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The Last Supper is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is commemorated by Christians especially on Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as “Holy Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper”.
The First Epistle to the Corinthians contains the earliest known mention of the Last Supper. The four canonical Gospels all state that the Last Supper took place towards the end of the week, after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that Jesus and his apostles shared a meal shortly before Jesus was crucified at the end of that week. During the meal Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the apostles present, and foretells that before the next morning, Peter will thrice deny knowing him.
The three Synoptic Gospels and the First Epistle to the Corinthians include the account of the institution of the Eucharist in which Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to others, saying “This is my body given to you” (the apostles are not explicitly mentioned in the account in First Corinthians). The Gospel of John does not include this episode, but tells of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, giving the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you”, and has a detailed farewell
discourse by Jesus, calling the apostles who follow his teachings “friends and not servants”, as he prepares them for his departure.
Scholars have looked to the Last Supper as the source of early Christian Eucharistic traditions. Others see the account of the Last Supper as derived from 1st-century eucharistic practice as described by Paul in the mid-50s
The Last Supper appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It also is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which suggests how early Christians celebrated what Paul the Apostle called the Lord’s Supper.
Paul the Apostle and the Lord’s Supper
In his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c 54-55), Paul the Apostle gives the earliest recorded description of Jesus’ Last Supper: “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ‘ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'”.[1 Cor. 11:23-25]
The synoptic gospels, Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:13-20, depict Jesus as presiding over the Last Supper. References to Jesus’ body and blood foreshadow his crucifixion, and he identifies them as a new covenant. In the gospel of John, the account of the Last Supper has no mention of Jesus taking bread and “the cup” and speaking of them as his body and blood; instead it recounts his humble act of washing the disciples’ feet, the prophecy of the betrayal, which set in motion the events that would lead to the cross, and his long discourse in response to some questions posed by his followers, in which he went on to speak of the importance of the unity of the disciples with him and each other.
In John 6:26-65, the evangelist attributes a long discourse to Jesus which deals with the subject of the living bread and in verses 52-59 contains echoes of Eucharistic language. The interpretation of the whole passage has been extensively debated. Hoskyns notes three main schools of thought: (a) the language is metaphorical and verse 63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit]”> and life” gives the author’s precise meaning;
(b) vv 51-58 are a later interpolation which cannot be harmonized with the context; (c) the discourse is homogeneous, sacrificial and sacramental and can be harmonized though not all attempts are satisfactory.
The expression The Lord’s Supper, derived from St. Paul’s usage in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, may have originally referred to the Agape feast (or love feast), the shared communal meal with which the Eucharist was originally associated. The Agape feast is mentioned in Jude 12. But The Lord’s Supper is now commonly used in reference to a celebration involving no food other than the sacramental bread and wine.
Early Christian sources
The Didache (Greek: teaching) is an early Church treatise that includes instructions for Baptism and the Eucharist. Most scholars date it to the early 2nd century, and distinguish in it two separate Eucharistic traditions, the earlier tradition in chapter 10 and the later one preceding it in chapter 9. The Eucharist is mentioned again in chapter 14
Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117), one of the Apostolic Fathers, mentions the Eucharist as “the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ”, and Justin Martyr speaks of it as more than a meal: “the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said, is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh, and the deacons carry some to those who are absent.
Jesus asked us to do this:
Lk 22:19 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.”
1 Co 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Co 11:25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
From 1957 to 2017 Eric Michel
NB: Eric Michel Ministries International offer an open communion, meaning you do not have to be a member of our church or any church to receive communion.
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