Events connected to the Last Supper
We ever need to be thankful that God in His wisdom has given us four Gospel records of life, while here on earth, of the Lord Jesus Christ. The beauty of this is that the Holy Spirit has so guided each evangelist in recording the various events of our Saviour’s life in differing ways, none of which contradict the other, inspite of apparent differences.
So it is, when the time was drawing near for the Lord to ‘give His life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28) that He desired to celebrate at the time of Passover what is known as the ‘Last Supper’ before He went to the cross. Luke tells us that Jesus told Peter and John to go and prepare the Passover for them. The sign that they would see to lead them to the right place was a man carrying a pitcher or jar of water. This was unusual for normally it would be a woman who performed this task. The Supper was to be very exclusive, as there would be no one present except the twelve disciples. No servant or slave to wash the disciple’s feet from the dust or mud of the road when walking to the venue.
The Lord had much to teach His disciples before He went to the cross, even though they seemed to have material things on their minds, such as who is the greatest among them (Luke 22:24-30). It is by reading John 13-17 that we know and learn far more of what took place at this event.
Our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself at the cross was timed specifically by God the Father. The Lord Jesus was none other than the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth’ (Revelation 13:8 also 1 Peter 1:20). All the Jewish Passover celebrations down the years had pointed forward to the true ‘Lamb of God’ Israel’s Messiah. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 5 verse 7, ‘for indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us’.
In this celebration there was much that the Lord Jesus wished to teach His disciples. By what was to take place prior to the actual Passover meal, our Lord was setting an example to all who would follow Him. For He as the Servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 52:13) was showing to the twelve that they needed to be servants or slaves also.
May I suggest that there is a spiritual significance in the sequence of events recorded in verses 2 to 10: We read ’He rose from supper’, reminding us that ’in the fullness of time’ (Galatians 4:4) He arose from His throne of glory, came to earth, partook of our humanity, with one main object of making a way possible for sinful mankind to be reconciled to a holy God. Jesus then laid aside His outer garments, representing the covering of light which He had from all eternity (Psalm 104:2). The three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration saw this light for a short while, as did the Apostle John when on the Isle of Patmos (Revelations 1:9-17).
Jesus then took a towel and wrapped it around Him, which was a picture that He had laid aside His garment of light and taken the towel of our humanity. The Gospel records show to us how real was the humanity of our Lord. He was weary, He wept, He was tested in all things, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
It was then that our Lord arose and poured water into a basin (remember the man carrying a jar of water). The spiritual significance is that that time was to come when at the cross of Calvary Jesus would pour out His own blood and water (John 19:34); for Hebrews 9:22 reminds us that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins’. Our Lord then started to wash the disciples feet, and wipe them with the towel which was around Him. This was a task no one else offered to do. In this way the Lord was teaching the disciple, as well as us, that all who love the Lord are but servants, or slaves, and no task done for Him is too menial. But also in a far deeper way this washing indicated that our Saviour had set Himself the task of washing away the stain, the pollution, the guilt of human depravity, sin and iniquity, by dying on the cross.
As we read on in this narrative, we are told of the conversation of Jesus with Peter, and Peter’s objection, at first, to having his feet washed and finally asking to be washed fully. Our Lord’s reply may seem perplexing: ‘what i am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this’. This was not a reference to heaven, but rather to the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give enlightenment and a fuller understanding of the words spoken to the disciples. Peter continued to object, until the Lord graciously reminded him that unless he was washed then he could have no part in the One who was the Messiah, the Lord of Glory.
There is yet more for us to learn from the words of our Saviour in verse 10. In the NKJ and other modern versions there is a play on words, differing between one who is bathed and another who has his feet washed. What was our Lord saying to the disciples and us in our day and age? What was being said was that when people come to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance seeking forgiveness for their sins, there has to be an initial act of cleansing, being ‘bathed’ so to speak, a total cleansing. This is the meaning of believers baptism by total immersion. We signify that we are totally washed, totally cleansed, that we have died to the old life and been raised in newness of life by our glorious Saviour. This act if taken in all sincerity is a ONCE AND FOR ALL TRANSACTION, it cannot be undone, or repeated, it is irrevocable. Scripture is clear that once we are accepted by our Lord Jesus, we cannot be lost; our salvation is secure . But remember that in 1 John 2:1-2 we are reminded that ‘if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’.
But there is GREAT DANGER in the saying ‘once saved always saved’ because our Lord is teaching here that the evidence of the once for all transaction is the DAILY WASHING, symbolised by the washing of the at the ‘Last Supper’. This cleansing needs to be done daily by all believers, for as we walk life’s journey we become stained, polluted, soiled. We grieve the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, we grieve God by actions, words or thoughts. Daily repentance is essential. The evidence of our salvation comes in our desire to persevere in following and keeping His commandments.
So it is that when we come to partake in the breaking of bread or the taking of communion that we need to remember the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 11 verse 28: ‘let a man/woman examine himself/herself then eat of the bread and drink of the cup’, in thanksgiving for the ‘so Great a Salvation’ (Hebrews 2:3).
- R. John Wheeler
- R. John Wheeler