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The account of “The Lord’s Last Supper” with His twelve full time disciples, which replaced” The Feast of The Passover” since that day is found in the four books of the gospel. The records are in Matthew 26:20-29, Mark 14:17-25, Luke 22:14-23 and John 13:18-30.
Matthew 26:20-21:- Now when the even was come, he sat down / reclined / lean / lay down to eat at the table (from Greek word Anakeimai, pronounced an-ak-i-mahee) with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
Mark 14:18:- And as they sat and did eat / sat down / reclined / lean / lay down to eat at the table (from Greek word Anakeimai, pronounced an-ak-i-mahee), Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
Luke 22:14:- And when the hour was come, he sat down / fall back / lay down / lean back to eat (from Greek word Anapipto pronounced an-ap-ipto), and the twelve apostles with him.
John 13:23-26. 23Now there was leaning on / falling into, on, upon / lying on / pressing upon (from Greek word Epipipto pronounced ep-ee-pip-to) Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25He then lying on / press upon Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop / morsel, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop / morsel, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
Matthew 26:23. And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
You would not necessarily think it important to consider the table setting of “The Lord’s Last Supper” or where the disciples sat. However, just the opposite is true. If we understand this, it explains why certain things we read about in “The Lord’s Last Supper” narratives were said and done.
First, we need to consider the table setting itself. "The normal Jewish custom was to sit on the floor or eat meals standing up. However, during the Passover meal, it was ritual duty to recline at a table as a symbol of freedom. Since the Romans reclined, it was especially important to use these tables for Passover. The Jews anticipated the Messiah's coming to drive the Romans from the country, freeing Israel to once more be their own rulers. The act of reclining would no longer be in anticipation of freedom but would reflect reality. The Passover meal was a celebration of the Exodus and it was required to eat this meal in a manner usually reserves for the wealthy. That is to recline around the table, enjoying one's freedom in the Land. It would be impossible to recline around a table such as we eat at today. However, we do know that they are around a U-shaped table, called a triclinium. The meaning comes from the Latin "tri" meaning three and "clinium" meaning recline. Seating at a triclinium, three-sided table, was according to a traditional plan. The places of greater honor were to the left, and those of lesser honor to the right. It was these places of greater honor that Jesus counseled against selecting at a feast, "lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place" (Luke 14:8, 9).
This may actually have happened the night of Jesus' last Passover. Peter and John helped prepare the meal. Having helped prepare the Passover, Peter may have expected to sit in a place of honor (#3) near Jesus (#2). It seemed natural that they should be given the places of honor during the meal. Yet, he had to gesture and call across the table from his seat (#13) to John (#1) to ask Jesus a question (John 13:24). Jesus may have seated Judas in a place of honor (#3) [where he could reach him with the morsel dipped in stew, John 13:26], displacing Peter.
Guests at a reclining meal lay on their left side, propped up by their left elbow and cushions, and ate with their right hand. This accounts for the description of John "reclining on Jesus' chest" (John 13:23). John must have been reclining in the place to the right of Jesus.
The table is placed low on the floor to allow for the people around it to recline on their left side while eating with their right hand. Everyone is facing the same direction around the table, often making it hard to speak to those behind you.
The clearest indication as to what the room of “The Lord’s Last Supper” may have looked like is in the Greek word kataluma found in Luke 22:12. The best translation in English for the word kataluma would be “guest chamber.” Guests would both eat and sleep in the guest chamber. Luke 22:12 indicates that the Lord’s Last Supper was served at a large (mega in Greek) table with cushions or mattresses. These words would have called to mind a room with a large U-shaped triclinium dining table with cushions.
When looking at a triclinium, the left arm is the place of the most important guests, the cross arm is the place of the fairly important guests, and on the right arm we find the less important people, with the last seat on the end being called the Servant's Seat. If there is no servant present to serve the meal, then the person in the Servant's Seat had the job of waiting on those who had need of more food or drink.
Certain other seats had special functions. On the most important left arm, the second seat was that of the host. It was the custom that the first seat on the end was that of a trusted friend of the host. Why? This person helped protect the host, who might be a king or an important official. This person was also the food taster.
Seat #3 is the traditional seat of the most honored guest at the banquet. Therefore the left and right hand of the host were considered important places. This is why John's mother made a request of Jesus, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom" (Mt. 20:21). The disciples often discussed who was the greatest.
It is obvious that Jesus was seated in seat, #2 as He was the host. We also know that John was in seat #1, because John 13:23 tells us that John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," was reclined next to Him. We know it was the right side because Peter motioned to John to ask Jesus which one would betray him. The Bible says, "Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, 'Lord who is it?'" (John. 13:25).
Around a triclinium, the only way to talk to the person behind you is to lean back. Since the custom was to always lean on your left side, that places John on Jesus' right.
Since Jesus responded to John's question as to who would betray him, Jesus said, "He who had dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me" (Matthew 26:23). There was only that seat #3 besides seat#1 close enough to Jesus for the person to dip in the common bowl.
There is also another indication that Peter was in this last seat, because it would have been this person’s job to carry around the basin and water to wash the hands of the guests. Whether this occurred or not is not recorded. However, Jesus did something very unusual, with regard to washing, to make a point.
Always the Teacher, Jesus used this opportunity to teach His disciples about being a servant, by His example. He got up and took the basin and water and started to wash their feet. Peter then realized his error in not washing everyone's hands in the beginning, and was grieved when he saw the Lord's selflessness when he had acted so selfishly.
Their conversation is recorded in John 13:6-9.
Peter: "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replies: "You do not yet realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
Peter then declares: "No, You shall never wash my feet!"
Jesus: "Unless I wash you, you have no part of Me."
Peter responded: "Then Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head, as well."
Jesus later told them" "I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than the one who sent him. (John. 13:12-17)
There are a number of visual representations attempted by different artists to illustrate this event. The most famous painting of this event is “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci. It has become the standard, the tradition and the truth which we all grew up to know regarding what happened in the large upper room, the guest chamber on that Thursday evening when Jesus Christ ate His last Passover meal with His disciples.
While that painting is a masterpiece of all times, it overlooked some of the details discussed in this writing. Is it going to be easy for me to see, understand and accept the facts that have been hidden from my eyes for this long but are now revealed and made plain?
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1. Authorized King James Version Bible
2. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, page 9, item 345 and 377, Page 31 – item 1968.
3. Various Other Resources.
4. Numbers assigned to Jesus Christ and His Disciples 1 – 13 clockwise; from left to right.
Get any of the (#1. - #11.) lithograph prints below for FREE when you answer the above questions and purchase this piece of art (The Lord's Last Supper).
I am really drawing a mental picture of the seating arrangements. Thank you for sharing this information…this truth.