This is the night in which he was betrayed. Reading from Psalm 41, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” My own familiar trusted friend is the one who will betray me…
King David prophesied it, and Jesus echoed him all along, saying that it would be one of his friends who would betray him into the hands of the people who wanted him dead — one of his twelve followers who had heard all his sermons and had seen all his miracles — one of his disciples.
Judas received a payoff of thirty pieces of silver from the highest Jewish officials in exchange for a fairly simple and mundane piece of information. They were afraid they would bring on the wrath of the crowd if they moved against Jesus in public, so they needed to know where he was likely to go where they could arrest him away from the spotlight.
Judas knew that when he was in Jerusalem Jesus liked to pray in a garden on the Mount of Olives. On Thursday evening after the Passover supper, Jesus went, as predicted, to Gethsemane Garden — the garden with the olive press. Judas took the temple police there and identified Jesus by kissing him on the cheek… Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted…
Maundy Thursday is a night of ironies and reversals. A friend betrays a friend. The one who is betrayed gives his betrayer a piece of bread dipped in gravy – a gesture which shows that the betrayer is the honored guest at supper. The betrayer identifies his friend to the police with the universal signal of affection — a kiss.
The Passover, normally a joyous celebration, descends into chaos as Jesus goes to jail and his friends run away. Obedient Jesus finally tells his father that he doesn’t want to suffer and die. The disciple who professed the most love and loyalty sells Jesus out without a second thought. The inner circle of three disciples fall asleep at the very moment Jesus needs their support most.
It is in the midst of this stew of treachery and weakness that Jesus gives us the most powerful and objective evidence of his continuing presence among us and his abiding love for us. He says, “This is my body. This is my blood … Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Maundy Thursday confronts us with a final irony. We betray him and run away from him too- when we succumb to weakness and temptation, when we back away from Jesus and marginalize his presence in our lives. And he still loves us anyway… “He took the bread, on the night in which he was betrayed…”