Holy Week, Thursday :: The Upper Room :: the Place of Betrayal

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

13 So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 15 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 16 So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.

17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. 18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”

19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”

20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man[e] must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”

23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant[f]between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

What do you fear most?

Though most of us have irrational fears of something physical (ask me sometimes about my “relationship” with reptiles), for most of us the fear of emotional damage and threat loom larger.

How much do you fear humiliation?

I think Mark—and the other gospel writers as well—chooses words very carefully. In no way is he an idiot, or some kind of literary or spiritual half-wit. There’s a picture of Jesus that he is trying to paint, and he is using every available tool to work in the  medium of words.

Notice how he includes the phrase, “The Twelve.” First Jesus sends two disciples into the city to find a room where he will celebrate this Passover-ish meal. Then he shows up with The Twelve. Then he talks to The Twelve. Then he says, one of The Twelve will betray him.

What happened to the two?

I agree, along with theologian and New Testament scholar Craig T. Evans, that the reason Mark highlights the phrase “The Twelve” in this passage is that there were other disciples in the room. They secured a “large room” for the meal: more than enough for Jesus and his chosen twelve. But a large room would be necessary to accommodate a larger group of followers.

How many were there? 20? 40?

So when Jesus announces that one of these 12 followers would betray him, it’s not in a private, intimate place. It’s not an aside to a camera.

It’s in public.

There would’ve been some kind of gasp in the room. This was the “inner circle”, the chosen disciples, representing the “new Israel.”

And Jesus just announced that they would fail; not just fail but betray.

It would’ve been, to say the least, an awkward moment.

But Jesus is not surprised, and doesn’t seem let it affect the moment, because he goes on with the meal. 

He inaugurates the Lord’s supper, and proclaims the new covenant.

In spite of their coming failure.

Because ultimately it’s not their mission to complete. They can fail (and fail they do); he will not. 

So today, as we work through “Maunday Thursday“, keep these things in mind:

  • Relatedly (and obviously), we have all betrayed and failed Jesus in some way
  • Jesus’ is not surprised by our struggles to be faithful; he works through them and in spite of them
  • He is also not embarrassed by us; it’s his mission—we are merely called to do what he called those disciples in the upper room to do…
…To remember him.
Tomorrow: The Place of Suffering

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