15. The Last Supper
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”…
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”
But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. Luke 22: 7-23
All of Jerusalem has gathered for the Holy Passover, in memory of the Israelites’ long ago freedom from bondage. This Passover feast in the life of the small band of friends is what we know as The Last Supper. This is Jesus’ last supper; Jesus, the Son of Man, knows that this will be his last meal. Christ, the Son of God, tell his friends that he will not celebrate the Passover feast again until his Second Coming when he defeats Satan for all eternity and his Father’s kingdom is fully restored. Christ knows that he will have to take on the sin of the entire creation apart from his father and the Holy Spirit. Just two days before this gathering with his chosen twelve, Jesus Christ had told the disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Jesus’ life is already forfeited. Christ’s prophetic sacrifice is already set in motion. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God, will bring into fulfillment a plan decided on before the creation was breathed into being.
This is Jesus Christ's death watch. He has so little time to bring these men, his best friends, into the kingdom of God. He is so desperate. He has been betrayed by Judas, and now his time is at an end. He will face the failure of his friends to pray with him while he awaits his arrest by the Romans and he will be denied by his best friend, his rock, Peter, three times. His prophesied death will be so necessary, and so painful. For the Son of God to redeem his creation, he must take on the perversion of the world; for the Son of Man to do so, he must shed his blood and be broken:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22: 39-44
Do you remember the feeding of the 5000? Hear it from the mouth of John:
…a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
…Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. John 6: 2-13
Hear the words of The Word, Christ Jesus, as he addressed the Jewish crowd that followed him the next day. They are clamoring for more to eat. In his cosmic language, John continues:
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. … Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst… I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” …John 6: 26-51
Christ does not offer manna enough to sustain us for a mere 40 years. He offers the bread of life, sustenance for eternity.
Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. …“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. Exodus 12: 17-28
In the land of Egypt, where God’s beloved people, his chosen children, had been held as slaves for over 400 years, Moses was chosen by God to set the people free. Supernatural plague after horrific plague, Pharaoh remained hardhearted and refused to let God’s people go. God tells Moses to instruct each Israelite family to sacrifice a lamb without defect. They are to take the lamb’s blood and paint it on the sides and tops of the doorframes. They are to eat the roasted meat along with unleavened bread:
Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. … When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. Exodus 12: 11-23
So much death; think of your family, your neighborhood, your city. Can you imagine death in every household? As all of Egypt wailed in despair, Pharaoh, recognizing the power of the living God, granted them leave to go: “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
Exodus 12: 31-32
I am intrigued that Pharaoh asks Moses for his Lord’s blessing! Pharaoh recognized the mysterious power of the God of his slaves but couldn't and wouldn't allow himself to worship him. So the living God must resort to such a horrid punishment. Israel, the beloved child of the Lord, will be guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, his very Presence, as they were protected as they crossed the Red Sea into the desert. Pharaoh had asked for the Lord’s blessing but then sent his chariots in pursuit of the Israelites to be drowned by the rushing waters of the sea. But this newly freed people will prove to be so hard-hearted and stiff-necked that the Lord will require them to wait for 40 years in the wilderness before their next generation of descendants would be allowed to enter God’s promised chosen land of milk and honey.
With Moses’ pleading, the Lord will care for his difficult and selfish children. The Lord heard the grumbling of the people and provided them with quail and manna in the wilderness. But still, the people complained:
The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. …The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. Exodus 16: 3-35
And the Lord provided his people with water:
…there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Exodus 17: 1-6
Would you not grumble? Would we not grieve for our comfortable beds and our food and drink? Can we fault these people? Listen as if for the first time the prophesied promise given to David in
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
A table has been prepared for us, our heads are anointed, and our cup overflows with living water.
The 29:11 Story
Every 29:11 Story has a bead that represents the Last Supper. It is placed at the end of the earthly life of Jesus, as he nears his untimely but prophesied and necessary death. This bead on the 29:11 Story is primarily black for death but it contains other colors as well. There is red for blood and sin, white for purity, and yellow for glory. The red bead of Judas follows this black bead of Jesus’ impending death.
The story of Moses and his stiff-necked people is found on the downward side of the story, in the Old Testament. The Exodus out of Egypt followed some 400 years after the twelve tribes had grown in number and been held captive as slaves after the time of Joseph. The Lord called to Moses in the burning bush, an orange bead that looks like fire. Moses, the next bead, is followed by a beautiful crystal, an angel. This angel is black or grey, representing death, to the people of the hard-hearted Pharaoh. This is the destroyer, the angel of death.
Two black beads of death.
The night before William died, we celebrated a feast with family and friends. We filled the table with loved ones. It was both William’s grandmother and his little brother’s birthdays. We laughed and ate so much. We didn't know that this was to be William’s last meal, but we did know that he didn’t have many left in his life by that time. His days were limited, of this we were well aware. It was a lovely meal…
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…”
We have celebrated a Seder meal with our high school students. We gathered in the upper room above my garage and reclined at a table that sat low to the floor. We performed the feast as closely as possible as Jesus and his twelve would have done. Our minister, Hal, lead the service as we ate matzah, bitter herbs, charoset, and vegetables dipped in saltwater. As we drank our kosher grape juice, four and cups in all, Hal gracefully segued into Jesus’ Last Supper and our Christian communion:
We remember on the night when Jesus and the disciples had their last meal together, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the disciples, saying “This is my body, which is broken for you. Take and eat it, and as often as you do, remember me.”
In the same way he took the cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to the disciples, saying: “Drink this, all of you. This cup is the new covenant, poured out for you and for many Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.