Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in history. Why did this scene captivate da Vinci, along with untold numbers of other folks over the last few centuries? The story behind the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples is compelling on so many levels.
For Christians, it symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. For centuries, we have commemorated it with communion in our churches.
The Bible records the Last Supper of Christ and His disciples during Passover in the four gospels. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke give a snapshot of the evening, John gives a more detailed, personal account of Jesus’ purpose for the evening in chapters 13-17.
Jesus’ life and ministry culminated on the night of the Last Supper. Jews all over Israel celebrated the Passover Feast, but Jesus had a much higher agenda for His “family” of three years. He was there to say good-bye and give final instructions to prepare His disciples for ministry. With the Holy Spirit’s help, they would pick up the torch and carry Jesus’ ministry forward. Luke 22:15 records that Jesus “eagerly desired” to share the Passover meal with them. Yet, from their words and Jesus’ admonitions, we see there was still much for them to learn.
Like most families during the holidays, Jesus’ inner circle wasn’t without its foibles.
Even after Jesus washes their feet in a lesson about servanthood, Luke 22:24 shows the disciples still squabbling over their places in His kingdom. One brooded about his perceived notion of Jesus’ earthly kingdom, and Jesus called him out on his plan of betrayal in John 13:18-27.
Was Jesus disappointed, with so much at stake, that His followers still behaved in a very human fashion? After all, He had spent three years trying to mold them into men capable of carrying His ministry into the future.
We don’t see the frustration Jesus displayed in other places in the Gospels, such as Mark 9:14-29. We see patience in our Lord at the Last Supper, even though He corrected the men. This was to be the last time they sat together, sharing a meal, receiving instructions, and praying. Jesus was in His brother mode as well as His father mode.
It’s easy for us to believe we would’ve behaved differently than the disciples. If Jesus were here today in the flesh, teaching us, surely it wouldn’t have taken three years for us to comprehend that He is the Messiah and to overcome our human nature. Yet, as we look at our own lives and Christ’s hand in our trials and triumphs, we are capable of being just as whiny, divisive, and self-promoting as the twelve disciples.
We can all think of occasions where a situation didn’t work out the way we envisioned, and we took matters into our own hands to make it work. Maybe not to the extent Judas did, but nevertheless we tried to give God the agenda we wanted Him to work by. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit we’ve argued our point of view, much like Peter, even when through God’s Word or prayer we’re being told something different.
Jesus’ quandary wasn’t so much that He had to go to the cross, although that was a dire situation to be in. Rather, the intensity and depth of His words in John 13 through 17 show us that like all teachers, His concern was whether His pupils were ready for graduation. He gave them final instructions and then handed them over to the Holy Spirit, who would take them into the future. He ended the supper by praying for Himself, His disciples, and all believers (John 17).
Then He went on to fulfill God’s plan for His own life.
When I look back over my life, the lessons I tried to teach my children, the plans I’ve tried to fulfill, whether career-or-ministry-wise, and every decision I’ve made—I realize after I’ve done my best; what happens next often isn’t up to me. Daily, I must make the choice to hand the reins to God, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. I believe that, above all else, this was what Jesus tried so hard to instill in His disciples. It’s a lesson He ultimately modeled by going to the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, and then yielding to His Father’s will. It’s a lesson I remind myself of every day.
As we enter the final Holy days before celebrating Resurrection Sunday, what problem are you wrestling with that you simply need to hand over to the Lord and instead take up your cross and follow Him?
Are you willing to let Him lead—no matter where it takes you?
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- The Last Supper And Jesus’ Quandary - April 10, 2017
- What Hagar Reminds Us About God - March 22, 2017
- The Heartbeat That Keeps Me Alive - February 22, 2017
- Time Trials and the Effect on Our Spirituality - January 25, 2017
- Christmas Traditions and Grief: The Empty Seat at the Table - December 30, 2016
- Finding Peace In The Holidays - November 23, 2016
- Do We Value Our Elderly? - October 26, 2016