In this lesson, the Lord institutes the Sacrament to help us remember his atoning sacrifice. By this greatest of all acts of love, he teaches us to love one another.

“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” This ancient festival commemorated the salvation of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and was “a night to be much observed unto the Lord” in thankfulness.[1] For generations, the Passover had been kept as a token of the Lord’s love for Israel: “Because the Lord loved you . . . hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” [2]

At the Passover, every family in Israel was to come up to Jerusalem to partake of a sacred meal in remembrance of their deliverance from bondage. The sacrifice of an unblemished lamb was offered at the temple. The lamb was eaten at a table along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs to commemorate the bitterness of their slavery to the Egyptians. But the Passover was a forward-looking celebration as well.

John records, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”[3]  Because of his love for Israel, Jehovah had liberated them many centuries before from physical bondage in Egypt and spiritual bondage by giving them laws and commandments. To the followers of Christ, “Egypt” signified spiritual death, and was equated with Sodom and Babylon.[4]  Now the atoning Lamb of God would perform the crowning act of love by liberating Israel once and for all from physical and spiritual death. Thus he loved them “unto the end,” as he had promised all the prophets who came before.

When the hour for the supper was come, he sat down with the twelve apostles.  He kept the order of the feast by taking a first cup “and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves.”[5] Among the Jews, this first cup was drunk after thanking God for “this day of the feast of unleavened bread, the season of our freedom, a holy convocation, the memorial of our departure from Egypt.”[6]  With this cup, the partakers symbolically looked back on the miracle of their salvation from Egypt.

After the first cup was drunk, it was customary to wash hands, and the disciples undoubtedly did so. “It was evidently at this time that the Saviour in His self-humiliation proceeded also to wash the disciples’ feet.” Edersheim notes that the washing of feet probably did not take place after supper, as John 13:2 has it, because the verse should be translated “‘when supper had come,’ or ‘was begun.'”[7]  The washing of feet was work for the most menial servant, and Peter protested: “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But the Lord gently taught, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

For the Jews, the washing of feet signified a welcome to the household and a demonstration of love and devotion.  When Abraham greeted the three messengers of the Lord, he humbled himself before them in this way: “My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet.” [8]   And again, when two of the angels came to Sodom in the evening, Lot greeted them: “Turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet.”[9]   Likewise, when David’s servants came to Abigail with the news that she was to be the king’s wife, “she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.”[10]

When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, a “woman in the city, which was a sinner,” entered the house and “began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head” as a token of her repentance and her love for the Savior.  While washing the feet of others was a mark of humility and devotion, the neglect of this custom of course signified the opposite. To the Pharisee, Jesus observed: “I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. . . . Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”[11]

In humbly and tenderly washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus signified his love for each one. Afterward, he said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  The ordinance of washing of feet thus betokened the “new commandment” he gave them that night: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”[12]

The washing of feet is an ordinance of the priesthood to be administered only under certain conditions specified in the Doctrine and Covenants.[13]  Nevertheless, disciples of Christ are to be known by equivalent acts of tenderness, humility, and love. How can we pretend to be greater than our Master, who knelt and washed the dust off the feet of his friends? How can we then fail to serve our brothers and sisters with love and devotion as he did? By our “nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love,” as Wordsworth put it, we demonstrate that we are the followers of Jesus and we obtain a forgiveness of our sins, as did the woman who bathed the Lord’s feet with her tears.

After the washing, the Lord probably resumed the customary reclining position at the table and, as head of the feast, moved to the next stage of the ceremony. This involved breaking the unleavened bread. “Pieces of the broken cake with ‘bitter herbs’ between them, and ‘dipped’ in the Charoseth, were next handed to each in the company.”[14] The Charoseth, a mixture of dates, raisins, and vinegar, represented the mortar the Hebrew slaves mixed for the brick buildings of Egypt. The combination of unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and Charoseth signified the misery of the spirit in bondage to the powers of evil.

At this point, the Lord “was troubled in spirit, and testified . . . one of you shall betray me.”  John, who leaned on the bosom of Jesus as they dined, saith unto him, “Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot.”[15] According to Edersheim, the unleavened bread and bitter herbs dipped in Charoseth “in all probability was ‘the sop’ which, in answer to John’s inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord ‘gave’ to Judas.”

Edersheim explains that this sop was eaten at the beginning of the Passover supper.

“As Judas, after having received the sop, went immediately out, he could not even have partaken of the Paschal lamb, far less of the Lord’s supper.”[16]  Thus Judas removed himself forever from the circle of the disciples. The bitter morsel Judas ate signified his giving himself over to the power of the adversary: “After the sop Satan entered into him,” and Jesus dismissed him from the company: “That thou doest, do quickly.”


It is important to contrast this quiet, sacred celebration of the love of our Savior with the hate-filled activities of the murderous men of influence who were conspiring at that very hour to put Jesus to death.  “The chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him. . . . Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot. . . And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.”[17]

Contrast the two scenes: Jesus and the Apostles, gathered in a circle of love, covenanting to love and serve one another and to remember him. In another part of the city, men gather in a circle of hate, covenanting to destroy the Lord of life and erase his memory for their own gain. In what ways are these contrasting scenes still playing out among us today?

Upon the dismissal of Judas Iscariot, a different spirit prevailed in the upper room. “When he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” So began the last sermon of the mortal Messiah to his disciples.  In the circle, only love and faith prevailed, and so Jesus was able to explain the Father’s plan of redemption. We read in Moses 1:39, “This is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  The Son of man was about to fulfill the work and glory of God, by offering himself as a sacrifice to cancel the effects of mortality and to open the door to eternal life for all the children of God.  Such was the depth of his love. It was at this point that he gave the “new commandment . . . that ye love one another; as I have loved you.”

Elder L. Tom Perry has said, “Before Jesus introduced the ordinance of the sacrament, He taught His disciples more about love. In order for them to understand the sacrament, they had to first understand the basic principle of love.”[18] The Lord emphasized several times that only those who are obedient to his commandments truly understand what it is to love him and others, because the commandments are principles of love. The commandments of God enjoin us to love him, others, and ourselves. Keeping the commandments of God enable us to join together in love as eternal families. Without obedience to these principles of love, there is no eternal life. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”[19]

As a token of this new covenant and commandment, Jesus “took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.”[20]  As the disciples partook of the broken pieces of unleavened bread, they were enjoined always to remember him. And what did he want them to remember about him? His wisdom? His miracles? His power? Most of all, it seems, he wanted them to remember that he loved them.

How do we remember him today? Do we remember him as a great teacher, a prophet, a foretold Messiah, or as a distant figure far from our daily lives? Or do we remember his overwhelming love for us?

As the disciples covenanted to remember him and to keep his commandments, Jesus promised to send them “another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth.”  The role of the Holy Ghost, he explained, would be to “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”[21] This is the office of the Holy Ghost: to assist us in remembering the Son, his word, and his love for us. As the Lord loves all of us, the promise of the companionship of the Holy Ghost is for all of us. “Even a child can understand what to do to have the Holy Ghost as a companion,” explains Elder Henry B. Eyring. “The sacramental prayer tells us. We hear it every week as we attend our sacrament meetings. In those sacred moments we renew the covenants we made at baptism. And the Lord reminds us of the promise we received as we were confirmed members of the Church—the promise that we might receive the Holy Ghost. Here are the words of the sacramental prayer: ‘They are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.'”[22]

Now in keeping with tradition, the disciples partook of the lamb, after which no food was to be eaten.  This signified that the lamb was the great and last sacrifice.  To this day in the Passover ceremony, the participants fill and drink a cup of wine immediately after partaking of the meat. Edersheim observes, “There cannot be any reasonable doubt that this was the cup which our Lord connected with His own Supper.”[23]   Luke seems to confirm this, as the Lord took “likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”[24]

Seemingly in reference to this cup of wine, the Lord observed, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. . . . As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”[25]

Having challenged his followers to remember him always and to keep his commandments, the Lord here comforts us with the assurance that he is the true source of any good that we can do.  Branches removed from the stem of the vine wither and produce nothing.  But those connected to the stem remain strong and productive. As long as we abide in the love of Christ, we can grow and increase in our power to produce good fruit: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” We know that the glory of God is to bring to pass the eternal life of man, so as disciples of Christ we are called to be fruitful in serving, teaching, and bringing our brothers and sisters to salvation.



How do we abide in Christ? The answer is simple: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”[26]

As the supper ended, the Lord once again seemingly summed up his commandments into one that he labeled great and new: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The Savior went forth from that supper to give his life for us, his friends. May we take the sacrament at every opportunity.  May we always remember him, keep his commandments, and enjoy the peace of the spirit in our lives.


[1] Exodus 12:42

[2] Deut. 7:8

[3] John 13:1

[4] Rev. 11:8

[5] Luke 22:14, 17

[6] Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994, p. 187.

[7] Edersheim, p. 189; John 13:2.

[8] Genesis 18:3-4

[9] Genesis 19:2

[10] 1 Samuel 25:40-41

[11] Luke 7:36-37, 44, 47.

[12] John 13:14-15, 34

[13] D&C 88:138-141

[14] Edersheim, p. 190

[15] John 13:21-26

[16] Edersheim, pp. 190-191; John 13:25

[17] Luke 22:2-5

[18] Perry, L. Tom. “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Ensign, November 1984.

[19] John 14:15, 21, 23

[20] Luke 22:19

[21] John 14:16, 26

[22] Eyring, Henry B., “That We May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998, p. 66

[23] Edersheim, p. 192

[24] Luke 22:20

[25] John 15:1, 4-5

[26] John 15:8, 10