Every once and a while someone asks me the question – ‘What would you want for your last meal ever on earth?’ As I have never been on death row or even incarcerated for that matter, I can honestly tell you, it is a question to which I have never given too much thought. Whenever I am asked, my mind immediately goes to some of my favorite foods growing up. My step-dad makes a really mean ribeye, so I think I’d have to start there. I’m also a huge fan of mashed potatoes, and I’m thinking they’d have to be included. From there, since it’s my last meal, I think there would have to be way too much food consumed. Creamed cucumbers, green beans and bacon, and oddly enough, I’ve always had an affinity for Stove Top stuffing. I know it’s weird, but I just can’t get enough. Wash it all down with a giant triangle of authentic New York Style Cheesecake (has to be actually from New York), and a glass of milk, and I think I could call it a day. I’m gaining 10 pounds now just writing this.
The truth is though, that meals are much more often about the company we keep, than the food we eat. Friends, family, a pretty girl or guy – the people we spend our time eating with is usually what’s most important. Even mediocre food can be redeemed by great companionship. This is what makes last meals such a bummer. At least the prison kind. Sure they are comprised of whatever favorites you have chosen, and in unhealthy quantities, but the fact that they are consumed alone overrides it all. Eating even the best foods, with no one to enjoy them with, can suck the life (and flavor) right out. Great meals were designed to be shared.
Jesus and his friends have found a quiet little spot, off the beaten path. In what we come to be known as the Upper Room, He and his disciples, his 12 closest friends, are gathering together for a special celebration. It’s Passover, and time to remember all that God has done for them. None of them understand what is about to happen. First, He washes their feet. Next, He tells them He is going to die. Worse yet, one of them is going to betray Him. And to top it all off, the menu is bread and wine. Not exactly a seven course meal.
But there is a special and spiritual significance to this Passover meal. More than just the fact that it has been eaten by centuries of their ancestors, Jesus asks them to remember their relationship and the sacrifice He is about to make, through the elements that are found on the table that night. The bread is His body, that will be broken for them. The wine His blood, poured out and spilled from the cross, as a payment for the sins of all humanity. And perhaps most important in THAT moment, this will be His last meal, and He has chosen to spend it with them. His closest friends. His biggest supporters. His inner circle. These are the men who in this moment make a simple dinner of bread and wine, the most meaningful meal in the history of the world. They are the reason, that at least for now, in His last moments of freedom, He is not alone. He is surrounded by those He loves, and there must be at least some comfort that comes from that. In just a few hours the chaos will begin, but for now, in this place, there is a simple meal shared amongst friends.
Food is important, friends even more so, and family can be the world’s most important and influential relationships of all. I don’t think it was at all an accident that some of Jesus’ last and most important moments took place around a table with all three. I think it was a blueprint. A way to set ourselves up for success. To experience all that life has to offer, and to conquer it. Together. In community. Laughing together. Crying together. Serving one another. I think Jesus is trying to tell us, that we are each other’s most important allies in this world. That as long as there are tables to surround, we will never be alone. It doesn’t matter what is on them. Bread and wine will do just fine.