I’m sure all of us have a friend somewhere in our lives that can be counted on as a support – and also can be counted on to diffuse tense situations with a joke or a jest. You know the person I mean? They seem to put people at ease with their sense of humor.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say – the older I get, the more I think Peter was that disciple– with a ready word, who knew what to say to diffuse difficult situations.
In the Gospel, Jesus walks up to Peter and announces he’s going to wash his feet to demonstrate a point. Peter can always be counted on to be the guinea pig. “No, Jesus,” he then says—”it’s not right. You won’t ever wash my feet.”
“Well then Peter,” Jesus says softly, “you can’t be a part of what I am building.” The disciples are all watching now. Maybe a little tense, since they don’t quite get what’s going on, but kind of sensing the importance of the exchange. “Well then!” says Peter, “Not just my feet and hands—but wash all of me!” And the tension is broken.
And when the tension broke — and everyone laughed– I suspect they were relieved. They needed the laughter; it had been a rough week.
Jesus knew he didn’t have much time left. It was only a matter of time before he was arrested for sedition. So he brought them to a safe place, a room upstairs in a safe house. And they could finally relax and rest.
There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing in the rooms upstairs. Did you think it was just the 12 and Jesus that were there? Probably not. They were celebrating the Passover. Who do you think brought the food– and the wine? Cooked the meal? Served the various courses? Cleaned up afterward? The disciples?
Most scholars believe that there were quite a few people present. Many hands make light work. It was a holy feast day, and everyone knew that what they were doing was holy work.
Then something happened no one expected. Jesus took one of the unleavened loaves of bread and tore it slowly in half and handed it to his friends. “Go ahead, take it. Eat it.” He paused. “This is my body.” Startled looks around the table. Some whispers in the kitchen as people tried to hear what was happening. “What did he say?”
Then Jesus took the filled cup with wine in his hands. “This is my blood–of the New covenant. It is my blood– poured out for many. From this time forward–whenever you drink it– remember me.”
Baffled, worried looks on the faces of the 12. Whispering in the kitchen. Tension and fear on many faces. There were lots of whispered prayers. “Please God, let us be safe. Please God, let Jesus not be arrested. Abba– father, help me to be strong. Lord, I love all these people– show us the way forward…”
There was only a little time left. What could Jesus say to them to get them through the next few hours, the next few days? Would all he had showed them be recalled? Would they be able to remember his teaching? Would they be able to see and build the kingdom? Only a few moments left. What should he say? What should he do?
Peter, as usual, said the right thing. “I will stay with you Lord, no matter what.” Jesus looked at his friend with great love and compassion. And great pain.
“Even you, Peter, will deny me. Before dawn—before the cock crows– you will deny me 3 times.” Peter couldn’t believe it. His face was both stunned and furious.
Jesus turned to the 12.
“The adversary will sift you all like wheat,” he turned back to Peter and said to him– “but when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
“I love you all so much.” Hands reached out to Jesus in support, and there were sounds of muffled crying from the kitchen. “You are good men, all of you. There are many things I could say, but only one is really important. Love each other. As I love you– love each other. Remember that love is what will set you apart from others. Remember that people will know you are my followers by the great love you show for all. Love for God, love for all neighbors– even those you can’t imagine are neighbors, and love for each other. Strengthen each other. You will need all of that support and love in the days to come.
I will be with you always.”