7 And the day of unleavened bread came, on which the passover must be sacrificed.8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and make ready for us the passover, that we may eat.9 And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we make ready? 10 And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house whereinto he goeth.11 And ye shall say unto the Master of the house, The Teacher saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the apostles with him.15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say unto you, I shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.17 And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 for I say unto you, I shall not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.20 And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you.21 But behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.22 For the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined: but woe unto that man through whom he is betrayed! 23 And they began to question among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
24 And there rose also a contention among them, which of them was accounted to be the greatest.25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles have lordship over them; and they that have authority over them are called Benefactors.26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.27 For which is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.28 But ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations; 29 and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, 30 that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: 32 but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.33 And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death.34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you forth without purse, and wallet, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing.36 And he said unto them, But now, he that that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword.37 For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfillment.38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
The last meal of which Jesus partook with his disciples was a passover feast, and it was the occasion of the establishment of that sacrament which is known as the Lord's Supper. The passover called to mind a national deliverance in the past and pointed forward to a greater deliverance to come, which was effected by the death of Christ. The Lord's Supper points us backward to the great redemption he achieved by his atoning death, and forward to the fuller redemption he will accomplish in his return. The |Last Supper| may rightly be reviewed in connection with the Christian sacrament, and the story here recorded may intimate to us how this sacrament may be most helpfully observed.
1. It must be for us a time of retirement. So far as possible we must exclude all distracting thoughts and fix our minds upon Christ and his redeeming love. Jesus made such provision for his disciples. He sent Peter and John to the city to prepare a room in which he might partake of the passover with his disciples, but he was careful to provide against any possible interruption. He did not mention to the disciples the place of meeting. Had he done so, Judas would have disclosed the place to the enemies who would have arrested Jesus in the midst of the supper. Our Lord was careful to say to the two disciples that as they entered the city there would meet them |a man bearing a pitcher of water;| they were to follow him into the house and were there to prepare the passover. According to the account of the other evangelists, it seems that after the passover feast had been eaten and before Jesus established his memorial supper, he dismissed Judas from the circle. Surely it must be our endeavor to shut out from our hearts all traitorous and intrusive thoughts, that during the sacred service we may be consciously alone with our Lord.
2. It is to be a time of communion. Our Lord had eagerly looked forward to those hours to be spent with his disciples in unbroken fellowship. He had much to tell them. He knew it was to be a season of tender farewell, and he wished to strengthen them by messages of cheer and of hope. Probably in the whole Bible there are no chapters more familiar, more tender, more helpful, than those written by John containing the words spoken by our Lord in the upper room on the occasion of this Last Supper. To those whose hearts are prepared, the unseen Lord is surely present and ready to speak, through the appointed symbols and by his Spirit, truths which will inspire strength and joy.
3. It is to be a season of gratitude. The sacrament has often been called the |Eucharist,| the service of |thanksgiving,| for we then call to mind the infinite benefits secured for us by the atoning death of our Lord. This is the supreme purpose of the feast. Jesus stated this clearly when establishing it; the bread was to call to mind his body broken for us, and the wine was to be a symbol of his blood, which as he said to his disciples, was to be poured out for them. This supper is therefore to be a memorial of redeeming grace; it is to show forth the Lord's death, as he himself said, |This do in remembrance of me.|
4. It is to be a time of hope. Even under the shadow of the cross our Lord pointed his disciples to the glory of his throne; while their hearts were torn by the thought of separation, he reminded them of a reunion when they would eat and drink together |in the kingdom of God.| He declared that they were to have a time of temptation, but if they suffered with him, they would also reign with him. |I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.| Thus the communion season is a time when we especially look forward to glad reunions with those who have passed on before. We cheer our hearts with visions of coming glory. Under the darkest shadows we look for the opening skies and for the return of Christ; we |proclaim the Lord's death till he come.|
5. It is a time of consecration. While the disciples were seated at the table they were disputing as to which of them was greatest. Our Saviour gave them a memorable example when he stooped down and washed their feet, and then most impressively he explained to them the character of true greatness and showed that its essence lay in service; to quote his own words, |He that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.| As we turn from the table of our Lord it should ever be with a desire to go forth in his name and to do anything in our power to serve our fellow men, and to follow in his footsteps who came |not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.|
6. It should be a time of humility, when we realize anew our weakness and our dependence upon Christ and his sustaining grace. Jesus found it necessary to warn his disciples concerning their coming temptations and trials, and particularly to foretell the fall of Peter. Turning to the impulsive, affectionate, fickle disciple, who seems to have been the leader of the apostolic band, he told him that Satan had desired to have the disciples, to sift them as wheat, but that Jesus himself had made special prayer for Peter that his faith should not fail, even though Jesus foresaw that for a time his courage would give way and that he would deny his Master. He urged Peter, however, to repent after his fall and to encourage his fellow disciples. Such a statement of the weakness and unfaithfulness which Peter was to manifest seemed incredible to him and he protested, |Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death.| But Jesus sadly replied, |I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.|
It is impossible to observe the Lord's Supper without memories of past failure, and it is only too true that similar experiences of weakness will be shown in days to come. Every such disloyalty gives pain to our Lord, but if our hearts are really yielded to him, our faults will be followed by true repentance. If we really trust in him, he is ready to pardon; as he prayed for Peter, so he is praying for us; though we at times stumble, he will not allow us utterly to fall. He is able to save |to the uttermost ... seeing he ever liveth to make intercession| for us.
7. This should be a time of new resolution. We should be humble and trustful in view of past and of possible future failures, but we should determine to stand firmly in the strength which the Master supplies. He told his followers in the upper room of the changed conditions which they were to meet when he had been taken from them. The enemies who would take his life would surely not treat his disciples with kindness. He assured them that they were now to be left more to their own resources and that they were to meet with the most bitter hostility. He even suggested that it would be necessary for each one to buy a sword. They took his words with absurd literalness and they said, |Lord, behold, here are two swords.| It was with sad irony that Jesus replied, |It is enough.| Of course, he did not mean that his followers are to use violence or are to extend the gospel by means of force. He only wished us to be warned and to resolve anew that in the spiritual conflict which awaits us we shall be true to him as loyal soldiers of the cross. We go forth to battle, but on some brighter morrow we shall be seated with him at a heavenly feast with banquet and song.