This week is Passover week for the Jews. I think it is just amazing to view the Last Supper in light of the passover. It is really the only way to know the full significance of what occured there. Ours is a faith that is deeply and forever rooted in the ancient Jewish traditions. Almost everything we do in church is in some way related to how it was done by the Jews.
What happens on the Jewish Passover?
The First Cup
When all are seated around the table the first cup of wine is poured out for each. The head of the house rises and thanks God for the fruits of the vine and for the great day which they are about to celebrate. He then sits down and drinks his cup of wine in a reclining posture, leaning on his left arm. The others drink at the same time. In the time of the Temple the poorest Jew was to drink four cups of wine during this joyful meal; and if he happened to be too poor, it was to be supplied out of public funds.
The Bitter Herbs and Afikoman
After drinking the first cup the master rises and washes his hands, the others remaining seated, and Eldersheim is of the opinion that it was at this point of the supper that Christ washed the disciples feet. After washing his hands, the head of the family sits down, takes a small quantity of bitter herbs, dips them in salt water, and eats them, reclining on his left elbow.In the time of our Lord, it is not improbable that it was from this portion, called afikoman, that the Eucharist was instituted. As soon as this portion is laid aside, the other half is replaced, the dish containing the unleavened cakes is uncovered, and all, standing up, take hold of the dish and solemnly lift it up, chanting slowly in Aramaic: "This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in Egypt. This year here, next year in Jerusalem. This year slaves, next year free." (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 Corinthians 11:24)
The Second Cup
All sit down, and the youngest son asks "why this night above all other nights they eat bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and in a reclining posture." The head of the house then tells how their fathers were idolaters when God chose Abraham, how they were slaves in Egypt, how God delivered them, etc. God is praised and blessed for His wondrous mercies to their nation, and this first part of the ceremony is brought to a close by their breaking forth with the recitation of the first part of the Hallel (Psalms 112 and 114) and drinking the second cup of wine, which is triumphantly held aloft and called the cup of the Haggadah or story of deliverance.
There are two more cups and several other things that occur that are fascinating but would take up pleny o' space here so I'll let you read up on the rest if you are interested. The point is that what Jesus said and did that night would have been mind blowing to the disciples. In this moment Jesus set the stage for the Christian service forever until he comes again. In my opinion, it is a crying shame that we choose to observe this only when convenient and in some churches it is non-existant altogether. Early Christans would have never thought to come together without this. In the Last Supper, Christ fully explains what He is about to do and fulfills an age-old observance that was to symbolize God's deliverance and hope for the Messiah.
If you can, go to a Passover service to both observe a beautiful faith and know the full power of what was said and done that night in Jerusalem when Jesus said "Take and eat. THIS is my body broken for you."