The Story of the Last Supper

Leonardo Da Vinci

The Story of the Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci

Reading time approximately 10 minutes

The painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most iconic paintings in Western art history. The mural painting can be found in Milan, Italy. The Duke of Milan asked Leonardo to create the painting for the renovated church, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie which was painted around 1495-1498. Leonardo has depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Apostles when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him.

Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
The Last Supper of Leonardo Da Vinco, a fresco painted on the wall in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Failed experiment

Even though this is one of the most well-known paintings ever, the project was, in fact, a failed experiment. Da Vinci tried a new painting technique on wet plaster. It was super impressive at first but the technique caused the colors to slowly fade away. The painting is restored many times during the centuries.

Study of the characters

Leonardo Da Vinci has done many years of study for all the characters of the apostles, sitting with Jesus at the table on the night Jesus was betrayed. Many try-out sketches are known.

Background story

Leonardo Da Vinci is painting the situation of the Last Supper of Christ with his friends. It's on the night he will be betrayed by one of the men in the group. The painting is showing the rumor directly after the moment Jesus announced this. Everyone is wondering who will be the betrayer.

Jesus washes the disciples' feet

The Bible story says that Jesus knew already what was going to happen. Two of the disciples had to prepare a room for the special meal for the Passover night, or Pesach. It's an important Jewish celebration where commemorate their liberation by God from slavery.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He celebrated the special night with his friends. At the beginning of the evening, He washed the feet of all his disciples. It's very symbolic because He was the leader of the gang, He was the teacher, He was the rabbi.

The ritual of the washing of the feet

Every year there's a special event in many churches for washing of the feet in the days before Good Friday. It represents the humility of Jesus Christ, who bowed down before his own disciples, washing their dirty feet.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass on March 29, 2018 at Regina Coeli prison in Rome

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass on March 29, 2018 at Regina Coeli prison in Rome

The Bible has a phrase for it: 'He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.' (Philippians 2:7). Every human being is called to do the same as Jesus did. To humble yourself and to honor the other.

Kings and emperors in Jesus' time were often very cruel, they insisted on being served by slaves. But Jesus told his followers: 'Among you, it must not be like this. The one who rules must serve.' (read it in the Bible). Can you imagine the world being very different when leaders will start following the teaching and example of Jesus?!

Recreations of The Last Supper

Leonardo's famous creation is a great inspiration for many artists, movie makers, LEGO builders, and enthusiastic amateurs. Here are some of the very creative recreations of the scene.

The last supper of Jesus

Why is the story of the last supper that significant? Well, a lot of things happened the night of Jesus betrayal. Many chapters of the Gospel of John contain important teachings of Jesus Christ. It's like the last things someone is sharing with his loved ones when someone knows his death is imminent.

The last message of Jesus

So, what would it be, what you're going to share with your friends when you know this will be the end? Jesus is going to tell his disciples so much, it will take a long time to grasp the depth of all things He is sharing.

Jesus' last commandment

So... what is the famous last thing Jesus said? Well, to be honest, it's not rocket science. 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.' (John 13:34-35) Oké, it's not rocket science, it's quite easy to understand what he meant, but it's in practice super hard to follow this simple wish of Jesus. Because love can cost you everything. Like it did cost Jesus everything!

Rembrandt van Rijn, drawing of The Last Supper after Leonardo da Vinci
Rembrandt van Rijn, drawing of The Last Supper after Leonardo da Vinci

Believe also in Jesus

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:1-2)

It's very comforting to hear Jesus talk to his close friends. He's saying things He never said to big crowds. It's like He's able to say things personally when He's close to his friends. His friends are starting to understand a little bit, but when Philip, one of the twelve, is asking 'Show us the Father', a careful description for God, Jesus replied: 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14:9). That is super significant, also for today: you can long for a touch of heaven and longing to see God, but the only thing you need is to see Jesus.

How can you see Jesus?

Well, to be honest, that is a mystery you only will grasp by starting to follow, to trust, to believe. It's just not science. It's not the way of logic. It's faith. And faith functions in the deep realm of our soul, of our spirit. On the other hand, it's also just everyday life. Give me a second, so I can explain that to you...

Crucifixion, opposite Leonardo's Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci
Facing the painting of The Last Supper, you find the painting of the crucifixion, by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, another painter.

Where is Jesus?

In the gospel of Matthew, there's a long speech of Jesus written down. In a part of the speech, Jesus is telling that there will be a judgment day. Sounds tough, right? But take a little time grasping what it's all about.

To summarize the speech of Jesus, there will be a final judgment day. Two groups will appear before the King (or the Son of Man). One group has done it right. One group has neglected something. So, what is it? Did the one group believe right? Or did they worship God in the right way? Or did they do something special?

Basically, it's something quite ordinary they did. They gave food to the hungry. They gave drink to the thirsty. They welcomed the stranger. They clothed the naked. They visited the sick. They came to the prisoner. The King said: 'you did that to me' which was a surprise for that group because they didn't see him. They only saw the needy. The King said this: 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

The other group didn't pay attention to the needy and they will not be part of the new kingdom!

Famous works of Leonardo Da Vinci

Did you see it?

In this speech, Jesus is telling something about a new king. And in the end, it doesn't matter if you saw the king himself... Both groups didn't recognize him. The king is identifying with the needy, the weak, the suffering. If you saw them and cared for them, you saw the King and cared for him. I can say, if you grasp this revolution, you are touching the new reality Jesus started!

Already from his birth, you were not able to find Jesus in high places, but in a humble family. He was suffering and would die an unjust death.

Also today

Nothing has changed. Also today you will not find Jesus in high places, in extraordinary experiences. Probably you will see him in broken circumstances, in the small rays of light in dark places... When you're going to search for Him, you will find him.

After the Last Supper
The artist of this piece of art is unknown. It's imagining the situation after the Last Supper is over and Jesus and his friends left the building...

Death of Jesus

After the Last Supper, Jesus and his group of friends left the building. A lot more happened the last night of Jesus. He was betrayed by Judas, one of the friends. And all the others fled into the dark night, leaving this man alone who was facing a certain and brutal death.

How was it possible people hated a man so much they longed for his death even though his message was peace, even though he was showing forgiveness.

More of Jesus

There's so much to say about this Jesus. You even don't have to be a Christian to be inspired by this Jew who started our era. This world will be a much more hopeful place, there will be so much more love, so much more graceful, if people start following his life, his teaching and start trusting him.

Do you want to know more? Take your time to explore more. Start a spiritual journey that will bring you things you cannot imagine right now!

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Follow one of the Bible Reading plans and start your journey in the ancient stories from the Bible. Experience how they are relevant today and are guiding you.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper

OK, just one more, even though there are dozens of variants of The Last Supper of Da Vinci in pieces of art. This is a combination of the famous photo 'Lunch atop a Skyscraper' (made in 1932) and Da Vinci's painting.

Breakfast in the Sky with the Last Supper

PS: this is really the end. Sorry.