18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
It is easy to form a vague impression of the last supper as the occasion when Jesus shared the Passover with his disciples, during which he washed their feet, had a row with Judas, predicted Peter’s denials, invented Holy Communion and gave a ‘farewell discourse’.
Judas had reclined at many meals with Jesus but he does not stay long at this final one. He would have attended many Passover meals as a boy, perhaps sometimes as the youngest present, when he would have asked his father the question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights, and why do we eat unleavened bread?’ The ancient story would have been retold; beginning with the call of Abraham and moving through to the deliverance from Egypt and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The bitter herbs represent the bitterness of hardship under Pharaoh in Egypt. The roasting of the meat symbolised judgment. The bread would then be broken by the host, who prayed blessings and thanksgivings, and a piece given to each person to dip into the bitter herbs.
This broken bread was called the ‘sop’, and. to be offered this ‘sop’ first was a special favour – a sign of honour and love. Jesus had already washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:4-12), including those of Judas. Jesus knew, as he knelt before Judas, that this dirty-footed man was going to hand, him over, yet he continued, to show him love and respect at the Passover table, and it is sometimes suggested that, he offered Judas the ‘sop’ first.
Judas had already planned his betrayal and been paid by Caiaphas and the high priests (Matthew 26:14-16). Jesus knows this and Judas realises he is discovered. Days later, he would feel remorse, repent and hang himself (27:3-10). But in this penultimate encounter between Jesus and Judas, Jesus gives him bread, broken, as soon his own body would be broken.
Jesus gives his bread, himself, not only to his friends but also to those broken by sin. We have seen him dining with tax collectors and sinners and being criticised for it. Now, at the last supper, he dines with those who are both friends and sinners. His friends, Judas among them, are sinners and they let him down. Yet Jesus still shares his bread and offers himself so that their sin may be replaced with the friendship of God himself.