The Upper Room – A Place of Communion
By Pastor N. Dean Haferman
One of the biblical scenes that artists have tried to portray more than any other is the Last Supper scene. Each artist uses his imagination as he paints the scene. In some paintings the mood is festive, the disciples portrayed with smiling faces looking over to Jesus. In others the mood is solemn, almost morbid, portraying the seriousness of the event.. In the same way each Gospel author paints the same scene from their own unique perspective. Today we are going to view the last supper from the eyes of Matthew and Luke as we prepare to observe the Lord’s Supper.
Let’s look at what happened that last night before Jesus died.
Thorough out this Lenten season, we have been visiting The Places of the Passion, – which has been our overall theme for both our Sunday and midweek services.
Our theme tonight is all about The Upper Room – A Place of Communion.
There are four observations I want to make about the Last Supper and apply them to our observance of the Lord’s Supper this evening.
I. THE NECESSARY PREPARATION (vs. 17-18)
It was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. This was an eight day feast that began with the observance of the Passover. Therefore, it was really two feasts combined. There was much preparation that must be done to observe the feast.
The disciples inquired of Jesus where they would observe the feast so that they could begin the preparations. Jesus tells them that there is a certain man in the city that they are to go to and inform him that His “time is at hand“. This was probably an unknown disciple of Jesus with whom Jesus had already made these arrangements.
In Luke 22:9-13, they asked: “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” Jesus replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
In order not to tip His hand to Judas, Jesus gives the instruction that they were to look for a man carrying a water pitcher, and follow him home. We might not think that such direction would be very clear, but remember, carrying water was regarded as women’s work. So a man carrying water would stand out in that culture like a sore thumb.
Jesus wanted His final evening with His disciples to be trouble-free. No need to let Judas know where they would be celebrating, and allow him to bring the arresting soldiers there to the upper room.
To observe the Passover meal, the disciples would have to obtain unleavened bread, spices, fruit, wine and a sacrificial lamb. There was a lot of preparation that went into the observance of the Passover. The borrowed room had to be searched for any trace of yeast. Any crumb of bread had to be removed. Yeast represented the evil influence of Egypt that the Jews were leaving behind at the Exodus. Yeast came to be known as a symbol of the influence of sin.
Just as the disciples had to prepare for the Passover meal, so must we prepare for the Lord’s supper. We are to observe the Lord’s Supper, according to Paul, with a prepared heart. Paul said we are not to observe the supper in an unworthy manner. We are to come to the table with hearts prepared. The yeast of sin must be removed from our lives through confession and repentance, and then Jesus promises to forgive us and remove the sin from our record.
Paul said, “let a man examine himself“. We are not to enter lightly into the observance of the Lord’s Supper. There is a necessary preparation.
Along these very lines, next we see:
II. THE NEED FOR SELF EXAMINATION (20-25)
Jesus interrupted the meal with a startling statement. He said, “One of you will betray Me.” Now the disciples had been told by Jesus that He would be delivered up, but they had not been told before that it would be one of their number. When faced with this news, the disciples were cut to the heart. Each man began to question himself.
The Greek words indicate that they were deeply sorrowful—violently shaken by this news. They each questioned their own sincerity, – their commitment to Christ. They looked within themselves, – not pointing fingers at one another. Jesus knew who would betray Him, but He allowed the other disciples to see the frailty of their own natures—which is always healthy if we allow it to drive us to Christ—and a deeper trust in Him and not ourselves.
Perhaps here we see the difference between self-doubt and true conviction. There was one here that knew he was not being real or honest. The others doubted, they questioned—they dreaded the possibility of it being so. But not Judas! His plans were laid, and his mind had already made his choice.
I believe real conviction that comes from the Lord leaves no room for doubt or question. It is precise, and the convicted one knows that the Lord has placed His accusing finger on his heart. I believe in this scene we see the graciousness of our Lord. Jesus is offering Judas a chance to repent of his evil. Why else would He make these statements?
Jesus appeals to Judas first from the perspective of love and friendship. The Passover meal was to be observed by families, according to Exodus. This band of disciples had become a family with their Lord as the head. Each one had dipped his hand in the bowl—including Judas—as they observed this family feast.
The psalmist described this awful betrayal in Psalm 41, “My own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Even to this day in the Middle East, when you break bread and share a meal together, there is a covenant bond of friendship and trust that is established. Therefore, Jesus identified the betrayer as one who shared bread with Him. He was appealing to Judas in love and friendship.
Then Jesus appealed to Judas by warning of the consequences of his actions. “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.” Christ warns Judas that the consequences of his lack of a true relationship to him would result in a fate so bad that it would be better if he had never existed than to face such a fate. It is a reminder of the horrible fate that awaits one who rejects Jesus and will go to hell.
Finally there is direct identification of Judas by Christ as Judas asks,—in pretense like the other disciples, “Rabbi is it I”? Jesus said to him: “You have said so.“ We see Judas’ problem in his address of Jesus. Rather than call Him Lord, as the other disciples, he calls Him Rabbi, or teacher; he did not see Jesus as his Lord.
The Lord, by His statement of His betrayal, caused each disciple to examine the nature of his commitment to Him. And in the remainder of the discourse, He demonstrated His willingness to allow even the worst of sinners the space to repent. But at this point, Judas left the table and went out on his evil mission.
Where do you stand with the Lord this evening?
Next, we see:
III. A FITTING COVENANT. (26-28)
Jesus again interrupts the Passover meal. This time He interrupts it in order to transform it into the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. At the point of the drinking of the third cup of wine in the traditional ceremony, He takes the bread and tells His disciples that the bread now becomes His Body. The bread is a symbol of sustenance. Jesus says My Body,—My Life that I have lived, and that I will give,—is now being offered so that you might live.
He takes the cup of wine and He says this wine now becomes His Blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Remission means release. The shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross was so that His disciples might experience release from the penalty of sin. His bleeding and dying purchased our forgiveness.
There is another significant aspect to this. When Jesus spoke these words we are all so familiar with, this would have greatly surprised the disciples. They are similar to the words spoken by a groom as he proposes to his bride. In the Jewish tradition, when a young man wishes to marry a maiden, he will take a cup of wine and offer it to her. By this he is saying: “I am offering you my blood, my life, my future and all that I have to give you. Will you share life together with me?” The girl has the option to refuse, or to drink the cup—thereby accepting his marriage proposal, and saying in effect, “I accept and receive what you offer to me, and I offer myself in return.”
As we drink the cup from Jesus, we as members of the Church are a part of the Bride of Christ, accepting Jesus’ offer and in effect His marriage proposal. We are saying “Yes!” to Jesus, and making our response to His eternal commitment to us. We are entering into a Covenant Agreement with Him, and we call that the Covenant of Grace.
The disciples were to “take” or “receive” the bread, which becomes the Body of Christ—and to drink the wine, which becomes His Blood. The words we sometimes use to explain how this happens are “in, with and under.” Jesus Body and Blood are “in, with, and under the bread and wine.” It is not a chemical change, but spiritual,—as we trust His words as being true, and receive the bread and wine by faith in Him.
This reminds us of the wonderful truth that we may have life and forgiveness and release from the power of sin by receiving, – taking by faith Christ’s life and blood given on our behalf. This is the New Covenant we have with God our Father that we remember and celebrate tonight. This is the strength that we must continue to feed upon, Christ’s life and His Blood.
Finally there was:
IV. A JOYFUL ANTICIPATION (29-30)
This meal would be observed with the disciples again in the Father’s Kingdom according to Jesus. The fellowship would continue. This implies Christ’s resurrection— which He had predicted many times. The fellowship would be restored. In addition, because He was resurrected, so shall we be.
I believe we will feast with Jesus at the Marriage supper of the Lamb. John writes in Revelation: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” We observe the Supper this evening in anticipation of that day in which Christ returns for His bride, – to fellowship with her forever!
There is a church in Milan Italy that was bombed out during WWII. All of the walls of the church fell down during the war, – except one. The wall left standing has painted upon it none other than Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” scene.
This is a wonderful illustration of how this fellowship meal will survive the tumult and the change of this world to be celebrated again with Jesus at His return. Even so, come Lord Jesus.! Let us prepare to receive from the Lord’s Table.
Copyright 2005, Dean Haferman. Used by permission.