When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:14-20
Having had the opportunity to travel in both Europe and Israel, I am always awestruck by the amazing artwork dating back centuries, if not millenia. While I love the portraits and the grand scenes depicting great battles or significant people, the ones that stick with me most are those depicting the Last Supper. One of my favorites is Last Supper, a fresco by Cosimo Rosselli within the Sistine Chapel. It depicts the scene of the Last Supper, emphasizing the cup on the table and the “bread,” depicted behind the table in a triptych of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest, and His Crucifixion.
This is not a pleasant meal for Jesus or the disciples. Jesus has just told them that, at the table, one of this group of friends is about to betray Him, leading to His death. He provides them with the breaking of the bread as the symbol of His body being broken for them and us, dying for our sins. He then provides them with the wine as a symbol of His blood and covenant with us, that through His death and Resurrection, He is removing the barriers to our being free of sin as we follow Him.
When Jesus engages the disciples in the partaking of the elements, the bread and the cup, He is establishing a legacy to remind us of His sacrifice and His promise. We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We are left with a tangible reminder of His sacrifice and the removal of our sins through the Cross.
This week, take the time around your table to break bread and drink wine (or juice) in remembrance of Jesus’s sacrifice and promise to us. Feel free to pray the following prayer from Veit Dietrich, the German theologian, after you take the elements.
O Lord God, heavenly Father, we praise and thank You… By Your Holy Spirit, help us to use this gift worthily, to confess and forsake our sins, to confidently believe that we are forgiven through Christ, and to grow in faith and love day by day until we come at last to the joy of eternal salvation, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
By John Egland