That Thursday evening, Jesus and the Apostles gather together privately on Passover for what would be the Last Supper. Let’s look to John 13 (New American Bible) for the story.
Jesus shocks the Apostles by saying he must wash their feet. How could their great Rabbi (‘Teacher’) do such a thing, an act that would not be expected of even the lowliest Jewish slave?
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”
The washing of the feet is an act of humility that precedes the ultimate act of humility, the Crucifixion. But what did Jesus mean by ‘so you are clean, but not all’? The Apostles would soon find out.
Afterward, Jesus issues His ‘mandate’ (‘maundy‘, from the Latin ‘mandatum’) to the Twelve — which also holds for us today:
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
Then, He says:
I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’
From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Imagine being among a group of friends with whom you have spent the past few years travelling, dining, sharing experiences and resting together. Who would think of something as awful as betrayal?
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.
The morsel signifies Jesus’ friendship toward Judas, even though Gospel accounts and Bible scholars differ on whether Judas actually partakes of the Last Supper. Jesus’s announcement comes not a ‘name and shame’ moment but an indirect invitation to Judas to examine his conscience and repent. However, Jesus knows this will not happen.
Jesus and the Apostles break bread together (Matthew 26:26-29, New King James Version):
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
And this is how Christians come to share in Christ’s body and blood each time we receive Holy Communion.
Although they do not fully yet realise it yet, the Apostles are about to find out that Jesus will become the Passover Lamb of God. The Passover they know commemorates Israel’s escape from bondage in Egypt. The book of Exodus relates the story of the Israelites painting blood from a lamb over their doorways so that their firstborn sons would be spared from death.
At the end of the meal, Jesus leaves for the Mount of Olives to meditate. He knows what will happen. And, the Apostles also know that Jesus’ life is in danger. Jesus tells Peter, so eager to follow, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times’ (John 13:38). Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks for His friends’ company in watchfulness and prayer (Matthew 26):
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
Judas, who has just arrived, approaches Jesus and kisses Him — the ‘kiss of Judas’ — thereby identifying Him to the authorities standing nearby. They arrest Jesus and take Him away.
Not far away, crowds await. Peter attempts unsuccessfully to mingle without being seen. He is stopped on three different occasions. These people know Peter as an associate of Jesus. Peter insists that he does not know Him.
‘And, immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.’
Following Jesus’ arrest, Judas has a pang of conscience and returns the 30 pieces of silver to the High Priests. As they are forbidden from putting the money back into the treasury, they purchase the Potter’s Field, where strangers can be buried. Judas ends his life by hanging himself. You can read more about him here.