Christ’s earthly ministry was concluding. After years serving as a foreshadowing of the imminent sacrifice, the need for the Passover supper was also ending. The custom of a Passover supper was established when the Israelites were released from slavery as God had promised. The yearly commemoration served to remind the people of God’s faithfulness in the past and to point to His promise of delivering them from sin through the sacrifice of His Son.
The service that would replace the Passover supper—the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion—serves to remind His disciples of the fulfilled promise: Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. “By eating the bread and drinking the wine, we show that we believe this. We show that we repent of our sins, and that we receive Christ as our Saviour,” The Story of Jesus, p. 98.
Seems pretty uncomplicated, right?
The first Lord’s Supper, however, was not without its complications and difficulties. The Savior was anguished at the thought of what was ahead—not His own suffering, but that of His disciples. His disciples who, instead of savoring their last moments with their Master, were consumed in arguments over who would be the greatest in His kingdom.
“…the thought of His disciples was uppermost in His mind. He knew that after His own suffering was over, they would be left to struggle in the world. He had much to tell them that would be a stay to their hearts when He should walk no more with them. Of these things He had hoped to speak at this their last meeting before His death. But He could not tell them now. He saw that they were not ready to listen. There had been a contention among them” The Story of Jesus, p. 95.
What messages has the Lord for His disciples today? What important words are we missing as we spend our time on contentions?
Unfortunately, the argument among the disciples caused another problem. There was no servant present to wash the feet of the travelers, and with their hearts full of pride stirred up by their contention, each disciple took their place at the table in resolute silence.
“Jesus waited awhile to see what they would do. Then He Himself rose from the table. He girded Himself with the towel, poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. He had been grieved by their contention, but He did not reprove them by sharp words. He showed His love by acting as a servant to His own disciples.
“When He had finished, He said to them: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.”, . In this way Christ taught them that they ought to help one another…each should be willing to serve his brethren,” The Story of Jesus, p. 97.
The significance of the Lord’s Supper was not to divide the disciples into classes. It was—and still is—to unite hearts in humility and willingness to serve one another. Any contention that removes the focus from this solemn occasion is not of God but an obstacle placed by the enemy to distract God’s children from the serious times in which we live.
A change was wrought in the heart of the disciples as they witnessed Jesus’ silent example. “The disciples were now ashamed of their jealousy and selfishness. Their hearts were filled with love for their Lord and for one another. Now they could give heed to Christ's teaching,” The Story of Jesus, p. 97-98.
Let us spend more time meditating and studying Christ’s example of love and humility so that there may be a revival of this spirit in our church family. Let this revival start in my heart and in yours. May contentions be laid down and a spirit of meekness be taken up.
Jesus continued praying for His disciples. His prayers for unity, humility, and comfort were not over the twelve alone, but for all the disciples that would come to follow Him—even His disciples in the 21st century:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me, ... and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me,”.