15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” – Luke 22:15 (NRSV)
On this day, Jesus met in a second floor room with all his disciples. The nights gathering was to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. They had triumpantly rode into Jeruselem a few days proir and in that time had caused quite a stir. They were proud and feeling, in a word, powerful. Things were progressing positively and triumphantly. They felt at the top of their efforts, with a barrage of thoughts in their heads as to what would come next. Whatever will happen they knew it would be glorious, because God was pleased.
Jesus felt their inner joy and watched carefully as they interacted. However, his demeanor was much more sober. The others noticed, but dismissed it as Jesus’ temperment. He was always thinking and praying.
Given the circumstances, the turn of events that Jesus then spoke of, must have felt like ice cold water splashed on you while blissfully sleeping and dreaming. You’re violently thrust awake and in such a stupor that it’s many moments before you can frantically catch up in your mind.
The news that Jesus spoke of was never in the minds of his disciples. Only success was to be their future. Now their hearts were shattered. It was all coming to an end and soon. There was no time to prepare. It was upon them. There was no way to change it, either. It was God’s will and thus Jesus’ will.
“Why and how did it come to this?”, they asked.
The Last Supper is one of the most beautiful moments in history, like no other. The entirety of Jesus’s ministry is embodied in the details of this evening. Jesus used this last moment to conclude all that he taught his disciples, who were now to be Apostles.
He expressed his immersurable love for them, which was not really fully known. The disciples knew they were loved, but merely as all the others. Jesus loved everyone. But now Jesus made it known how personal it was. They were his special love.
It is well known that Jesus fortold the events that would soon begin with his betrayal, arrest, and persecution, before finally ending up murdered by his own people.
Why would God allow his only son to be treated this way? Jesus never fully explained the answer. He let the events unfold. It would all make sense in a matter of days. But amidst all the talk of Jesus’ impending death, some moments are key to the Last Supper:
- Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.
- Jesus instructs the twelve on the Eucharist (Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper).
- Jesus warns that one of them will betray him.
- Jesus tells Peter he will deny him three times.
WASHING THE DISCIPLES FEET
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know what I’m doing, but later you will understand.” – John 13:6-7 (NRSV)
In his washing of their feet, Jesus gave back to them all of his personal love by this simple gesture. He humbled himself to express how high he counted their importance. He knew his attention would be turned heavenward forever. He wanted a final moment to thank and teach them that even the Son of God is humbled in his love.
19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19 (NRSV)
This moment in history was not just a singular event that would live in the memories of the disciples only. Jesus instructed them to forever remember the beauty of his sacrifice and to take his Spirit into them as that is the key to their salvation. It is not enough to remember. The Spirit, through Jesus, must live inside each and every man and woman.
25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, ” Surely not I, Rabbi? He replied, ” You have said so.” – Matthew 26.25 (NRSV)
Judas betraying Jesus is easy to understand. Judas may have been motivated by greed, by a social responsibilty to curb possible riots and death from Jesus’ antagonizing, or by Satan’s influence. Most likely it was a combination of all and more, that made Judas an easy target for Satan to exploit.
What is most hard to understand is that Jesus knew he was to be betrayed and didn’t flee or try to stop Judas. This is the most significant part of Jesus’ sacrifice. He accepted God’s will be done, all while knowing the horrors he was soon to face. He knew Judas was the nessasary catalyst.
33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied me three times that you know me.” – Luke 22:33-34 (NRSV)
To me, this moment is of particular importance, more than most Pastors contend. Yes, it is spoken of often, but it’s significance is mostly expressed by the fact that Jesus had the power to foretell it. And of the importance of Peter’s shame in the aftermath and his subsequent repentance.
I’m particularly moved by this moment.
Jesus is not just being betrayed by Judas. The whole of Jesus’ efforts whilst he ministerd will be tossed away by the very people he helped and loved. He’s to be tortured and crucified. Yet, he made no effort to stop it, nor did his love wane.
But with Peter it was different. It was personal. Peter must deny him. Why? Jesus must be denied on every level. Jesus, the man, was personally struck in his heart knowing that not even his friend would be there for him. He was truly alone. He was truly heartbroken.
1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1 (NRSV)
The Last Supper is the beginning of the end for Jesus’ life as a man. More importantly, he knew what was to come and accepted it wholy. He gave his unwavering love to his disciples who would then manifest that love in their personal sacrifices as they roamed the world telling everyone of the most significant events in history.
Tonight we give thanks to the Living God and His Son.
Lord Jesus, yes our Lord, we do not forget.
Artwork: “The Last Supper (Jesus Reveals God’s Plan to the Apostles)”, 2019 by Artist Robert Perez