DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
by Peter Islip
The Last Supper
At the table of the Lord
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV), 1996, ©1984 Grand Rapids: Zondervan, unless otherwise stated.
THE LAST SUPPER
The Gospel of Mark describes how Jesus and his twelve disciples journeyed from Bethany to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead to prepare a special place for their meeting. It is possible that the strange instructions, which Jesus gave for finding the room, were to prevent Judas from knowing the location in advance and informing the High Priest. In this way Jesus was able to celebrate the meal with his disciples without being disturbed.
‘So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you…”’ (Mark 14:13 – 16).
In Israel it was a woman's task to collect water from the wells and so it would have been easy for the disciples to recognise the man carrying the water pitcher as Jesus had described. This is an example of how Jesus could foretell future events before they happened. So, just as Jesus said, the man led the disciples to the upper room where they would celebrate the Passover together.
Although the hour was late, and darkness had fallen by the time the disciples entered the room, they were with their master Jesus, described in the Gospel of John as 'the light of the world' (John 8:12; 9:5). Jesus knew that very soon he was to be handed over to evil men to be crucified and so he was under immense mental pressure. We read in the gospel of Luke that, at this time of great trial, Jesus really needed the fellowship of his disciples and so he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’(Luke 22:15).
The disciples didn't understand the words 'before I suffer' because they were too busy arguing amongst themselves about who was to be the greatest (Luke 22: 24). John explains how Jesus gently corrected them by his own example. When the supper was ready, he took the role of a servant and, taking off his outer clothing, he picked up a towel and poured water into a bowl. He then began to wash the feet of each of his disciples and to wipe them with the towel he had tied around his waist (John 13:4-5).
‘While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”’ (Mark 14:18-21).
As the night grew on, Jesus knew that it would soon be time for Judas to leave and fulfil his evil work. He knew that it was his last opportunity to spend precious moments with his disciples, but it filled him with sadness that one of them had chosen to betray him. The thoughts of Jesus are expressed in the Psalms,
‘Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.’ (Psalms 41:9).
It would have been with great sadness that Jesus, fully aware of Judas' intentions, gave the bread to him and said, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly' (John 13:26-27).
‘While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”’ (Mark 14:22-24).
The apostle Paul, by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, focused upon the importance of this simple feast of bread and wine:
‘For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
The simplicity of the memorial meal instituted by Jesus is in stark contrast to the complicated ritual of the Passover. In fact the bread and the wine had their origin two thousand years before Jesus in the offering of Melchizedek, king of Salem.
‘Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”’ (Genesis 14:18-20).
The Bible speaks of Jesus as 'a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek' (Hebrews 7:17). This is because the necessity of Jesus’ priesthood preceded both the Passover and the Levitical Priesthood.