[Since I haven’t had much Internet access on this trip, I’ll rerun an older post.]
In the modern world, with the spread of restaurants, we’ve grown accustomed to eating in the company of strangers. Many of us have eaten in a roomful of people where we knew no one by name. This would have been almost unheard of in the ancient world, particularly in the Middle East. Sharing a meal with someone implied a bond, almost like family, a pledge of mutual aid and mutual protection. Violating that bond was an act of treachery, as seen in Psalm 41: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalms 41:9) To share bread with someone and then betray them was a terrible thing.
John emphasizes this aspect of Judas’ betrayal when he tells this scene from the Last Supper: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 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 Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” (John 13:21-30) Jesus made sure that Judas realized the full impact of what he was doing.
As we come together to share the Lord’s Supper, we experience a similar moment. By taking the bread and the wine, we not only make a pledge of faithfulness to God, we also proclaim the depth of our fellowship with one another. When we accept the offered bread, we accept our responsibility to one another; as we receive the cup, we receive one another in fellowship. Sharing the bread makes us one. Sharing the cup unites us. This moment is truly a fellowship meal.