Mark 14:12-22 “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?’ He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?'” He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.’ The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. During the meal, Jesus said, ‘I assure you that one of you will betray me – someone eating with me.’
Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, ‘It’s not me, is it?’
Jesus answered. It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.'”
There is much debate over whether or not Jesus’ last meal was a Passover meal as we envision it. While the historical likelihood that what Jesus and his disciples did had any resemblance to a modern Passover Seder is low, it is clear that Mark’s gospel wanted to show the last supper was connected to the Passover. My understanding of the Passover meal is that it is a re-presentation of God’s saving work as found in Exodus.
A modern Passover Seder is full of symbolism, reading, prayer, and meaning. All of it has the purpose of pointing to the fact that God saved the Hebrews from slavery. God stood by the promises made to Abraham. God stood with a people that were oppressed. God stood against the greatest power the world had ever known – and triumphed. This is the message of Passover, and this is the message of Jesus’ last meal as well. This is the parallel that Mark is trying to convey.
During the meal Jesus announces that one will betray him. He announces that the betrayer is there, and that he is one with whom he will dip bread. This tells us two things. Jesus knew Judas would betray him. Jesus ate with him anyway. And not only did he eat with him anyway, but he sat next to him. Otherwise, how could they have dipped the bread together?
Mark does not tell us when Judas leaves, but we know that they started the meal together. Jesus knew what Judas was thinking, and still he broke bread with him. Still he offered him friendship. Still, they dipped the bread together. I can only imagine the heartache that Jesus must have been feeling. Some read Jesus’ words toward Judas as words of reproach, vengeance and anger. That’s not how I read them.
Instead, I hear Jesus words as sorrowful. I hear them wishing that his betrayer would change his mind, but knowing that he won’t. I hear Jesus giving Judas one last warning – “you’re going to regret it,” not as a threat, but as a heartfelt plea. I see Jesus heartbroken that the time they spent together hadn’t been enough. The words, the healing, the signs and wonders – none of it had been enough. Still Judas didn’t understand. Truthfully, none of them did.
Sometimes I wonder if I do. Sometimes I wonder if I realize just how much Jesus loves me. How many times has Jesus seen me and wished he could change my heart. How many times has he seen me on the precipice of betrayal and screamed, “Don’t do it!” Only to be ignored.
Still, he invites me to this table.
Still, he calls me to his side.
Still, he breaks bread and shares it with me.
Jesus, friend and teacher, you prepare a place for me still. You invite me to your table still. Still, I fail. Still, I fall. Still, I cry to you. Please don’t stop calling. Amen.