HOLY WEEK: The Last Supper
Throughout church history, Christians have observed Maundy Thursday to prepare their hearts for Good Friday, the most decisive day in history. The following Scripture passage recounts Jesus’ final Passover celebration with His disciples in Jerusalem.
“Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’
And He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’”
So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’
And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, ‘Lord, is it I?’
He answered and said, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’
Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, ‘Rabbi, is it I?’
He said to him, ‘You have said it.’
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the third cup of Passover, which is known as the Cup of Redemption. The Lord told the disciples seated around Him and subsequently all future disciples to remember His death (Lk. 22:19). The context for communion provides a vivid picture of the atonement for our sins.
Have you noticed? There is a not so subtle departure from the observance of Christian holidays. It’s happening not just in culture, but in churches—where you would expect to find these celebrations.
On a positive note, the commercial aspect of Christian holidays seems to be returning to levels of a decade ago. I’m guessing that meeting the demand for holiday merchandise makes good business sense and thereby benefits economies. Three cheers for the commercial revitalization of the Christian calendar.
In evangelical churches, however, the trend to not celebrate or even commemorate Christian holidays is both puzzling and disturbing. Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday might barely get a mention from the pulpit.
Increasingly, I hear from church members across North America who lament the absence of teaching on foundational events recorded in the Bible. Many of the activities we eagerly anticipated as children are absent from church life today. And, I’m not talking about Christmas trees and Easter egg hunts that were taboo in some evangelical circles during my youth.
Why? What changed? Is the message of the Bible—that prompted the celebration of Christian holidays for the last 2000 years—any different today?
How Christian holidays came to be, how they were celebrated in the past or what they may become in the future is not the issue. The fact that our Lord was born, crucified and rose from the dead is the heart of the gospel.
Why wouldn’t Christians want to be reminded of the events associated with Holy Week? A genuine love for the Lord and His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf should be more than enough reason to commemorate the events in our Lord’s final week of earthly ministry.
Walk with me through Holy Week—from Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday and Easter Monday—as we examine the Scriptures surrounding our Lord’s steadfast journey to the events that forever changed the course of history!
1) La Cène légale (The Last Supper). By James Tissot, [Public domain]/via Brooklyn Museum/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios
2) La Céne. Judas met la main dans le plat (The Last Supper: Judas Dipping his Hand in the Dish). By James Tissot, [Public domain] via, Brooklyn Museum/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, commentary only. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.