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The Last Supper, Joos van Cleve, detail
Throughout the Gospels, the disciples failed to understand who Jesus really was, the things he did and what he said.
The disciples and Jesus are out on the sea, the storm rolls in and the disciples are afraid of drowning. Jesus calms the storm and the disciples are even more afraid. Jesus says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus has fed the 5,000 and he and the disciples are out on the boat, but the disciples had forgotten to bring anything to eat and Jesus says to them, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” How did the disciples respond? They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? [Ya nitwits! — Fr. John’s commentary] Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear?”
Jesus tells the disciples that he must die and we have that unfortunate scene with Peter and the “Get behind me, Satan!” business. And then there is today.
They are gathered in the upper room and having their last supper together. Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Peter wants to know what he means, but apparently is afraid to ask, so he tells John to ask Jesus, “Who is it that will betray you?” John asks and Jesus responds, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Jesus then dips a piece of bread into the dish and hands it to Judas Iscariot and says to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Scripture then says, “Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out.”
Jesus just said, whoever I give this piece of bread to will be the one who betrays me! He dips the bread into the dish and hands it to Judas. Why then do the disciples not understand? Why, instead of saying that Judas went out to do the deed does scripture not say, “The disciples understood that it was Judas that would betray Jesus, so they pounced on him, and beat the living daylights out of him!” Come on fellas! Seriously?
Why did the disciples fail to understand who Jesus really was, the things he did and what he said? Answer: for the same reason we don’t understand who Jesus really is, the things he does and the things he says. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Much of who Jesus – God – is, was hidden from the disciples as He is hidden from us. To come into the full knowledge of God would be like walking into the core of the sun. It is beyond our current condition to fathom.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
So instead of understanding everything, God says to us, “Understand this,” and he stretches out his arms upon the hardwood of the cross. You don’t have to understand how it works, what took place, the nature of sin, the Holy Trinity, or why the disciples let Judas walk out and betray him. You only have to understand the “Why?” behind it all. What is the answer to “Why?”…. You.