The Morning of the Last Supper
There can be life without death but not death without life, just as you can get east by going west but not north by going south.
Today’s Office of Prime is short and different from the norm. So many prayers omitted, including the Martyrology—a daily listing of saints and martyrs who died on the following day. Perhaps because the death remembered tomorrow is the death of Life itself and, because of it, the death of death itself. For if there is no life, there can be no death.
About 1,989 years ago, events that were set in motion at the beginning of time began playing out for all to see. What had been hidden became obvious and the thoughts of many hearts were revealed. An itinerant preacher whose teachings and growing popularity threatened an elite status quo, was hunted down and put to death.
Thus ended the short but interesting life of a man from Nazareth in Galilee. For two days, the elite status quo would congratulate itself for having put down a threat to its authority. The elites, no doubt, felt free of a burden despite having been conquered years earlier by a foreign and pagan empire, which imposed a military ruler over the elites’ traditional government.
The Roman governor allowed the Jewish leaders to maintain its relative social distance above the ordinary citizens of Palestine, so long as those Jewish authorities paid tribute to their Roman captors. The Romans had authority and mean to dictate terms to the Pharisees and Sadducees, making this ruling class mere chattel to the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Jesus of Nazareth was a simple carpenter-turned-preacher who cured the sick, sighted the blind, and resuscitated the dead.
Yet the elites seized on Jesus rather than throwing off their captors.
This episode highlights the importance men place on their relative status. We learn from studies of consumer loyalty programs that people are more upset about rewards offered to members below them on the program hierarchy than about superior levels being placed above them. If you are a Gold member, you don’t care so much if the brand adds a Platinum level above you as you do about the Silvers beneath you being granted a favor that was formerly reserved for Gold members.
So, the Pharisees and Sadducees looked up to their Roman masters for help fending off the “threats” posed by the followers of Jesus the Nazarene. Conspiring with the Romans, the Jewish leaders put Jesus to death.
The elites are always more threatened by the masses beneath them than the cruel masters above them.
This story also reminds us of the dangers of ending the story too soon, before all the subplots have been resolved.
For, though the elites managed to convince their master-elites to exterminate this itinerant and inconvenient preacher, His story was not finished. Subplots remained unresolved. Villains had not been punished, and captives had not been set free.
On the morning of the day of the Last Supper, the words of the prophets, which the Jewish elite knew by heart, but never understood, were reaching the zenith of their promises. A traitor had come forward to betray the Son of Man whom the elites saw as their enemy.
And the table was set for the most consequential series of events in the long story of the human race.
Today’s Office of Prime is short and different because this series of events, begun at the Last Supper, is the answer to the question posed by the youngest male at the Passover Seder, “Why is this night unlike all other nights?”