“At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples--the one whom Jesus loved--was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.”
The story of Jesus sat with his friends, eating a meal together, even sharing the same bread and bowl of dip, strikes me differently today when that’s
what we can’t do. Those meals together, shared moments of intimacy with friends and loved ones, are limited by (more or less) those who live with us–if we even have that. The sweetness of that scene of intimacy and togetherness, friendship and fellowship, is heightened by our separation. It brings us back to the narrative fresh, with new eyes.
With these new eyes that see the precious physical connection and friendship on display, it is something of an arrow to the heart to then turn to Judas’ betrayal. In this shared meal together, Jesus eats knowing that one will betray him, one will make some money of the friendship, an act that will lead to Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death–one whom Jesus lived alongside and loved.
How much harder is the pain of betrayal when the relationship is a close one? Jesus faced betrayal from one, denial from another and abandonment from most of his dinner companions. He could have left, he could have gone another way and he could have refused to let them in only to have them fail him when he was at his worst. Yet he persevered, he endured and he went to the cross because he knew his Father’s will–his plans–not plans of perfection, but plans of redemption. For the world, for creation and for you and me, Jesus went to the cross.
The Rev. Dr. Suse E. McBay
Associate for Adult Christian Education and Prayer Ministries