Their last suppers


Julius Caesar ate mussels & shrimp before diving into his seared lamb and green beans. He finished with ambrosia salad.

Martin Luther King enjoyed a Southern standby: Fried Chicken with collards, cornbread and black-eyed peas.

The doomed passengers on the Titanic had only recently polished off their 3 hour, 11-course meal common in the Edwardian era of the day; while John F. Kennedy left this earth on a light breakfast consisting of soft-boiled eggs, toast and coffee.

Yes. As I should be preparing for tonight’s service where we remember Jesus’ last supper I’m absorbed in Andrew Caldwell’s off-beat book, “Legends of History and their Final Meals”. 

I do have holy thoughts. Really. But despite my best intentions I find myself straying as the pressure of saying something profound on Holy Holidays mounts (Yes, I doubled-down on that one).  Like tonight, thinking of Jesus last meal makes me wonder what I would eat for my last gathering with my friends and family.  Would I cook for them? I wonder.

If I knew this was it, would I want to express for them my deep appreciation by making my best meal? The pork tingas that fill the house as they cook for hours? Would I reach to the past and fix mother’s brisket recipe? Or, better yet, her buttermilk fried chicken?

Or maybe I wouldn’t cook at all. This is my last night. Let’s go out! Why would I want to spend my last hours in the kitchen peering at a stained cookbook? Perhaps we’d go to my favorite restaurant and talk late into the night.

Cleopatra organized her last supper carefully. After her lover Anthony died, she became the prisoner of Octavian who desired to march her through the streets of Egypt as his trophy wife. Cleopatra (in grief over her lover) played along with Octavian’s plan and orchestrated a lavish feast. She managed to smuggle a cobra in a great basket of figs. At the height of the party she committed suicide by snakebite.

On Jesus table that night, there was bread and wine, certainly. But likely figs, dates, olives and fish. That would have been a regular evening kind of supper. Although his mind wasn’t on the food his remark about the bread that night has become a defining piece of history.  Jesus’ focus – then and now – was on those gathered around him.


One last moment to teach them. A new commandment I give to you! One last word of affection for them. I no longer call you my servants, I call you my friends!  One last time of gathering with them, raising a glass and saying Shalom for all!

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