I benefit from my dialogues with Muslim friends here in Turkey because of the insight I gain into myself, my own culture, and my own Christian tradition. One Muslim friend recently set me thinking about the Last Supper. We were wondering together about the psychology of that event as the last meal of Jesus with his disciples. If you knew that a certain meal with someone special in your life was to be your last one together, what would be in your mind? How would you behave?
We read various things the disciples did and said at this last meal. In the Gospel of John, we see that one person walked out -- Judas. And Peter kept interrupting Jesus, asking Jesus what he was doing and why. In Luke’s account, the disciples spent the meal arguing which one of them was the greatest. And Simon Peter passionately pledged his unwavering loyalty, a promise he promptly broke. According to Mark, each disciple indignantly denied that he would ever betray Jesus.
It seems that there continued to be “issues” between Jesus and his followers, right through their last meal together. Jesus couldn’t trust all of them. He had to lecture them again on humility, even putting it into physical form with foot-washing. And the disciples most likely were still wondering where was this kingdom was that Jesus had been preaching about, and what role they would play in the dramatic events that Jesus kept promising would happen.
The disciples continued to remember that Last Supper. In hindsight, they must have been devastated by their behavior at the table. They dealt with it not by blocking it out but by recalling that last meal as a terrifically meaningful moment in their lives -- not because it was pretty but because it was their last and climactic meal, the one that concentrated the story of their lives with Jesus and their struggles to cope with him and each other, with their disappointments and their hopes. It became part of their identity.
I’m grateful to my Muslim friend for opening a door for me to think about these things.
Ken and Betty Frank serve as missionaries with the Near East Mission, assigned to the American Collegiate Institute, Izmir Amerikan Lisesi. Ken is a teacher of math and works in the area of Christian-Muslim Relations. Betty serves as the librarian and also works in the area of Christian-Muslim relations.