When we read the gospels, we can see that Jesus communicates on many levels. His Sermon on the Mount was heard by thousands of people. He had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them, he loved them, and he fed them. He later tells them that they came a second time because of the feeding that he had given them.
Then he had a smaller group. The gospels tell us about the 70 disciples that he trained and sent to preach through the villages of Judea. They preached, performed miracles, and returned rejoicing because God had entrusted them with these tasks.
Then there was an even smaller group. From the 70, he chose the 12. They were symbolical of the 12 patriarchs of the nation of Israel. They traveled with him for over three years and He poured himself into them. He equipped them to do all the things that the Father sent Him to do, including the preparing to die.
In the small group of 12 he had three that were even closer to Him – James, Peter and John. These three went on special assignments and had special revelations from God. They were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration as well as other important moments, and He tells them to keep what they have seen to themselves. He also sent them to prepare the Last Supper. During the great conversation at that dinner He told them that even though He is their Master (Lord), He is also their friend because of what he has revealed to them.
As they went to Jerusalem, the mother of John and James came to ask for a royal favor. She asked Jesus to grant her wish so that one son will be seated at His right and one at His left in the Kingdom of Heaven. He asked them if they are able to drink the cup that He will drink. They answer in the positive and Jesus replied that they will be able to drink the cup, but the positions in the Kingdom are reserved by the Father. From the three, James is the first apostle who drinks the cup of suffering and death. Peter drinks the cup by being crucified on a Roman cross, but asks that he will be crucified upside down. John is the only one who miraculously escapes every attempt on his life and dies in his own bed in Ephesus.
Jesus shared everything with his disciples – life and death. It is in this sharing that he told his disciples that he greatly desired to have His last supper before He died. This was not the time to have the multitude with Him, and this was not a time to confront His enemies; this was a time with those who have stayed with Him through everything. In the intimacy of this evening, Judas cannot stay and when Jesus Christ extended the piece of bread, he took it and left. John writes, “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night” (John 13:20). Judas left the light of the intimacy of Jesus and walked out in the darkness that enveloped him as he betrayed the Son of God.
It is in the intimacy of the table fellowship, 11 disciples chosen from the vast multitude, that Jesus revealed more of who He is and the plans that will unfold with lighting speed once they leave the table. He will be tempted and they will be tempted. He will overcome and they will be defeated. He will pray for Himself and He will pray for them. He will die and He will rise from the dead. They will die a thousand deaths in forsaking their best friend and teacher but as He rose from the dead, they will rise and no longer be afraid to die. They will be willing and able to die for Jesus and His eternal Kingdom.