Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 26:20-35) transports me to the banks of denial (not the river), where Jesus and the disciples have one of those watershed moments dividing the course of life into before and after. It is their last supper, with betrayal and a broken body on the menu. I love the language of the Message translation in this passage. The Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures—no surprises here. Immediately after Jesus predicts the treachery at the hands of one of his fellow diners, questions arise as the followers try to digest his words. They all feel their capacity for cowardice, and ask It isn’t me, is it? It isn’t me, is it? Jesus responds only to Judas’ inquiry, with something like, You’ve said a mouthful.
Jesus then does a phenomenally grace-filled act: he serves communion to the betrayers and deniers, a unity meal with his soon to be scattered sheep. Symbols of brokenness and bloodshed become mnemonic devices for re-membering the fellowship that is soon to be dis-membered. They sing a last song to conclude the last supper. Kate Campbell, one of my favorite song-writers, gives us an idea of what the song was like: I reckon it was some kind of soul song, maybe kind of sad and slow, all about how we get weary, all about holding on. Again, I love the Message’s language, as Jesus tells the confused followers, Before the night’s over, you’re going to fall to pieces because of what happens to me. That gives us another idea of what kind of song they might have been humming on their way to Gethsemane: I fall to pieces, each time someone speaks your name. I fall to pieces. Time only adds to the flame.
One more quote from the Message, as Jesus puts his sacrifice in a prophetic context: There is a Scripture that says, I’ll strike the shepherd; helter-skelter the sheep will be scattered. You can’t help but turn to the Beatles with that reference: When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide where I stop and turn and I go for a ride till I get to the bottom and I see you again. Do you don’t you want me to love you? Helter skelter, helter skelter, helter skelter. In our helter skelter world and our helter skelter lives, running headlong with haphazard haste, the occasions for betrayal and denial are far too frequent. But this passage gives us so much hope; the grace of God is so vast that we are invited to break bread and sip wine with the Savior exactly at these moments when our lives deny the Way of Christ, these moments when our faith falls to pieces. When we get to the bottom, Christ takes us back to the top. These are the times Christ reminds us: Remember to love! Re-member your dismembered relationships, relationships with yourself, your family, your neighbors, your enemies. And while I’m in remembering mode, I’ll listen to Bono covering Paul and John and George and Ringo on the Rattle and Hum CD, reminding me that. . . I may be a lover but I ain’t no dancer.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.