Holy Thursday – A Reflection on John’s Story of the Last Supper

Jeff Norton
March 28, 2013

Across the ages, Christians have studied and contemplated the mysteries of our faith in an effort to form a deeper relationship with God. This is especially true throughout Lent, as each week we prayerfully consider the scripture stories, themes and lessons and try to find their relevance in our own lives. Sometimes we may struggle to fully understand what God is telling us. Throughout Lent, we patiently wait in anticipation as Jesus, in all his humanity, came to accept that as the Son of God, His was a destiny [and sacrifice] unlike any other.

Scholars and theologians have written and interpreted much about Jesus’ final days based on what we have come to know as the Passion Narrative. On Holy Thursday, three of the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke describe similarly the actual meal of the Last Supper that includes Jesus’ consecration of the bread and wine as His Body and Blood.  We have come to understand and accept that these Scriptures culminate in the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

While the central theme of John’s version is quite different from the other three, it also has special significance – especially if we are to understand Jesus actions and follow His command. As he often does, John uses the symbolism of Jesus’ life, words and actions to speak to us in a different way. John’s version of the Last Supper focuses entirely on Jesus’ act of washing the disciples’ feet. We must then ask ourselves; “What is John saying to us?” John implies that even the disciples would not fully comprehend the meaning of Jesus actions until later.

In his book “Ashes to Easter”, Bishop Robert F. Morneau writes:

“God’s love is ritualized in a unique way on Holy Thursday. Jesus not only shares the intimacy of a meal, a last meal, with his disciples, but he gives them a simple, clear example of what discipleship is all about: Service. Washing one another’s feet, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked – here is the core of the Eucharist, our great miracle of Love.”

As Jesus came to accept His fate, He masterfully and humbly used His final days with the disciples as a continuum of “teachable moments” – not just for His disciples, but for all of us.

Wishing you and yours a Blessed and Happy Easter,

Jeff Norton