Getting caught up in the story of the Last Supper and Jesus’ last days

March 9, 2010 — 7 Comments

Yesterday at all three Vintage Faith Church worship gatherings, we started our new series called "Awaken". This is a series which is going to teach through some of the last days of Jesus before He was crucified and resurrected. We will be primarily walking through Matthew's account and Luke - and will be teaching through the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter's denial of Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. IMG_1701

Our church has a mix of people who have heard this story multiple times if they have grown up in a church as well as those who are hearing about it for the first time. But whatever it is, we want to try and catch people up into this incredible story of Jesus' last days. I was recently speaking at a conference with Ralph Winter who is the producer of all the X-Men movies and the Star Trek films and I had the great opportunity to learn from him about films and stories. He said something that stuck in my head (amongst many things) is that for the blockbuster movie The Titanic, people didn't go see that film wondering what was going to happen to the ship. We all knew the ship sinks before we go. But the film was powerful because it drew people into the story.

With "Easter" (and I explained the origin of that word and why the name of mythological goddess is used generally for Resurrection Sunday) – there is tremendous story of Jesus as He "awakened" His disciples (thus the name of the series) to what His story, purpose, who He really was and what their mission would be. So we intentionally are trying to teach this in a way of drawing them into the story – even though, the ending – the resurrection, is generally known.IMG_1692

So as I prepped and our teaching team met, it was thought what better way then to teach about the Last Supper, then to recreate it as we teach it. So we had the entire passage from Matthew read outloud by two people and then I asked for 13 people to come up on the stage and "recline" at the recreation of what a table and seating would have been for a Passover meal at that time. We went back to Exodus and taught about the original passover and Israel's rescue from Egypt and where the Passover meal originated.

For those that have studied this, you learn that the DaVinci painting of the Last Supper with a straight table with the disciples sitting in chairs was not accurate. But it was more of a "U" shaped table and the disciples would have been literally laying down and reclining as they ate. So we even assigned roles to "Jesus", "John" and "Judas" who had lines they each said from Scripture and we placed them at the table where most scholars believe would have been their table seating. And we had "Jesus" act out the various cups of the meal, the sop being dipped, the bread being broken etc. and whenever there was an actual line from Scripture the person who was in that role said it.

It was quite enjoyable for me, as when I asked volunteers to come up on the stage, I didn't say what they were going to do – so for them it was totally impromptu and they all did great. Even a closing "hymn" as the scene ended and we taught how from there they went to Gethsemane and we will pick it up there next week. We took communion as a church at the end of this night as well.

A highlight for me was in one of the gatherings, a 7th grader came up and volunteered and he ended up being "Jesus". He read all the Jesus lines from Scripture I had pre-printed out and did great. I found out that it was his very first time in a church gathering and was brought by a family who has a son his age and brought him to the church meeting. So it was great seeing him being brought into the story of the Last Supper and even repeating the Scriptures  of what Jesus said at the Last Supper.

I used to do these types of impromptu pull people up on the stage to engage with the Scriptures and act things out when I was youth pastor, but haven't done it (I don't recall) at all since I left youth ministry to serve with adults. And after hearing Ralph Winter talking about how people engage with "story" and seeing today the huge way pulling people into the story of Scripture, it makes me wonder why I haven't done that more.  I know it is the Spirit who reveals truth and the Scriptures themselves are inspired – so we are merely instruments of proclaiming the truth of Scripture. But what an incredible story to engage with – and then ending by taking communion to me was such a beautiful thing that Jesus told us to do in remembrance of Him.

After one of the gatherings I got to chat with another college student who I learned was atheist and was their first time with us as well. So wonderful conversations and another Sunday …. I shall forever remember the 7th grader who did the role of "Jesus"… and I look forward to the next 4 Sundays as we engage with the greatest story ever told and that ever happened with Jesus and His resurrection. I am going to be taking 2 weeks in isolation to finish the "Churchland" book. But what a joy it is for all of us in churches all across the world to teach through this incredible story at this time of year. May many lives be changed as they hear the wonderful story of the gospel of Jesus all across the world over the next several weeks.

Dan Kimball

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author of "Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus In The Mess of Organized Religion" and "They Like Jesus But Not The Church" . On staff at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA.
  • http://www.liquidcommunity.ca Geoff

    When I was a young adult pastor I loved having things like this as part of our services. I found it did two things. One, it brought the message from just a bunch of words into something that they not only heard, but saw. Made it far more beneficial. Second, it involved those at the gathering, making them more “in to” the message. Usually, those gatherings stuck more with them and led to many interesting conversations around not only the topic, but how we “do” church.

  • http://www.facebook.com/churchland Dan

    Geof! Thanks for the comment…. isn’t it interesting though, that we may do this with youth and young adults, but why not more in the adult gathering? It seemed to go well when we did it this weekend. But fascinating the things we do to creatively teach youth and young adults, but don’t when they get older and I think we may be missing out when we don’t.

  • Mona Smith

    Loved it when the one gentleman spoke the prayers as he learned them growing up in the Jewish faith. Authentic for the time. And when Judas and Jesus both had their hands in the bowl of water. Intense.
    Great idea Dan, we are all kids at heart and this really spoke to us as words alone sometimes miss.

  • donsands

    I enjoy passion plays, as they usually have them during this time of year. Some can be very inspiring, others are a production, and seem so cheesy.
    I was thinking this past Sunday, just before I went up to receive the bread and wine, how Peter was sitting with His Lord and Friend, enjoying the very first Lord’s Supper, and in a few hours he would deny the Lord, and even curse Him.
    I always feel unworthy to receive the bread, which represents the Lord’s ripped apart precious body, and the wine, which represents His perfect blood. And yet it’s because I feel unworthy that I am worthy.
    It’s all about Christ’s love for us. He did it all, and He wants us to know the deep, deep love He has for those whom have come to Him in contrition and brokenness and faith.
    Keep honoring the Word, and the Lord will bless. Lord bless your teaching Dan.

  • Dan

    Don — it is really enrichening when we stop and pause and imagine what the stories of Scripture were like when they happened. We can so easily read through something, or learn it cognitively, but when we try to imagine the actual scene and how the disciples might have responded and their emotions – it adds another whole dimension to thinking about it. Of course, we have to be careful to remain in what is revealed in Scriptures, but it is still a great way to think of the reality of what happened.

  • donsands

    I agree Dan. Peter is the brother in Christ i most think about, and ponder. But we do have to watch ourselves.
    The Scripture allows for this. God’s Word keeps us honest, and encourages us to meditate, or think deeply.
    When I feel ashamed of my sin, I can think of how Peter looked into Jesus’ eyes in the court yard, just before they killed His Master and love. he went wept like he never had before.
    And when the angel at the empty tomb told the women to go and tell the disciples that the Lord would be meeting up with them, he mentioned, “and Peter”.
    Christ’s love means so much, and is so much deeper than we could ever imagine.
    “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” -CS Lewis

  • Cindy Yamada

    Dan I don’t know WHY your name is so familiar, have u been to Capo Beach ever? Um I like stand up bass in the music too. I like some psychobilly, not the death kind. But my head is just in tune with the beat…..Nice to see a quiff, qwiff, >? anyway you know what I mean…. on a believer. If your ever in South OC, see who is playing at the Juke joint..It’s a happy days type dive..:)
    Cindy