Summary: Reflections on the Last Supper
Maundy Thursday NR 2007
Today we remember the events that occurred on Thursday of what the church calls Holy Week, the last week in the life of Jesus.
Perhaps this week in about AD 29 is the most talked about week on in the history of mankind
It has been estimated that about a third of all the events that we have recorded in Scripture about Jesus’ life occurred during this week:
On that Thursday, the disciples have gathered in a home, whose we are not sure, but we do know that it had a furnished second floor.
Tradition has it that it was the house of John Mark’s mother – John Mark being the author of Mark’s Gospel
As they gathered, they were taking part in the Seder meal, one of the highlights of the Passover week.
The Passover festival, was ingrained in the life of the Jewish nation.
It commemorated that time when the Jews were in slavery in Egypt.
Moses had warned Pharaoh to let his people go, but Pharaoh refused.
So God one plague after another .
Pharaoh wasn’t moved until God sent the tenth and final plague – known as the death of the firstborns in Egypt
However this death passed over the homes of the Jews in Goshen.
And so the feast of Passover was ordered by God as a commemoration of the Jewish nation’s deliverance by God.
The meal itself was a symbolic one reminding the Jews of the sufferings of their forefathers and the power of God’s deliverance.
The foods that were eaten were symbols to remind the Jews of their captivity in Egypt.
1. Lamb The word ’pesach’ (pasch, passover) applies to the Lamb of sacrifice as well as to the deliverance from Egypt and to the feast itself.
2. Unleavened bread (Matzoh) called "bread of affliction" because it recalls the unleavened bread prepared for the hasty flight by night from Egypt.
Three large matzohs are broken and consumed during the ceremony.
3. Bitter herbs (Moror) is a reminder of the bitterness of slavery and suffering in Egypt.
4. Green herbs to be dipped in salt water. Salt water represents tears of sorrow shed during the captivity of the Lord’s people.
5. Haroseth (or ’haroses’) - a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine represents the mortar used by Jews in building palaces and pyramids of Egypt during their slavery.
6. Wine is dipped from a common bowl.
There are four acts of drinking wine during the Seder feast – known as the ’Four Cups”
It was this Seder Meal that Jesus and the disciples were celebrating in the upper room that night.
It was at the conclusion of that meal that Jesus himself gave two of the symbols of the Seder meal fresh significance
He took a loaf and broke it and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.
Then he took a cup with wine. He drank from it and gave it to his disciples saying,
“Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.”
And of course, from it was born one of the two Sacraments of the Church of England – the Holy Communion.
Interestingly, in the Protestant Churches, we only recognise two sacraments- what are known as the “Dominical commands” – so named because Jesus ordered his church to perform them
Holy Communion and Baptism
The Roman Catholic Church has a further five
It is significant hat Jesus took the elements for the Holy Communion from the Passover festival.
Because in Passover, the children of God celebrated that God’s Salvation, a salvation which resulted in the Israelites being released from the slavery of Egypt
So in Holy Communion we, the children of God celebrate the God’s salvation through Jesus’ death on the Cross.
Indeed the salvation Jesus offers has resulted in all mankind having the capability of being freed from the slaverty of sin.
In other words , the first Passover is an Old Testament prefiguring of Jesus’ vicarious death of the Cross – the Salvation of God.
And so it was highly significant that Jesus died at Passover.
For it reminds us of what God has done, through Jesus.
As St. John put it
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Or as St Paul puts it
8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So today, let us give thanks for that wonderful gift of God – our salvation – eternal life that cost Jesus dearly – as we recall tomorrow on Good Friday.