Easter Sunday is approaching and the Easter weekend begins today with Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. This day commemorates Jesus’s last supper with his disciples. In the Roman Catholic church, they hold a chrism mass in each diocese in which the bishop consecrates the oils used in anointing of the sick, baptisms, etc.
The story of the last supper is found in all four Gospels with variations in detail. John has an extended discourse by Jesus in which he gives his final instructions to his disciples. John omits the introduction of the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist which is described in the other three Gospels. I am going to quote from Mark since it is the shortest and fastest paced Gospel.
12On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:12-26)
Various Christian denominations celebrate the Lord’s Supper in various ways. Many celebrate it every Sunday, others less often. The eucharist is a major source of controversy between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics take Jesus’s words literally and believe that the eucharist actually becomes the body and blood of Christ while Protestants believe it to be symbolic. This is the point of Catholic doctrine that Richard Dawkins was mocking at the Reason Rally.
27“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’[d]
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[e] you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)
Despite their bluster, the disciples ran like scared rabbits when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Peter even denied knowing Jesus three times.
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.[g]
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.[h] Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice[i] you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:66-72)
After the last supper Jesus and the disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36“Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42)
The betrayer is Judas, of course. They needed him to identify Jesus, since they wouldn’t want to arrest the wrong man. You might wonder why the Jewish leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. It would take another post to explain the historical and political background of first century Judea, but suffice it to say that they had good reason to fear anyone who might raise an insurrection against the Romans, since the Roman response would be devastating. The Jewish War, just forty years later showed their fears were justified.
43Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. (Mark 14:43-51)
The young man is not mentioned in any other Gospel and there is a tradition that he was Mark himself, who couldn’t resist mentioning himself. John identifies the disciple who attacked the guard as Peter.
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11)
Luke mentions that Jesus healed the guard.
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)
Tomorrow the story continues with Good Friday.