the last supper

The Room

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples *said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He *sent two of His disciples and *said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. 

Mark 14:12-16

The large upper room that Jesus and the disciples were to eat the Passover may have been a roof chamber built on top of a house. These type rooms were probably common in Jerusalem for the express purpose of renting to pilgrims a place to celebrate feasts. The room was furnished (Mark 14:15: Luke 22:12) and would have had a large banquet table and everything necessary to prepare and serve a meal. The banquet table that was customarily used was a low table so that those that gathered around would have to recline. The guests would recline on couches and lay on their left side with their feet resting on the ground. Reclining at the table represent freedom to the Jew and was to be a reminder that they could never recline in comfort when they were slaves.

what is the passover?

The Book of Exodus recounts how the Lord sent Moses to Pharaoh to serve as the one to deliver Israel. The Pharaoh, of course, refused Moses’ appeal to set the Israelites free from their slavery, and the stage was then set for the showdown between God of Israel and the “gods” of Egypt. The final terrible plague that would descent up the people of Egypt would be the death of the firstborn in the land. Only those families that scarified an unblemished male lamb and smeared its blood upon the doorposts of the house would be “passed over” (pasach) from impending wrath from heaven.

The traditional ceremony for remembering the deliverance is called the seder, a Hebrew word that means “order.” A Passover seder refers to an orchestrated ceremony or liturgy with a number of distinct phases or steps. The special food that is eaten and the order of meal all serve to retell the story of the Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom. 

There are 15 steps to a Seder.

  • Kaddesh: Sanctification—A blessing over wine in honor of the holiday. The wine is drunk, and a second cup is poured. Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.
  • Urechatz: Washing—A washing of hands without a blessing, in preparation for the Karpas.
  • Karpas: Vegetable—A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten. The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water symbolizes the tears shed as a result of our slavery. Parsley is a good vegetable to use for this purpose, because when you shake off the salt water, it looks like tears.
  • Yachatz: Breaking—One of the three matzahs on the table is broken. Part is returned to the pile, the other part is set aside for the afikomen
  • Maggid: The Story—A retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Pesach.
  • Rachtzah: Washing—A second washing of the hands, this time with a blessing, in preparation for eating the matzah.
  • Motzi: Blessing over Grain Products—The ha-motzi blessing, a generic blessing for bread or grain products used as a meal, is recited over the matzah. 
  • Matzah: Blessing over Matzah—A blessing specific to matzah is recited, and a bit is eaten. 
  • Maror: Bitter Herbs—A blessing is recited over a bitter vegetable (usually raw horseradish; sometimes romaine lettuce), and it is eaten. This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery.
  • Korekh: The Sandwich—Rabbi Hillel was of the opinion that the maror should be eaten together with matzah and the paschal offering in a sandwich.
  • Shulchan Orekh: Dinner—A festive meal is eaten. There is no particular requirement regarding what to eat at this meal (except, of course, that leaveaned food cannot be eaten). Roast chicken or turkey are common as a main course, as is beef brisket.
  • Tzafun: The Afikomen—The piece of matzah set aside earlier is eaten as "dessert," the last food of the meal. Different families have different traditions relating to the afikomen. Some have the children hide it, while the parents have to either find it or ransom it back. The idea is to keep the children awake and attentive through the pre-meal proceedings, waiting for this part.
  • Barekh: Grace after Meals—The third cup of wine is poured, and birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. This is similar to the grace that would be said on any Shabbat. At the end, a blessing is said over the third cup and it is drunk. The fourth cup is poured, including a cup set aside for the prophet Elijah, who is supposed to herald the Messiah, and is supposed to come on Pesach to do this.
  • Hallel: Praises—Several psalms are recited. A blessing is recited over the last cup of wine and it is drunk.
  • Nirtzah: Closing—A simple statement that the Seder has been completed, with a wish that next year, we may celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem (i.e., that the Messiah will come within the next year).

lord's supper

While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:22-26

John Stott noted that there were three lessons that Jesus was teaching the disciples as they experienced and participated in this Passover. 

The first lesson concerned the centrality of His death. “The Lord’s Supper, which was instituted by Jesus, which is the only regular commemorative act authorized by Him”. It does not dramatizes neither His birth nor His life, neither His words nor His works, but only His death. Nothing could indicate more clearly the central significance that Jesus attached to His death. “It was by His death that he wished above all else to be remembered. There is then, it is safe to say, no Christianity without the cross. If the cross is not central to our religion, ours is not the religion of Jesus.”  

“Second, Jesus was teaching about the purpose of His death. According to Paul and Matthew, Jesus’ words about the cup referred not only to His “blood” but to the “new covenant” associated with His blood, and Matthew adds further that His blood was to be shed “for the forgiveness of sins.” Here is the truly fantastic assertion that through the shedding of Jesus’ blood in death God was taking the initiative to establish a new pact or covenant” with His people, one of the greatest promises of which would be the forgiveness of sinners.”  

The third lesson Jesus taught was the need to appropriate His death personally. This lesson was not learned just by sitting and listening, but by actively participating in the drama as it unfolded. Jesus revealed to the disciples the meaning and purpose of His death in a way which would hard for them to miss. “Just as it was not enough for the bread to be broken and the wine to be poured out but they had to eat and drink, so it was not enough for Him to die, but they had to appropriate the benefits of His death personally. The eating and drinking were, and still are, a vivid acted parable of receiving Christ as our crucified Savior and of feeding on Him in our hearts by faith. Jesus had already taught this in His great discourse on the living bread which followed His feeding of the five thousand:” 




the bread

Eternal life is a matter of believing that God came in human flesh and that He died a substitutionary atoning sacrificial death for sin. Eating the flesh means acknowledging and appropriating that Christ is God in human flesh. Drinking the blood is accepting and acknowledging and believing and appropriating His sacrificial death. When you share in the communion and you take the bread and you take the cup, you are symbolizing outwardly that spiritual appropriation. As you accepted the deity of Christ and His substitutionary sacrificial death for you spiritually at your salvation, you are declaring that in the bread and the cup. And so, communion then becomes a symbol of our salvation act. It becomes a reconfirmation. It becomes a restatement.

the cup

There are four cups of wine that are shared in a Passover meal. It is on the third cup that Jesus had established the New Covenant. Jesus then tells the disciples that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until the kingdom was established. In this statement, Jesus was stopping with the third cup of the meal and abstaining from the fourth cup. The significance of this can be appreciated from the fact that the four cups of wine were interpreted in terms of the four-fold promise of redemption set forth in Exodus 6:6-7: 

“I will bring you out…I will rid you of their bondage…I will redeem you…I will take you for my people and I will be your God.” 

Jesus had used the third cup, associated with the promise of redemption, to refer to His atoning death on behalf of the elect community. The cup which He refused was the cup of consummation, associated with the promise that God will take His people to be with Him. This is the cup which Jesus will drink with His own in the messianic banquet which inaugurates the saving age to come.” 

foot washing

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

John 13:3-5

It was customary for the slave or the lowliest person of the household to wash the feet of anyone that enters the house. Obviously there was not slave at this meal with Jesus and the Disciples because no one had bothered to wash their feet. Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love. Luke points out (22:24) that they were arguing about who was the greatest of them, so that none was willing to stoop to wash feet. When Jesus moved to wash their feet, they were shocked. His actions serve also as symbolic of spiritual cleansing (verses 6-9) and a model of Christian humility (verses 12-17). Through this action Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was supremely exemplified by His death on the cross.