The Mystical (Last) Supper
On the fifth day after the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, which, according to our reckoning, was Thursday (on Friday evening, the first day of unleavened bread, they sacrificed the Passover lamb), the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Where will you have us prepare the Passover for you to eat?”
Jesus Christ said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him and, wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says where is My guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. There, prepare for us.”
He sent two of His disciples, Peter and John. They went and found it as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
That evening, Jesus Christ knowing that He would be betrayed that night came with His twelve apostles to the prepared upper room. When they were seated at the table, Jesus Christ said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then, He rose, laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
When He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; for I have given you an example that you also The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet should do as I have done to you.”
By this example, the Lord demonstrated not only His love for His disciples but also taught them humility, that is, not to consider it beneath oneself to serve someone even though he may be of lesser status.
After eating the Old Testament Jewish Passover, Jesus Christ established on this evening the sacrament of Holy Communion. Therefore, the occasion is called in the Orthodox Church the “Mystical Supper.”
Jesus Christ took bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and giving it to the disciples said, “Take, eat; this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins;” that is, for you, It will be handed over to suffering and death for the forgiveness of sins. He took a cup of wine; and when He had given thanks to God the Father for all His mercy to the race of mankind, He gave it to the disciples saying “Drink of it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the New Covenant, Which is poured out for you for the remission of sins.”
These words indicate that under the appearance of bread and wine the Saviour taught His disciples that it was His own Body and own Blood which on the next day He gave up to suffering and death for our sins. How the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Lord is a mystery, incomprehensible even to the angels, and is therefore called a mystery.
After giving the Eucharist to the apostles, the Lord gave the commandment to always perform this sacrament. He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me’ (I Cor. 11:25). This sacrament is performed by us now and will continue to be performed until the end of the age; in the divine service, it is called the Liturgy.
During the sacramental Last Supper, the Saviour has revealed to the apostles that one of them would betray Him. They were very sorrowful and bewildered. Looking at one another, in fear they began to ask after one another, “Is it I, Lord?” Judas said, “Is it I, Master?” The Saviour quietly said to him, “You have said it,” and no one heard it. John was reclining next to the Saviour. Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom He speaks.” John, lying close to the breast of the Saviour, quietly said, “Lord, who it is?” Jesus Christ quietly answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I shall have dipped it.” So when He had dipped the morsel in a dish with salt, He gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, and said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now no one at the table knew why He said this to him. Some thought, because Judas had the money bag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast;” or he was told to give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out, and it was night.
Jesus Christ continued to talk with His disciples and said, “Little children, yet a little while, I am with you. A new commandment, I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you. By this, all men would know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another. Greater love has no man than this that he gives his life for his friends. You are My friends if you fulfil that I have commanded you.”
During this conversation, Jesus Christ foretold to the disciples that they all would be offended because of Him that night; all would scatter leaving Him alone. The Apostle Peter declared, “Though they all to be offended because of You, I would never be offended.”
Then, the Saviour said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times and will say that you do not know Me.”
But Peter more vehemently began to assure Him saying, “If I must die with You, I would not deny You.” So said all the disciples. Nevertheless, the words of the Saviour saddened them. Comforting them, the Lord said, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God (the Father) and believe in Me (the Son of God).”
The Saviour promised His disciples that He would send from His Father another Comforter and Teacher instead of Himself, that is, the Holy Spirit. He said, “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.” That means that the Holy Spirit must be with all true believers in Jesus Christ and in the Church of Christ. “Yet a little while, and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me; because I live (I am life, and death cannot conquer Me), you will live also… The Comforter (the Holy Spirit) Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. The Holy Spirit, even the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me. You also are witnesses because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:19, 26-27).
Jesus Christ also predicted to His disciples that they would have to suffer much evil and persecution from people because they (the disciples) believe in Him. “In the world, you have tribulation; but be of good cheer,” said the Saviour, “I have overcome the world” (conquered evil in the world).
Jesus Christ concluded His conversation with a prayer for His disciples and for all who believe in Him, so the Heavenly Father may keep them in steadfast faith, in love, and they may be in unity among themselves.
When the Lord finished the supper during the conversation, He stood with His eleven disciples; and when they had sung a hymn, He went forth across the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives, into the garden of Gethsemane.
Note: See the Gospels of Matthew 26:17-35; Mark 14:12-31; Luke 22:7-39; John 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18:1.