Two Reflections on Betrayal, Denial, and Forgiveness

peter judas betray deny

Extended Quote from Destination: Known, Readings for Holy Week in the Upper Room Disciplines (2012) by Thomas R. Steagald
Sometimes our familiarity and haste we bypass verses of scripture. Because we already know the story of who “betrayed” Jesus, our attention in this passage [John 13:21-32] jumps quickly ahead to the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, the piece of bread, and Judas’s leaving the meal to meet with the religious officials.

But what of verse 22: “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking?” …

Could it be that each of the disciples is humble enough, uncertain enough, to know that given the right set of circumstances or stressors, any one of them has it within him to do what Judas would in fact do?…

For only those who love Jesus can betray him. His enemies might hate him; others might disregard or ignore him; but only those who sit at the table can get up and leave, and only those close enough to kiss him can give the kiss of death. That Judas is the one who guided the soldiers to Gethsemane on fresh-washed feet, his breath smelling of sacrament, is a particular instance of what is possible for all disciples.

It is unfortunate that we so quickly rush to blame Judas, so quickly leave him and this verse of scripture behind; for indeed, this Holy Week calls us to examine ourselves, to hear Jesus’ prediction, uncertain of whom else he might be speaking.

Forgive me, Lord, when I turn away from you and your purposes. Amen.

Matthew 26:21-35
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” … Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

The Seat of Greatest Grace by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket.
I have the nails.
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me.
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love’s empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.

Be sure to also check out Denial, by Steve Garnaas Holmes

The Last Supper Experience

2011 upper room 3

I’ve received communion many times in many different ways, yet I was surprised how powerful and profound it was to share holy communion in this way, a way similar to the first Christians. The peaceful way everyone helped one another, the simplicity of breaking bread and passing the cup, the intimacy of seeing faces young and old gathered around the table listening to the story and praying together. Every group was different, yet meaningful. I cannot encourage you enough to offer this experience to your congregation and community. – Lisa <><

For a pdf of this script, click here Last Supper Script- The Passion Week Experience

Last Supper Experience
Setting:

  • Simple room, low lighting or candlelight
  • Lots of cushions, pillows, and low benches for people to sit upon around a long floor level “table”
  • Table setting includes 2 cups of grape juice, plates of flat bread or pita, 2 “welcome plates” of hummus-flat bread-black olives- figs-shredded chicken, 2 baskets of dark red grapes
  • Pitcher of water, bowl, and towel as props for the disciple who tells this part of the story
  • Background music loop (7-8 minutes in length) with a cue for the group to be dismissed. We used a solo guitar selection and added the sound of a person knocking on a wooden door as the cue.

Sources:

  • The prayer said before sharing communion is based on a traditional Seder prayer.
  • The words spoken by the Pastor are adapted from Word and Table II from the United Methodist Hymnal
  • The disciples and pastor have their lines memorized

Participants gather in a welcome room and are divided into groups of 10-12 persons. It’s important to experience this in a small group setting. As participants leave this room and enter “the upper room”, they encounter “disciples” dressed in biblical garb standing and seated around the table. This could be all 11 disciples or a representative group. The disciples welcome the participants and encourage them to sit with them and between them around the table. “Servants” offer baskets of grapes and the “welcome plates” after everyone is seated,  placing the trays and baskets on the table. The disciples adlib discussion appropriate to Biblical times with the guests for a few moments while everyone snacks.

2011 upper room 2

DISCIPLE ONE:
Welcome to the upper room. The story of Jesus’ passion begins here, at a meal with those who were closest to him. Many of our meals were happy occasions, but not this meal, not tonight. Jesus had many serious things he wanted to share with us. He knew his death was coming soon.

DISCIPLE TWO: speaks while pouring the water into the bowl
Jesus began by taking a bowl of water and a towel and washing our feet. We were very confused by this because this was usually done by a servant. After Jesus washed our feet he told us to love one another and serve one another as he had just done.

DISCIPLE THREE:
After the meal, Jesus prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Please repeat after me:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
King of the Universe,
Who has saved our ancestors from Egypt
and who is saving us.
May your will be done
so your name is glorified in all the earth
and so all people may be moved to worship you with one accord.

DISCIPLE FOUR: speaks while picking up a piece of bread
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
King of the Universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

DISCIPLE FIVE: speaks while picking up some grapes
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
King of the universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine.
Amen. end echo

PASTOR (who is dressed as one of the disciples):
Then Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave it to those seated around the table and said,
“Take, eat, this is my body broken for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

Pastor breaks a whole piece of pita in half. It is shared around the table till everyone has a piece. The pastor and other costumed participants hold their bread to encourage others to wait rather than eating it right away.

The Pastor lifts a cup of grape juice and continues
Then he took the cup, gave it to those seated around the table and said,
“Drink from this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant.
Poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.
Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”

The Pastor dips his/her bread into the cup and then eats the bread to model communion by intinction for the others. The cups are passed around the table so everyone may participate.

Moments of silence until the cue in the music is heard

If persons are continuing on to another experience (ie Gethsemane), the Pastor or another disciple dismisses the group with the following.
After this, they arose from the table and departed for Gethsemane. Go in peace.

As people leave, words of blessing and peace are spoken by the disciples. The servants clear the table and refresh the food as needed. The water in the bowl is poured back into the pitcher to be used again with the next group.

The next group enters.

upper room 1

Upper Room Set, Sketch 1 designed by Nicole Sallee. We used the space between the front pews and the platform in our sanctuary as the location of the Upper Room.

 

upper room 2

Upper Room Set, Sketch 1 designed by Nicole Sallee. We used the space between the front pews and the platform in our sanctuary as the location of the Upper Room.

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The Last Supper Experience was originally offered as the second of five interactive experiences in The Passion Week Experience, a walk through, Holy Week event conceived and written by members of the Worship Arts Ministry of Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, Florida. It would be equally effective as part of a series of prayer stations or other intimate worship experience.

adaptation and compilation © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Prays

The Prayer of Jesus by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus Prays

Based on John 17 (NRSV) 

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the haunting Korean song O-So-So (Come Now, O Prince of Peace) throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing, #2232) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists play softly as the reading begins and continue throughout the reading. This song is especially effective when accompanied by acoustic guitar and djembe.  

ONE VOICE
At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 1 twice

ONE VOICE
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 2 twice

ONE VOICE
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 3 twice

ONE VOICE
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 4 twice

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Click here, for a devotion and another worship resource based on this scripture passage

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet

Byzantine mosaic of Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the Monreale Cathedral. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theatre: Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Based on
John 13:1-17, 34-35 (NIV)

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the first verse of The Servant Song throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing #2222; CCLI # 72673) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists continue to play softly during the readings.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,

SIMON PETER
Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

JESUS
You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

SIMON PETER
No! You shall never wash my feet.

JESUS
Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

SIMON PETER
Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!

JESUS
A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.

NARRATOR
For Jesus knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

JESUS
Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

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Click here, for a devotion and poem based on this scripture passage
Click here, for another worship resource based on this scripture passage

Click here, for an incredibly powerful reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on the steadfast and sacrificial love of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection entitled Victory.

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.