What started as a traditional Passover meal with His disciples – a quietly joyful celebration of the nation’s rescue out of slavery – suddenly became a strange and questionable showstopper. “One of you will betray me”, Jesus says. Not exactly what you expect to hear as you recline around the dinner table. Nothing more guaranteed to grab everyone’s attention and change the atmosphere from any sense of celebration to horror, disbelief and sadness. The comment, “They were very sad…” must be something of an understatement! Their chins must have hit the table! Sometimes the Bible account leaves a lot to the imagination.
As we examine this picture by Fr Sieger Kὄder the moment is captured.
No-one knows where to look.
Who could it possibly be?
It’s not me!
We see Jesus’ face reflected in the goblet of wine.
Is it John who can’t bear to look up at Him? …..
Peter whose expression says, “You’ve got to be mistaken!”
Others around the table look at Him in bewilderment.
One looks down, trying to work out who it could be or wondering whether he’s mis-heard.
And there, in the far distant shadow stands one about to leave the room. It was night.
What was going on in their minds at that moment? Every one different. Each with his own thought, opinion, idea…… I bet it’s him. I never thought you could trust him.…… Has Jesus made a mistake? Could someone have told Him a lie - said something to cause trouble?
And the atmosphere has changed from trust and family togethernesst? A group centred around the Master has become a flock scattered.
But Jesus draws them back to the point of it all. You see this bread and this wine. They represent my body and blood – my very life – given for you. But why? What is it all about?
They eat and drink – as they are bidden – but still have no real idea of what this ‘covenant’ is all about.
How do WE spend those few moments around the Lord’s Table? Are we able to hold ourselves in His presence and see ourselves in His eyes – looking up at us from out of the wine? Do we come able to see each other as those for whom Christ died – or do we struggle – wondering who should or shouldn’t be there? Can we keep our focus?
For many years – and still occasionally now – I recited the old hymn in the quietness at the table -
Thy life was given for me
Thy blood, O Lord, was shed
That I might ransomed be
And quickened from the dead.
Thy life was given for me.
What have I given for Thee?
And the final verse,
O let my life be given,
My years for Thee be spent
World fetters all be riven
And joy with suffering blent.
You gave yourself for me
I give myself to Thee.
I’m sure the old English of this hymn would have some of my current church friends in fits! (Even as we sit around the table, we can ruin moments like these for each other) But the challenge still remains. It’s still a serious moment. Jesus gave His all for me. He should have nothing less than my all – especially my love for others around me.