Full bible text
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[c] But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this”.
About this painting
Jesus celebrates the Passover feast (Pascha, Pesach) with His disciples. On Passover Israel commemorated how the Lord delivered the people from the Egyptian bondage. Exodus 12. After this deliverance, the Lord instituted the yearly Passover feast. Leviticus 23. The Passover lamb that was sacrificed on the feast, was a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, until Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. 1Cor. 5:7 During the Passover meal Jesus institutes the Holy Supper; the meal of the New Covenant. Jer. 31 Jesus takes bread, gives thanks to His Father, breaks it it and gives it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’. Furthermore He prepares His disciples for His going to the Father and His coming back to them. Joh.14:1. He also assigns the Kingdom to them. Luke 22:29,30
These acts and teachings of Jesus remind us of a traditional Jewish marriage, as the disciples knew it. (Shidduch) This was an agreement between two families. Father and son went to visit the father of the bride-to-be. After negotiations an agreement was made. Then the young woman would come in. If she agreed to the marriage, she took bread and offered it to her future husband. Eating both of the bread and drinking wine engaged them to each other.
After that the future bridegroom left to prepare a home for them. When the house was completed he would come back for his bride.
The bride then had to be ready for marriage and the wedding. If she was not, the bridegroom had the right to dissolve the agreement.
In this comparison the Holy Supper can be seen as the engagement to marry.
When the heavenly Bridegroom returns from the preparation of a place for His bride -the church- she will be united with Him in the heavenly wedding feast.
On the painting the tables are placed in a ‘triclinium’. The tables formed three sides of a quadrilateral.
This was a Roman custom that was adopted by Jews in Jesus’ time. It is plausible that the table of the Passover meal was set up like that.
In this tradition the guests’ place at the table indicated the relation to the host, and to each other. (Remember the disciples’ quarrel about who was the greatest.)
The guests were lying on big cushions, leaning on their left arms.
According to tradition the host’s place was the second at the one end of the table, as you can see on the painting. On his right a ‘most trusted person’, on his left a ‘guest of honour’. On the painting these are John and Judas Iscariot. According to Luke’s gospel Judas was still in the room.
John lies on the right side. We know that from the gospel. (John 13:23) Judas must have been within arm's reach of Jesus. John 13:26
If Jesus did give Judas this place, knowing about his betrayal, this is very significant.
Presumably Peter was lying at the far end of the table, opposite to John. That was the place of the person whose task it was to wash the feet of the guests prior to the meal. This person also had to supplement food and drink during the meal, having easy access to the open side of the triclinium.
From this place Peter could easily make eye-contact with John, and motion him to ask Jesus who was the betrayer. John 13:24
If Peter had this place it must have been very confronting for him to see Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, because he should have done this.
Celebrating the sacrament
The celebration of the Holy Supper will continue in the church ‘until He comes.’ It is a ‘sacrament’, a sign in which the truth of the Gospel is confirmed and sealed if accepted in faith.
1 Cor. 10 and 11 indicate which aspects are important regarding this celebration:
Self-examination (‘let a person examine himself’, 11:28), Commemoration (‘do this in remembrance of Me’, 11:24), Proclamation (‘you proclaim the Lord’s death’, 11:26), Blessing (‘the cup of blessing that we bless’, 10:16), Communion (‘participation in the blood of Christ’, 10:16), Consecration (‘you cannot drink.., and..’, 10:21), Repetition (‘as often as you drink it’, 11:26), Anticipation (‘until He comes’, 11:26)