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Archive for March 30th, 2021

The Feast in the House of Levi” by Paolo Veronese

These days from Palm Sunday (marking the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem) to the following Sunday (marking the rising of Christ) are known in the church calendar as Holy Week.

This week is one of preparation and prophesy fulfilled. It is a pendulum-shifting drama that swings from joy, to sorrow then to an even greater, impossible triumph.

As I have been contemplating this Holy Week, I have found my heart and mind to be asking questions.

These questions I am focusing on as I walk through the week, remembering the events and how they enfolded, bringing myself into this great drama.

These are my queries:

  • how did the disciples not know what was going to happen as they ate with Jesus?
  • what if I were there?
  • what happened to open the eyes of those who met him on the road?

As soon as Palm Sunday passed, my thoughts moved to the final meal, the last supper of Jesus with his ragtag group of disciples.

It boggles my mind that the disciples could have sat, eating with their leader and friend, listened to the words he said, observed actions (Judas) and words of Jesus and of others … yet they seemed clueless to what was happening, what was to happen.

… but I read the Gospel accounts with the benefit of hindsight

Like a person grieving the earthly loss of one held dear, reminiscing over and over again the actions and words spoken by their dearly departed, we can read the accounts of the Last Supper knowing what comes next. Therefore, we read the words with limited possible meaning.

The meal itself was not simply a final meal between friends, but the annual observance and celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast represents the end of the plagues brought to Egypt as a result of their refusal to , as Moses said, “let my people go.” The Jews were saved by painting their doorposts with the blood of lambs, so that when death came by, the blood would prevent it from entering the household … thus it passed over (Passover) their homes. This seder meal was part of a seven day feast, when the only bread eaten would not have been the puffy, yeast-risen bread, but the flat and crispy Matzah type.

Perhaps it is because of this cultural and religious event that the disciple’s minds were not on the future that Jesus was speaking of, but the past. Perhaps all they could see and hear in words of their leader were simply Even Jesus himself said, “I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples” (Matthew 26:18).

Though we see the parallel of celebrating the Passover feast (which celebrated the saving of the Israelites by the blood of the lamb) with the very Passover lamb (whose blood was spilled to save them, us all) … they just saw the observance of a festival.

This Feast of Unleavened Bread … they celebrate it with the very one who said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), but they were just looking for physical (not spiritual) nourishment.

This unleavened bread, a reminder of fleeing Egypt, before their bread rose to wander in the dessert. No yeast was to come with them … symbolizing their need to leave their sins behind them. Jesus, sharing their table, was to become like yeast in their lives, growing and spreading his message of redemption.

These Jesus-followers were primitive mortals who knew only in-part as they sat down to feast with their fearless leader. In the days to come, their eyes would be opened to the drama being written as they simply enjoyed a good meal, drink and companionship around the table.

The banquet was just beginning.

*This video (below) presents a discussion of the Veronese painting (above) and compares it to that of Leonardo da Vinci … this comparison, in my mind contrasts how the disciples might have experienced the Last Supper with Jesus (Veronese) to how we see the Last Supper (Leonardo).

“in some ways it just looks like a banquet, and not a Last Supper”

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