The Last Supper: A meal that can change the world
Dr. RB McFee
“When the hour came, Jesus and his Disciples 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.”
Luke 22: 14 - 16
What would you do if you knew you only had a day left to live?
How often are we asked, or have we asked that of someone else, often after someone we cared about passed away? Let’s face it, we all get reflective when illness or death strikes close to home.
How many times have we wished to have one last kitchen table experience with a loved one who is now gone? To laugh over silly cupcakes made while avoiding disaster with the oven?
If you are like me, some of your happiest memories with family and friends who are no longer living, involved a meal of some kind. Maybe it was at a favorite restaurant, or meals at their home. As someone of Italian heritage, what my relatives taught, lived, was that the kitchen is the ‘homiest’ room of the house. Put differently, most people feel relaxed, and at home – whether new friends or longtime pals – sitting at the kitchen table.
The well worn expression “let’s break bread together,” has symbolically, and in actual practice, done more to help people bury the hatchet, and rebuild bridges of contention than any mere conversation could.
Perhaps that is why meals are an integral part of diplomacy missions. They make for great ice-breakers in conversation, and unify diverse groups onto a common purpose – eating. To be sure something magical happens in the process. It is hard to quarrel with happy carbs flowing through the body! And who wants to be contentious in a nice gathering.
Meals make you mindful of who you are with, and why. And when someone hosts you, they are giving something of themselves in the process – hospitality, time, friendship, fellowship.
Isn’t that why we host church meals, and after worship coffee hour? Isn’t that why we call fellow congregants that we have gotten close to, or ones we’d like to know better, and invite them to hang out over a cup of coffee at a local café, or have tea in your home?
Jesus knew from the moment He started His ministry that it would end on the Cross, and He knew when. Now was the moment, the last moment before the end would begin.
Knowing He had a day left before torture, crucifixion, and the end of his mortal life; a blood sacrifice for you and me, the Disciples, and the world – then, and now, what did He choose to do?
Jesus chose to spend it over a meal with His closest companions. And in so doing gave them, and all a memory that would last a lifetime, as well as a model for us to share holy fellowship.
Moreover it translated for His future followers a form of solemn celebration in His honour, similar to what Jews do every Sabbath – Shabbat - sharing the bread and the cup over prayers, praising God.
From the first moments of God bringing His people out of Egypt, throughout the Old Testament and New Testaments, bread in various forms – from manna from heaven, and unleavened bread, or special cakes for the prophet, to loaves accompanying fish at the Hands of Jesus – this food has been symbolic of life and inextricably intertwined with the Provision of God.
Jesus did four remarkable things during the last meal He hosted for His chosen, His beloved Disciples, and presumably those dearest to Him –
Jesus showed forgiveness.
Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, and Judas had betrayed Him. And yet Jesus invited, served, loved, and forgave each of them. Moreover Jesus knew the other Disciples would scatter, just as He had quoted in scripture. He forgave and loved, hosted, and served them, too.
You can’t have love without forgiveness. The first is an emotion, the second is a choice. Jesus would prove that on His long, pain filled walk along the Via Dolorosa right to the Golgotha and the Cross. As if to put an exclamation point to this lesson, so that we can perhaps put highlighter on the words in our Bibles, amongst Jesus’ last words on the Cross were “Father forgive them.”
How easy would it be to forgive the very people you helped, went out of your way in fact to heal, love, care about, teach, and then see these same folks cry out for your execution? And execution that involved wood piercing your flesh, nails holding you to rough, sharp edged wood?
And we have problems forgiving a difference of opinion that doesn’t even involve a tiny splinter?
Good Friday has the power to humble us into a state of forgiveness. Now when someone betrays or hurts me, I think to myself, well I wasn’t crucified because of it. What would Jesus do? And I try to do the same.
Jesus showed service.
In Matthew 26: 14 – 39, we read Jesus starts the evening by washing His Disciples’ feet – a tradition continued to this day in various Maundy Thursday/Last Supper Worship services.
This act – reserved to servants – was yet another reminder from our Savior what we are supposed to do for each other; fill a need, give comfort, bring chicken soup, offer a coat to one who doesn’t have any, serve one another, serve the least among you.
Jesus has often been referred to as the “Suffering Servant.” Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus going out of His way to help others.
Consider in the story of ‘The Woman at the Well’ where Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman drawing water at noon. Jesus went not for the water, but for the woman. Oh to be sure it was hot and He was thirsty, but there were other places, probably closer places, for Jesus and His Disciples to get refreshment. He went to help her.
All through the Gospels we see Jesus going to great lengths – from walking on water in a storm to calm the seas and His Disciples, traveling to heal the sick, even touching a leper, not because He needed to, but because the man long inflicted with leprosy needed to feel a human touch.
During Holy Week Jesus reminded His followers that helping others, which is to say serving the needs of others, or others in need, as told in Matthew 25, is what we are called to do if we want to affirm our love for Jesus.
Jesus showed love
The sacrament of Holy Communion – the recreation of the Last Supper – is often referred to as an “Agape Meal.” This is a powerful word. It means we in fact are committing to each other a form of Divine, sacrificial love, in the spirit, intent, and fellowship of Christ.
Recall from an earlier blog the discussion between Jesus and Peter, when our Lord asked His Disciple “do you love Me?”