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What’s For Supper? Comparing Jesus’ Last Supper with the Ramadan Iftar Meal

Updated: Apr 8


Christians often associate the holidays of Good Friday and Easter Sunday with springtime. Jesus’ resurrection often coincides with the rebirth of the earth as it awakes from its winter. More importantly, Jesus’ death and resurrection free us from the winter of sin unto new life in God.

 

The Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, which is about 354 days long. Each year, those holidays fall 11 days earlier, such that Islamic holidays are not fixed to any particular season. In 33 years, the Islamic holidays will cycle completely around the regular solar calendar. This year, the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, will occur from March 10 through April 9.

As such, Ramadan and the Christian holy days overlap this year. Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, which marks the day Jesus shared the Last Supper—a Passover meal—with His disciples. And during Ramadan, Muslims hold a mini celebration each night as they break the daytime fast with the Iftar meal.

 

In this short blog, I will make a few comparisons and contrasts between important celebrations for Christians and Muslims that take place around the concept of a supper. It is true that in some Christian traditions, worshippers undergo a fasting period before Easter, known as Lent. But our emphasis here is on the suppers—Iftar meals compared to Jesus’ Last Supper.

 

For Muslim communities around the globe, Ramadan is a communal event. Work typically slows to a crawl during Ramadan. Muslims will tend to rest or sleep during daylight hours if they can, since they can neither eat nor drink at that time. Sundown brings the fourth prayer of the day—Maghreb prayers. Then it’s time to feast and celebrate the end of the fast with the iftar meal. These can be gala events featuring a massive feast. People often note that the “religious spirit” in Muslim societies tends to rise during Ramadan.

 

Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples proved to be a bit of an enigma. That night, Judas Iscariot would betray the Lord. His closest disciples would fall asleep during prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Instead of a communal celebration, Jesus might have felt somewhat alone. Within 24 hours, the Son of God would be on the cross. As He carried the sins of the world, even His Heavenly Father had to turn away briefly.

 

In some ways, ministry to Muslims can also be a lonely road—the Via Dolorosa. For Muslim background believers in Christ, difficult decisions must be made, including at Ramadan. Should a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) attend the family iftar meal or not?

 

Worshippers of Christ remember vividly when He took the bread and said that this was His body, broken for us. It was a meal of brokenness. A meal of rejection. Nevertheless, neither the Last Supper nor Good Friday were the final story. Resurrection Sunday was just around the corner. The stone would be rolled away!

 

Muslims look forward to the nightly feast during Ramadan, the iftar meal. And after fasting all day, no one can blame anyone for working up quite the appetite! At the end of Ramadan comes another feast, Eid-al-Fitr, the Holiday of the Breaking of the Fast.

 

When comparing these two sets of holidays, Muslims celebrate what they have accomplished through their sacrificial fast. They hope Allah will forgive their sins, but they cannot be sure of it. Followers of the Lord Jesus, on the other hand, celebrate not what they have done, but what Jesus has accomplished, and they look forward to one final supper to come. That will occur in eternity with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

 

During these final days of Ramadan, pray for the eyes of Muslims to be opened to the truth about Jesus! Pray that they will have dreams and visions of Jesus or experience God’s miraculous intervention in their lives in such a powerful way that they will seek out a follower of Jesus Christ who can share the Good New of the gospel with them. The communal celebration of the iftar meal or the Eid-al-Fitr cannot compare to the Lord’s Supper or the Marriage Supper of the Lamb to be celebrated in heaven because they assure the believer of salvation now and life with Jesus forever!

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