Lenten Devotion

April 1, 2023

All Day

Mark 14:12-25 

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 

Dealing with Unfulfilled Expectations

The events in the passage about the Last Supper can be divided into three stages.

First, the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to find a room for the Passover meal and to organize the supper.

Second, while they were sitting at the table, Jesus predicted that someone would betray him. The disciples were deeply concerned. As if that were not enough, Jesus warned that for whomever betrayed him, it would have been better if they had never been born.

Third, Jesus broke the bread and served the wine to the disciples with the words that we always remember and use when we celebrate communion.

What strikes me most is that the betrayal came out of the midst of the disciples. Some years ago, I read the play “The Man Born to be King” written by Dorothy L. Sayers, (a British author of numerous novels and plays that were broadcast in the UK for many years). In the play, Jesus’ life from his birth to his death is depicted. In the script, Sayers describes the nature of each character. The description of Judas Iscariot’s character is somehow especially depressing. He is described as a man who wasn’t condemned from the beginning of the world and that his fate was not irreversible, that he could have chosen differently. According to Sayer’s portrayal, Judas is a fanatic and is also greedy. We find a hint of this in the Bible, where it says that he secretly took the money. Judas’ positive and perhaps enthusiastic attitude towards Jesus changed dramatically when he saw his expectations of a heroic commander fail.

Whenever I read about the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, I always have the feeling of a far-fetched plot against Jesus that gradually ends with a politically motivated murder. I am still convinced that this was the case. I try to imagine what expectations I would have had, if I had been among his followers. Does somebody have to necessarily be bad to his innermost core, to be able to execute a grievous crime with terrible consequences for the betrayer himself? Could anybody, in a weak moment, also come to a questionable conclusion and feel compelled to do something while ignoring the full consequences?

As I understand it, Judas missed one essential point: Jesus clearly stated that whoever believes in him, will be saved. Judas lost his faith when he saw his expectations profoundly disappointed. What alternative did Judas have? Would it have been an option to ask Jesus how he (Judas) should understand his master’s controversial statements, being the Lord of the universe, who will be delivered to his enemies? It didn’t correspond with Judas’ ideas and imaginations at all. Could his willingness to clarify the misunderstanding, and thus restore his faith, have saved him from his disastrous decision?

What about us today? Will we be ready to continue to believe in a perfect and almighty God, who sent Jesus Christ to us, when our expectations in important life aspects are not fulfilled?

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