THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER
The second time I ever tasted wine was at, what is called, the Last Supper. The first time was at a Methodist church on Duke University’s campus on communion Sunday where, after about fifty or so people, I dipped my tiny piece of broken bread into the golden cup that was once filled to the brim and put it in my mouth. This time, however, the wine didn’t taste like my bread soaked up straight alcohol mixed with a deep red food coloring; it was sweet.
Though none present seemed to notice me, I still sat on a wooden stool away from everyone in a small corner overshadowed by a wooden support beam and an elegant curtain that made the large open room somewhat private. It was fully furnished; an unnamed man’s guestroom built atop his own home. This man found Peter and John when they entered the city, exactly the way Jesus had told them, and the two of them prepared the Passover feast for Jesus and all of the disciples.
All thirteen men sat at the long and narrow, yet sturdy table, with Jesus sitting somewhere almost exactly the middle of them. On it was a piece of purple cloth, seemingly lined with gold thread, which extended across the entire length of the table. Two lit candleholders marked the outer thirds of the table and outlined where Jesus sat along with providing light to the entire room. The stools we all sat on were made of the most beautiful round pieces of olivewood, topped with cushions matching the purple and gold cloth of the table. Atop the cloth, the feast was laid out—wine and the oddest mix of foods I had ever seen: eggs, lettuce, unleavened bread, some pieces of lamb meat, and different vegetables.
Before I could even wrap my mind around the furnishing of this guestroom, Jesus stood and said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer because I will not eat it again until its fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
I watched the twelve men’s faces quickly change from joy to sadness. Here they were with their Master and Teacher, ready to take part in the Passover, and He reminded them of the suffering He said would come. And everything their Master said would happen, happened.
“Take this and divide it among you,” Jesus said as he lifted a cup of wine after giving thanks. “I tell you, also, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
With this thought in mind, the men solemnly ate what was on their plates. No one said a word. Some kept watch on Jesus, probably wondering when his suffering would come. Even I anxiously waited in the corner for someone to burst through the door and take Jesus from his seat. I, unlike his disciples, knew what was coming. I couldn’t say or do anything, but I stayed and watched. It was like watching a film where you already know the ending and yet there is nothing you could do about it.
There was nothing I could have done anyway. I knew his purpose. I knew why he had to suffer.
Breaking the silence, Jesus took some of the bread, gave thanks, broke it and passed it down the ends of the table and said, “This is my body which is broken for you: do this in remembrance of me.” He looked at each one of them and paused at each one of their faces as they ate.
He didn’t smile.
Then, with the same gentleness and care, Jesus picked up the cup and said, “This is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you,” and just before anyone could drink any, “Even for the one who sits at this table and will betray me. The Son of man will go, because it has been determined. I will go, but tragedy will come upon the one that has plotted to betray me.”
Each of the men began to argue with one another, pointing fingers at each other, stating who would be the most likely to betray the man they called Master.
“I knew you would be the one.”
“Me? No you! You were the one always complaining about where we had to go and what we had to do.”
“No I could never betray the Master. I would never.”
For a moment, I got lost in the words of their arguments. I kept my focus on one man and his defense, hoping that someone could see what I saw: a tiny bulge in the side of his tunic. Bold move: you conspire against the man who cares for you, protects you, comforts you, performs miracles in front of you and you have the nerve to eat a sacred meal with him, like his family, while the money you were paid is weighing your very clothes down. Then I had to remember what was said about him: Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot. It was not Judas; it was more like the shell of his body controlled by something or someone else. Then I remembered something else: these things had to happen—as it is written.
Then the disciples started arguing about something petty: who is the greatest among the twelve. Who cares? I thought. The Master is sitting right here with you, and even said, “For who is greater, he who sits as the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” Here he was—Master, Teacher, the prophesied long-awaited King that King Herod wanted to kill—sitting at the table, serving mostly fishermen.
And he still gave to them.
To settle their dispute he said, “You are the ones who have continued with me and my trials. So I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” To their Master, each one of them were going to be like him, with the same power, authority, and responsibility.
The Jesus suddenly looked to Peter, though he was addressing everyone in the room—even me. “Satan wants to cut you down, trample you, and toss you about like wheat because of your following me.” Jesus kept his eyes focused. “But I have prayed for you that your faith does not fail and when you return to me, you will strengthen your brothers.”
Peter, with a surety and honor the others did not possess, said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.”
“Peter, you will deny me three times before the rooster crows,” Jesus responded.
The men fell silent again as Jesus explained more of the suffering he must face. When the disciples went out before, Jesus told them not to take anything with them—but they lacked nothing. He told them that if they have something they should take it, including a sword. None of his closest friends understood it then and I have yet to understand it fully now. But he did say, “What has been written has yet to be accomplished in me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ All the things concerning me have an end.”
After all was done, Jesus then directed his disciples to go and pray with him. They went to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom. His only instructions were, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation.”
Alone Jesus went away from them and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me. But not my will, Father, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared, giant and illuminating, to strengthen Jesus. I heard nothing if it did say something to him. Continuing so hard in that prayer, I watched Jesus’s sweat increase and increase to where it was like blood falling to the ground. But Jesus stayed in prayer until he was finished.
Just like a father finding his son not doing what he was told to do, Jesus found his disciples sleeping from the tiredness of sorrow. Yet and still, they were told to pray.
“Why are you sleeping?” he questioned. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
This was the time that I just fell in awe of Jesus. While he was still speaking, a crowd came up to the Mount. The High priest of Jerusalem and all. Judas moved toward Jesus without saying a word and attempted to kiss his cheek.
Before he got close enough, Jesus spoke. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
The other eleven disciples pulled out the two swords and said, “Lord, should we strike them with our swords?” Before they allowed him to answer, one of them raised his sword and cut off the High priest’s servant’s ear.
Jesus stepped in, “No more of this!” And sure enough, right then and there, in front of everyone, Jesus touched the servant’s ear and healed it. Then he said to the chief of priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to take him, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs? All the time, every day, I was with you in the temple courts and you did not lay a hand on me.” He paused and walked closer to them. “But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
Who do you know would have done anything like that? What man could instantly heal the ear of another man? In addition to that, what man would heal someone who was coming to take him to prison—to kill him? Who do you know has enough restraint, compassion, and love to go with those who were unjustly charging a man innocent of all crimes spoken against him?
He did not fight back, but I am very positive that he knew what he was doing.
Even when they mocked him, beat him, forced him to take the place of a murderer, made him carry his own cross and walk to his own grave, he did not fight back or even utter vicious words. His response was to pray, for even those who hated him.
“Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
For everyone to see, he hung there, between two thieves, for hours. Every breath was a struggle. Every moment made gravity feel more painful than the moment before until everything finally collapsed.
And his last words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
He did not curse anyone. He did not yell at anyone. He did not come down, though he had all the power to do so.
He knew why he came to this world, why he was born. He came to die—to free all from slavery of darkness. He came to be the light, leading all on the path of righteousness. He knew, his entire family knew; his mother knew. Though she kept it in her heart, she knew and believed what she was told by Gabriel.
Yet even with all his love and responsibility, he was betrayed. For thirty pieces of silver. Not even gold—silver. And I just had to think; his betrayal was worth thirty pieces of silver. Yet his sacrifice still does two things: angers those who do not comprehend the light and excites those who do. But it will always be a gift for anyone to receive. All you have to do is take it.
The price has already been paid.