While not much is known about The Last Supper, for our second post, we decided to share more about this topic. However, to relate it to modern times, there will be a compare and contrast aspect of the actual event in the bible and the painting by Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.
In ancient times, and in the bible, the actual event that is now commonly known as “The Last Supper”, did not come to be termed so up till modern times. The term “The Last Supper” does not appear in the New Testament, bu traditionally many Christians have come up with the term “The Last Supper” because of the obvious nature of the event (duh). The Last Supper, as is commonly known today, refers to the last meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples the night before he died. It just so happened that the last meal Jesus had was the Passover meal, a meal which was (and still is) a very important meal to the jewish people as it is a form of commemoration for the Exodus.
Passover is the one of the oldest and most important religious festivals in Judaism and Christianity. It commemorates God’s saving the Hebrew people by delivering them from slavery, and also commemorates the “birth” of Israelites. The festival of Passover begins on the 14th sunset of Nisan, which is usually in March or April of every month. It is a seven day celebration and ends with an event in which there is a communal meal called the Seder (aka the last supper for Jesus).
Leonardo Da Vinci, while not present at the time of the Passover meal, took on this project because he was ordered and instructed to do so by his employer. It took 3 years in total to complete, and a lot of hard work and dedication and research went into this painting by Da Vinci, and inevitably, it hangs as one of the most significant and important paintings of today.
Da Vinci’s interpretation of the painting held a lot of clues as to what actually happened at the actual passover meal, and is easily missed by the common eye due to the sheer complexity of it. When looking at it, one fails to notice the intricate details that foreshadow the death of Jesus, and we are here to shed some light on that. There are four significances that are outstanding, of which we will discuss them below.
The first significance the last supper held, was whom Jesus chose to celebrate his Passover meal with. It was a tradition that the Passover meal was to be celebrated with family. Jesus chose to celebrate Passover by having a meal with his twelve disciples, but it is said that in John 15:15, Jesus said “"No longer do I call you servants; ...but I have called you friends".
Jesus also used the Last Supper to as a way to establish new meaning to the Passover meal. Jesus also instituted the New Covenant, established an authoritative order for the church, foretold Peter’s denial of Him (Luke 22:34) and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal (Matthew 26:21–24).
The second significance of the last supper was the food that was used in the painting, which is contrary to what was written of in the bible. In the bible, it was described by the evangelists that they ate bread and wine. However, in Da Vinci’s painting, other foods were on the table, like fish, salt and citrus.
One may be plagued by these questions; why were these exact foods chosen, and why were they placed around the table the way they were? Was there a significance to the different foods that was chosen?
In further analysis of the picture, it is seen that the salt shaker was tipped over. A plethora of new theories have come up that the saltshaker being tipped over was significant of Jesus’ impending crucifixion, as a fallen salt shaker is traditionally known as a sign of bad luck.
There has also been much speculation that with Judas tipping over the salt shaker was a foreshadow of his rebellion and later, his betrayal of Jesus. Eels were also served in the painting detailing the Last Supper, with historians pointing their fingers to this very act as an indication of a betrayal that had occurred, as Eels are the widely known as the snakes of the sea, and snakes, were sly and slippery creatures.
The third significance of the last supper, was the food that was meant to be served. Bread and wine were embodiments of christ himself. Whomsoever eats the bread and wine will embody christ and imbue in them the values and beliefs that christ himself holds. Since then, bread and wine has been used in churches as communion around the world, in the form of accepting the lord.
Although certainly not the last, another significance of the last supper was that it represented a climactic moment in time. Many speculated that the painting was a crucial hint-bearer representing the very moment that Jesus was aware of the later betrayal and therefore revealed that knowledge at the table. The canvas was a portrayal of the immediate responses and reactions of the disciples as a result. In da Vinci's interpretation, the moment also takes place just before the birth of the Eucharist, with Jesus reaching for the bread and a glass of wine that would be the key symbols of this Christian sacrament.
Here’s an additional fun fact! In Da Vinci’s interpretation of The Last Supper, Judas may have been modeled after a real life criminal. It is said that the look of every apostle was based on a real-life model. When it came time to pick the face for the traitorous Judas (fifth from the left, holding a bag of telltale silver), da Vinci searched the jails of Milan for the perfect looking scoundrel.
As such, we can see that the Last Supper, contrary to being just the last meal that Jesus had, also held a lot of significance and new beginnings for Christianity in the years to come, in terms of creating a new ordinance and also in creating a new method through which Christ could be embodied.