Bible Text: Matthew 26:20–29; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:14–38
Lesson Focus: Jesus’ blood is the sign of God’s new promise for us.
Big Question: What’s the connection between Jesus’ last supper and Passover?
Key Words: COVENANT, PASSOVER, LAST SUPPER, SACRIFICE, FORGIVENESS
• Jesus’ last supper was a Passover meal. Passover is a Jewish feast celebrating the ancient Israelites’ liberation from slavery.
• The Passover meal of liberation is one interpretive lens on the Eucharist, which is also a meal of reconciliation, a meal that gathers diverse people, a meal of God’s bounty, and a meal of incorporation.
• Jesus says of the cup of wine that he shares at his last supper, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24).
• Many people in the environment of ancient Christianity would have viewed the idea of drinking blood in perhaps the same way we view the idea of a vampire consuming blood, as something fantastic and horrible. Despite such reactions, the Christian Eucharist is not the only cultural setting in which consuming blood is understood as giving life or as sealing a covenant. Different churches have different answers to the question of who may receive communion.
Jesus’ last supper was a Passover meal that he shared with the 12 disciples. Passover is a Jewish feast celebrating the ancient Israelites’ liberation from slavery (Exodus 12:1–28). In anticipation of the flight from Egypt—and in subsequent commemoration of the Passover—the Lord instructed the community to slaughter a year-old male lamb (either a sheep or a goat) “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5). Each household was to smear the animal’s blood on its doorposts and lintels. The plague of death would pass over any household in Egypt whose entryway had this sign. After they drained the animal’s blood and smeared it on the doorways, the people roasted the lamb and ate it hastily as they prepared to flee. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, a harvest festival, is celebrated with Passover. The Passover bread is unleavened, another sign of the people’s haste. There was no time to let yeasted dough rise. John’s Gospel explicitly identifies Jesus as the Passover lamb (John 19:36).
Jesus’ last supper, a Passover meal, witnesses that the Eucharist is a meal of liberation. The Last Supper included Judas, who would betray Jesus. Other disciples, notably Peter, also betrayed Jesus in their flight and denials. The Eucharist is a meal that includes enemies—of one another and of God. It is also a meal of reconciliation. The Bible indicates that Jesus ate the supper with only the Twelve, all men, all members of the Jewish community. In these respects, Passover is a meal of insiders, but Jesus’ inclusive table fellowship also informs our understanding of the Eucharist. That Jesus ate with tax collectors, sinners, women, and nonbelievers is reflected in our understanding of the Eucharist as a meal that gathers diverse people at one table. The Eucharist is a meal of incorporation (1 Corinthians 10:6–17), making all who share the bread one in the body of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is a meal of God’s bounty as well. At the eucharistic table, there is always food and grace enough for all, as in Jesus’ being able to feed thousands with what seemed so little.
The Passover meal is precisely one in which the animal’s blood is not consumed. Only after the blood was drained was the meat cooked. Yet Jesus says of the cup of wine that he shares with the disciples at his last supper, a Passover meal, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). The Hebrew Bible, which prohibits eating meat with blood (Genesis 9:4–6; Leviticus 17:10–12), is not alone in its view that consuming blood is not right. Early Christians celebrating Jesus’ last supper by eating bread and wine and claiming to consume Jesus’ body and blood was cause for some gossip! Many people in the environment of ancient Christianity would have viewed the idea of drinking blood in perhaps the same way we view the idea of a vampire consuming blood, as something fantastic and horrible. Some Romans regarded Christian claims of drinking Jesus’ blood as cannibalistic! Despite such reactions, the Christian Eucharist is not the only cultural setting in which consuming blood is understood as giving life or as sealing a covenant.
Who may receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at the communion table? Different denominations and different congregations within denominations have different answers to that question. In some churches, only those who are baptized, confirmed, and active members who have prepared are admitted to the communion table. In other churches, an announcement is made that all are welcome and none will be turned away. Most congregations are somewhere in between. A common bulletin or verbal announcement might say that “all who are baptized” may come. Some churches with more exclusive communion procedures base their practice on a certain interpretation of scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27–32) that says that one must be prepared and worthy to receive communion. Other churches with more inclusive practices hold the view that the communion table is God’s and thus they have no grounds to turn anyone away; indeed, Jesus himself practiced a scandalously inclusive table fellowship. Luther’s Small Catechism says that “a person who has faith in these words, ‘given for you’ and ‘shed for you . . . for the forgiveness of sin,’ is really worthy and well prepared” (Timothy J. Wengert, A Contemporary Translation of Luther’s Small Catechism[Augsburg Fortress, 1994], 44).
What’s the connection between Jesus’ last supper and Passover?
If you ask youth to describe a special family dinner where all are gathered and there is some ritual or tradition, they are probably able to recall the important things about this event. The reason is that what happens on these occasions involves many parts of the brain: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches—many intelligences. Jesus chose the setting of a Passover meal to issue his new covenant. Much like our remembrances of special traditions, Passover was a ritual or tradition the disciples had experienced and remembered through all of their senses and intelligences. Jesus’ command at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) was imbedded in their brains in a multitude of ways. This principle might help youth grasp the setting for this important meal—for the disciples and for us.
Welcome and Review
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
COVENANT: a relationship of trust and love between God and humanity.
PASSOVER: a Jewish holy day and meal celebrating how God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
LAST SUPPER: the last meal Jesus ate with his disciples, where he reminded them that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood.
SACRIFICE: the gift of an animal, grain, or produce offered to God.
FORGIVENESS: what allows us to be pardoned, absolved, and set free from our sin.
Choose one of the following three options to introduce the lesson. Then lead students in the Opening Prayer.
Discussion Option: What Is Communion?
Provide each student with a sheet of paper and have them write down their definition of Holy Communion. You can tell them they will learn more during today’s session. Make a list of the highlights of their definitions.
Debrief the discussion with these questions:
• What did you think about first—for example, the physical things involved or the meaning of Holy Communion?
• What other names for Holy Communion do you know?
• When was Holy Communion first celebrated?
Option 2: Object Lesson Option: Only One Right Answer
Gather four combination padlocks with the combinations written on a separate sheet of paper that only you will see.
Ask for four volunteers to come up and give each of them a padlock with a set of numbers on an index card. (For example, if one padlock’s combination is 6-20-37, write on an index card 70362.) Do this for all four padlocks. Explain that the cards contain the correct numbers needed to open the padlock, but they’re not in the correct order. After the students struggle for a while, reveal the correct combination and have them open the locks.
Debrief the object lesson with these questions:
• How difficult or easy was it to open the padlock before you knew the correct combination?
• How many combinations unlock each padlock?
• How do you think opening a padlock is similar to the salvation we receive in Jesus Christ?
There is only one way: through Jesus Christ. Everybody has the numbers, but Jesus helps us put them in the right order. Ask for a volunteer to stand and read John 14:6.
Dim the lights in the room and play some soft instrumental music. Ask the students to clear their minds of all distractions. Take a few minutes for students to calm down. Encourage them to take a few deep breaths, in and out . . . in and out . . . in and out.
Explain that today you’ll be talking about forgiveness—especially the forgiveness we receive from God through Holy Communion. We also have opportunities to forgive others. Have students think of someone in their lives they need to forgive, perhaps someone they feel has done something wrong to them. Have the students take a minute to talk to God about this person and ask for God’s help in forgiving this person. After a few minutes of silence, offer the following prayer.
Leader: God of grace, thank you for forgiving us when we mess up. We know we don’t deserve to be forgiven—and we’re grateful that you are always there to offer your assurance of mercy. Help us forgive the people in our lives who have caused us hurt, pain, and frustration. Give us courage to forgive these people, not only with our words, but with our hearts.
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: What’s the connection between Jesus’ last supper and Passover?
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about how celebrating a tradition in your life is similar to celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Think about a special dinner gathering that has become a tradition in your own family and share about this gathering with the students. What makes it so special? What made it a tradition? When Jesus shared his last supper with the disciples, they were celebrating Passover, a tradition that was and still is important in the Jewish faith. Passover was a tradition the disciples had experienced and remembered through all their senses. It was an important tradition for them. Jesus used this tradition to institute his new covenant and the Lord’s Supper.
Open the Bible
Have students open their Bibles to Matthew 26 and ask for a volunteer to stand and read verses 20–29. Discuss the passage with these questions:
• How do you think the disciples felt when Jesus said that one of them would betray him?
• If you were one of the disciples, how would you have felt?
• Would you try to stop the betrayer, ignore what Jesus had said, or would you just go with the flow? Explain why.
Have students turn to Luke 22 and ask for a volunteer to stand and read verses 14–38. After having read this passage and the passage in Matthew, ask the students to help you come up with a list of similarities and differences in the two passages. Write their answers on chart paper or an overhead so all can see them.
Have students turn to Mark 14 and ask for a volunteer to stand and read verses 12–16. Share with the students that Jewish custom dictated that anyone in Jerusalem who had a room available would give it upon request to a pilgrim who was in Jerusalem to celebrate. How would you feel if a stranger came to your house asking to use a spare room to celebrate a feast? Would you welcome the stranger or turn this person away? Explain why.
These three passages all relate to Jesus becoming the Passover lamb. During the first Passover, a roasted lamb was eaten by the people before they fled Egypt. The blood that was drained was used to mark their doorways, which kept them safe from the plague of death. Jesus tells his disciples to drink from the cup and calls the wine the “blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28). He explains to his followers that his blood is the new covenant that promises people salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Lutheran Study Bible page 2110: Locate the possible location of the Last Supper on the map.
Lutheran Study Bible page 1687: Read the World of the Bible sidebar for Mark 14:22–26. Then read the Lutheran Perspectives sidebar. Although the Lord’s Supper began with Jesus and the 12 disciples, it is more than a remembrance of that event. When we celebrate the sacrament, we are in the presence of Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:16–17. What happens when people take Holy Communion together? (They become one body in Christ, even though there are many people.)
Ephesians 2:8–9 and John 3:16 tell us something about God. Read these verses. They tell us that God loves us deeply. In Ephesians we learn that we are saved by grace through faith, and that is a gift from God. In John we learn that God sent Jesus to die for our sins, all because God loves us.
Open the Catechism
Here We Stand Student Book page 307: Invite students to read part 1 of The Sacrament of the Altar.
The answer emphasizes that the sacrament is the “true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we celebrate the sacrament, Christ is truly present with us. The different names for this sacrament emphasize different aspects of it. It is called Holy Communion because it symbolizes our union with Christ and with other Christians. It is called the Sacrament of the Altar because we usually gather around the altar to receive it. It is called the Eucharist to remind us of the thanks and joy that are part of the sacrament. And it is called the Lord’s Supper because it was instituted by Christ and he gives us something to eat and to drink—the bread and the wine that go along with his promise of forgiveness and new life.
Host a quick quiz show to review what you’ve covered in the lesson so far. Project the PowerPoint slides where your contestants and other students can easily view the questions and answers. If practical, set up a quiz show environment with horns or buzzers for the contestants. Organize two or more teams. After you ask a question, the first team to answer the question correctly gets a point. If the answer to a question is wrong, another team gets the chance to answer and win the point.
1. A covenant is . . .
a. a promise.
b. a requirement.
c. established by God.
d. both a and c. (Correct)
2. The Israelites left Egypt because . . .
a. they were bored.
b. they had amnesia and didn’t know what they were doing.
c. God had caused Pharaoh to free them. (Correct)
d. none of the above.
3. Holy Communion is one of __________ sacraments in the Lutheran Church.
c. two (Correct)
4. In the words of institution, Jesus said,
a. “I’m hungry—let’s eat!”
b. “Do this for the remembrance of me.” (Correct)
c. “Is that lamb cooked yet?”
d. “Did you wash your hands?”
5. We are promised __________ every time we partake of Communion.
a. forgiveness of sin
d. all of the above (Correct)
6. In the Passover story in Exodus 12, __________ was spread on the doorposts.
a. peanut butter
c. grape juice
d. blood (Correct)
7. Jesus shared his last meal with the . . .
b. chief priests.
c. disciples. (Correct)
d. entire city of Jerusalem.
8. Another name for holy communion is . . .
a. the Sacrament of the Altar.
b. the Eucharist.
c. the Lord’s Supper.
d. all of the above. (Correct)
Take a Break
Select one of the options below to explore in your small group. Then finish with the Best/Worst activity and prayer.
Science Option: Given for You
Before the lesson, assemble the supplies, read through the experiment, and do a trial run.
• One or more microscopes
• Stained blood smears (check with a local science teacher, blood bank, or hospital education center for a source from which to borrow or purchase these)
What are the words we hear every time we take Holy Communion? Jesus said, “This is my body given for you, and this is my blood shed for you.” Wow. What a gift that is for us! Explore the world of blood to learn more about what it is and how it works.
Blood keeps us alive by carrying oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our bodies. It also transports waste out of our cells and is one of the first lines of defense against infections and other diseases. Look at stained blood smears under a microscope and help students identify the different types of cells that are present. Red blood cells appear as small red disks, and white blood cells are larger than red cells and contain purple-stained nuclei. Tell students that on the most basic level, red blood cells carry oxygen to all the cells in the body, and white blood cells are responsible for fighting disease.
What about blood type and blood transfusions? Each of us has one of eight blood types: A+, A–, B+, B–, AB+, AB–, O+, or O–. These blood types are determined by the presence of specific protein structures on the surface of red blood cells. During a transfusion, it is important to receive blood that is your exact type to avoid a dangerous reaction that could be fatal. However, there is one blood type that can be given to anyone: O–. O– blood is always available in hospital blood banks to give in emergency situations when there isn’t time to determine the blood type of a patient. O– blood saves many, many lives each year.
Debrief the science activity with these questions:
• Do you know your blood type?
• Do you know anyone who has received a transfusion?
• How would you feel if you received life-giving blood?
• How is Jesus’ blood given in Holy Communion life-giving?
Song Option: We Go Together
Play the song “We Go Together” from Grease (UMG Recordings, 1978). Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting.
It’s not always easy to understand how the Old Testament and its many strict laws go together with the grace and miracles of the New Testament. But Jesus gives us the key. He is the perfect link, without which it makes about as much sense as the gibberish in this song from Grease! Jesus’ death frees us from our sins; participating in Holy Communion brings forgiveness of our sins every time we eat his body and drink his blood.
Debrief the activity with these questions:
• What is the link between the Passover and the crucifixion of Jesus?
• What is the “new covenant” that Jesus refers to?
• Do you think the disciples fully understood what Jesus was saying to them at the Last Supper? Why or why not?
Best/Worst and Prayer
Go around the group and have each student share the best and worst thing from his or her week. Remind them to pay special attention to (for example) the person on their right, as they will be praying for that person in a moment. Alternate prayer partners from week to week.
Student Book Connection
Here We Stand Student Book page 307: Invite students to read the opening paragraph of “The Sacrament of the Altar.” When we read that Holy Communion “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” we know that Christ comes to us in the sacrament. The sacrament was instituted or implemented by Christ. Read aloud the words of institution. When Jesus says his body is the bread, we know that Jesus provides what we need for life (see John 6:35). When Jesus says his cup is the new covenant, we know that Jesus promises that through communion our sins are forgiven. Ask for volunteers to read parts 2, 3, and 4. It is important for Christians to take communion regularly because we need forgiveness and Christ’s presence on a regular basis. The words “for you” emphasize that the sacrament is for each of us. Talk about these questions with your group:
• What do you think it means to say bread and wine are the true body and blood of Jesus Christ?
• How does it make you feel to know Jesus did this for YOU?
• If a friend asked you what communion was all about, what would you say?
Here We Stand Student Book page 135: Have students turn to “How to Receive Communion.” Just as different denominations and congregations have different practices concerning who may participate in Holy Communion, congregations may serve communion in different ways. Read the section in the Student Book that applies to the method that is usually practiced in your congregation. Give the students a chance to skim the other ways people receive communion. Invite them to share their experiences of other methods of receiving communion.
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.
After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• Why is Jesus considered the Passover lamb?
• What are three parallels between the Exodus Passover and the last supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples?
• What does the “new covenant” mean for you today?
We have the promise that God will forgive our sins every time we eat the bread and drink the wine during Holy Communion. Take a few minutes for students to think about where they most need forgiveness in their lives today. Tell them they will have an opportunity to pray for forgiveness in the Closing Prayer. Provide handouts or project the following prayer for all to see.
Leader: Redeemer God, we thank you for the story of the Passover lamb, whose blood was shed so the children of Israel might be set free from their bondage in Egypt.
Group: Thank you for the Passover lamb.
Leader: Thank you for the covenant you made with your children all those years ago.
Group: Thank you for the new covenant.
Leader: Jesus became the Passover lamb and willingly shed his blood so we might be set free from our bondage to sin. (Allow time for students to pray silently for the forgiveness they need.)
Group: Hear our prayers for forgiveness.
Leader: As we learn about the Lord’s Supper and celebrate the meal together, may we be forever grateful for what you have done for us. In your name we pray.
Before students leave, offer the following blessing.
God’s promise of forgiveness is meant for you. Through the new covenant of Jesus’ blood, your sins are forgiven. In the name of the Father+, and of the Son+, and of the Holy Spirit+. Amen.