The Last Supper
And The Two Types of Bread
Most Christians are familiar with the dispute over whether Jesus was talking metaphorically or literally during the Bread of Life Discourse.
If Jesus was talking metaphorically then the eucharist is just symbolic. If Jesus was talking literally, then the Holy Eucharist becomes, in some mysterious way, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
St. John gives us something that is often overlooked at the Last Supper by the other Gospel writers. He tells us that Judas received bread from the very hand of Jesus while in the Upper Room. This bread is not the Eucharistic bread that Jesus gives to the 11 other Apostles.
Throughout John’s Gospel, the Evangelist lays down markers pointing to something that will happen sometime in the future. Jesus speaks about future events to help his disciples believe: “I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe” (John 14:29). We are to make several connections based on specific references St. John makes in his Gospel. An example of John laying down these crumbs or markers, is when the Virgin Mary approaches Jesus to tell him that the wedding feast has ran out of wine. Jesus responds, John 2:4, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Several times in Johns Gospel references are made that “My hour has not yet come or My time has not yet come.” Besides John 2:4 other examples of “My time or My hour” include: John 7:6-8, 30, John 8:20. These markers point to John 12 and 13 where Jesus’ hour does come.
This is one of the ways St. John leads us into the revealed and Holy Spirit inspired Word of God. We should take note of these markers or pointers that John laid down for us. When we connect the dots, the Gospel opens up and we discover what the Holy Spirit inspired words of the Gospel writer wants us to see in the passages. Another veil is peeled away and our understanding of the Gospels grow.
A careful study of several scenes in Johns Gospel is significant to understanding the Bread of Life Discourse in its proper context. It’s always been believed by the Early Church Fathers that St. John writes his Gospel to supplement the synoptic gospels.
But before we look at Johns Gospel we need to look at several scenes from Matthew’s Gospel to supplement our understanding of what John reveals to us in his account of the Last Supper.
In St Matthew’s account of “The Temptation of Jesus,” after receiving the Baptism of John the Baptist, Jesus was led, by the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness to engage the devil.
And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’”
The question begs to be asked, “Did satan not know that Jesus was the Son of God?” The devil is aware of the scriptures in the Book of Moses and the Prophets, that the Messiah has come into the world: The Incarnation of the Word (Logos) became Flesh, and the Baptism of Jesus.
What satan asks Jesus to do is change the lifeless stones into something substantial that would provide sustenance after His 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. This is an allusion to the Exodus and the 40 years that the Jews wandered in the desert.
Jesus asks in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:9, “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?” Again, the mention of the stone and the bread. The tempter asks that stone be turned to bread and then the Father giving his son stone when he asks for bread. God the Father gives us the True Bread which is Christ. But that Bread must be Blessed and Consecrated to become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in the divinely given Lords Prayer, has us pray to “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Greek word Epiousios which is translated “daily” can also be translated as “supersubstantial” and this is how St. Jerome translated this word in the Latin Vulgate.
With this in mind, we will now focus on what St. John is pointing us to. Without getting into the entire controversy of the Bread of Life Discourse, the focus will be on several verses that the Evangelist highlights and wants us to understand and see a connection.
The Bread of Life Discourse
In verse 6:45 Jesus says this: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.'(…..).” he is evoking both Isaiah 54:13 and Jeremiah 31:33ff, where both prophets refer to the future Covenant which God will establish with his people when the Messiah comes, the Covenant which will be sealed forever with the blood of the Messiah and which God will write on their hearts. This is a clear link to the Discourse and the Last Supper where Jesus Institutes the Holy Eucharist and the New Covenant. Another dot.
In the Bread of Life Discourse, we know that the learned Jews are grumbling among themselves when Jesus says in verse 6:41 “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” Jesus also reveals that He is “The Bread of Life and that we must Eat His Body and Drink His Blood.”
Any Jew reading John 6 would be aware that the Jews in the desert were grumbling because they were hungry, as noted in Exodus 16 and 17. God of course provides. He provides Water, the Manna and Flesh (Quail) for the Jews to survive in the wilderness. St. John also tells us that the Bread of Life Discourse, as well as the feeding of the 5,000 and the Walking on Water is near the time of the Passover. He drops another dot for us to connect later on.
With this in mind we need to look at another significant verse:
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?
62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!
In verse 6:62, Jesus is referring to a future event by saying “What if…” We, the readers, of course know that Jesus will be Resurrected, but the Apostles and Disciples don’t yet know this. So, Jesus is asking them to put their faith in him, even if it is just based on seeing the signs and miracles he has displayed before them. Another dot to connect later on.
Because the Jews took Jesus literally, that he was asking them to do what the Torah explicitly condemns, they no longer walked with him, as revealed in John 6:66. Jesus lets them go, as if to say, “I shake off the dust from my feet” or “Let the dead bury the dead,” He lets them walk away. No explanation, no calling them back to explain that He was talking metaphorically, or symbolically or even sacramentally. He doesn’t stop them and explain to them that He is the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity. He doesn’t call them back and say its all a misunderstanding and just hang with me a little longer. None of these things are said or done. Jesus, without any explaination given to them or to the Apostles, watch as they walk away from the Word made Flesh.
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.
Notice that Jesus himself links Judas to satan and St. John links Judas as the one who will betray him. Simon Peter asks the question that we all must ask: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Judas hears these words also. Judas stays and doesn’t leave with the other disciples for John 6:66. Here is another dot to connect later on.
St. Johns Account of The Last Supper
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.
23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him;
24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.
25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” a So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. b
27 After he received the piece of bread, c Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”
28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.
29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
Now turning to the Last Supper in John Chapter 13, Jesus and the 12 Apostles are in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Passover Meal. The Passover Meal, in the time of Jesus, was an event that took hours to complete. In verse 13:2, during the long celebration of Passover, Jesus rises up and washes the disciples feet, and definitely washed the feet of Judas as well. Because the Passover Meal is hours long, containing many parts and many offerings of bread and wine, it may appear that Jesus could have already Instituted the Holy Eucharist while Judas is present. But it is very unlikely because why would Jesus speak the words of Institution, whether we are speaking of the Holy Eucharist as His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, or in a spiritual sense, as most Protestant denominations prefer to understand it while Judas is there. Would Jesus offer Satan His body and blood?
I propose that this is unlikely. Luke has Judas participating in the Last Supper during institution, but scholars have noted that Luke doesn’t put many events in time-order.
In verse 13:21, Jesus echo’s the same dire warning again, that one of them, the 12, will betray Him, see John 6:70-71. Jesus here is himself pointing us to the connection of the Discourse to St. Johns account of the Last Supper. Another dot.
The Apostles, of course don’t know which one of them will betray Jesus. John 13:24: So Simon Peter asks St. John, who has his head on the bosom of Christ, (where else should one ever place their head to rest), “Tell us to who He is speaking.” Jesus then says in 13:26, “it is the one to whom I give this piece of bread…..” He gave it to Judas. Note that again, only these two Apostles are mentioned by name. Another dot to connect later on.
St. John does not give us any other details of The Last Supper or The Institution of the Eucharist. That has been given by the other Gospel writers. We have John’s eyewitness account of Jesus giving ordinary, unblessed, unconsecrated bread to Judas. Jesus, according to the other Gospel writers takes Bread, Blesses it and says “This is My Body and This is My Blood.” This is the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and Jesus thus reveals the full meaning of the Bread of Life Discourse with the word: “This is My Body, This is My Blood.”
The Two Types of Bread at the Last Supper
The bread of denial
The Bread of Life
The first bread offered during the Last Supper is symbolic of nothing but the denial of Jesus as the Son of God. It was unsubstantial bread and it is, as Judas represents, the denial of the very words of Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior.
The second Bread is the Word that Becomes Flesh. His Flesh is True Food and His Blood is True Drink indeed. It is Supersubstantial Bread; greater than the Manna and the Flesh that the Jews ate in the wilderness and died. This Bread that He gives us is to Eternal Life.
The first bread was ordinary bread and is devoid of the eternal life that Jesus says we will receive when we Eat of His Body and Drink of His Blood, when it is blessed and consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Early Church, founded upon the faith of the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, has celebrated the Divine Liturgy from the very beginning of the Apostolic Churches, right up to this very day.
Of the four Gospels only St. John indicates there were two types of bread. Was St. John letting us know this? We know that St. John relates other scenes that the other writers didn’t mention. What is equally important to note is not just that Judas receives unblessed bread from the hand of Jesus, but that there is only 2 types of bread, not 3 or 4 types of bread. The first bread is ordinary bread, contrasted by his dipping it into sop; the second bread is held up and the words, This is My Body, et., etc., are invoked. Another dot.
St. John is an eyewitness during the scene in the Upper Room. He sees Jesus give Judas the unblessed bread. The disciples did not know why Judas leaves the Last Supper supposing him to be on an errand. They do not know the real reason of his leaving until a few days later. Judas was banished from the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. He was truly deaf, blind and fractured.
When Jesus hands Judas the unblessed bread, satan and Judas became one. Each abiding one in the other.
When Jesus blesses the First Eucharist, he institutes the New Covenant. Judas and therefore satan are not witnesses of this Holy Sacrament instituted by our new High Priest.
When Jesus gives the blessed bread to the disciples from the Road to Emmaus, they immediately recognize him and he disappears; not bound by space and time. Those who partake of a symbolic wafer or cracker, also do not recognize Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in this Holy Sacrament.
Let’s connect the dots:
- During the Exodus, God provides Manna in the morning and Flesh in the evening. At the Last Supper, Jesus takes Bread and says “This is My Body.” His body is His Flesh as he also stated in the Bread of Life Discourse.
- Jesus, in the Bread of Life Discourse evokes the prophets that God will establish a New Covenant with his people. This is the cup of the New Covenant. (Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:25, 1 Cor 11:25)
- Both the Bread of Life Discourse and the Last Supper occur near or on the Passover.
- Jesus connects the The Bread of Life Discourse to the Last Supper with the same dire warning of betrayal.
- Two named Apostles at the Bread of Life Discourse are linked to the Last Supper: Simon Peter and Judas.
- Two named Apostles at the Last Supper in the Upper Room: Simon Peter and Judas.
- At the Bread of Life Discourse, The Bread of Life is denied thus denying the Divinity of Christ Jesus, and the disciples leave Jesus: John 6:66
- Judas and Satan leave the Upper Room, and therefore are not witnesses to the Institution of the Eucharist: John 13:27 and John 13:30
- At the Last Supper, two types of bread are given. The first bread given is the bread of denial given to Judas, who should have left Jesus in John 6:66.
- The second Bread given to the other Apostles, although not mentioned by John, is the Institution of the Eucharist, by the Word made Flesh.
To fully undertand the Holy Eucharist as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, it is paramount to look at the Liturgical Worship of the Early Apostolic Church. The Bread of Life Discourse is to be understood both Spiritually and Sacramentally, in tandum and fully revealed to the Apostles after the resurrection of our Lord and Savior; under the guidence of the Holy Spirit.
Just as an aside: John 21:20, St. John is again pointing us to the Last Supper one more time to highlight it’s importance to us.