The Scandal of the Last Supper
The Blasphemy of the Blood!
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. (John 6:53-55)
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 22:19-20)
Once again, I reiterate, the modern church is not pagan enough to understand the shock, scandal and significance of what we call the Lord’s Supper. Drink His blood, eat His body? Oh, no! This is blasphemy!
Historically, the Last Supper is actually a subset of a week-long celebration of the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits (and additionally a high Sabbath).
Most church tradition teaches the Last Supper was the Passover Seder celebrated on a Thursday night and on the next day, Friday, Jesus was crucified. This is historically, theologically and practically not true. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD set the Easter time frame for us according to the solar calendar despite the fact the Jewish calendar is lunar. The resulting fact is that all of the seven day events are contracted into four days for simplicity and this is where we begin to loose the real significance of the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper.
But there is so much more if we understand a little more Jewish tradition.
The supper Jesus celebrated with His disciples was a variation of the modern Kiddush meal. Kiddush means “sanctification.” This is an ancient meal eaten among Jewish men on the sabbath evening in the local synagogue which continues on until today which often now includes all members of the family. Originally, it sanctified the Sabbath as God commanded. Jesus used this common meal to sanctify or set apart now His sacrifice of love for us. Let’s review the sequence of events so we can see how this fits into the Week of Unleavened Bread.
The Actual Sequence of Events
The Lord Jesus the Christ is our Passover Lamb. I believe that He fulfilled each and every aspect of the Torah, it’s laws and intent. (Matthew 5:17-20) Holy Week concludes the Prophetic portion of the three-fold ministry of Jesus. Sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus fulfills His Priestly role and when He comes back with His saints following the Tribulation, He will fulfill His role as King.
So, Saturday, He triumphantly enters Jerusalem much to the dismay of the Sanhedrin who were at the same time probably going out to check on the temple flock of sheep to begin the four-day process of declaring them blemish free. (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19)
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Jesus chases out the money changers, observes the Widow and her sacrificial giving, and most importantly, questioned by the Sanhedrin. Saturday through Tuesday, for four days, the Sanhedrin could find no sin in Jesus. He is our spotless, sinless Lamb. (Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17)
On Wednesday, the Temple priests begin the long and ritualistic process of slaying and dressing out the lambs. The process needed to start at least on this day due to the large number that was needed for Passover. Maybe upwards of 2,000 lambs were slain for the throngs of pilgrims in the holy city.
On Wednesday then, according to John Chapter13, the day of preparation, the disciples follow a man carrying water (a woman’s job in that day) into the Essene quarter of the city, behind closed gates to prepare a meal for the Master.
The Scandal of the Last Supper
If we follow strictly scripture, and not read into anything, we see a simple meal of bread and wine with his male friends. Today, the Kiddush is a simple meal of two loaves of leavened bread (for the two natures of Christ), wine and prayer. If we believe Jesus performed all of the law and the feasts according to the Torah, and this Passover Seder could not have happened as written.
First, He could not have taken it with His male friends. Passover was a family affair. It is conducted by the male head of the house. If you want to contend as I did for many years that the disciples were His family, then who conducted the Passover for the each of the twelve because they were not their for their individual families? (Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, John 13:1-38)
Second, He would not have taken it reclining and their could not have been foot washing as stated here. The Passover was taken standing with sandals on their feet. If there was a foot washing, then they had to put their dirty sandals back on. I was told they took it the “Roman way.” I asked pastors why then would Jesus not have done it according to the Torah? No answer.
Third, why the mention of leavened bread? Leavened bread is specifically mentioned by both John and Paul. I realize that Matthew, Mark and Luke us the term unleavened bread, but they also use the term for a normal main meal of the day, not the word for a feast. The bread needed to leavened. If Jesus fulfills all the law down to the smallest detail, then He followed the Sanhedrin dictates which mandated that no one would eat unleavened bread at least twenty-hours prior to the Feast of Unleavened Bread to make the ceremony more special. This makes a lot of sense because leavened bread “sops” better. The bread may have been dipped in salt and olive oil as some do today, that bread would soak up better to give to Judas, than bitter herbs or unleavened bread in a traditional Seder. On Wednesday, the Sanhedrin was ceremonially chasing leaven out of the Temple and burning chametz. So here Jesus is chasing the leaven out of the disciples.
Fourth, then there is the scandal of the blood. Jesus specifically instructs His disciples to drink the cup of the New Covenant which is His blood, and to eat His body. (Luke 22:19-20) In Greek, He is not saying symbolically, He saying literally, this IS. I am not getting into transubstantiation or consubstantiation, and the disciples did not literally become vampires, but He has brought something unheard of in Jewish tradition to “table:” consuming His blood! This was a pagan ritual, not Jewish.
The Jews were prohibited from consuming blood under any circumstance. Passover meal was literally devoid of blood. The Jews had two obligations in dealing with the blood at Passover. First, the Jews had drain the blood of sacrificial animals on an authorized altar, “for it is I who have assigned it to you upon the altar to expiate for your lives; for it is the blood, as life, that can expiate” for your lives when you take the animal’s life for its flesh (Leviticus 17:11). (Think the chalice of wine at the table as the altar vessel.) When the Passover lamb was slain, the blood was poured out into a ritual vessel and used in the Temple. The second procedure was the blood was dabbed on the door posts of their houses so the death angel would pass over their dwelling and family. So where is this applied to the door posts of the upper room?
Scandal basically means an action that is morally or legally wrong that brings general public outrage. What did the disciples think when they heard their master tell them to drink His blood? This was against more than a thousand years of tradition and law. That is what pagans did. For us today, it would be going against explicit scripture. What we hold sacred today was jaw-dropping to the Jews. This could not have happened at the Passover. However, it could happen at the separate weekly Kiddush meal which means “sanctification” or “setting apart”. The Lord Jesus the Christ took common bread and wine from an ordinary meal and made it holy. Just as He does with mortal humans today. He takes our common lives and actions and makes them acceptable to Him by sanctifying them by His blood. Everything that we do, down to the smallest action is sacred to Him.
Something else is scandalous about the blood of Jesus. Sacrificial blood not caught in a vessel, but spilled out on the ground is profane. (Leviticus. 19:26, I Samuel. 14:32–33, Ezekiel 33:25) To the Jews, blood of Jesus spilled on the cross was contaminated because it was not saved properly at the Temple altar.
So then late Wednesday night, into early Thursday morning, and into Thursday afternoon the sacred blood of Jesus – dedicated at the Kiddush which means sanctification – dripped “profanely” onto the ground. This was scandalous! At the same time Jesus was suffering and dying, the sacrificial lambs were slain in the Temple. Jesus’ sweating blood from His forehead (Luke 22:44), dripping blood from the crown of thorns (John 19:1-5 and following), hemorrhaging blood from the scourging, and of course from His hands, feet and side on the cross according to Jewish law was wasted according to Jewish law.
All Of His Blood Is Sacred
But we know that every drop of blood in Jesus’ body is sacred and effective to wash sin away and make the believer acceptable to God the Father. His blood cleansed the heavenly Temple and poured out on the Mercy Seat. But what we hold as sacred today was profane to the Jews who were prohibited from consuming blood. This is scandalous!
Thursday night, Jesus is placed in the borrowed tomb of His great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, sealed until Sunday morning when in anticipation of the Feast of First Fruits. Then the Lord Jesus the Christ, the first fruit of the resurrection under the New Covenant in His blood arises. And He is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you and me.
Today, every Christian holds dear every drop of blood shed by Jesus either in the Garden, in Pilate’s or Herod’s palace, on the pillar on which he was beaten, on the way of suffering to Golgotha. When He dripped blood on that wooden cross, that blood that was profane to the Jews as the Lamb of God, but was the door posts of my house which saved me.
This lesson is not meant to be an exhaustive study of every aspect of Holy Week, but to highlight how shocking and scandalous the Last Supper probably was that the Son of God would command His disciples to drink His blood and eat His body that was forbidden by Jewish law. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall of that banquet!