Summary: The accounts of the last supper sound more like the last snack. This message looks at what all happened that night.
Do you ever feel that you’ve only heard half the story? It’s kind of frustrating isn’t it? You wonder what else might have gone on and what you’ve missed. That’s what happens when we read the accounts of the Last Supper, it doesn’t matter if it’s one of the accounts in one of the four gospels or Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians, we only hear a small snippet of what went on at that event. It would be like summing up Christmas day at your house in a few sentences, some stuff is bound to get left out.
Well let’s see, the kids woke up early and opened their stockings and then they got us up and we all went into the living room and sat around the tree. Dad passed the presents around and everyone opened their gifts. After that we all got our showers and got ready for the day, we put on Christmas dinner, Turkey, dressing, Potatoes, Carrots, Sweet potatoes and a tofurkey for Angela. After dinner we cleaned up watched some TV and went to bed.
Sure that’s what happened but that isn’t all that happened.
And so it is with the story of the Last Supper. From all accounts it wasn’t a supper at all instead it was simply a snack, some bread and some wine and a little conversation. Hardly even a lunch. But the reality is that we just reading the highlights of the meal. Remember the question the apostles asked in Matthew 26:17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” And for them the Passover meal was every bit as important as Christmas Dinner is for us or Thanksgiving Dinner is for our friends to the south. This wasn’t a snack it wasn’t a lunch it was an entire meal that was planned in advance. And it happened the same way every year.
And for the original readers of the book of Matthew they understood all the things that weren’t spelled out, they could fill in the blanks. But we are looking back 2000 years through the perspective of a different culture.
We think of the Last Supper being comprised of bread and wine but they are only elements of the meal. The actual meal was a roast lamb and all that went with it, although not sure that they had mint jelly back then. It is first mentioned in Exodus 12:14 “This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time. And then it is spelled out in both Leviticus and Numbers where we read Numbers Numbers 9:2-3 “Tell the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at the prescribed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. Be sure to follow all my decrees and regulations concerning this celebration.” And this was the beginning of the Passover celebration or Festival of Unleavened Bread.
Each year Jews would come to remember how God had delivered the People of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The story is told first in the book of Exodus and the story comes to a point of climax when the Israelites fled from the slavery of Egypt and began a journey that would last 40 years ands would culminate in the Promised Land.
And the celebration of that story took the same form every year for Jews all over the world, and so we can know what happened that day in an upstairs room in the Bethany, which was a bedroom community of Jerusalem.
This morning our service is going to be a little different because we are going to blend our preaching and music to take us on a journey through what happened that evening and what it means to us 2000 years later.
We are told in tradition that the 13 would have reclined around a low table, something that Leonardo obviously wasn’t aware of when he painted the Last Supper. The reason you recline at the Passover meal is a celebration of your freedom. When the Jews were in Egypt they were slaves under the control and command of their Egyptian masters so there was no time for relaxing but now they were free and could take their time eating this meal.
So Jesus and the twelve would have reclined around the low table that had been prepared for them and Jesus being the leader of the group would have lifted the first of four glasses of wine that were part of the celebration. In this case it was the cup of the Kiddush. Kiddush means sanctification or separation. And these glasses of wine were symbolic and were divided amongst those around the table.