Walking in the streets around Jerusalem this evening is exhilarating. I love this city.
There is the smell of fresh unleavened breads, herbs and roasted lamb coming from the open courtyards of the houses.
You can hear the sounds of wine being poured into cups and the singing of hymns of the Passover meal coming from the open windows of homes.
All this reminds me of wonderful memories of my family, friends and faith—celebrating the history of our Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. Having to work on Roman tax business today, I miss being at home and plan to return there later tonight.
Lost in thought, I do not expect the door to my left to burst open as a man knocks me down running out of the building.
I look up to see him, a large man, unhurt by the collision; he just turns toward me and scowls. It’s dark, but I can see the anger in his face. His eyes pierce my soul; they are evil eyes, as if the devil himself is peering through them at me.
I’m afraid. As I stand back up, I fearfully step back quickly.
He then throws something to the ground by my feet, turns, and walks away determinedly up the hilly street toward the Temple District of Jerusalem. I can hear the noise of loose coins in his pocket as he takes long, heavy steps.
Shaken, I try to gather my senses. Out of curiosity, I pick up the object he threw on the street.
It’s a morsel of bread that had been dipped into something dark red.
Questions run through my head: Could that be blood on the bread? Had he stabbed someone in that home and ran away? Does the victim inside need help?
I look at the open doorway and see a set of steps leading to an upper room. There’s light at the top of the steps. Instinctively, I quietly ascend the stairs to peer inside hoping to help the victim.
My fears subside quickly as I hear men calmly singing the psalms of Passover. From the darkness of the stairway, I can look into the room without being seen. By the light of candles and oil lamps, I see there are about a dozen men celebrating the Passover supper around a large table. I’m relieved no one seems to be injured. After my quick glance around the room, it occurs to me that I know some of these men.
Surprised, I step closer to the room’s entrance, hiding behind a large water basin and some towels that are used to wash the feet of guests.
Yes! The Man at the head of the table is the One whom I met by the lake in Galilee. He is Jesus of Nazareth—the Teacher and Miracle Worker who healed so many blind, deaf, paralyzed and sick men, women and children.
Yes, also at the table is Levi, my fellow tax collector. After he began following Jesus as a disciple, he resigned from our unpopular profession and became known as Matthew. He introduced me to Jesus and his fellow disciples at a dinner in his home. Because of Jesus’ teachings, I changed my ways and taxed everyone fairly without personal gain except for my minimal commission.
As I peek to see the nine others gathered around the table, I recognize each one by name. It suddenly occurs to me one of Jesus’ disciples is missing—the same man who left the building in such a hurry and knocked me down. It was Judas Iscariot! Jesus had chosen him to be one of His trusted disciples. Why was he so angry when he left this supper?
From the darkened doorway, I see Jesus take bread in His hands, say a blessing, break the bread and give morsels of it to the others at the table. I’m too far away to hear everything, but I think He is saying: “Eat this…this is My body.” Next, He pours a cup of red wine and likewise says a blessing and gives it to the 10 others to share, saying: “Drink from this cup…this is My blood.”
What? How can He say these things? They are just bread and wine—morsels similar to the one I picked up in the street. I do not understand what is going on and decide to leave.
Just then I notice that while the men are passing the cup of wine to one another, Jesus turns and stares at the entrance. Does He see me? I hope not. I’m not invited or properly dressed for this event. I certainly do not want to disturb anyone’s Passover meal. So, I carefully creep down the stairs and quietly close the outside door.
No one is in the street now except me. I look at the morsel Judas discarded that I had held in my hand all this time. Instinctively, I eat it. After all, Jesus probably handed it to Judas, so it should not be thrown away for roaming dogs to eat. It just seems to be the right thing to do.
As I continue to walk down the streets of Jerusalem, I strongly feel my life has been changed by these experiences. I am looking forward to going home tonight to commemorate the Passover meal with my family.
I should meet with Matthew next week to tell him I saw Jesus and him at this event-filled supper and ask him to explain what happened and what it means.
A story by Ken Kozy based on the biblical descriptions of the Last Supper