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THE LAST SUPPER
Jewish High Priest goes into the Most Holy Place every year with the
blood of an animal. But Christ did not go in to offer Himself many
times, for then He would have to suffer many times ever since the
creation of the world. Instead, now when all the ages of time are
nearing the end, He has appeared once and for all, to remove sin
through the sacrifice of Himself. Everyone must die once, and after
that be judged by God. In the same manner Christ was also offered in
sacrifice once to take away the sins of many. He will appear a second
time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting for Him.
the following short messages, I examine just three aspects of the most
celebrated yet least understood activity of the Christian Church.
WHAT IS THE ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANCES OF THE LAST SUPPER
Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 21:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
also John13 and passages surrounding the above mentioned for other narrative
is said about the Last Supper and its significance to the Christian
Faith. However, I believe there are certain aspects of this occasion
that we have a tendency to either overlook or, at best, gloss over.
WHO ACTUALLY ATTENDED?
tend to think of it as being some exclusive little feast that involved
just 13 men, Jesus and the 12 apostles. If we look closely at the way
the gospels are written we can, in fact, draw the conclusion that there
were many more present at this celebration. Throughout the gospels the
writers tended to refer to the twelve specifically different than the
general disciples. All the writings about the last supper refer to the
gathering as with His disciples and not specifically with the chosen
ones. So the group would have been reasonably large and would have had
many other men, women and children, just as might be expected both for
the occasion they were gathered for, the Passover, and for the
importance of this occasion for the future, Jesus’ last meal as a human
being on this earth.
This would make a lot of sense because
the significance of the occasion would not, then, be lost on the other
followers of the time. More witnesses to the event. It is also
significant for us as it showed that no-one was excluded.
true that the narratives all centre around those who were at the table
with Jesus. Again, this would be supported by the customs of the day
for the Jews. This process is not lost in our society at special meals
where there are a group of people who get to sit with the guests of
honour at the main table. This is important as the significant action
and teaching occurred at the main table though, undoubtably, those
nearby would have been privileged to hear what was being said (maybe
even all in attendance).
WHAT IS THE PICTURE OF PEOPLE WE ARE GIVEN?
believe that we are given a glimpse of human nature from the
narratives. A very good cross sectional view is portrayed of what
people can be like. Five of these are:
1. Betrayal: This
characteristic, represented by Judas Iscariot, needs no deep mention as
it is so well known. Even many of the younger members among you have
probably experienced this characteristic from amongst your friends.
Denial: Again, a characteristic we are well familiar with through the
role played out by Peter in the coming period of time following the
3. Arrogance: There is a degree of arrogance shown in
some of the apostles as each make statements of the fact that they are
so good that they would not be found at fault. Again, Peter is
specifically mentioned because of his denial, but others also show this
when Jesus talks about the betrayal.
4. Pride: Part of this
occasion is marred by the apostles arguing among themselves about who
was the best person there. Sometimes I think the narrative surrounding
this event (found only in Luke - 21:24-30) actually shows that the
apostles sort of knew that Jesus was about to “leave” them and someone
would need to take over as leader. Jesus, however, chastises them for
this and reminds them of the example He had set with the servant’s role
when He washed there feet upon their arrival.
5. Doubt: Whilst
not specifically dealt with in the Last Supper narrative, there is an
underlying attitude of disbelief about Jesus’ imminent departure.
Surely, “Jesus must have got this bit wrong” was the ever present
thought amongst those in attendance.
If we look further into the
narratives, we can find a wider range of attitudes and characteristics
that we can easily recognise in the world around us today.
But of what significance are these to us?
shows that, despite these characteristics of human nature, we are all
welcome at the table with our Lord. Had Jesus excluded such people from
the Last Supper there would have been no-one in attendance and there
would not have been such an event. Despite our faults, we can allow Him
to “wash our feet”, so to speak, and be considered clean and enter into
His presence and share with Him in an even greater feast to come.
key teaching of the Last Supper, I believe, is the washing of the feet.
A custom born out of the dusty environment in which they lived, this
action made the people “clean” and able to participate in the events
being held inside the home. If we allow ourselves to be cleansed by
Jesus then we, too, are acceptable in His presence.
Let us keep
these things in mind, firstly as we remember His broken body as we eat
the bread together and then as we drink this representation of the
greatest sacrifice ever made, the blood of Jesus Christ.
THE FEAST AND THE COVENANT
find it most interesting that the Bible talks about two main covenants
and that both of these covenants were introduced in a very similar way.
first of the covenants is that one which God had exclusively with the
descendants of Israel - that group we refer to as the Jews.
covenant was started with three things. As we read Exodus Chapter 12 vs
1 to 14, we read of the instigation of the feast of the Passover and
from it we note the covenant of the Old Testament is started with three
- 1. The blood (of a lamb or goat) that was
to make them acceptable to God (by being painted on the doorposts so
the angel of death would pass over)
- 2. The broken body (the animal was killed and cooked)
- 3. The celebration meal - the Israelites had to eat the meal as a celebration of what was to come.
There was a lot of significance with all three.
then take a look at the covenant of the New Testament. God instigates a
new covenant open to all people and He does so, through His Son, with
the same three elements:
- 1. The blood (of Christ),
represented by the wine, that would be a sign of being acceptable to
God (washed clean in His blood).
- 2. The broken body (of Christ, who died for us), represented by the breaking of bread.
- 3. The celebration meal: what we now know as the Last Supper, a true celebration meal.
have often thought about these similarities and just what they might
mean. I have concluded that the symbolism is what is important as there
are the three elements that God introduces with His agreements:
The cleansing - totally and completely. The shedding of blood is seen
as part of the ritual of cleansing in many cultures.
- 2. The sacrifice - we must be prepared to give all, in order to receive the blessing
- 3. The celebration - once we participate then we can enjoy God’s presence and celebrate accordingly.
When we come before His presence and celebrate the Holy Supper, we must ask ourselves three questions:
- 1. Have we accepted the cleansing process in our lives?
Are we prepared to make the required sacrifice that is asked,
individually, of us in order to do God’s will?
- 3. Can we genuinely celebrate God’s presence in our lives?
if we can answer each of these questions in a positive way should we
move forward and this is probably the time to pause and examine
ourselves to see that we are fully acceptable in His sight. If not,
this reflective time, before we partake of the elements, is available
so that we can put ourselves right with Him, through repentance.
THE TRUE COST OF THE LAST SUPPER
really wonder if we have any idea of the cost of that Last Supper. I’m
not talking about the financial cost, Judas Iscariot would have had
that completely under controlled (some have even suggested that he may
have tithed his 30 pieces to pay for the meal).
No, I talk about the emotional cost to Jesus.
us, Jesus knew exactly what lay ahead of Him for the coming 24 hours.
Imagine the worst scenario in your life and ask yourself “How would I
have been able to go on if I had known exactly what was going to
happen?” I know, for a fact, that in those situations in my life, there
is no way I could have continued on.
Jesus, however, not only continued on but continued to put the needs of others first. That would have to take strength.
in mind that it wasn’t just for the disciples that he continued, that
small band of no more than 50 people, but it was for the countless
billions of peoples down the ages since - the people like you and me.
would we be if we didn’t have this model on which to base our
remembrance of Him. If we look around us at where man has been given
flexibility to represent events (Christian and secular) we can see the
mess that has been made. Even Christmas has so many varieties. Yet the
Lord’s Supper remains constant with only the slightest of variations,
it is the one thing common across Christendom that is so easily
recognised by even non-Christians.
As we pause for a moment, I would like you to think of the price that Jesus paid just for you.
Jesus blessed the bread at the Last Supper, He gave it to us as a
reminder of His broken body that was necessary to pay the price for our
With the cup, we are reminded of the Blood that Christ
shed for us to provide for us the only cleansing agent acceptable in
R. J. Burling