This week, better known as Holy Week, I am writing about the various events that occurred during the final days of the life of Jesus prior to the crucifixion and the resurrection. I was about to call this post “The Last Supper” but it seemed appropriate to offer a broader title because so much more than dinner happened during this time between Jesus and His disciples the day before He was nailed to a cross.
Jesus had made arrangements to secure a room that would serve as the place for a Passover meal with the apostles. It was an upper room that had been reserved for the group. Many things that we know, but don’t necessarily think about, happened that evening as they ate together. Jesus taught the disciples about the need to serve one another and demonstrated this act of love by washing the feet of those who had travelled with him for the last three years. He taught them about loving one another and gave them this new commandment. In fact, the teachings of Jesus that evening are referred to as the Upper Room Discourse and theologians are still studying it to this day.
Jesus also announced that one of the disciples would betray Him and it quickly became evident that Judas was the traitor. In fact, Judas Iscariot made arrangements to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and later Jesus was turned over to the authorities. It didn’t end well for Judas who, according to many reports, took his own life.
In probably the most famous ceremony we remember from that night, the disciples celebrated The Lord’s Supper, sometimes called Communion or the Eucharist depending on what religion you identify with. So you can see that many things happened that last evening together as Jesus was preparing Himself for the sacrifice ahead.
The events of the Last Supper have led to disagreement throughout the years as to the meaning of the elements that Jesus laid out for the apostles. Most Protestant denominations and independent churches, including Baptist and evangelical congregations, consider communion an act of remembrance of the Last Supper. Jesus gave His followers bread and wine – admonishing them to do this in “remembrance of me.” Most denominations consider communion just that – an act of obedience and remembrance of that last night together.
Other Christian denominations take a more literal view of the Eucharist (communion) elements – the bread and the wine. They believe that that the bread and wine, through a process called transubstantiation, are converted into the literal blood and body of Jesus; only the appearance of the bread and wine remains. This belief is most prevalent in the Catholic Church and is one of the major differences between Catholicism and many other mainline Christian denominations. Each person must decide for themselves what they believe but it is important to understand the difference between an act of remembrance and the literal presence of Jesus in the elements.
Clearly, we won’t know the answers to many of our questions until we get to heaven. But this difference in theology shouldn’t affect the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day – the day that we celebrate as Easter. We can all agree on this undeniable fact.
Later, after the events that happened in the upper room, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane while several of the disciples found it difficult to stay wake. Then, He was turned over to the authorities, experienced a “trial”, was condemned to death and finally crucified between two criminals the next day. The disciples thought that this was the end of Jesus, the end of the road. But God had a different plan… more about that Sunday.
Our verse for tonight is from the good doctor Luke. In fact, all four writers of the Gospels recount the Last Supper in their respective books. Luke tells us, in Luke 22:17-20, “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 of 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.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to remember that last night with his closest friends. And He wants us to engage in acts of love and kindness as He demonstrated for us when He washed the feet of the disciples and affirmed His desire for them to love one another. My prayer is that this week we will all slow down a little and remember more of the events that Jesus engaged in during the last week of His life. Have great day in the Lord, grace and peace…