Day 36 - The Last Meal

Day 36 - The Last Meal

Written by: Katelyn Boyd

26 “As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take this and eat it, for this is my body.’ 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, ‘Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.’ 30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”  (Matthew 26: 26-30)

    Does your family have any favorite holiday traditions that you take part in every year? Maybe you host a 4th of July barbecue or ayou fix birthday pancakes for your kids each year, or maybe you cut your own tree down with the whole family each December. Family traditions are rituals that are so dear to you and that you have been observing for so long that each time you participate in them, you remember the last time that you did, and they become sweeter the longer you celebrate them. Passover was–and is–such a ritual for the Jewish people. It was observed every year to remind the people of God’s loving kindness that covered and saved His people from destruction in Egypt, through the blood of the lambs that were sacrificed for each household before the final plague occurred. In Matthew 26, we see Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples and instituting a new covenant between God and man. He takes this ritual that looks back at God’s goodness to His people in the past, and he uses it to point to His present mission, imminent sacrifice and future glory.

    The Passover meal consists of multiple symbolic elements–bitter herbs that represent the bitterness of the Israelites slavery in Egypt, salt water symbolic of the tears shed by the Israelites while they were under Egyptian oppression, roasted lamb that was representative of the lamb killed as a sacrifice and its blood which covered the doorways of each household, and unleavened bread, which reminded the people of the haste with which they left Egypt. The Passover meal also has a ceremony associated with it, and it would have been something that most of the Jewish disciples would have observed every year for their entire lives; they would have known it backward and forward. They would have known that the head or host of the meal would normally have lifted up the unleavened bread at the table and said, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.” So, for Jesus to have said instead, ‘Take this and eat it, for this is my body,’ would have had a stunning effect on his followers, one that would only grow in significance for them as Jesus walked out the Father’s plan for His death only hours later. Jesus didn’t give the traditional explanation of the elements of the meal; instead, he reinterpreted them to point His disciples, not backward to the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but ahead to His own suffering on their behalf on the cross. As Jesus took the bread in His hands and snapped it in half, he was demonstrating for his followers what would happen to His own body; he would be broken and beaten and pierced, to pay for the sins–not only of one household, or of one people–but for the sins of the world.

Jesus doesn’t stop with a new explanation of the bread on the Passover table, but he institutes a new covenant between God and man when he takes the cup, and says, ‘Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.’

We know two important things from the way God established the Old Covenant with His people in Exodus: God initiates the covenant, and it is signified or sealed by blood. In Exodus 24, after Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, he sacrificed animals as offerings and splattered their blood on an altar and on the people and said, “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you” (Exodus 24:8). So, Jesus, as the God-man, has authority to establish a new covenant between God and His people, and will seal it with His own blood once for all–It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

    I can only imagine what it would have been like to sit around that table with Jesus. To see Him break the bread and pass around the wine and try to make sense of what He was saying–that the same loving kindness that God showed His people generations before by allowing that first Passover Lamb to die instead of them, was now given to us through Jesus and His broken body and spilled blood that covers over our sin! This loving kindness–in Jesus Himself–shields us from God’s wrath and provides our salvation!!  I can imagine how charged the air in the room would have been as these men watched their beloved mentor serving them this familiar meal with a new narrative–pointing them ahead to His death and to the future glory it ensures! Jesus points his disciples, and us, ahead to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when He said, ‘I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.’ We see Jesus celebrating the Passover, a meal that points back to the love and grace and provision of God at the Exodus, interpreting it anew in light of His imminent death as the ultimate Passover Lamb, and longing for the day when He will celebrate it with all of His people gathered together in His Father’s Heavenly Kingdom–it’s a meal and a table that becomes more precious each time you come to it.

Spend time today remembering God’s past faithfulness and longing for future glory. Remember God’s loving kindness given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus by spending time reading about the Last Supper in several passages in the New Testament: Matthew 26:17–29; Mark 14:12–25; Luke 22:7–38; and I Corinthians 11:23–25.  Thank God for sending Jesus as the only spotless Passover Lamb who satisfied the wrath of God at our sin once for all. Then spend some time longing for the day when we will celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with Jesus in Heaven; read Revelation 19: 4-9 and thank God for providing us a way to be with Him at this table through Jesus!

Father, thank you for Jesus, our Passover Lamb. Thank you for establishing your New Covenant to make us your people through His blood. Help us to intentionally remember your loving kindness to us through Jesus this week as we remember the last week of His life on earth. And, help us to long for the day when we will see Him face to face and join Him at your table in Heaven. In Jesus Name, Amen.