Human Work and the Last Supper

By Mark D. Roberts

March 18, 2024

Scripture — Matthew 26:26-28 (NRSV)

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.


In the Last Supper Jesus chose bread and wine to represent his imminent sacrifice on the cross. His use of the products of human work reminds us of how much God values our work. It also encourages us to offer our daily work to God as an act of worship.


Next week is Holy Week, a time when we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. Beginning today, I want to reflect with you on how the passion of Jesus can relate to our daily work.

Several years ago, while visiting the sanctuary of a church I saw a striking communion banner. It featured a creative and tasteful weaving together of wheat stalks and bunches of grapes. I appreciated the artistry that went into the design and production of the banner. It enriched the worship space while reminding the worshipers of the centrality of communion.

Yet I do find it interesting that Jesus actually did not use wheat and grapes to represent his body and blood. He certainly could have done so. Rather, Jesus used bread and wine. These elements were featured in the Jewish Passover meal, which formed the basis of the Last Supper. They were not only items with deep theological meaning; bread and wine were also products made by human hands and human tools. They were the result of natural elements refined by human work.

Moreover, the bread and wine didn’t magically appear at the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. Rather, the disciples prepared the elements for this meal in the place Jesus arranged in advance (Matthew 26:19). Human work was required for the Last Supper to take place.

Of course, the main point of the Last Supper was not a lesson about human work. Rather, Jesus was pointing to his imminent death and its profound meaning. Nevertheless, I believe it’s worth reflecting on the implications of Jesus’s choice of elements for our work. For example, in the Theology of Work commentary on Matthew 26 we read:

We cannot pretend to know why Jesus chose tangible products of human labor to represent himself rather than natural articles or abstract ideas or images of his own design. But the fact is that he did dignify these products of work as the representation of his own infinite dignity. When we remember that in his resurrection he also bears a physical body (Matt. 28:9, 13), there can be no room to imagine the kingdom of God as a spiritual realm divorced from the physical reality of God’s creation. After creating us (Genesis 2:7; John 1), he chose articles of our handiwork to represent himself. This is a grace almost beyond comprehension.

I am not a farmer, a baker, or a winemaker. My daily work does not produce elements that would be used in a communion service. But that does not mean my work – or your work – cannot honor the Lord. Whether you’re selling shoes, teaching students, caring for an ailing relative, building a business, leading a team, or making lunch for your children, you can offer your work to God as an act of worship. And the same Lord who once represented his death in bread and wine will receive your work as an acceptable offering.


As you consider the fact that Jesus used products of human work to represent the meaning of his sacrifice, what thoughts or feelings come to mind?

In what ways does your work honor the Lord? How might Jesus be present with you in your workplace?


The next time you receive communion, pay attention to the elements, to the feel and taste of the bread and wine or juice. Consider that these elements were made by human beings whose work helps to convey the deep significance of Christ’s death.


Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us in the Last Supper a tangible, visible representation of your pending sacrifice. Thank you for choosing products of human work to represent the work you were about to do on the cross.

Lord, for most of us, our work will not literally produce items for the communion table. But we would like our work to point to you, to honor you, to make a difference for you in this world. Help us to understand how this might be so. Help us to work in a way that contributes wisely and well to your work in this world.

Glory be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30).

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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