The Affable Last Supper

The intimacy of Jesus’ friendship intensifies the gravity of Judas’ betrayal.

[1] Intimate setting. The scene of the Last Supper demonstrates the intimacy of friendship between Jesus and his disciples. Primarily, the paschal meal is a family celebration but open to extended family, friends, and even slaves. One may suppose that those who participated in the celebration with Jesus had their own family with whom they usually celebrated this feast. But this time is different from the other time because this one will become a memorial ad perpetuum — a sacrament. On this occasion, a group of disciples became a new family in and around Jesus.

[2] Falsity of friendship. Contrary in this intimate setting is a falsity of friendship. Judas pretended to be a friend of Jesus, yet he betrayed Jesus already. He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (cf., Mt, 26:15) — a restitution amount for a slave gorged by an animal. It is the value Judas put on the head of his friend Jesus whose price likens to a slave. Sometimes a person underestimates and despises someone who believe that such a person to be his friend.

"So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night." (Jn 13:30)

[3] Teacher & Lord. After Jesus disclosed to his disciples that one of them would betray Him, they began to ask Him. The reader may guess it was Judas just the way he put the question: "Is it I, Rabbi? (Mt 26:25). Judas knew only Jesus as a teacher, while the others came to know Him as Lord (Adonay). It hints to the reader that Judas is the betrayer among the disciples. He did not grow in knowing Jesus (i.e., in experiencing the lordship of Jesus). Besides, even if Jesus is only a teacher, such betrayal is not expected from a grateful student. We ask ourselves: Do my experiences with Jesus help me to know Him more deeply as Lord and God?

[4] The gravity of betrayal. The intimate atmosphere of the Last Supper heightened the gravity of Judas' betrayal because it happened in an intimate atmosphere among the close collaborators of Jesus. Yet, though Jesus knew that Judas betrayed Him (cf., Mt 26:21), his intimacy with the latter remained steadfast till the end. Judas had a chance at the last minute to abort his betrayal, but he opted to betray his friend. Becoming like Judas is not a destiny but a choice – a personal decision. Has a person very dear to me betrayed me? Jesus experienced the betrayal of a friend so that he can empathize with my pain of betrayal.

[5] Freedom. Lastly, this episode of the Last Supper tells us about Jesus' respect for the freedom of His friend, Judas. Jesus could impede Judas' plan. He did not do it to save his life. Amazingly, the short phrase of the evangelist – And it was night (Jn 13:30), stands as background for Judas’ actions. Judas turned away from Jesus – the Light of the world and he entered into the darkness that led him to his doom. He was free to stay with the Light; instead, he used his freedom as a key to open the door to darkness and perish in it. Jesus taught us unconditional respect for others’ freedom. How do we respect our friends’ freedom even it is against us?


Fra Alfonsus D. Panaligan, OFMConv., SThD
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