In Mark’s account about the preparations for the Passover meal, there is a significant shift of language. The text begins by saying: “The first day of unleavened bread, when the Passover victim was sacrificed, the disciples of Jesus tell him, ‘Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal?’ …” (Mk 14,12). However, when it is Jesus who gives the instructions to the owner of the house, he speaks of “dinner with my disciples”; the liturgical allusions disappear and there is no longer any word about unleavened bread, lamb, bitter herbs, biblical sentences or texts: only bread and wine, what are essential in a family meal.
He wants to have dinner with his own and for that they need to find a room in which there is space to be together: that is the only goal that remains and that Luke emphasizes even more strongly: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you” (Lk 22, 15). The “with you” is more intense than the commemoration of the past; the ritual gives way to the elementary gestures made between friends — sharing bread, drinking from the same cup, enjoying each other’s privacy, entering the ambit of confidences.
His relationship with them was long-standing: they had spent a lengthy time walking, resting and eating together, sharing joys and rejections, talking about the things of the Kingdom. He sought their company, except when he left alone to pray: within him there was a powerful attraction to solitude and at the same time a compelling need to rely on his own as friends and confidants.
At first they believed they deserved it: after all they had left everything to follow him and were proud of having taken that step; it seemed natural that the Master take sides for them, as when they were accused of taking heads of grain on a Saturday and he defended them (Mk 2.23 to 27); or when the troubled sea almost sank their boat and he ordered it to be quiet (Mk 4.35 to 41); or when they returned exhausted from going around the villages and he took them to a lonely place to rest (Mk 6.30 to 31).
However, the things he said and the unusual behaviors he expected of them proved too much for their way of thinking and feeling, their desires, ambitions and discords, and a gap apparently unbridgeable was being created between them: at times he felt like a stranger to them, come from a distant country speaking in an incomprehensible language.
But although none of them was able to bridge that gap, Jesus always found a way to do it. The day when he admired the faith of those who let down the paralytic through the roof (Mk 2.5), deep down he was recognizing himself — he was also removing obstacles so as not to be separated from his own and nothing prevented him from continuing to rely on their presence and their company, as if he needed them like his very breath.
They behaved such as they were, busier with their petty squabbles of power than with listening to him, more interested in immediate concerns than in welcoming his words, slow of heart when it came to understanding them. But he had immunized himself against disappointment: he loved them as they were without being able to help it, he excused them, continuing to rely on them.
“All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be dispersed” (Mk 14,27), he said during dinner. He spoke neither of guilt, nor abandonment nor betrayal: they were fragile friends who were stumbling and one can not blame a disoriented flock when it is dispersed and lost. He knew they were going to abandon him soon and that if they had not been able to understand him when he spoke to them of suffering and death, neither would they be able to confront it by his side, but on his shoulders lay no burden of blame or recriminations. Free of any demand that they correspond to his love, he was sure that, in the same way that his abandonment to the Father would give him the strength to face his hour, this strange attachment he felt for his own would be stronger than his disappointment at their slowness.
And he would continue considering them friends, even when one of them came to the garden to give him a kiss.
By Dolores Aleixandre, published on Religión Digital