Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Last Supper, the Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

All four Gospels give an account of the events leading up to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The synoptic Gospels tend to be in better agreement on timing and sequence – John offers a very different perspective. A good summary of this is given by Dr. Felix Just, SJ, here: http://www.catholic-resources.org/Bible/Passion.htm


Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus – Read Luke 22:1-6

Luke closely follows the account in Mark on the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Note that Judas meets with the priests before the Passover meal.


The Last Supper – Read Luke 22:7-38

The four Gospels do not agree on the day of the Last Supper. While the synoptic Gospels regard the Last Supper as a Jewish Seder held on the day of Passover, John’s Gospel clearly states the meal was held “before”. There is not enough evidence in all four accounts to determine the actual timing for certain, but the symbolism of the Seder would have been unmistakable and intentional by Jesus.

Luke provides several unique observations to the events of the Last Supper. In Luke 22:14-16 Jesus actually identifies the meal as a Passover Seder, but there is some debate among scholars as to whether Jesus participated in the meal. At no time in Luke is Jesus described as eating or drinking; in fact Jesus states he will not eat or drink again until “the kingdom of God comes.” Only in Luke does Jesus bless the wine twice: 22:17 and 22:20, giving further evidence that this is, in fact, a Passover Seder where four cups of wine are part of the complete ceremony.

The betrayal is discussed at the table, as in Matthew, Mark and John, but only Luke records in 22:24 that a sudden dispute arises among the disciples about who among them is greatest. Jesus replies with a story commending them to service (22:25-30) and Luke includes several verses from the “Q” material (22:28-30). Only in John does Jesus wash the feet of the disciples, but Luke includes more dialogue at the table than do the other Gospels.

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial starting at 22:31-34 following Mark’s account, but adding independently-sourced material in 22:35-38. Even so, Peter declares that he is prepared to follow Jesus to prison and even death.


Jesus Prays at the Mount of Olives - Read Luke 22:39-46

Luke’s account follows Mark very closely here, but Luke adds two independently-sourced verses at 22:43-44. Luke places Jesus on the Mount of Olives (with the other synoptics) while Matthew and Mark further identify the place as Gethsemane. The Gospel of John simply states that it was a garden near the Kidron brook. There is less discussion between Jesus and the disciples recorded in Luke and only in Luke does Jesus sweat drops of blood while praying prior to his arrest.



Links of Interest

An interesting commentary on the Last Supper as described in Luke, by Donald Senior, is here: http://www.cptryon.org/xpipassio/passio/luke/1supc.html

A comparison of the four Gospel accounts of the Last Supper here: http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/gospels/block11.htm

A scholarly account of the Last Supper by Millar Burroughs is given here: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=1622&C=1555

An explanation of the Last Supper as a Jewish Seder here: http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/3_2/passover


Study/Discussion Questions

Jesus instructed two of his disciples to go into the city and look for a man carrying a jar of water. How do you think they were they expected to find this person among the crowds of people and pilgrims?


Why the secrecy about holding the Passover meal?


Jesus says “This is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And, in the same way after the supper “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…” in Luke 22:19-20. Discuss the significance of this with respect to the symbolism in the Jewish Seder.


Compare the account of the Last Supper in Luke with the earliest description we have of communion in I Cor 11:23-34. What is similar and what are the differences?


How do Christians commemorate the Last Supper today? What does the “New Covenant in my blood” to mean to Christians?


Luther pointed to the Last Supper as described in Matthew as evidence that the communion cup should be offered to the laity. (The Roman church of Luther’s day offered only the bread to the congregation, reserving both bread and wine for the priests.) What did Luther see in the account by Matthew that is not as obvious in Luke?


Why does Luke think it is important to record the dispute among the disciples during the Last Supper?


How would you characterize Jesus’ understanding of the gravity of his situation from the events and dialogue on the Mount of Olives?

1 comment:

Paul Muller said...

Study Question
1. Jesus instructed two of his disciples to go into the city and look for a man carrying a jar of water. How do you think they were they expected to find this person among the crowds of people and pilgrims?

Response
A man would seldom be seen carrying water in 1st century Palestine – this was women’s work!

Study Question
2. Why the secrecy about holding the Passover meal?

Response
Jesus and the disciples were wanted by the authorities. Judas had already been in contact with the priests to betray Jesus, so security was important.

Study Question
3. Jesus says “This is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And, in the same way after the supper “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…” in Luke 22:19-20. Discuss the significance of this with respect to the symbolism in the Jewish Seder.

Response
The Jewish Passover Seder is full of symbolism. The broken bread that is hidden during the Seder (afikoman) represents Jesus as the Messiah, broken on the cross but coming back from the tomb. The third cup of wine is known as the cup of redemption in the Seder meal and this is the cup that Jesus blesses. Jesus is announcing that he is the Messiah and is the fulfillment of the old covenant.

Study Question
4. Compare the account of the Last Supper in Luke with the earliest description we have of communion in I Cor 11:23-34. What is similar and what are the differences?

Response
The communion described in Corinthians seems a bit chaotic. There seems to be no manners and some are drinking wine to excess – it appears to be a meal rather than a solemn ceremony like the Seder. Paul quotes to the Corinthians the words of institution as found in Luke, just as we do today.

Study Question
5. How do Christians commemorate the Last Supper today? What does the “New Covenant in my blood” to mean to Christians?

Response
Holy Communion is one of two sacraments in the Lutheran church and is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. In Holy Communion Christ is truly present with us again - his body and blood in the form of wafer and wine. The New Covenant is the promise God gives us of forgiveness of our sins – Jesus as the Passover lamb has died to pay the price of our fall from grace through Adam.

Study Question
6. Luther pointed to the Last Supper as described in Matthew as evidence that the communion cup should be offered to the laity. (The Roman church of Luther’s day offered only the bread to the congregation, reserving both bread and wine for the priests.) What did Luther see in the account by Matthew that is not as obvious in Luke?

Response
In Matthew 26:27-28, we read:

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

“Drink from it all of you.” And “..poured out for the many …” seem to Luther to make the definitive case for offering wine to the laity at communion. The Catholic church at that time interpreted the disciples at the Last Supper as priests, but Luther argued that Christ come to save “the many”, and that means everyone.


Study Question
7. Why does Luke think it is important to record the dispute among the disciples during the Last Supper?

Response
The disciples still don’t get it – they expect to achieve some sort of political coup with Jesus as their leader. Luke wants to make the point that the disciples are not yet ready for the actual mission they must accomplish after Jesus ascends to heaven.

Study Question
8. How would you characterize Jesus’ understanding of the gravity of his situation from the events and dialogue on the Mount of Olives?

Response
Jesus knows he is in big trouble and Luke shows this humanity clearly.