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The Last Supper
The meal held by Christ and His disciples on the eve of His execution at which He instituted the Holy Eucharist.
The Evangelists and critics generally agree that the Last Supper was on a Thursday, that Christ suffered and died on Friday, and that He arose from the dead on Sunday. As to the day of the month there seems a difference between the record of the synoptic Gospels and that of St. John.
In consequence some critics have rejected the authenticity of either account or of both. Since Christians, accepting the inspiration of the Scriptures, cannot admit contradictions in the sacred writers, various attempts have been made to reconcile the statements.
Matthew 26:17 says, "And on the first day of the Azymes"; Mark 14:12, "Now on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the pasch"; Luke 22:7, "And the day of the unleavened bread came, on which it was necessary that the pasch should be killed".
From these passages it seems to follow that Jesus and his disciples conformed to the ordinary custom, that the Last Supper took place on the 14th of Nisan, and that the Crucifixion was on the l5th, the great festival of the Jews. This opinion, held by Tolet, Cornelius a Lapide, Patrizi, Corluy, Hengstenberg, Ohlshausen, and Tholuck, is confirmed by the custom of the early Eastern Church which, looking to the day of the month, celebrated the commemoration of the Lord's Last Supper on the 14th of Nisan, without paying any attention to the day of the week.
This was done in conformity with the teaching of St. John the Evangelist. But in his Gospel, St. John seems to indicate that Friday was the 14th of Nisan, for (18:28) on the morning of this day the Jews "went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch". Various things were done on this Friday which could not be done on a feast, viz., Christ is arrested,
tried, crucified; His body is taken down" (because it was the parasceve) that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that was a great sabbath day)"; the shroud and ointments are bought, and so on.
The defenders of this opinion claim that there is only an apparent contradiction and that the differing statements may be reconciled. For the Jews calculated their festivals and Sabbaths from sunset to sunset: thus the Sabbath began after sunset on Friday and ended at sunset on Saturday.
The owner of the house in which was the upper room of the Last Supper is not mentioned in Scripture; but he must have been one of the disciples, since Christ bids Peter and John say, "The Master says". Some say it was Nicodemus, or Joseph of Arimathea, or the mother of John Mark.
The hall was large and furnished as a dining-room. In it Christ showed Himself after His Resurrection; here took place the election of Matthias to the Apostolate and the sending of the Holy Ghost; here the first Christians assembled for the breaking of bread; hither Peter and John came when they had given testimony after the cure of the man born lame, and Peter after his liberation from prison; here perhaps was the council of the Apostles held.
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Some critics give the following harmonized order: washing of the feet of the Apostles, prediction of the betrayal and departure of Judas, institution of the Holy Eucharist. Others, believing that Judas made a sacrilegious communion, place the institution of the sacrament before the departure of Judas.
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