Image Credit: Jason Chase

Sunnyside Celebrates the Living Last Supper

For about 1,400 years, the Jewish people had celebrated the Passover on an annual basis — sometimes regularly and faithfully, sometimes not. The grand event was intended to be both a reminder of deliverance from slavery in Egypt and a foreshadowing of the gift of God’s Lamb as a sacrifice for sins. But did the Jews understand?

While on Earth, Jesus had repeatedly tried to help the disciples understand what was going to happen; twice He had foretold He would be betrayed into the hands of His enemies and be crucified, but He would rise from the dead on the third day.

The triumphal entry seemed to signal that their hopes and dreams were about to come true! But, no, Jesus spent the following week in the temple courts teaching, healing and criticizing the religious leaders and, yes, chasing the money changers and sacrifice sellers out of God’s house. But He was not moving toward a throne (that they could see) or calling for an army. Was the correct message getting through? Did Jesus need a little help deciding what to do?

Now here they were, the 12 disciples in an upper room with Jesus; two disciples had found the upper room as Jesus had instructed them, they had prepared the meal, the table was set, and the Passover meal was about to begin. As they were eating Jesus gets much more specific about His betrayal: “The one who will betray me is here at the table with me” (Luke 22:21, CEV).

The Cantata

On Sabbath, March 31, 2018, the dramatic musical experience The Living Last Supper by Ruth Elaine Schram was performed for worship at the Sunnyside Church in Portland, Ore. The stage was set to resemble Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting. Church members played the parts of the disciples and Jesus. A chamber orchestra and small choir provided musical background and anthem interludes emphasizing the Biblical truths presented by the disciples in their short speaking parts.

In groups of three, the disciples rise one at a time and present a short monologue allowing the audience to hear their inner thoughts; each disciple ends with the same question regarding Jesus’ betrayer, “Is it I?” The monologues are based on Scripture where available and are otherwise written to be historically accurate to Bible times and to each character.

Midway in the presentation Jesus washes the disciples' feet with biblically accurate reactions from each man (especially Peter), and then He and the group invite the congregation to also participate in washing each other's feet. The cast leads audience members to other rooms for the foot-washing. After they return, Judas summarizes his thoughts and rushes from the room to do his evil deed.

Kimberly Goodwin Helton produced and directed the performance; Kimberly's husband, Karl, prepared the choir and accompanied the presentation on piano. Matt Mandrones prepared and directed the chamber orchestra and choir during the performance. Sunnyside elder Isaac Nziacharo portrayed Jesus.

How is it with you today? Is your relationship with Jesus on solid ground? Or are you troubled by that age old question, "Is it I?"

Watch a short highlight video or the full service online.

Featured in: July/August 2018