By Denise Trull
This is the night of tryst. The night on which God will bare his soul like a lyrical lover to twelve rag tag, rather dim, argumentative, jostling, anxious, hesitant humans. The twelve. Those whom He has inexplicably come to call friends. It makes the mind marvel.
As any lover, he carefully prepares the scene for His great declaration of love and longing. He himself has made the arrangements for a “room, fully furnished” with a mysterious man in the city, carrying a water jar. A man unknown by any of the Apostles. There is an unspoken surprise in this -- the Master usually leaves the arrangements to them. The mystery of this night begins to swirl a bit in their minds with this first "why?"
Peter and John are sent to make the arrangements for the meal. They are to bring it to this mysterious upper room. They walk through the market. They know what to buy. Their grandmothers and mothers taught them well. They have had many Passover meals between them -- this well loved feast that swells their Jewish hearts to gratitude. Yahweh’s faithfulness. They discuss the lamb, a whole one surely, to feed thirteen people. A quick and experienced rummage among the herbs for those most bitter. They let the grain from the bins run through their fingers to test its worth for bread. They perhaps discuss which wine to choose. They both know, Peter and John, that there is something about to happen, but what?
They bring their market bundles to the upper room -- empty, clean, quiet, perhaps with sun dashing across the floor -- and they begin to cook. What a lovely thought: these two men chosen to cook the Passover meal for all the others. This first act of "serving the rest." Of filling a room with the scent of baking loaves on a fire. Of lamb beginning to crisp. The room becomes more intimate now, enclosing within itself the specific service of two men hard at work.
Slowly, the other apostles arrive and take in the scene. Some are glad that John was cooking the lamb -- he was the best of them for that. Some perhaps watched Peter bake the loaves just right on the fire. Some tested the wine with a dipped finger. The room begins to take on the solemn joy of festival. Candles are lit. The room encloses them in its pool of light around the table.
One begins to hum a psalm. Another takes up the tune and suddenly they all erupt in a baritone splendor of praise. They begin to perhaps dance as David their forefather danced, and pull Peter and John, laughing, away from their tasks to join the line. Each of their hearts finds its place. They are here with the Master. Alone. As it began. No crowds. No one clamoring for healing, or to be heard. Just those chosen three long years ago, and called friends. They feel the warmth of it.
The memories begin to surface. Memories of fish multiplied, lake water lapping, miracles, the crush of crowds, oh, and that time He sent them out two by two and how frightened they had been at first. They speak of all the cures they performed, the words that suddenly came without their knowing from where. They compare stories and begin to boast of their exploits. One story begins to top another and voices rise to contest which one is greater than the rest. The room begins to feel all too human. Men left to their own devices.
Is this when Jesus entered? To the boasting of little men? Did He sigh patiently? Did His presence give off a peace that hushes argument to silence as He picked up a basin of water and a towel. In the washing of their feet, His silent admonishment that this is how it must be with them. The least. Those who serve.
He beckons them to the table. They stand with their loins girded as prescribed by Moses. They eat and pass the dishes. They pour wine. They say all the prayers of the feast. The calm of traditions kept descends upon them. Silence soon pervades the scene.
And here, at this chosen time, the Lover speaks. The Lover unburdens His heart with words and words tumbling, rolling like a beautiful sea of tenderness around and about their hearts. They float on it bemused, caught off guard by such tenderness declared. Did they weep? How could they not?
“Oh, how I have longed to eat this passover meal with you…do not let your hearts be troubled…in my Father’s house there are many mansions...I will come back for you…I go to prepare a place for you. I will take you to Myself…you are those who have continued with me in my trials, as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint you. It was not you who chose Me, it was I who chose you. I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. I no longer call you slaves. I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. Have faith in Me. Love one another..as I have loved you. You are my beloved…those given to me by the Father.”
All these words poured upon them who sat around a table. Those who knew they were not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal and were loved like this. They wanted to love in return as He loved. They wanted to be with Him always. They begged that He not be taken away. They ask the most heartbreaking questions: But Lord, where are you going? Why can’t we come with you? Lord, show us the Father? And slowly, slowly questions ceased. Silence once more -- a silence ruminating on a lover’s words.
It is then He takes the bread made by Peter’s hands. He takes a loaf and breaks it into twelve pieces. He pours a cup of wine to the very brim. He blesses both and says take and eat, take and drink. And they take the bread into their hands as He declares: This is my body. And they ate. What did they feel at that moment? It does not say. It is best it does not. The tryst is silent, particular to each heart. It is wordless ecstasy we cannot ever describe. God declaring His love for us, baring His heart to us. What CAN we say? Ever.
And then the cup. The cup of His blood passed carefully from lip to lip. This sign of the Covenant slipping down inside each heart to mark the lintels with the blood of the lamb. THIS the great Passover of soul.
What did they do after this? Did they sing in a joy that suddenly possessed them? Did they cry out canticles of praise. “Sing to the Lord for He is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea…” Were they just a bit giddy? We will never quite know. But we wonder.
One by one they follow Jesus out the door, for this was only the beginning of the tryst. Its suffering consummation was to come. But they did not know this yet. For now, they looked back at this silent, beautiful room and committed it to memory. So they could tell us. So they could remember what He said. So they could love us as they had been loved in remembrance of Jesus. So that one day, from their own hands, His body and the chalice of His blood would fill and nourish us all even to the end of time.
They closed the door and slowly made their way to the Mount of Olives in the darkness with the smell of bread, which was so much more than bread, still lingering in the air.