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by Randy White Ministries Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Lessons From The Last Supper

Differences of Terminology

A downloadable PDF version of these notes is available here: https://humble-sidecar-837.notion.site/Lessons-From-The-Last-Supper-13b8f670557f4fd2baa31e74aa8686cf?pvs=4

The Last Supper refers to the final meal Jesus shared with his 12 apostles before his crucifixion. This meal took place on the eve of his betrayal by Judas. During this event, Jesus instituted the practice of sharing bread and wine together in remembrance of him. The Last Supper serves as the basis for the later Christian ritual commemorating this final meal.

In evangelical and fundamentalist Christian circles, the commemoration of the Last Supper is commonly referred to as the Lord's Supper. This act focuses on symbolically remembering and proclaiming Christ's death. Participants eat bread and drink wine (or grape juice) in order to reflect on the meaning of Jesus's final hours. The Lord's Supper does not impart any spiritual grace beyond the mental exercise of remembering Christ's sacrifice.

There are some variations in how Christians observe and understand the Lord's Supper:
  • Many Protestant denominations view it as a Communion Supper where Christ is spiritually present in the bread and wine in a symbolic sense. Participants engage in a spiritual communion with the real presence of Christ.

  • Roman Catholic theology goes a step further with the doctrine of transubstantiation - the belief that the bread and wine actually become the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. In this view, the Eucharist (Communion) serves as a sacrament that bestows God's grace upon people.

The Surface Meaning Of The Last Supper

At the Last Supper, Jesus reminded his apostles that He is the Bread of Life. The gospel accounts make clear that leavened bread was used at this final meal, not unleavened bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was set to begin the next day with the celebration of Passover, but the Last Supper itself occurred beforehand. In Greek, the term for unleavened bread is ἄζυμος (azymos), meaning without leaven. However, when Jesus passed the bread during the Last Supper, the Greek word used is ἄρτος (artos), which specifically refers to leavened bread. This connects back to Jesus calling himself the "bread of life" in John 6:34. In saying this, Jesus spoke of Himself as the leavened bread - the bread that is rich, full, sweet, and satisfying. The use of leavened bread at the Last Supper powerfully reinforces Jesus as the true Bread of Life for His followers.

At the Last Supper, Jesus also foretold of His impending death. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus said that he had eagerly desired to eat this Passover with his disciples before he suffered. The Greek word used in this passage is οὐκέτι (ouketi), which comes from the words ou (not) and eti (yet). Thus, Jesus proclaimed "Not yet will I eat..." referring to the upcoming Passover meal. This demonstrates Jesus' knowledge that he would suffer and die prior to the actual Feast of Passover beginning the next day. We see this fulfilled in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is captured, put on trial, and crucified before the Passover feast could be eaten (John 18:28, 39, 19:14). By using the word ouketi, Jesus clearly foretold at the Last Supper that His death would occur before the upcoming Passover celebration.

At the Last Supper, Jesus also proclaimed that His impending death would seal the New Covenant that had been promised. In the Old Testament, covenants were often sealed with the shedding of blood, as seen with the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15:9-10) and the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 24:7-8). The prophet Jeremiah foretold that God would establish a New Covenant with the people of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31). During the Last Supper, Jesus stated that His blood would seal this New Covenant (Luke 22:20). It's important to understand that the sealing of a covenant through blood and the later delivering of that covenant are separate concepts. Despite this, the Roman Catholic Church developed the doctrine that the church itself is the recipient of the New Covenant, ushering in a prevalent understanding that the church participates in the promises of the covenant previously made to Israel..

The Undercurrent In The Last Supper

At the Jewish Passover meal, the wine held an almost sacred symbolism, continually reminding participants of the blessings of the coming Kingdom. In Luke 5:34-39, Jesus spoke of new wine, but contrary to popular opinion, He was not advocating for fresh wine in fresh wineskins. Note verse 39, where Jesus states "the old is good." In this passage, Jesus was actually condemning the "new wine" Pharisees who had created new forms of fasting not required by the Law. Throughout His ministry, Jesus continually called the Jewish nation back to the Torah, not to new religious innovations. This is evidenced by the fact that Jesus' comments on new wine were made in response to a question about fasting.

When blessing the meal, Jews would always bless the wine first, followed by the bread. However, at the Last Supper, Jesus did the opposite - He blessed the bread first, then the wine. The only Jewish group known to reverse this order were the Essenes. The Essenes revolted against the corrupted priesthood of their day and called the people back to the "old wine" of Torah truth. The Essenes were completely dedicated to looking for the coming Messiah. By blessing the bread before the wine, Jesus identified Himself with the Essene pursuit of religious purity and expectation of the Messianic age.

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