When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
Bette gave this woodcut print to me when I graduated from Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. It was created by Sister Marie Virginia of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters from Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. When Bette was a staff member at Wartburg Seminary and I was a student, we would often go to the Sinsinawa Mound Center for spiritual retreats. When you walk into my office, it is most likely the first picture that you see. I think this is a beautifully simple rendition of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
As I look at this picture, the gift of the Lord’s Supper and the disciple’s brokenness stand out to me. The simple cup held in the hands of the Messiah and single loaf of bread with the cross carved in the crust point to our own celebration of life in this meal. Jesus’ halo with the shadow of the cross points the way to Good Friday. I often imagine which disciple is portrayed in each image.
Over the years I have personified six of them. Sitting two places to the right of Jesus I see as Peter, the one who will deny Jesus. The leader of this small group. Head bowed in thought or prayer, questioning “What do these words mean?” Between Peter and Jesus, I see Andrew, Peter’s younger brother, along with John, one of the youngest disciples. I imagine that Andrew is deep in prayer as he hears the words “given for you”. On Jesus’ other side, with his head on Jesus’ shoulder, is John, the disciple, whom Jesus loved. The love of the two men seems to jump out of the frame. Next to John is his brother James. His neck seems elongated. After the death of Judas, James will be the first of the disciples to die. James will be martyred by King Herod, who will have James killed by the sword (Acts 12:1-2). Thus, James head seems to be almost lifted from his body and his hand is reaching for the bread of life. The next character that stands out to me is Judas, third from the left. He is the only figure that Sister Marie Virginia didn’t give a halo to. His face is nondescript and it seems like he doesn’t have feet; it is almost as if he is hanging in the air.
There is one more character that stands out to me. It is the one that is third from the right. This one does have a halo, for she/he is a saint, although the face is also nondescript. This one I imagine to be us. I believe that this nondescript image represents you and me as we take our place at the table and hear the words of grace, “Given for you.”
May this image of the Lord’s Supper remind us always of the beautiful gift of grace given for us all!