The Last Supper
The story that's tethered me to my faith, some good songs, and a little laugh at the end.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
What does this story tell me about Jesus?
[Jesus’ words], rich in Old Testament associations (particularly Isaiah 53), indicate that Jesus’s death will inaugurate the new relationship between God and his people to which the prophets looked forward. To speak of a covenant is to speak of a community of the people of God. From now on this community will be constituted by the sacrifice of Jesus, and will consist of those who by ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ are identified with the benefits of his sacrificial death.
Jesus’ words over the bread and the cup have focused on death. But beyond that death lies life, in my Father’s kingdom. Again represents the important Matthaean phrase ap’ arti, ‘from now on’; it serves to to mark a point in time which separates the two situations of “now” and “one day”; a new day is now dawning… the companionship of Jesus with his disciples, so soon to be broken by death, will be restored in my Father’s kingdom (an unusual and lovely phrase, including the Father himself in that future family reunion of Jesus and his disciples). So the emphasis on death in the preceding words leads to a sense no of sombre finality, but of joyful anticipation of new life through death.
How does this passage help me make sense of my own story?
I think Dick France’s commentary above on this passage demonstrates how this foundational teaching and sacrament of the Christian faith plays a role in identity formation. As a Christian, my life is defined by an act of sacrificial love and faith that new life will come through death. And I remember that act regularly through participation in the Lord’s Supper with my community faith.
Two “applications” of this passage for Holy Week.
First, if you can this Holy Week, go to a Maundy Thursday service tomorrow. This is a service where we remember the Jesus’ Last Supper. In my recent years of wondering wanderings, partaking the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has mercifully tethered me to the Christian story and expanded my imagination of what faith means and can be. James K.A. Smith explains it this way:
The tangible display and performance of the gospel in the Lord's Supper is a deeply affective practice. Its sights and smells, its rhythms and movements, are the sort of thing that seep into our imaginations and become second nature. Just as a song makes words stick in our memory, so the sights, smells, and rhythms of the Eucharist seem to make the story both come alive and wriggle into our imaginations in a way that it wouldn't otherwise. (Desiring the Kingdom, pg. 198-99)
Second, sing the Hallel Psalms (suggestions below).
In this passage we learn that following the supper, they sang a hymn (v. 30). Dick France notes this hymn was likely part of the Hallel series of the psalms (Psalm 113-118) which were traditionally sang at Jewish holidays (this was all happening at Passover).
At my church several years ago, our Lenten series was the Hallel Psalms and those Psalms have been a gift to return to in these days leading to Easter. I love to sing them in the mornings and here are a few I’ve been listening to this week.
Here are a few others that I really love.
P.S. A friend told me that when she saw my email on Monday, she was expecting a photo of my Peter and laughed when she realized I was actually talking about the apostle, not walking through Holy Week with my two-year-old son.
So to add a little levity to this week, I offer you this photo of Peter at the Last Supper.
Thanks for reading biblio•kept! Subscribe to follow along with this series.