The Last Supper Prepare Bible Text: Matthew 26:20–29; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:14–38 Lesson Focus: Jesus' blood is the sign of God's new promise for us. Big Question: What's the connection between Jesus' last supper and Passover? Key Words: COVENANT, PASSOVER, LAST SUPPER, SACRIFICE, FORGIVENESS
This marks the change between God’s & man’s relationship. When you partake in the Lord’s Supper, do you believe that it is actually Jesus’ body & blood? Are you preparing your heart to receive His sacrifice for your sins? Are you confident that all your sins are forgiven?
Quick Prep • Jesus' last supper was a Passover meal. Passover is a Jewish feast celebrating the ancient Israelites' liberation from slavery. • The Passover meal of liberation is one interpretive lens on the Eucharist, which is also a meal of reconciliation, a meal that gathers diverse people, a meal of God's bounty, and a meal of incorporation. • Jesus says of the cup of wine that he shares at his last supper, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). • Many people in the environment of ancient Christianity would have viewed the idea of drinking blood in perhaps the same way we view the idea of a vampire consuming blood, as something fantastic and horrible. Despite such reactions, the Christian Eucharist is not the only cultural setting in which consuming blood is understood as giving life or as sealing a covenant. Different churches have different answers to the question of who may receive communion.
Deep Prep Jesus' last supper was a Passover meal that he shared with the 12 disciples. Passover is a Jewish feast celebrating the ancient Israelites' liberation from slavery (Exodus 12:1–28). In anticipation of the flight from Egypt—and in subsequent commemoration of the Passover—the Lord instructed the community to slaughter a year-old male lamb (either a sheep or a goat) "without blemish" (Exodus 12:5). Each household was to smear the animal's blood on its doorposts and lintels. The plague of death would pass over any household in Egypt whose entryway had this sign. After they drained the animal's blood and smeared it on the doorways, the people roasted the lamb and ate it hastily as they prepared to flee. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, a harvest festival, is celebrated with Passover. The Passover bread is unleavened, another sign of the people's haste. There was no time to let yeasted dough rise. John's Gospel explicitly identifies Jesus as the Passover lamb (John 19:36).
Jesus' last supper, a Passover meal, witnesses that the Eucharist is a meal of liberation. The Last Supper included Judas, who would betray Jesus. Other disciples, notably Peter, also betrayed Jesus in their flight and denials. The Eucharist is a meal that includes enemies—of one another and of God. It is also a meal of reconciliation. The Bible indicates that Jesus ate the supper with only the Twelve, all men, all members of the Jewish community. In these respects, Passover is a meal of insiders, but Jesus' inclusive table fellowship also informs our understanding of the Eucharist. That Jesus ate with tax collectors, sinners, women, and nonbelievers is reflected in our understanding of the Eucharist as a meal that gathers diverse people at one table. The Eucharist is a meal of incorporation (1 Corinthians 10:6–17), making all who share the bread one in the body of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is a meal of God's bounty as well. At the eucharistic table, there is always food and grace enough for all, as in Jesus' being able to feed thousands with what seemed so little. The Passover meal is precisely one in which the animal's blood is not consumed. Only after the blood was drained was the meat cooked. Yet Jesus says of the cup of wine that he shares with the disciples at his last supper, a Passover meal, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). The Hebrew Bible, which prohibits eating meat with blood (Genesis 9:4–6; Leviticus 17:10–12), is not alone in its view that consuming blood is not right. Early Christians celebrating Jesus' last supper by eating bread and wine and claiming to consume Jesus' body and blood was cause for some gossip! Many people in the environment of ancient Christianity would have viewed the idea of drinking blood in perhaps the same way we view the idea of a vampire consuming blood, as something fantastic and horrible. Some Romans regarded Christian claims of drinking Jesus' blood as cannibalistic! Despite such reactions, the Christian Eucharist is not the only cultural setting in which consuming blood is understood as giving life or as sealing a covenant. Who may receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at the communion table? Different denominations and different congregations within denominations have different answers to that question. In some churches, only those who are baptized, confirmed, and active members who have prepared are admitted to the communion table. In other churches, an announcement is made that all are welcome and none will be turned away. Most congregations are somewhere in between. A common bulletin or verbal announcement might say that "all who are baptized" may come. Some churches with more exclusive communion procedures base their practice on a certain interpretation of scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27–32) that says that one must be prepared and worthy to receive communion. Other churches with more inclusive practices hold the view that the communion table is God's and thus they have no grounds to turn anyone away; indeed, Jesus himself practiced a scandalously inclusive table fellowship. Luther's Small Catechism says that "a person who has faith in these words, 'given for you' and 'shed for you . . . for the forgiveness of sin,' is really worthy and well prepared" (Timothy J. Wengert, A Contemporary Translation of Luther's Small Catechism[Augsburg Fortress, 1994], 44).
Adolescent Connection What's the connection between Jesus' last supper and Passover? If you ask youth to describe a special family dinner where all are gathered and there is some ritual or tradition, they are probably able to recall the important things about this event. The reason is that what happens on these occasions involves many parts of the brain: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches— many intelligences. Jesus chose the setting of a Passover meal to issue his new covenant. Much like our remembrances of special traditions, Passover was a ritual or tradition the disciples had experienced and
remembered through all of their senses and intelligences. Jesus' command at the Last Supper to "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19) was imbedded in their brains in a multitude of ways. This principle might help youth grasp the setting for this important meal—for the disciples and for us.
Baptismal Connection In the Rite of Affirmation of Baptism, a five-part question addresses each confirmand's intent to continue in the covenant God made with them in Holy Baptism. Here We Stand resources help students—with support from parents, leaders, and the entire congregation—prepare to answer this question as they continue in their lifelong faith journey. Today's lesson focuses on the clause "to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper" (Lutheran Book of Worship, page 201; Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 236). At the Last Supper, shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus issued his new covenant and spoke the words of institution to his disciples. That new covenant or promise of salvation is one we all need to hear again and again. By sharing in the Lord's Supper, we receive forgiveness of sins and reassurance of our new life in Christ. That regular forgiveness strengthens us for life and work in God's kingdom.
Small Group Discussion Recall the lesson. Open the Bible. Read 1 Corinthians 11:26-29. Ask the students are they truly preparing themselves and their hearts before coming to the Lord’s Table? What does that mean? Why is wrong to come to the Table unprepared. Instill value to the topic and life application. Discuss what it means for Jesus to be with us at Holy Communion through Real Presence. Ask the students if they really believe that this miracle happens today. Ask the following questions: • Read Luke 22:19-20. We read that Jesus gave thanks before He broke the bread. Why do you think He did this? What did He mean when He said that His blood was being “poured out”? • What does Jesus mean when He says the “new covenant”? Does the old covenant from the Passover no longer matter? Does the Law still apply today? • How does this new covenant change the relationship between you and God? • What sins do you find hardest to forgive? What sins are hardest for God to forgive, if any? • Are you confident that be partaking in the Lord’s Supper that all your sins are forgiven? • Remind the students that God sent Jesus to do this for each one of them. Tell them that it is important to remember that each time they come to celebrate the Last Supper. Encourage trying life application. Follow up with last week’s challenge of the students attempting to use their blessings for God’s will and to share Christ’s love with others this week. How was it different from how they normally steward what they have been given? Then challenge them to reflect on this morning’s lesson over the week. If a friend were to ask them about Holy Communion, what would they say? After giving it some thought, have them bring back their answers next week to share.
Pray. Take prayer requests and have a student close the group in prayer.