For some minutes the apostles ate in silence, but under the influence of the Master’s cheerful demeanor they were soon drawn into conversation, and ere long the meal was proceeding as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred to interfere with the good cheer and social accord of this extraordinary occasion. After some time had elapsed, in about the middle of this second course of the meal, Jesus, looking them over, said: “I have told you how much I desired to have this supper with you, and knowing how the evil forces of darkness have conspired to bring about the death of the Son of Man, I determined to eat this supper with you in this secret chamber and a day in advance of the Passover since I will not be with you by this time tomorrow night. I have repeatedly told you that I must return to the Father. Now has my hour come, but it was not required that one of you should betray me into the hands of my enemies.”
When the twelve heard this, having already been robbed of much of their self-assertiveness and self-confidence by the parable of the feet washing and the Master’s subsequent discourse, they began to look at one another while in disconcerted tones they hesitatingly inquired, “Is it I?” And when they had all so inquired, Jesus said: “While it is necessary that I go to the Father, it was not required that one of you should become a traitor to fulfill the Father’s will. This is the coming to fruit of the concealed evil in the heart of one who failed to love the truth with his whole soul. How deceitful is the intellectual pride that precedes the spiritual downfall! My friend of many years, who even now eats my bread, will be willing to betray me, even as he now dips his hand with me in the dish.”
And when Jesus had thus spoken, they all began again to ask, “Is it I?” And as Judas, sitting on the left of his Master, again asked, “Is it I?” Jesus, dipping the bread in the dish of herbs, handed it to Judas, saying, “You have said.” But the others did not hear Jesus speak to Judas. John, who reclined on Jesus’ right hand, leaned over and asked the Master: “Who is it? We should know who it is that has proved untrue to his trust.” Jesus answered: “Already have I told you, even he to whom I gave the sop.” But it was so natural for the host to give a sop to the one who sat next to him on the left that none of them took notice of this, even though the Master had so plainly spoken. But Judas was painfully conscious of the meaning of the Master’s words associated with his act, and he became fearful lest his brethren were likewise now aware that he was the betrayer.
Peter was highly excited by what had been said, and leaning forward over the table, he addressed John, “Ask him who it is, or if he has told you, tell me who is the betrayer.”
Jesus brought their whisperings to an end by saying: “I sorrow that this evil should have come to pass and hoped even up to this hour that the power of truth might triumph over the deceptions of evil, but such victories are not won without the faith of the sincere love of truth. I would not have told you these things at this, our last supper, but I desire to warn you of these sorrows and so prepare you for what is now upon us. I have told you of this because I desire that you should recall, after I have gone, that I knew about all these evil plottings, and that I forewarned you of my betrayal. And I do all this only that you may be strengthened for the temptations and trials which are just ahead.”
When Jesus had thus spoken, leaning over toward Judas, he said: “What you have decided to do, do quickly.” And when Judas heard these words, he arose from the table and hastily left the room, going out into the night to do what he had set his mind to accomplish. When the other apostles saw Judas hasten off after Jesus had spoken to him, they thought he had gone to procure something additional for the supper or to do some other errand for the Master since they supposed he still carried the bag.
Jesus now knew that nothing could be done to keep Judas from turning traitor. He started with twelve — now he had eleven. He chose six of these apostles, and though Judas was among those nominated by his first-chosen apostles, still the Master accepted him and had, up to this very hour, done everything possible to sanctify and save him, even as he had wrought for the peace and salvation of the others.
This supper, with its tender episodes and softening touches, was Jesus’ last appeal to the deserting Judas, but it was of no avail. Warning, even when administered in the most tactful manner and conveyed in the most kindly spirit, as a rule, only intensifies hatred and fires the evil determination to carry out to the full one’s own selfish projects, when love is once really dead.
--Presented by the Midwayer Commission, from the Urantia Papers.