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History of Communion: Last Supper
The Sacraments, Lesson 8
Welcome to Holy Week!
Today is Palm Sunday, and even though I didn’t plan this intentionally, God worked it out so that this week, we are looking at the Last Supper, which took place during the last week of Christ’s life on earth, also known as Holy Week. Traditionally, when we celebrate communion, we look back specifically at Christ’s last days. In particular, we remember the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples.
I’ve already written a Bible Essentials lesson on the Last Supper, so this one might be a bit shorter than others. But it’s essential for a series that is studying communion in-depth. The Bible Essentials lesson looked at the version of the Last Supper as told in Matthew 26. You can read that lesson here:
In this lesson, we’ll look at the version from Luke 22. You can also read about the Last Supper in Mark 14. Although the Last Supper itself, as related to communion, isn’t included in the gospel of John, many of the events related to that meal are shared in more detail in John 13-17. Consider taking time to read those chapters this week. I’ve also included a more complete reading plan for this week at the end of the lesson.
Let’s start by reading Luke’s version of the Last Supper:
Luke 22:7-23: 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 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.”
20 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. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
From reading this passage, we learn several things.
The Jews were still following God’s command from way back in Exodus, before they even left Egypt, to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This tradition had been carried down through generations of faithful Jews, and Jesus himself, along with his disciples, participated in the holy festival.
Jesus had plans for celebrating this Passover meal with his disciples. There’s some contention on when exactly Jesus and the disciples celebrated this meal and when Jesus was crucified. Some believe that they celebrated the meal early, and Jesus was sacrificed at the same time as the Passover lamb. Others believe that they celebrated the meal at the normal time, and Jesus was sacrificed later. Whatever the actual timing of events, we know that Jesus was crucified during the time of Passover, and he was eager to celebrate this meal together with his disciples one last time.
Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal. The bread no longer just refers to unleavened bread prepared in haste. It refers to Christ’s body that was broken for us. The cup no longer just refers to the blood of a lamb. It refers to Christ’s blood shed for our sins. We’ll delve into this more deeply over the next two weeks.
Every time we celebrate the Passover or communion, which is patterned after the events of this Last Supper, we are to remember Jesus and his sacrifice. The whole point of communion is remembrance. We are to dwell on the pain and suffering that Jesus willingly endured in order to take the penalty for our sins. This leads us to thankfulness for our own salvation.
The Last Supper is the key connection point between the original Passover and the new meaning of communion that we still use today. From the time of the Passover in Exodus to the time of Jesus, the Passover was looking back to a time when the Israelites were saved from the destroyer, but it also foreshadowed the Messiah who was to come and save all people through his shed blood. From the time of Jesus to now, communion looks back on the Messiah and remembers the work he’s already done to save us from the penalty of sin—death.
Bible Readings for Holy Week
Listed below are Bible readings that correspond to Holy Week. Feel free to pick a certain gospel to read throughout the week, or try to read them all! What better way to remember Christ’s sacrifice this week than to read his story directly from the Bible.
Sunday (4/2): Triumphal Entry
Monday (4/3): Teaching
Tuesday (4/4): Teaching
Wednesday (4/5): Teaching
Thursday (4/6): Betrayal, Last Supper, Gethsemane, Arrest
Friday (4/7): Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial
Saturday (4/8): In the Tomb
Rest and Remember