The Last Supper: its meaning
“…as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (NRSV, 1 Corinthians 11:26)
To all outward appearances, the Crucifixion of Our Lord was the judicial murder of an innocent Person, devoid of all significance except as an illustration of the saying that might is greater than right. Certainly the Apostles, when warned by Our Lord beforehand, looked on it as a useless waste of life that ought at all costs to be avoided.
It was, therefore, essential for Our Lord to invest his death on the Cross with its true significance and purpose, and to reveal that through the struggle of the Crucifixion he had saved us from the bondage of sin and opened the way for our union with his Father. Next, he had to ensure that this significance and purpose should never be forgotten by humankind. And lastly, he had to furnish the means by which we could be reconciled to God and have free access to him in our daily life, and thus be enabled here and now to share in the fruits of his victory won upon the Cross.
The answer to these three requirements, without which the Crucifixion – and therefore Our Lord’s mission – would be robbed of its purpose and effective power, is to be found in the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday. We must therefore consider exactly what did happen that night in the Upper Room in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.