The Last Supper Bible Story Study Guide

The Last Supper Story in the Bible Challenges Our Commitment to the Lord

The Last Supper
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All four Gospels give an account of the Last Supper when Jesus Christ shared his final meal with the disciples on the night before he was arrested. Also called the Lord's Supper, the Last Supper was significant because Jesus showed his followers that he would become the Passover Lamb of God.

These passages constitute the biblical basis for the practice of Christian Communion. At the Last Supper, Christ forevermore instituted the observance by saying, "Do this in remembrance of me." The story includes valuable lessons about loyalty and commitment.

Scripture References

Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-20; John 13:1-30.

The Last Supper Bible Story Summary

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover, Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead with very specific instructions regarding the preparation of the Passover meal. That evening Jesus sat down at the table with the apostles to eat his final meal before going to the cross. As they dined together, he told the twelve that one of them would soon betray him.

One by one they questioned, "I'm not the one, am I, Lord?" Jesus explained that even though he knew it was his destiny to die as the Scriptures foretold, his betrayer's fate would be terrible: "Far better for him if he had never been born!"

Then Jesus took the bread and the wine and asked God the Father to bless it. He broke the bread into pieces, giving it to his disciples and said, "This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

Then Jesus took the cup of wine and shared it with his disciples. He said, "This wine is the token of God's new covenant to save you -- an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you." He told all of them, "I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Major Characters

All twelve disciples were present at the Last Supper, but a few key characters stood out.

Peter and John: According to Luke's version of the story, two disciples, Peter and John, were sent ahead to prepare the Passover meal. Peter and John were members of Jesus' inner circle, and two of his most trusted friends.

Jesus: The central figure at the table was Jesus. Throughout the meal, Jesus illustrated the extent of his loyalty and love. He showed the disciples who he was -- their Deliverer and Redeemer -- and what he was doing for them -- setting them free for all eternity. The Lord wanted his disciples and all future followers always to remember his commitment and sacrifice on their behalf. 

Judas: Jesus made it known to the disciples that the one who would betray him was in the room, but he did not reveal who it was. This announcement shocked the twelve. Breaking bread with another person was a sign of mutual friendship and trust. To do this and then betray your host was the ultimate treachery.

Judas Iscariot had been a friend to Jesus and the disciples, traveling together with them for more than two years. He took part in the communion of the Passover meal even though he had already determined to betray Jesus. His deliberate act of betrayal proved that outward displays of loyalty mean nothing. True discipleship comes from the heart. 

Believers can benefit from considering Judas Iscariot's life and their own commitment to the Lord. Are we true followers of Christ or secret pretenders like Judas?

Themes and Life Lessons

In this story, the character of Judas represents a society in rebellion against God, but the Lord’s handling of Judas magnifies God’s grace and compassion for that society. All along Jesus knew Judas would betray him, yet he gave him countless opportunities to turn and repent. As long as we are alive, it's not too late to come to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

The Lord’s Supper marked the beginning of Jesus' preparation of the disciples for future life in the Kingdom of God. He would soon depart from this world. At the table, they began to argue about which of them was to be considered the greatest in that kingdom. Jesus taught them that true humility and greatness comes from being a servant to all.

Believers must be careful not to underestimate their own potential for betrayal. Immediately following the Last Supper Story, Jesus predicted Peter's denial.

Historical Context

Passover commemorated Israel’s hurried escape from bondage in Egypt. Its name derives from the fact that no yeast was used for cooking the meal. The people had to escape so quickly that they did not have time to let their bread rise. So, the first Passover meal included unleavened bread.

In the book of Exodus, the blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the Israelite's door frames, causing the plague of the firstborn to pass over their houses, sparing the firstborn sons from death. At the Last Supper Jesus revealed that he was about to become the Passover Lamb of God.

By offering the cup of his own blood, Jesus shocked his disciples: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28, ESV). 

The disciples had only known of animal blood being offered in sacrifice for sin. This concept of Jesus' blood introduced a whole new understanding.

No longer would the blood of animals cover sin, but the blood of their Messiah. The blood of animals sealed the old covenant between God and his people. The blood of Jesus would seal the new covenant. It would open the door to spiritual freedom. His followers would exchange slavery to sin and death for eternal life in God's Kingdom.

Points of Interest

  • Typically wine is served four times during the Passover meal. According to Jewish tradition, the four cups represent four expressions of redemption. The first cup is called the cup of sanctification; the second is the cup of judgment; the third is the cup of redemption; the fourth is the cup of the kingdom.
  • The Last Supper became known as the Lord’s Supper because of Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 11:20: "When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat." (ESV)
  • There are five general Christian views regarding the blood and the wine during the practice of Communion:
  1. The literal view suggests that the bread and the wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. The Catholic term for this is Transubstantiation.
  2. A second position is known as the "real presence." The bread and the wine are unchanged elements, but Christ's presence by faith is made spiritually real in and through them.
  3. Another view suggests that the body and blood are present, but not physically present.
  4. A fourth view holds that Christ is present in a spiritual sense, but not literally in the elements.
  5. The memorial view suggests that the bread and the wine are unchanged elements, used as symbols, representing Christ's body and blood, in remembrance of his enduring sacrifice on the cross.

Questions for Reflection

At the Last Supper, each of the disciples questioned Jesus, "Could I be the one to betray you, Lord?" Perhaps at that moment, they were questioning their own hearts. A little while later, Jesus predicted Peter's three-fold denial. In our walk of faith, are there times when we should stop and ask ourselves the same question? How true is our commitment to the Lord? Do we profess to love and follow Christ, yet deny him with our actions?