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A Synopsis of Paper 179: The Last Supper

The apostles arrived at John Mark's house, wondering why Jesus had decided to celebrate Passover one day early. They went immediately to the upper chamber while Jesus spoke with the family downstairs.

As the apostles entered the supper room, they noticed water pitchers, basins, and towels that were set aside for washing their feet. Noticing that no servant was present to perform this task, they began to wonder which of them would have to act the servant and wash the feet of the others. Looking at the table that was prepared for them, they also wondered whether they should seat themselves, or wait for Jesus.

Judas went to the seat of honor at the left of the host's seat, and sat down. The others fell into dispute. John Zebedee immediately sat in the next highest seat, at the right of the host. Peter became angry that these two would presume to seat themselves nearest the Master, and so he marched around the table to sit at the lowest seat, hoping that Jesus would call him to displace one of those in the most honored seats. The rest of the apostles chose places around the table, continuing their arguments until Jesus appeared and took his seat.

James Alpheus brought Jesus the first cup of water and wine, and Jesus held the cup saying, "Take this cup and divide it among yourselves and when you partake of it, realize that I shall not again drink with you the fruit of the vine since this is our last supper. When we sit down again in this manner, it will be in the kingdom to come."

After drinking the first cup, Jewish custom dictated that the host should wash his hands. Knowing that Jesus never observed this rite, the apostles were curious when they saw him rise from the table and move toward the water pitchers. They were shocked when the Master poured water into one of the foot basins and prepared to wash the feet of Simon Peter. As Jesus knelt before Peter, all twelve men rose to their feet in amazement.

Embarrassed, Peter asked Jesus if he really intended to wash his feet. Jesus replied, "You may not fully understand what I am about to do, but hereafter you will know the meaning of these things." Peter exclaimed, "Master, you shall never wash my feet!" And each of the apostles nodded their agreement.

Jesus said, "Peter, I declare that if I do not wash your feet, you will have no part with me in that which I am about to perform." Peter thought for a moment and said, "Then, Master, wash not my feet only but also my hands and my head." Jesus set about to wash each of the apostles' feet in turn.

When Jesus finished, he asked his followers what lesson they thought they should learn from the fact the their Master had so willingly done a service that they refused to do for each other. He spoke of how his life had been one of service to them, and told them that they were slow to realize that greatness in the spiritual kingdom is not obtained the same way as power in the material world. He chastised them for arguing among themselves about the seating arrangements and compared their behavior to that of the Pharisees. He told them that he loved each of them just as he did the others and that there was no place of preferment at his table.

During the second course, the Master told them again that he would not be with them the next evening. "Now has my hour come, but it was not required that one of you should betray me into the hands of my enemies." When the twelve heard this remark, they began to look at each other and inquire, "Is it I?" When Judas asked, Jesus replied, "You have said." The others didn't hear the words Jesus spoke to Judas. They continued to murmur among themselves until Jesus said, "I sorrow that this evil should have come to pass and hoped even up to this hour that the power of truth might triumph over the deceptions of evil, but such victories are not won without the faith of the sincere love of truth."

Jesus then leaned over to Judas and told him to go quickly. Judas rose from the table and left the room. The other men, seeing him leave, assumed that Jesus had sent Judas out on some errand and still did not guess that he was the traitor.

Over the third cup of wine, Jesus said, "Take this cup, all of you, and drink of it. This shall be the cup of my remembrance. This is the cup of the blessing of a new dispensation of grace and truth. This shall be to you the emblem of the bestowal and ministry of the divine Spirit of Truth. And I will not again drink this cup with you until I drink in new form with you in the Father's eternal kingdom."

And when they finished, Jesus broke the bread, saying, "Take this bread of remembrance and eat it. I have told you that I am the bread of life. And this bread of life is the united life of the Father and the Son in one gift. The word of the Father, as revealed in the Son, is indeed the bread of life." They meditated for a few moments, and Jesus said, "When you do these things, recall the life I have lived on earth among you and rejoice that I am to continue to live on earth with you and to serve through you." They ended the Passover meal by singing the 118th Psalm.

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