Read an Excerpt
24 Hours That Changed The World for Youth
By Jason Gant
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2010 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
The Last Supper
Goals for This Session
—Get a sense of the excitement, wonder, and anxiety the disciples felt during the time leading up to the Last Supper
—Understand that Holy Communion is an opportunity for us, as individuals and as a community of faith, to connect with Jesus Chris
—Recognize God's rescuing love and the importance of being part of a Christian community.
Words to Know
Seder:Seder is a Hebrew word that literally means "order," "procedure," or "sequence." Most commonly, seder is used to refer to the Passover Seder, a ceremonial meal in which Jews celebrate and tell the story of the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt.
Eucharist:Eucharist is a Greek word that literally means "thanksgiving." For Christians, Eucharist refers to the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Introduction: The Last Supper and the First Day of School
You know the feeling you get as you get ready for the first day of school? Excitement and fear set in. Hope and doubt stew in your heart. Questions like these fill your mind:
What will my teachers be like?
Where will I sit at lunch?
What am I going to wear?
Will I get lost trying to find my classes?
Do I have the right supplies for each class?
Which teacher will require us to sit alphabetically?
Will I be able to work things out so that I can sit by that special someone?
What extracurricular activities will I sign up for?
When is the big homecoming game?
What kind of image do I want to project to others about who I am?
Jesus' disciples had similar feelings of excitement, wonder, and anxiety as they approached the Passover feast in Jerusalem. Passover was always a big deal, a great time of year—hundreds and hundreds of people gathering to join in celebration and community, remembering what it means to be God's chosen people. It was a time to offer gratitude to God for rescuing their ancestors from slavery—even from death—under Pharaoh's rule. During the festival, they would reflect on the sacrificial lamb, whose blood was placed above the doors of Hebrew homes so that those homes would be "passed over" by the spirit of death.
It was at this moment, amid the excitement and tradition, that Jesus chose to bring to light the difficult truth of what was to come. It was the moment when Jesus invited those closest to him, his friends, to prepare themselves to understand his purpose:
"For this reason the meal had special meaning to the disciples; they were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and they were in Jerusalem on this Passover so he could claim his kingdom."(Adam Hamilton, 24 Hours That Saved the World, page 15)
They were anxious to hear what Jesus would say. They may have formed in their minds what it would be like, probably even dreamed about it, much in the same way we anticipate the first day of school:
What will Jesus do to show his power?
Will Jesus bring down the ungodly in an instant?
What will Jesus ask of me?
What image does Jesus want to project to others about who he is?
For the disciples and for those looking ahead to the first day of school, what actually happens is much different from what's expected. The disciples certainly didn't expect Jesus to announce that one of them would betray him (Mark 14:18), nor did they expect him to predict that they will all falter in their faithfulness (14:27). What did the disciples think when Jesus broke the bread and said, "Take; this is my body," or when he took the cup and said, "This is my blood of the covenant" (Mark 14:22, 24)?
Surely this was a strange way to celebrate the Passover. Usually the Passover was an occasion to focus on freedom and deliverance and hope. The feast commemorated one of Israel's greatest triumphs. Jesus' disciples may have remembered this verse from Passovers past:
Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians."—Exodus 3:7-8a
All Jesus' talk about betrayal and denial and pouring out blood probably seemed out of place. What Jesus was saying to his disciples may have felt to them a lot like these words that students often hear on the first day of school:
You will be required to ...
You will be expected to ...
Your entire grade will rest on ...
You will be asked to write a 10-page paper on ...
Each week, you will need to ...
Amid the excitement surrounding the first day of school is the realization that the days ahead will not be easy. Students will have to work hard, make sacrifices, and set priorities. Along the way, they will face temptations and make mistakes; at times, they will probably feel overwhelmed. But students are also well aware of the rewards that come from perseverance and hard work: knowledge, skills, confidence, and opportunities to use these new-found gifts.
Followers of Jesus also are well aware of the rewards that come from being faithful and persevering, even when the Christian life seems overwhelming. Jesus gives us the opportunity to work alongside him, doing the work of God's kingdom, and spend eternity with him. While good teachers go to great lengths to help students get through the anxieties and challenges of the school year, Jesus does much more. Jesus gave his life to deliver us from slavery to sin and death; and Jesus continues to strengthen us and guide us. And whenever we celebrate Holy Communion, and eat from the bread and drink from the cup, we remember what Jesus has done and continues to do for us.
On the first day of the [Festival of] Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed.... While they were eating, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."—Mark 14:12a, 22-25
Video Presentation and Discussion (Optional)
Watch the video segment "The Last Supper," from the 24 Hours That Changed the World DVD. (Running Time: 11:25 minutes)
The traditional site of the upper room (a vaulted room built by the crusaders in the twelfth century A.D.)
A facsimile of a triclinium (u-shaped dining table common in the Roman world of the first century A.D.)
A Seder plate
Jesus specifically chose Peter and John to prepare the Passover meal.
It is thought that the site of the upper room where Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples is the same room where 120 disciples gathered on the Day of Pentecost to witness the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Although no one knows for certain, the room may have been the place where the disciples fled after Jesus was crucified.
The Last Supper was likely eaten around a triclinium. Reconstructing the seating of the group around a triclinium, we see that Jesus would have been flanked on his right by John and on his left by—Judas Iscariot.
According to Rabbi Amy Katz, the ritual Passover meal is intended to make the vital story of Israel's deliverance accessible to all those around the table.
What did you learn about the Last Supper from this video?
What thoughts and feelings do you experience when you take Holy Communion?
How might a better knowledge and understanding of the Last Supper affect your experience of Holy Communion?
What do you think about Judas Iscariot's being seated beside Jesus at the table, already determined to betray him?
Book Study and Discussion (Optional)
Prior to this session read the first chapter (pages 15–30) of 24 Hours That Changed the World, by Adam Hamilton. Use the following questions to discuss this chapter with your group:
What did you learn about the Last Supper?
What did you learn about the relationship between the Jewish Passover Seder and the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion?
On pages 26–30, Adam Hamilton describes the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, as a meal that defines who we are as Christians. How does our celebration of Holy Communion define who we are as Christians?
How can you apply what you've learned in this chapter to your daily life?
Bringing the Scripture to My Life
Passover remembers how God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. What "enslaves" you? (fear, doubt, temptation, and so forth)
What does Jesus do with the bread and the wine? What does he teach or reveal to his disciples, using these items from the Passover meal?
What is the relationship between the Passover feast and the Christian celebration of Holy Communion?
Adam Hamilton, in 24 Hours That Changed the World, writes, "I believe Jesus was expecting [Holy Communion] to define who we are." What does Holy Communion say about who Christians are and what Jesus has called us to do?
Going Deeper in Truth
Read Exodus 3:7.
How do you think it makes God feel to see people suffering and in misery? How is God responding to our cries for help and for mercy?
Read John 15:12-17.
Jesus calls his followers friends. How does thinking of yourself as Jesus' friend change your experience of Holy Communion?
Read Romans 5:1-8.
Paul tells us here that Christ died for even the "ungodly." How does knowing that Christ's love is so large give us the strength to persevere through suffering (as Paul writes in verses 1-5)?
Experience Life in Community
Celebrate Holy Communion
Celebrate Holy Communion with your group during this session. Be sure to follow your denomination's procedures for this sacrament. (For example, if you are United Methodist, you will need an ordained elder to consecrate the Communion elements.) Invite a member of your pastoral staff to talk to your group about the importance and meaning of Holy Communion before breaking bread.
Celebrate a Love Feast
As an alternative to Holy Communion celebrate a love feast. A love feast is a Christian fellowship meal inspired by the meals that Jesus shared with his disciples and others throughout his earthly ministry.
To celebrate a love feast, gather around a common table. Set out baskets of bread, fruit, and other finger foods. Have a pitcher of water or juice or another beverage. Distribute the food and drink by passing around the baskets and the pitcher. When everyone has been served, have a time of prayer. Pray for the needs of your group, your community, and your world.
During the love feast, have volunteers read aloud Scriptures involving meals or banquets. Possibilities include:
Mark 6:30-44 (Jesus feeds the 5,000)
Luke 14:16-24 (the parable of the banquet)
John 6:25-35 ("I am the bread of life")
Making It Personal
Here are two ways to put what you've learned into action in the coming week and beyond:
1. Choose a favorite snack that you really enjoy. The next time you have this snack, read Mark 14:22-25 as you do. Take time to reflect on the ways you are blessed and the things that you take for granted. You might even share this snack with someone else and reflect on the Scripture together. Hopefully, every time you eat this snack from now on, it will remind you of what Jesus has done for you.
2. Next time you go to a restaurant and the server comes to take your drink order, introduce yourself by your first name then ask the server if there is anything in his or her life that he or she would like you to be in prayer for. Tell the server that you will be saying a prayer before your meal and would be happy to pray for his or her concerns. Most people simply will reply with a polite "Thank you" or something like "Cool, I'll let you know." Some will name a prayer request, giving you an awesome opportunity to be in prayer for them. Others may not say anything. Regardless of how the server responds, he or she will get a good impression of what a Christian is and will know that someone cares enough to pray about them.
In pairs or groups of three, talk about other ways you can put what you've learned into action. How can you demonstrate Christ's love through food and fellowship? How can you be mindful of all the ways you are blessed and of all that Christ has done for you, even when you are anxious about what lies ahead?
Come up with two or three ideas. Then discuss these ideas with the other groups. Write in the space below one way that you will put what you have learned into action in the coming week and beyond.
Closing: Listening for God
Close your eyes. Imagine that you are present at the Last Supper. Think about what Jesus' disciples are feeling. Think about a time in your own life when someone has done something unexpected for you. Think about how much you want to return the favor, how good it feels to be loved and to love in return. Live like that each day this week! Amen.CHAPTER 2
The Garden of Gethsemane
Goals for This Session
—Explore the meaning of Jesus' anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.
—Understand that, though he was fully divine, Jesus was also fully human.
—Recognize our human weaknesses in the face of fear, doubt, and adversity. Accept that, with Christ's power, we can overcome anything we face.
Words to Know
Gethsemane: a garden on or near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where Jesus prayed before his trial and arrest
Cup: a burden that one must bear. (See Matthew 20:20-23.)
Introduction: The Garden of Gethsemane and the Night Before the Big Test
You're sitting in class when you hear your teacher say, Tomorrow is the day of the big test, and each of you should be ready. Come prepare to begin the test as soon as the bell sounds."
You hear these words; you know the test is tomorrow; you've even had the day marked on your calendar. But now that the test is upon you, you feel the anxiety building.
"I'm not ready, I'm not prepared. There must be some way out of this."
Jesus experienced these same feelings. But the test he faced was bigger than anything you or I could ever imagine. Our anxiety level climbs as the teacher reminds us what percentage of our grade the test accounts for. Concerned, we weigh our options:
I've got all night. If I really focus, I'll be ready.
I need to get Katie's notes. She takes incredible notes!
Why didn't I spend more time preparing? Why did I wait until now?
And if we're being honest, for some of us, these thoughts also creep in:
Maybe I could make some cheat sheets and slip them into my hand.
Tomorrow is Friday. I could fake being sick and have the entire weekend to prepare.
What if I let Katie know how desperate I am? Maybe she'll nudge her paper toward my desk so that I can sneak a peek at her answers.
Similar thoughts probably entered Christ's mind as he approached his ultimate test. Evil tempted Jesus in the wilderness and certainly would have tempted him during his final hours. Jesus asked his father that this "cup" be taken from him. ("Cup" here refers to a incredible burden.) But Jesus owns his mission and his commitment to his Father's will, and so he resists the temptation to take the easy way out. It's in this most vulnerable of moments that Jesus shows his power!
As imperfect people, we don't always face our tests and trials with the same courage and strength that Jesus showed in the garden of Gethsemane. Sometimes we give in to temptation, take the easy way out, or do things we know we shouldn't. Our weaknesses in these situations can make us feel inadequate and cause us to question whether Jesus still loves us. The good news is that Jesus does. Jesus, who was fully human as well as fully divine, understands our weakness and knows what it's like to be tempted. And Jesus is patient with us, much as he was patient with Thomas.
Thomas is best known for doubting Jesus' resurrection (John 20:24-29). But earlier in John's Gospel, Thomas is eager to follow Jesus, even if it means dying with him (11:16). Thomas isn't weak or unfaithful. He's just human. And Jesus understands this.
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
Excerpted from 24 Hours That Changed The World for Youth by Jason Gant. Copyright © 2010 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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