Dining In the Upper Room

Scripture: Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:14-38, John 13:1-14:31

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn about the events of the Last Supper.
  • Students will learn about the dining customs of the first century and try foods eaten in that area of the world.

Guiding Question: What would it have been like to take part in a meal during Jesus’ time?

Materials: low table, cushions, 1st century costume, Mediterranean foods, serving dish

Procedure: As students enter the room/designated area for the lesson, wash students’ feet and hands. Have an actor pretend to be a first century landlord and welcome them. Invite students to sit on cushions around a low table. The landlord should offer students samples of food from the Jewish diet such as figs, olives, dates, lentils etc. You may want to explain the healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet including the healthy fats in olives, fiber and protein in lentils, and antioxidants in red grapes and pomegranates.
Teach students some background information about the meal. Good sources for information include net.bible.org. As students eat, describe how each food was commonly prepared. Meat was often boiled or roasted on green wood or iron. Food was cooked with olive oil. Fish and chicken were common types of meat. Red meat and lamb were reserved for special occasions such as Passover. Instead of sugar, honey, fruit juice and dates were used to sweeten foods. Typically only two meals were eaten. The first meal, “break-fast” was not until about 9 or 10 o’clock and was very small. The second was eaten around sundown. During the second meal, the whole family ate together and it was larger than the first. Family members dipped out of a common bowl. This gave women less work to do when it was time to clean.
As students eat, review the story of the Last Supper focusing on the historical and social traditions of Passover. The landlord should tell the story as though recalling when Jesus and his disciples used his room. Explain that the reason the Bible says they reclined at the table was because they were seated on cushions at low tables.

Additional Questions:

  • How is the Passover that Jesus celebrated different and similar to the first Passover described in Exodus? How is it different and similar to the Lord’s Supper/Communion that we take?
  • Why was washing upon entering a house so important in Jesus’ time? Why was it such a lowly job?

Supplemental Activities:

  • Cultural Clues Bible Scavenger Hunt: Students can look back over the verses that correspond to the Last Supper and look for clues that relate to the meal time traditions. Example: Matthew 26:23 refers to a disciple dipping in the bowl with Jesus. Other examples include reclining at the table and reference to the Mount of Olives.
  • Students can research the elements and schedule of a Passover Seder meal. Students can use a paper plate and draw the elements on it.