called a meeting of the Sanhedrin, and expressed the opinion “that one man should die for the people, instead of the whole nation being destroyed.” The majority agreed with him, and the Council ordered the arrest of Christ.

Some news of this decision seems to have reached Jesus, perhaps through members of the Sanhedrin minority. On the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan (our April third), probably in the year 30, Jesus and his apostles ate the Seder, or Passover supper, in the home of a friend in Jerusalem. They looked to the Master to free himself by his miraculous powers; he, on the contrary, accepted his fate, and perhaps hoped that his death would be received by God as a sacrificial atonement for the sins of his people. He had been informed that one of the Twelve was conspiring to betray him; and at this last supper he openly accused Judas Iscariot. In accord with Jewish ritual Jesus blessed (in Greek, eucharistisae ) the wine that he gave the apostles to drink; and then they sang together the Jewish ritual song Hallel. He told them, says John, that he would be with them “only a little longer…. I give you a new command: Love one another…. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and believe in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” It seems quite credible that in so solemn a moment he should ask them to repeat this supper periodically (as Jewish custom required), in commemoration of him; and not improbable that, with Oriental intensity of feeling and imagery, he asked them to think of the bread they ate as his body, and of the wine they drank as his blood.