March 6, 2021
Luke 22 Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus[a] to death, for they were afraid of the people.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; 4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. 5 They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[b] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” 9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” 10 “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” 13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it[c] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[d] 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
What Did the Cross Accomplish?
Jesus gave his followers a new meal. He reworked the Passover meal by
placing himself and his death at the center of it. His death delivered
from sin and death; his blood cleansed and made new. The promise that
Israel clung to had finally been kept. God had delivered his people
from bondage. The world was fundamentally a different place because of
Jesus’ death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of that change and a
reminder that a day is coming when things on earth are done as things
are done in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
The Christian worldview symbol of the Lord’s Supper, like all
worldview symbols, comes from a praxis, a mandated lifestyle, a
mission. The earliest Christians made disciples by declaring that,
through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God had fulfilled his promises
to Israel. Even if some of those promises had yet to be fulfilled,
they were no less certain because they were grounded in Jesus’
the idea and language of substitution is present in all of them,
although in Luke it is most obviously communicated through Jesus’
words concerning the bread, “This is my body, which is given for you”
(22:19), and also in his words for the cup, “This cup that is poured
out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (22:20). The language of
substitution is tied to the bread in the Corinthians passage,
“ This is my body, which is for you (11:24); in Matthew and Mark it is voiced
through Jesus’s words concerning the wine. Still, it is there.
But more than substitution is present in the Lord’s Supper. The
concept of the covenant mercy is also front and center. Sharing the
cup shows recognition of the covenant (or new covenant). The ritual Is
intended to remind believers of what Jesus did for them, yet also to
remind them of how God has kept his promises and thus shown his
The context in which Jesus inaugurated the meal was Passover. There is
little doubt that he intended his disciples to understand that he was
the sacrificial lamb whose blood would cover them from God’s wrath and
deliver them from bondage. There is no explicit statement of penal
substitution in Israel’s exodus from Egypt, but that does not mean
that the idea is not present. The wrath of God was displayed against
the Egyptians, but in the case of Israel, the lambs were offered so
Israel would be spared (Exod. 11-12).
Fundamentally, however, the Lord’s Supper, like the Passover, is about
deliverance. The focus of the exodus story is on God’s delivering
Israel from bondage in Egypt because he is faithful to his covenant.
God gave Israel a ritual meal to remind them of the faithfulness.
Jesus gave the disciples a ritual meal to remind them of how his death
delivered them from bondage to sin.
Fifteen Stations in the Passion According to Mark
Station Two: the Last Supper. One who dips into the dish with Jesus will betray him.
Here is another supper, this one more staged.
First, two apostles are sent ahead to procure the room by means of instructions that sound a bit like a treasure hunt: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you…follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat Passover with my disciples?” These are the kind of instructions the apostles relish-doable deeds, details falling in place, an in-group feel to the whole production. Self important little me moving and shaking. The arrangements click into place. Just like the boss said.
And so, that night, they sit down at the table, a tight fraternity ‘in the know,” with seeming power to bring about results. Instead they hear shocking news. Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” They respond not with concern for the victim, Jesus, but for themselves. “Surely, not I?” The response recalls Lady Macbeth’s exclamation upon hearing that her guest, King Duncan, had been murdered during the night. “What in our house?” The king’s death is not the tragedy but the fact that it should happen under her roof. “Too cruel anywhere,” Banquo reminds her.
When the apostles persist in wanting to know who it is, Jesus responds that his betrayer is “one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.” It is one thing to betray a stranger, or acquaintance, or even a friend. But the poignancy is brought home with this detail. Jesus’ betrayer is someone who is intimate with him. They don’t just eat; they eat from the very same dish.
My husband, who worked in an eye hospital on the West Bank for a year, tells how occasionally he would be invited out to the countryside by a grateful patient to eat a meal at a tribal household. He was struck by the intimacy for eating together. It was not just a shared meal, each one serving himself on his separate plate.
Everyone was actually eating from the same plate. “You’re exchanging body fluids,” he explains it. Back in my own past, I met an Amish family who was ‘shunning ‘ a daughter who had married outside the faith. The young woman could visit the household but never again would she be allowed to eat at its table. In our fast-food nation, we tend to forget that eating together is an intimate act- a sacred, if secular sacrament.
One who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. The devil is in the details. Betrayal is not just a momentary act but also a betrayal of all the intimacies we have shared. How much more painful is that larger loss. It were better for Judas if he had never been born, even if he is helping bring about a prophecy.
But wait. The one who will betray him, Jesus says, is one who dips into the bowl with him. Aren’t they all at the table, presumably eating and dipping into the dish with him? They are right to ask, Surely, not I? The answer is yes. All of them will betray him before the night is out.
What strikes me is what follows this announcement. The one who will betray him is not exposed and cast out. In fact, he too, is given the bread and wine of that first communion. For Judas, it must be astonishing; he has been found out, but he has not been cast out. This is a new, more expansive love than any one of them could have dreamed up or is yet capable of.
Judas betrays Jesus, addressing him as Rabbi, giving him a kiss. This sharpens the edge of betrayal—achieving it by the very gestures that signal intimacy and trust, gestures like the earlier one at the table, dipping into the same bowl with Jesus. A coward’s way.
Why does Judas betray Jesus? Mark never explains. The high priests promise to give Judas money, but this reward is only mentioned after he has gone to them, and quickly passed over. But this does not seem to have been his motivation. To be able to explain a horrible deed with a motive, however flimsy, reduces the horror. But Mark’s silence on the matter is like Iago’s silence when Othello asks him why he has “thus ensnared my soul and body?” A silence that is eerie inhuman.
It would be more bearable to hear an excuse, however flawed. Instead, Judas disappears from the narrative with that kiss. It is odd that he does not follow through on his betrayal by being part of the rigged-up proceedings that are about to take place in the high priest’s house. Why is he not one of the witnesses who are brought in to give false testimony? Is he just a pawn of the plot, used to fulfill a prophecy?
Jesus does not respond to the kiss or greeting of “Rabbi!” He matches Judas’ silence with his own. So does Mark. As if Judas were not before him. (Have some time of silence for reflection)
Fifteen Stations in the Passion According to Mark
From Accidental Saints: the chapter, “Judas well take your confession now, “After Peter denied Jesus, he experienced Easter, but after Judas betrayed Jesus, be bought a field, tripped and fell, and his guts burst open. He died alone in a field of blood. He died knowing that he was a sinner and perhaps thinking that God did not want him.
There was no Easter for Judas. There was no Resurrection. There was no light shining which the darkness could not overcome. Judas never got to be filled with joy and disbelief at Pentecost like those in the upper room. He never got to stick his fingers in the wounds of God. He never got to eat sacramental broiled fish on a beach, served to him by the resurrected Christ. Judas never experienced the defeat of sin and death revealed in the breaking of the bread. He chose death before seeing the death was done for. Our brother Judas.
But was what he did so unforgivable? How is it that Judas, who betrayed Jesus once and was filled with remorse, became the villain, while Peter, who denied Jesus three times and wept bitterly, became the rock on which the church was built? When it comes down to it, what is the difference between Peter and Judas? Well, maybe nothing. And maybe there’s not a whole lot of difference between us and them too.
And we get to share something with Peter that Judas never got to experience and it’s the thing that could have made all the difference. In Judas’s isolation, he never availed himself to the means of grace. Judas carried with him into that field the burden of not experiencing God’s grace because he was removed from the community in which he could hear it. In Judas’ ear there was never placed a word of grace. And let me tell you, that’s not something the sinner can create for him or herself. It is next to impossible to manufacture the beautiful radical grace that flows from the heart of God to God’s broken and blessed humanity. As human beings, there are many things we can create for ourselves: entertainment, stories, pain, toothpaste, maybe even positive self-talk. But it is difficult to create this thing that frees us from the bondage of self. We cannot create for ourselves God’s word of grace. We must tell it to each other. It’s a terrible inconvenient and often time uncomfortable way for things to happen. Were we able to receive the word of God through pious, private devotion—through quiet personal time with God—the Christian life would be far less messy. But, as Paul tells us, faith comes through hearing, and hearing implies having someone right there doing the telling…
Maybe, after he had (messed up) fucked up royally, nobody said to Judas, “You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner, now come as the sinner you are to a God who loves you” even though, as Jeff reminded me, we have the authority and duty to say such things to one another.
How might that early Christian community have been different if Judas had received forgiveness, as the rest of them did? Again and again Jesus had said they should preach forgiveness of sins in his name.
Maybe Judas was destined to betray Jesus. Maybe it couldn’t have gone down any other way than it did. But maybe Judas chose death too soon. Maybe he didn’t avail himself to the means of God’s grace, and maybe his community never sought him out and offered it. Maybe extending the Word of God’s forgiveness to Judas was simply too painful for the disciples because, like with the townspeople who became angry when the Gerasene demonic was clothed and in in his right mind, it was easier to identify Judas as the problem. Judas as the traitor…not us. Maybe Judas’ community failed him.
And if they failed him, I hope they confessed their sin. And I hope they heard the ringing freedom of the very forgiveness and grace they were charged with proclaiming to the world. Because they needed it. And you need it and, trust me, I need it. And you need it and, trust me, I need it. We have to hear again and again who God is for us and what God has done on our behalf. We must free each other from bondage through our confession and forgiveness…Ever since considering the question, what’s the difference between Judas and Peter, I’ve wondered what would’ve happened if Judas would have had a forgiving encounter with the resurrected Christ in the same way Peter did. What would’ve happened if Judas had heard in his ears a word of grace just for him, a word he could not create for himself. Would he still have died at his own hand?
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;[a]
3 he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in right paths[c]
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d]
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely[e] goodness and mercy[f] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.[g]
Proverbs of Ashes
Even before I began to recover memories of having been sexually molested I had decided to stop taking communion. I remember one Sunday sitting in the back of the church when the words of the communion liturgy were being read. An overwhelming feeling came over me that I had to get out of the sanctuary. The place felt dangerous. The idea that the sacrifice of somebody was a good idea, to be praised, suddenly felt directly threatening to me…
I was at a worship service. Communion was to be observed. I was preparing to make a quiet exit during one of the hymns, but decided to stay. I knew the worship leader and trusted her. We were sitting in the round in a small chapel. We could see one another’s faces in the candlelight. Words were spoken that told of Jesus’ crucifixion. It was a narrative of lamentation and grief, not praise and thanksgiving. Prayers were offered for victims of violence and abuse, all those who suffer in body, mind and spirit. Then bread and wine were offered to anyone who wished, as a sign that there is nourishment for the suffering, comfort for the grieving, and hope that someday all people will father at one table in peace.
My consciousness slipped into another realm. I felt the presence of Frank (the man who had abused me as a child). I could see him in the circle across from me. The bread and cup were passed from him. He ate and drank. Somewhere deep inside me a noise that had been roaring for years became silent. An old ache, like a stone, began to fall. I returned to normal consciousness. Around me were the quiet voices of familiar friends. I knew that in the end, all there is, is mercy. The promise was true. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in morning.