THE LAST SUPPER
Last week I preached on the “Next-to-the Last Supper.” At that supper, Mary anointed Jesus with the precious ointment of nard which would have cost an ordinary laborer his entire year's salary. The apostles rebuked her for wasting all that money when it could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus then rebuked the apostles for rebuking Mary and told them how much He appreciated her devotional act He then established a memorial in Mary's honor with the words, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” People are not so well acquainted with what happened at that “Next-to-the -Last Supper, but the “Last Supper” is one of the most remembered hours of human history. Since these two suppers took place about a day apart and since a memorial was established at both suppers, I thought it was fitting for a follow-up sermon on “The Last Supper.” It is not called “The Last Supper” in scripture, but man has given it that famous name, and correctly so; for it was indeed the last supper of Christ in more ways than one.
One of the things we should remember about the last supper was there were two suppers eaten--- the Passover Supper and the Lord' s Supper. The Passover Supper was as important to God's Old Testament people as the Lord ‘s Supper is to God's New Testament people. There is a close connection between these two suppers, and there are many similarities between these two suppers. When correctly understood and interpreted, both suppers commemorated one and the same thing, namely the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. It is a revealed fact that the Lord's Supper is the new Passover Supper for both Jews and Gentiles in the Christian age of the world. These truths will become evident as we make a careful examination of “The Last Supper.”
The events connected with the last supper began on the first day of unleavened bread. The next-to-the- last Supper in the house of Simon the Leper ended probably the night before in the city of Bethany, a mile from Jerusalem. The Feast of Unleavened Bread,, also called the Feast of Passover, lasted eight days. The first day of unleavened bread was called the preparation day. On that day a place was selected to meet, all leaven must be removed from their homes, from that attic to the cellar, and the Passover Lamb must be killed and eaten. . As best we can ascertain, the last Supper took place on a Thursday in March or April, 33 A..D.
Matthew, Mark and Luke were inspired writers, and they make it clear that Thursday in Passover week was a proper day for the Passover supper.
On that Thursday morning Jesus and the twelve apostles were still in Bethany. The apostles said to Jesus, “ Where do you want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” What was the Passover anyway? As you well know, the word ”Passover” referred to “the passing over” of the destroying angel when he destroyed the first-born sons of all the Egyptians, but left untouched the houses of the Israelites. on whose door-posts was sprinkled the blood of the sacrificial lamb. On that night they were delivered from slavery and Egypt. On that Thursday morning Jesus said to Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” Jesus informed them that when they entered Jerusalem, a man will meet them carrying a pitcher of water. Tell the man that I will eat the Passover at his house with My disciples, and he will show you a large furnished upper room, there make ready. Peter and John spent the day executing that command. They bought the lamb, carried it to the temple, had it killed there, and its blood was sprinkled in the name of a paschal lamb for thirteen people. After killing the lamb, they would carry it to the place it was to be eaten, get the bread and the fruit of the vine, the bitter herbs and any other things necessary for the feast. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, the lamb could not be killed until after the evening sacrifice at 3:00 P.M. Therefore, Jesus and His apostles ate the Passover on that Thursday evening which Jews for 15000 years had done, the most important religious observance in the Jewish religion. It commemorated their deliverance from slavery in the land of Egypt.
On that famous night and at that famous supper first established in the days of Moses, Jesus established a new Passover observance. From this night on till time is no more, the old Passover would have a new meaning. It really came to an end on that night, although it did not officially end till the next day when Christ was nailed to the cross. At the last Supper it was clear that the Jewish religion was passing away and was a failing religion. When Jesus died on the cross, the Jews would learn for the first time in their history what the Passover was all about and why they were commanded to keep it. When Jesus died on the cross as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, He completely fulfilled all that the ancient Passover was talking about and signified. Every Passover lamb killed for the past 1500 years was only a picture, a prediction of Christ the Lamb of God, offered up as a sacrifice for all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. The leaven they had to remove from their houses symbolized the sin in their
lives that needed to be removed ultimately by Christ the true Passover Lamb. Ironically, the Jews celebrated the future death of Christ in every Passover week for 1500 years, but they didn't they were doing it. The death of the Passover lamb was The Passover Lamb was substituted for Christ, suffered punishment and put to death to commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Every Passover lamb of olden times was only a substitute for Christ, our Passover Lamb. All who become his disciples are to remove sin out of their lives as the Jews removed leaven out of their houses. The Passover lamb was symbolical and the leaven was symbolical. I Cor. 5:7 says to Christians, “Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us..” So the Passover observance goes on, not the old Passover, but the new Passover. Christ is now the one and only Passover Lamb for the whole world. We are said to be unleavened because Christ passed over our sins, forgave the past sins of our lives and gave us a new deliverance, a deliverance from sin and its power over our lives. Christians are now dedicated to removing the leaven of sin from their houses and their lives.
Let us take a fresh look at “The Last Supper” and see what He said and did that ended the old Passover and established the new. The first thing He said was, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say unto you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”(Luke 22:16) What He meant was He would never eat the Passover again on earth for He would die on the morrow, but He would continue to eat the Passover with all His disciples in the kingdom of heaven, the church. However, it was to be observed in a new way and with a new significance. A great change was to occur in this Jewish observance. Christians were to observe it in a different way.
After they observed the old Passover, Jesus then revealed to the apostles the new way it was to be observed in the Christian religion. At the close of the Passover supper, with all of the Passover supplies still on the table, Jesus picked up a loaf of unleavened bread, the Passover bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to the apostles and said, “Take eat, this is my body. which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.(I Cor. 11:24). Paul also said to Christians, “Purge out the old leaven that you may become a new lump, since you are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us”(I Co. 5:7). Jesus connected the Lord's Supper observance with the Passover observance , for He wanted the Jewish people to know that His death on the cross, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of world, was a complete fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover feast.. The old Passover lamb was always a prophecy 4
of Christ the true lamb of God. As the blood of the old Passover lamb sprinkled on the door posts saved all first born children of Israel, so the blood of Christ our Passover lamb sprinkled on our hearts caused God to passover our sins and saved us from God's eternal condemnation.
The Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to the apostles and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. This do as often as you drink, in remembrance of Me. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” It is significant that Jesus called the cup the fruit of the vine and not wine. The word He used is not the word wine, but the word for grape juice. Many believe they used wine, but that is not the word Jesus used. Paul added this inspired statement about this new celebration, “ As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He come.” In other words, the Lord's Supper is a living sermon. The solemn observance of Holy Communion is a vivid proclamation of the Lord's Death. Paul's words, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,” does not mean we can take it anytime we please. The New Testament teaches it was observed upon the first day of the week, the first day of every week and not upon any other days of the week. Acts 20:7 says, “Upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread... “ This passage shows that the first day of the week was the day in which the disciples broke the loaf, and it also shows that the prime purpose of their meeting on that day was to observe this ordinance. Paul's preaching was incidental on this occasion. They would have observed the Lord's Supper that day whether Paul or any other preacher may have been present. Churches don't have to have a preacher to observe the Communion Service. It is a most enlightening fact that the Lord's Supper is a carry-over of the Jewish Passover-- but revolutionized.
In closing, there are three things we need to remember concerning the Lord's Supper. First, it is a commemoration, a memorial and not a sacrifice. The bread is not transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ, as some folks believe. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The bread and fruit of the vine are merely emblems or tokens to help us remember. There are memorials everywhere. Every civilization has them, but none are more cherished than the one Jesus established at the last supper. The emblems on the table are ordinary unleavened bread and grape juice, but they have a deep meaning to Christians as they think concerning his body that was given in death and His blood poured out that our sins might be forgiven. His body was broken, bruised, beaten and pierced with
nails and a spear. None of his bones were broken to fulfill prophecy (John19:36), but His body was indeed broken. As the Passover was a perpetual commemoration of the deliverance out of Egypt, and a prediction of the coming and death of the Lamb of God, who was to bear the sins of the world; so also the Lord's Supper is at once the commemoration of the death of Christ and a pledge of His coming the second time without sin to salvation.
Second, it is more than a commemoration; it is a communion. At the last supper Jesus said that he would not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with his disciples in the kingdom of heaven. This passage teaches that Jesus drinks the cup with Christians in a new way. Jesus does not literally drink the cup with us in His kingdom on the earth and He will not do so in heaven. The term “drink” is used figuratively to express that communion which Jesus has with His disciples while they are eating the Lord's Supper. May I suggest to you we should all be very careful not to take of these emblems matter-of-factly, without thought and without communing with Christ. The emblems on the table are ordinary bread and ordinary grape juice. There is no spiritual value or communion in simply tasting of the bread and the juice of the grape. The value is in the significance we each one attach to these emblems. It is the thoughts we have, the gratitude we express in our minds, the love we feel for him as we eat at His table. When we come to the table we should let Jesus we know we love Him for what He did for us and express each in his or her own way our appreciation, gratitude and love.. Paul said, “The cup of blessing we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”(I Cor. 10:16). Communion is the share one has in anything. In this case, it is the fellowship and participation we have in the broken body and shed blood of Christ in our behalf. It is an act of devotion to meet around His table.
Thirdly, it is more than a memorial; it is more than a communion. It is also a covenant. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” The blood of the covenant means the blood by which the new covenant was ratified and secured. The covenant is called new in reference to the Mosaic covenant. As the Hebrews entered into the old covenant with God when the blood of a heifer was sprinkled upon them which bound them to be obedient to the Mosaic law, so also in the Lord's Supper those who receive the cup profess that they have embraced the new covenant of Christ and bind themselves to obedience to the gospel. When men and women gather through the ages around this table, it is to remember Him; it is to commune with Him; it to pledge ourselves in loyalty to Him. Never let us forget
that. When we sit in simple symbolism around the table, let us never forget that He is there, the King Himself.
The last supper was concluded with a hymn. We are told that the
Jews were accustomed to chant rom the Psalms at the Passover Supper. If we turn back to Psalm 113-118 we will probably find exactly what they sang. This collection of Psalms was called the great Hallel, a Hebrew word which means “praise.” It is probable that the last supper, including the Passover Supper and the Lord's Supper were concluded with this portion of the Psalms.