Maundy Thursday

The Living Last Supper

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, Rev. Ernest Emurian wrote the soliloquies for Jesus’ twelve apostles as they might have expressed themselves immediately after hearing the Master say, “One of you will betray me,” whereupon each man cried out, “Lord, is it I?” This was the moment Leonardo said he wished to capture in his picture. This drama had its premier presentation in the sanctuary of the Elm Avenue Methodist Church, Portsmouth, Virginia, on Palm Sunday night, 1954. Since that time it has been presented by many different groups in all sections of the country and has been a source of inspiration to many thousands who have seen it in person, as well as over numerous television stations during Holy Week. It has been presented at Grace Lutheran Church since 1978.

Information was found in the late nineteenth century which actually names all of the apostles and deals with their reactions as shown in the painting. (Before this, only Judas, Peter, John, and Jesus were identified.)

The Apostles were grouped in threes, from left to right:

Group 1
Nathaniel/Bartholomew – surprised, begins to rise from his seat
James, son of Alpheus – also surprised
Andrew – surprised and has raised his hands in a stop gesture

Group 2
Peter – angry and holds his knife pointed away from Christ. Peter is also asking “Who does He say it is?”
Judas – withdrawn into shadow. He clutches the purse. He has tipped over a salt shaker (there is a near-Eastern expression to “betray the salt” meaning to betray one’s master). He is the only person with his elbow on the table.
John – youngest of the apostles, he appears to swoon, but there is the suggestion that he is listening to Peter’s question.

Group 3
Thomas – agitated, looking for more explanation
James – stunned, his arms are in the air
Philip – clutches his hands to his chest looking for clarification

Group 4
Matthew – turns to Simon the Zealot for an answer
Thaddeus – likewise, turns to Simon for an explanation
Simon the Zealot – gestures in agitation, “Why ask me?”

The information above was compiled from Wikipedia. There are varying interpretations concerning some of the reactions, but they generally agree in the aspects of surprise, shock, anger and disbelief.