Feeding his betrayer

While Jesus attend many dinners and eats with many people, on the last night of his life, he also feeds his betrayer.

Full Text: 

Feeding his betrayer

March 28, 2013 – Luke 22:14-27


            Jesus feeds his betrayer.

            Jesus feeds lots of people during his ministry.  He eats with lots of people during his ministry.  Jesus was never one to turn down an invitation to dinner.  According to Luke, he got lots of invitations.  He was always, it seems, on his way to a meal or at a meal or coming back from a meal. 

Jesus eats at the homes of his disciples.  Early in his ministry, he heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and then she serves them.  One chapter later, he calls Levi – the tax collector – to follow him.  Then Levi throws a big party with lots of other tax collectors and he invites Jesus.

Jesus eats at the homes of Pharisees.  He eats at the house of Simon the Pharisee and a woman of the street washes his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair.  Another Pharisee invites him to dinner and is amazed to see that he does not first do the proper washing before eating.  And, at a Sabbath dinner with Pharisees, Jesus teaches about dinner etiquette – don’t seek the best seat; and invite those who cannot invite you back.

Jesus even includes eating in his stories.  The parable of the Prodigal Son ends with a great feast and the rich man feasts sumptuously every day while poor Lazarus has nothing to eat.

So it is not surprising that, on Jesus’ last night with the disciples, he shares a meal with them.  It is unlike all the others, because it is a Passover meal.  It is a meal commanded by Moses.  It is a meal that celebrates an historic event.  It is a meal that teaches the people of Israel who they are.

But it is like all the other meals that we hear about because Jesus also teaches in this meal.  He does not tell stories.  He does not give instruction on proper behavior.  He does not provide a theological treatise on sin and atonement.  He does not argue the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation.  He says very little.

What he does, on this last night of his life with them, is offer the disciples this meal.  It is a meal, yes, that is a Passover meal – a meal that he has longed to eat and a meal he will not eat again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.  It is also a meal in which his betrayer is present.

            Jesus feeds his betrayer.  Jesus has been eating with sinners all along.  But these sinners were garden variety sinners – prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.  Other than getting him in trouble with the Pharisees, they pose no threat to him.  Now, however, he eats with someone – feeds someone – who means him harm.

Jesus feeds his betrayer.  He does not send his betrayer away.  He does not withhold the bread or the cup.  He does not scold him for his sin.  In fact, he seems to offer a lament – For the Son of Man goes on the path set out for him, but woe to him by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!

But whether it is a lament or a judgment or a dire prediction, Jesus feeds his betrayer.  Jesus does not seal up his borders.  Jesus does not pull up the drawbridge.  Jesus in no way seeks to protect himself, because to do so would divert him from the path that has been set out for him.  Instead, when he is vulnerable, he makes himself more vulnerable. 

            Jesus always moves toward the sinner. He seeks the one who is lost – the lost sheep, the lost son, the lost sinner – Zacchaeus.  He even moves toward the lost city – Jerusalem, the city that does not know the things that make for peace.          Jesus feeds his betrayer.  Why does he do it?  He does it for us.  He does it so that we will know, no matter how far we feel from God, God will always approach us; God will always feed us; God will always offer us the cup of salvation.


            I find the reaction of the other disciples to this news that there is a betrayer present with them quite interesting.  I noticed this on Sunday while we were reading Luke’s passion together.

            Their first reaction is bewilderment.  Who could it be?  Could it be me?  Could it be you?  But this bewilderment arises out of fear.  They immediately jump from a discussion of, “Who among us could betray Jesus?” to “Who among us is the greatest?”  They try to cover up their fear with grandiosity.

            Jesus responds by bringing them back down to earth.  “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles.  It’s not going to be that way with you.  Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.  Who would you rather be: the one who eats dinner or the one who serves the dinner?  You’d rather eat and be served, right?  But I’ve taken my place among you as one who serves.”  (22:25-27, The Message)

            That’s who Jesus is.  He is the one who serves.  And he doesn’t make distinctions.  He doesn’t say – you deserve to be served and you don’t.  He serves everyone at the table – including his betrayer.

            And so he also feeds us.  He approaches us.  He comes to us as a servant.  He comes without regard to our past or our future.  He offers bread.  He offers the wine that is the new covenant in his blood – the new relationship with God that welcomes sinners and celebrates with them. 

            Jesus offers his own body and blood – and feeds us – whoever we are – with forgiveness.  And he invites us to do the same.