Each of the New Testament Gospels contains an account of the Last Supper, although they may differ in some details and wording. Jesus and his 12 disciples celebrated the meal together in the Upper Room just prior to his arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. The Last Supper provides the pattern Christians use to celebrate Holy Communion.
Bread and Wine
Jesus expressed his body and blood as metaphorical bread and wine. Explain Matthew 26:26-29 to the children in terms they can understand. Catholics believe in the transubstantiation of the elements; the bread and wine literally becoming the body and blood of Jesus. Depending on the denomination, the teacher will either assure the students that the wafer or bread does not become human flesh and the juice or wine does not become blood or that it supernaturally transforms. This lesson is appropriate for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
John's Gospel says Jesus got up from the supper meal and began to wash the feet of the disciples. (John 13:3-17). The teacher should explain to the children that a servant usually washed the feet of guests when they arrived, but there was no servant in the Upper Room. Jesus tells his disciples that he performed the task to teach them that they must have servant's hearts to serve in his kingdom. The lesson could provide the children the opportunity to wash each other's feet or they could think of other ways to serve one another. This lesson is appropriate for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The Symbols of the Last Supper
The Last Supper derives its symbology from the Seder Passover meal. The teacher should explore the Seder meal with the children, beginning with the sacrificial lamb that Jesus represents. The four cups of wine represent blessing, the curse or plagues, the redemption and praise. The matzah, or unleavened bread, has piercing and stripes, and one is broken and hidden during the meal, which can represent Jesus' body during the torture and crucifixion. The egg represents new life and the salt water signifies the tears. The bitter herbs stand for the bitterness of sin and the charoseth becomes the hope of blessing. This lesson is appropriate for students in kindergarten through adult.
Comfort and Promise
Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon be taken and put to death. He seeks to comfort them in John 14-17 and provide them one last private teaching. The teacher and children can explore Jesus' promises to prepare a place for them and come back for them. He reminds them to love each other, and they were chosen. He promises the Holy Spirit will come to help and empower them. The upper elementary through adult students understand that the Last Supper speaks of the hope Christians have through Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.