I might as well confess: I don’t pray in groups much anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t pray out loud, but when I do pray out loud, usually the only one who hears me is God. Or I’ll be offering a cursory ritualistic prayer before eating a meal with family or church family. I bring this up because when I do pray as part of a larger praying group, sometimes I become acutely conscious of the other people hearing my prayer as well as God. Sometimes we pray with witnesses to the act, or an audience, or however else you might term the third parties listening to what you’re saying to God. And as a result, we may say certain things for the benefit of the people listening.
Here it is: the final chapter of Jesus Christ’s final message to his disciples before his crucifixion. And absurdly enough, I can’t help thinking of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The fourth novel in the trilogy (yes, you read that right) presents God’s final message to his creation as “We apologize for the inconvenience.” Of course, Jesus takes a higher view of God than the silly and irreverent Hitchhiker’s Guide, which persistently presents God as roughly as incompetent a manager of affairs as the rest of us (if he exists at all), but one has to start a blog post somewhere. Let’s dispense with this frivolous introduction and continue investigating what Jesus has to say when faced with impending death.
If you don’t want to hear Jesus’ last message to his disciples before his crucifixion, you’d better either close your Bible or skip ahead to John 18. The other gospel authors each spend maybe half a chapter on the Last Supper, but John devotes an entire three chapters to Jesus’ words over the meal, plus a fourth chapter in which Jesus gives a prayer entrusting the disciples to God the Father. It’s time to dig into these meaty chapters, so in the words of professional video game expert Tim Rogers: click that X, or buckle that seat belt. You make the choice.
The events of the Last Supper do not reflect especially well on Judas or Peter. In their own way, both men stab the Savior in the back. Peter denies three times that he even knows the man that he left his nets to follow, the man he called “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). And Judas…betrayed him for a hot buck and led an armed crowd to accost him in the dead of night. Yes, sin is sin, but I think pretending not to know a person constitutes a lesser offense than giving them over to their enemies and making oneself complicit in their death. Perhaps this is why Luke opts not to mention Judas for the rest of his gospel, though he later spells out Judas’ earthly fate in the first chapter of Acts. But I speculate. Let’s look at Peter and Judas here.