In just about every great artwork of the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot is depicted either with his face turned away from the light, or he is obscured in shadow. In art, the great betrayer is hidden away in darkness before the One who is the light of the world.
We may wonder why Judas stayed with Jesus right up to the end. Why did he continue to follow Jesus if he had lost hope in him? Why commit to stay around when he had already turned away? We may speculate that, in his dark and troubled heart, Judas had orchestrated this moment, yet we know that the accounts of the Gospels are not spy stories.
Much more significantly, we may wonder why Jesus, knowing who his betrayer was, allowed Judas to remain. This is, I think, the far more important and perilous question to face. It is the question of why Jesus would take Judas with him to the end, as one of his own.
The easy answer might be that the betrayal was going to happen anyway, so why not let things play out accordingly. But I do not think that answer is right. Instead, and perhaps uncomfortably for us because it brings things so close to home, Jesus wanted Judas there.
Jesus wanted Judas to know of his love; he wanted to wash his feet; he wanted to eat and drink with and for him. Perhaps the answer is that on their last night together, Jesus wanted Judas to know that he would be included in all that would come about the following day.
I say this is an uncomfortable answer to hear, that it brings things a bit too close to home for us, because, in the end, all the disciples followed Judas, not Jesus. In the end, all scattered, all ran away; none of the disciples remained with Jesus to the very end.
And might not we have done the same?
Yet (and here is the redeeming grace for us), Jesus remained with all his disciples; none were lost from him, even if they had lost themselves. So, at the Last Supper – whether by an act of humble service or in a meal of his own Body and Blood – Jesus insisted on saying ‘do this, in memory of me’.
No matter what might happen, remember this; no matter how dark it becomes, remember this; no matter how badly things get messed up; ‘do this in memory of me’.
This call to an act of remembering was, for Jesus, the call for us not to lose sight of him, not to allow the dark to envelop us; but to turn again to the light of his life, a light that allows us to see how to remain in him. This call to remembering captures us, we who Jesus has always remained with to the end.
After the supper, and after the betrayal, Jesus went to the cross alone; for alone, only he could bring light to the world. But he brought us with him into the light.
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