The last lamp lit, they sat together for the meal. Twelve men gathered together in a guest room. A table had been prepared, customary for this day. The men looked at each other. Their lives had been less than ordinary. They had seen and lived what they could only describe as miraculous through one of their own: the thirteenth.
He sat in the midst of the group, unpretentious and unhurried. Smiling, he gestured for them to join him at the table.
They called him Teacher. Rabbi, in their language.
He was nondescript. Average. Nothing physical would draw the eye to him. He could glide through a crowd unnoticed if he so wished.
But who he was (and is) the soul finds irresistible.
He’d traveled the sun-scorched sands with these men. Taught many hundreds, thousands of those who chose to hear (and some who did not), gave aid to people in need. He spoke often in parables, entwining truth with real life. He obeyed the God of his forefathers, praying often and seeking guidance from above.
But this night was different.
The men at the table sensed a shift, a deep-down tremble that comes when the spiritual meets the physical and begins to rend it apart.
A pittance of thirty pieces of silver had been given.
A pithy bribe for a greed-bitten soul…who now waited at the very same low wooden table for the unleavened bread to be passed. The men broke the bread and listened as their mentor, teacher, brother, and friend spoke in a gentle voice. He spoke of peace and remembrance.
They ate together.
Wine was poured, passed, sipped.
The same reverence was shared; from one who was love personified and one who bore hate. The thirteenth man knew his betrayer sat, talked, ate with him that night.
He knew, yet he gave no harsh reproof. No condemnation fell from his lips. No confrontation took place. To the surprise of those present, and those who came afterward, he did instead as he always had.
He did something that has never failed to astound scholars, priests, teachers, students, those with and without faith.
He did something amazing, something I have always struggled to understand.
It’s something I struggle daily to do on my own. I long to, but I am often too heartsore. I am too attuned to the world around me and its evils. No matter how many tears I shed, how much good I attempt to do in order to make up for this failing in my soul, nothing can outweigh this burden. I do not even know where to begin.
Start with one ache at a time, they tell me.
Yet when I focus on it, all I have are more tears and shame.
He did back then what I long to do now.
He offered only to forgive.
And that is the true meaning of love.