Drinking blood is forbidden in the Bible, so what WAS the Last Supper All About?
First of all, let's see what took place.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
OK, so what is a blood covenant?
The Jewish Encyclopedia says this about a blood covenant at:
An agreement between two contracting parties, originally sealed with blood; a bond, or a law; a permanent religious dispensation. The old, primitive way of concluding a covenant (, "to cut a covenant") was for the covenanters to cut into each other's arm and suck the blood, the mixing of the blood rendering them "brothers of the covenant" ( compare Herodotus, iii. 8, iv. 70)... Originally the covenant was a bond of life-fellowship, where the mingling of the blood was deemed essential.
In the course of time aversion to imbibing human blood eliminated the sucking of the blood, and the eating and drinking together became in itself the means of covenanting, while the act was solemnized by the invocation of the Deity in an oath, or by the presence of representative symbols of the Deity, such as seven animals, or seven stones or wells, indicative of the seven astral deities; whence ("to be bound by the holy seven") as an equivalent for "swearing" in pre-Mosaic times (see Gen. xxi. 27, xxvi. 28, xxxi. 54; Herodotus, iii. 8; Josh. ix. 14; II Sam. iii. 12-20; W. R. Smith, l.c. pp. 252 et seq.).
OK, so this meal's purpose was to make a contract between Jesus and his disciples. The terms of the contract had been laid out throughout his ministry- this is where it was going to be made formal. They didn't suck each other's blood, but they did drink the wine which Jesus said symbolized his blood. Jesus said it was going to be poured out for them, meaning he was going to die for them, but made it quite clear that he expected them to be willing to die for him too. He said he was going to suffer, but they were going to have to suffer as well. This WAS a bond of life fellowship, as evidenced by what John 6:55-56 NIV said (“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him”) Jesus didn't make an oath, because he didn't believe in oaths. He didn't have symbols of the Deity around the table, because he believed in only one God. Instead he decided to solemnize the contract through a Jewish ritual called Kiddush.
What is the Kiddush? Well, here's one definiton: from jewfaq.org:
Lit. sanctification. A prayer recited over wine sanctifying Shabbat or a holiday. (Shabbat means Sabbath.)
This is what the Jewish Encyclopedia says about it:
The drinking of the wine, with the recitation of the accompanying words, constitutes the ceremony of Ḳiddush, in which husband, wife, children, and dependents take part together. According to Ber. 33a, the origin of the Ḳiddush can be traced back to the time of the Great Synagogue; indeed, from the controversies between the schools of Shammai and Hillel on various points connected with the Ḳiddush, it is clearly seen that the ceremony is very old
At the beginning of Sabbath two whole loaves of bread are laid down in memory of the double measure of manna that was gathered on Friday (Shab. 117b), with a white cloth under and over them (Oraḥ Ḥayyim,
After reciting the Ḳiddush the master of the house sips from the cup, and then passes it to his wife and to the others at the table; then all wash their hands, and the master of the house blesses the bread, cuts it, and passes a morsel to each person at the table.
This is what Jesus did. But normally this happens before the meal, but Jesus said it after they had eaten something. Presumably they had already said it once, in honour of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is what they were celebrating. but this time it would have been sanctifying something else. Like the contract. Maybe he intended this to be a new holiday too...... It does say he wanted them to do this in memory of him. A lot of holidays are to remember important events, and in this case the important event was the formalizing of this contract. When the disciples drank the wine and ate the bread they were formally agreeing to the terms and obligations of the contract, and Jesus was agreeing to the payments they would receive. (to see my post on what the terms were click here.)
But why did Jesus say they had to eat his flesh? They had to drink his blood to make it a blood covenant, that part is clear, but why eat his flesh?
Well, the Kiddush ritual sanctified things, so maybe he felt he could sanctify people in the same way.
That's not as far fetched as it sounds:
The bread in the Kiddush symbolizes the manna the Israelites ate in the desert. Jesus said manna was a symbol of HIM:
John 6:46-59 (New International Version)
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
He also said that he would sanctify his people- this is what he prayed about his disciples:
John 17:18-19 (New International Version)
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
He was thus referencing the Kiddush ritual here. If you partake in HIS Kiddush, you are entering a contract to do his will and if you do, you will be sanctified.
That is what I think the Last Supper was all about.