“What would you like for your last supper?” Persons slated for execution are customarily asked this question, thus selecting the menu for their final meal.
Faced with that circumstance, I think I’d respond, “I really don’t have much of an appetite tonight, but how about how about another fifty years of meals, starting tomorrow morning?”
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember Jesus’ last supper, although Maundy actually means, “washing of the feet”—another component of the last supper. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” That is the question asked by the youngest son, or male, present during the Passover meal (or Seder, meaning an order of service). The events in the life of Christ and His disciples that night truly distinguish it from all other nights.
The Passover signified Israel’s redemption from Israel. For New Testament believers in Jesus Christ, it signifies that we are redeemed from the bondage of slavery to sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 NKJV) More than 30 times Jesus is referred to as a lamb, or the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament. What can we learn about disappointments, detours, and destiny from the events that took place on that night 2,000 years ago?
- Friends are important in times of celebration and times of suffering.
Passover was meant to be celebrated with friends and family. If a person was too poor afford a Passover lamb, he was to join with friends. If a family was too small to eat the entire meal, they were to invite friends or needy people to join with them. It is significant that Jesus chose to be with His disciples during His last supper.
Not only do we need friends during times of celebration, but we especially need them during times of suffering. By the time they were sitting down for the Passover meal, Jesus was already suffering. He suffered when He revealed that Judas Iscariot would be the one to betray Him. In ancient times, if you dipped your food along with a friend, you signified absolute allegiance to him. Judas’s deceit and betrayal must have shocked the rest of the disciples. But it didn’t shock Jesus, it merely hurt Him and further illustrated the beginning of the Passover meal, when a vegetable (often a piece of lettuce), is dipped into water mixed with bitter herbs. This represented the bitterness of slavery – and no doubt it reminded Jesus and His disciples of the bitterness of unfaithfulness.
I’m sure Peter must have listened very carefully that night when Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer. And I’m equally sure Peter had very good intentions to never do anything to betray the Lord. But Peter underestimated the power of intimidation and overestimated the strength of his resolve. Before the night was over, Peter abandoned the Lord Jesus and even swore that he didn’t know him.
Jesus Christ alone can promise to never leave us and fulfill that promise. He is a faithful and forgiving friend. This is a remarkable fact when you consider that Jesus never made a mistake, committed a sin, or did anything to hurt another individual. A real friend is one who is able to overlook the faults of another and can bring out the best in that person.
- Jesus modeled servant leadership.
It is interesting that John (13:1-16) is the only Gospel writer that mentions how Jesus washed the disciple’s feet during the ceremonial meal. This probably took place right after the Kiddush (blessing) and the dipping of bitter herbs in salt water. Jesus rose from the table and took a towel and began to wash the disciple’s feet, much to their absolute shock. Traditionally, a master or rabbi would never do such a thing – it was work for a slave or servant. In fact, during the first ceremonial washing of the Passover meal, the host washed first, to signify that he was the head of the house, the undisputed leader. But Jesus insisted on showing that true leaders serve.
Matthew was Jewish and wrote to the Jews, so they would understand everything associated with the Passover meal. Matthew presented Jesus Christ as the King. His Gospel is known as the Gospel of the King. Even though Jesus was the King of the Jews, He didn’t act like an earthly King. He modeled servant leadership and encouraged us to follow His example.
John tells us that Jesus “laid aside His garments,” which symbolized the need to lay aside our own righteousness and pride before the Lord. Jesus willingly bared Himself before His disciples in order to serve them, just as He would soon have His robes torn from Him in order to suffer for all mankind.
Matthew tells us that Jesus took the unleavened bread and broke it. The bread is called matzo in Hebrew, and it means “unleavened, sweet without sourness.” The unleavened bread symbolized the sweetness of life without sin. Every time we celebrate the last supper we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. He was willing to serve and give His life for others. The broken bread was also symbolic of humility as the poor could only afford a small amount of bread and Jesus identified with those who were unprivileged and underserved by others.
- Jesus conveyed unconditional love.
Jesus methodically and systematically prepared Himself to be the Passover Lamb. He was the spotless Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world. And although He showed sorrow, He did not indicate anger, or frustration, or resentment, or any of the typical human responses to what He was facing. What He did show was unconditional love, in giving His life for all human beings.
Jesus faced absolute injustice, punishment for sins He did not commit. The Bible tells us that we are to emulate Jesus in showing grace and mercy to others. Jesus loved and loves unconditionally. His blood covers our sins, just as the blood of the Passover Lamb protected the ancient Jewish people from death.
Because He gave His life for us, we can experience eternal life. We should never forget. That’s why Jesus said what He said and did what He did that night. The Apostle Paul described it:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Some suggestions for application:
What if you really were planning your last supper? What would you want for the meal? Who would you want to be there? What would you want to say and do?
Disappointments and detours come in many forms. Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend? How did you respond?
Could Judas Iscariot have been forgiven if He had asked for it? Is there any limit to God’s mercy and forgiveness?
How important are friendships to you? Why do allow our busy schedules to interfere with building relationships?