As Luke tells it, the Last Supper ends in an argument. For all the table talk of gifts and remembrance and the kingdom of God, the dinner descends into a dispute among the disciples over “which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (22:24). The meal of covenant and community turns into a banquet of boasting and contempt.
The story points to an ambiguity that extends to contemporary celebrations of the Last Supper, and indeed to all forms of Christian worship. Those who gather around communion tables rightly describe themselves as “communities of faith.” But as the Gospel narratives suggest, those gatherings are made up of betrayers, deserters, and pretenders preoccupied with their own pecking order. Communion is frequently celebrated as a reconciling supper of Christian unity. But the meal has also been a prime venue for Christian conflict and schism, and for more disputes among disciples over who should be “regarded as the greatest.”