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Thursday 5 April 2012

Last Supper - Excerpt from THE FIFTH GOSPEL a Novel.

On the south side of Mount Zion, there stood a property owned by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, which they had given over to the Essenes of Jerusalem for their celebrations. Here, in an upper room called the cenacle, reached only from the outside by a staircase, Jesus gathered with his disciples for the celebration of the Passover feast.
The room glowed from the warmth of firelight and from the windows there came only a scant light, from that silver moon that rose in the ocean of black above. The tables, set like a horseshoe, followed the shape of the room, and were surrounded by divans upon which the disciples inclined. On the middle divan sat his master, he sat to his left, and on the right sat Judas with the rest dispersed here and there according to their fellowship.
The tumultuous events of the past week, had given way to a contemplative mood among them, and a renewed feeling of gloom, of foreboding, began to fall over those present with the oncoming night, made more real by the whispering of an unearthly wind that whistled around the walls of the houses, and made the trees shiver.
This wind recalled to John stories of that first Passover, and the sweeping destruction that was visited on the people of Egypt by the angel of death, passing over only those whose doors were painted with the blood of the lamb. A thought came to John,
A blood sacrifice had once saved the people.
He thought on this as the others ate and talked quietly among themselves, the women came to refill the cups with wine and the baskets with the unleavened bread. When his eyes fell on Christ Jesus he was taken by his radiant presence and another thought came, like fish glimmering below the surface of a stream:  
He is that image handed down from generation to generation. Jesus is the true Passover lamb! He must die to save Israel!
Full with this realisation he looked about him but realised that none of his fellows had seen it, they hanging on his master’s words.
‘I have desired to eat this Passover with you,’ he said to them, ‘before I suffer my sacrifice…for I say to you, that I will not eat again until the Kingdom of God has fulfilled its task in my body.’
He took a basket full with unleavened bread and gave thanks for it, and began breaking it into small pieces, and handed it to those present.
‘This bread is like my body, which I shall sacrifice for you. A time will come when you will not see me though I am within your heart. When you eat of the bread, made from wheat, remember, you will be eating of my body, which will have become one with the earth.’
Taking the jug of wine then, he gave thanks, and filled a jasper cup and said,
‘Drink this among yourselves.’
He lifted the cup high.
‘When you drink wine made from grapes remember, you will be drinking of my blood, which I have shed for you. Look at this cup. In times to come, when you shall not see me, take comfort, for I will be with you, in your soul, in the same way that wine sits in this cup.’ His countenance looked about the group. ‘I will be in your hearts, in all of you, even those who do not love me.’
‘We all love you!’ said Phillip.
‘You may say that, Phillip, but even now, one among you at this table, will betray me.’
John saw anxiety scurry over those faces in the group, like a light disturbs mice in a dark room. Whispers and looks, and wisps of glances, were exchanged and all around men fell into disbelief, moving their hands this way and that way.
‘Who is it Lord. Is it, I?’ one man after another asked.
At this point John felt as though he was in a dream. Quietly Lazarus-John, the beloved of his Lord, entered the room. To his mind he carried a basin, and a pitcher, and on seeing him, the others began to mumble and to argue among themselves, not as to the betrayer, but as to whom it was that was closest to their master. In his heart, John, son of Zebedee, felt no desire to be greater than the one who was raised from the dead. In fact, he felt a certain kinship with the beloved of his master. His raising, in itself, meant that some strange mystery was affixed to him, which John did not fully comprehend, but which he knew in his soul to be of profound significance.
In this dream, he saw his master lay aside his garments, and take a towel to gird himself. He saw him pouring water into a basin and brought it to the table, and no man knew what he was about to do until he knelt, and started removing the sandals from Andrew’s feet, to wash them. Andrew seemed astonished. All were amazed, as the master proceeded to the next disciple, and the next.
He continued to wash their feet, one by one, and while he did so he said to them,
‘Who is greater, the one who sits at the table or the one that serves him? Is it not he that sits at the table? I sit at the table and I serve those whom I love. For you are like my feet, and hands, and arms,’ he said to them, ‘what would I do without you? Just as the head must bow down in loving, humble service to all that lives below it, so must I bow down before you who are a part of me…’
He came to Simon-Peter and Simon-Peter, aghast, fell to shaking his head, ‘No! No! I shall never let you wash my feet!’
Christ Jesus looked up at him, ‘But Peter, my brother…if I do not wash your feet, then you are not a part of me.’
Simon-Peter was full of emotion then for it, ‘Lord! Not my feet only, then,’ he said, and put his feet in the bowl, ‘but also my hands, and my head! My whole body!’
There was a quiet murmur of laughter among them.
‘Your feet are the lowermost part of your body, they help you to stand on the earth,’ he said, wiping them with the towel, ‘When they are clean, your body rejoices. But your soul may also defile your body, if it is bound by passions.’
John came awake with a start and realised that he had been day-dreaming his master’s words to life. 
Christ Jesus continued, ‘For this reason, your soul must not be your master, but you must rather be the master of your soul, or you will pollute your body. All of you who sit among me represent various degrees of perfection…you, I can lead to the Father…for you are clean, and unpolluted…all except one whose soul has mastery over his body, and whose passions have taken control of him.’
The disciples looked about them again, not knowing what he meant.
‘He is the one whom I say, shall betray me.’
‘Who do you speak of, Lord?’ Simon-Peter asked.
Lazarus-John had taken a seat beside Christ Jesus, and was inclining his soul to his master’s words, and it seemed to John of Zebedee that his master had answered the question, for he heard these words:
He is the one, whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it
His master dipped a portion of bread into his wine then, and handed it to Judas, and this, being a most intimate and honoured act, made Judas hesitate.
Judas looked at him.
‘You have been given your wages, do it quickly,’ Christ Jesus said.
With eyes round and strange, Judas took the sop and put it in his mouth, and in a flicker, John saw the deathly vision of Satan reflected in his eyes, and Judas took his bag and was gone into the night.
The others thought that because Judas held a bag full of money, Christ Jesus had asked him to buy something for the feast, or had sent him to give something to the poor, but John knew the truth. In his heart he knew it, though he did not know how. Judas had already been paid for his betrayal!
When Judas left the upper room, Christ Jesus said,
‘Now the circle is made pure, for all that is selfish and full of passion has left it.’ 
After that, they ate the bread and wine without appetite, and gave thanks by singing a Pascal hymn, from the second portion of the Hallel. John’s heart was low. He did not wish to think on how the betrayal would come, or when.
After the Hallel, Christ Jesus stood and having found his mother said some words to her and kissed her on the cheek. John saw how his Lord’s mother near lost her footing for it.
When she was consoled, he returned to his disciples and said, ‘We go.’
Taking some torches, they went out into the darkness of night. Above, the hiding moon gave scant light and they were afraid.
It was a strict observance of the Passover to remain inside the safety of the home, for in the open no man was protected from the avenging angel of death. But John loved his master and trusted him and despite his fear he fell in with the others, and followed them into the chilly air. They passed by the gate north of the Temple and descended into a desolate part of the valley of Kidron. John realised how tired he was. The long week had made inroads into his body, and weariness now caused him to feel breathless. They   walked on, and crossed the swollen brook, and took the road that led toward Olivet, to the garden of Gethsemane.
His master told them, ‘Soon you will not see me…I will be delivered to the Levites and they will take me to the Gentiles and I will be crucified…’
The wind sang in his ears, and John felt wilted with terror for these words.
‘I will follow you!’ said Simon-Peter, stumbling in the darkness, ‘I will fight cheek and jowl with your enemies. You see, I have brought my filleting knife? Sharp too it is and no mistake! I am ready to go to prison, and to march into death with you!’
Christ Jesus looked at him in the mysterious blue light of that spring moon, ‘Put your knife away, brother…you say you will lay down your life for my sake and yet…I say to you, you will all desert me.’
There were gasps.
‘All,’ he said significantly.
‘Not I!’ Simon-Peter said, ‘This lot, may, but not I!’
He stopped to look at Peter, ‘Before the cock crows you will have denied me three times.’
Simon-Peter howled then, like a wounded wolf. ‘Not I! Tell me it is not so!’
Jesus was grim-faced and stern, ‘Satan desires to have you and take the best of you for himself as he has taken Judas. But I know, that in your heart you are full of faith, and for this reason I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail…I have prayed that you will stay with me, to help me carry my cross!’
‘I will carry it!’ said Andrew.
Looking to Andrew he said, ‘Yours shall be a different cross, Andrew, and for this reason it shall be remembered by all men…I tell you, this night, none of you will remain with me…you will scatter, every man to his own, and you will leave me alone for fear…But I will not be alone, because Christ is with me and through Him I will overcome the world!’
Christ Jesus walked on, breathing heavily, as if all things were now an effort for him.
Simon-Peter, who would have fallen to his knees after those words from his master, were it not for Philip and Andrew beside him, trailed behind, sorrowing, ‘Why did you say, that you would carry the cross, Andrew? Do you always have to better me…? I will carry it, by God! I will not fail you, master! I will not fail you!’ Simon-Peter called out.
Some of the disciples began to mourn. John’s eyes filled with tears.
Christ Jesus said, from his position ahead of them, ‘You are sad now, I know it, and I tell you, you shall be even more sad later, but your distress will be turned into elation. Have courage! Do not let yourselves be afraid, for fear will make you sleep, and I need you awake! Is it not true, that when a woman labours she is full of sorrow, because her hour is come, and then as soon as the child is born, she is full of joy? I will die, that is certain, but what is death if not a spirit birth? Death my brothers, is only semblance. I say to you, I was born from the spirit and again I shall leave the world, through death, and I shall return to the spirit, and I will live again!’
John had known it all along, but only now did the others understand that their master was indeed going to his death. To this was added the understanding, that his death would bring forth new life.
‘What do you wish us to do?’ asked Bartholomew, between tears. ‘Tell us, and we will do it…because we love you!’
‘As I have told you, I am like a man taking a long journey. I leave my house, and I command the porter to watch the gates until I return.’ He paused now to say to them, ‘You are my porters…if you love me keep watch! Do not let me find you sleeping…do not be tempted to sleep!’ he said it, and his voice seemed full of exhaustion.
Joseph of Arimathea had given them the key to his garden, which was full of olive trees and roses, and fruit trees and they had come here for contemplation, rest, and prayer during the last week. His master used the key now, to open the lock, and they entered into the garden where all seemed strangely evil.
Simon-Peter said, ‘Lock it again Lord, it will buy us time.’
‘Why should I buy time? The Wheel of destiny is set in motion, and all will be as it will be…you cannot change it…’ He took Simon-Peter’s face gently into his hands, and looked deep into his eyes. ‘When will you understand, my brother, why I have come to this earth? When will you see that I have not come to teach, or to heal, or to cause miracles…? I have come to die!’
This last word took all of his breath and he let go of Simon-Peter’s face and continued walking.
‘The hour of darkness is at hand, the people, the guards, the priests, they all have their parts.’
‘Does no man have a choice?’ Phillip said to him catching up. ‘What of the freedom you have told us about...are all things foreordained, so that nothing can be changed. What of those who will persecute you, do they not stand a chance, or will they be condemned forever to pay for it?’
He looked at him, ‘Until now, you have all been bound to necessity and you have not been free. You have not been free but you have believed that you are free, because you are trapped in illusion. What is to befall me soon is still necessary, Phillip, but after my death, you will have freedom and the possibility of salvation.’
‘Freedom from what?’ Phillip asked.
‘Freedom from the illusion of death,’ Christ Jesus answered. ‘I will die and overcome death, to save the world from illusion, to show all of mankind that after death, there is life. Then salvation may come, not only for those who love me, but also for those who are against me now, those who raise their hands to strike me, and those who come to take me to my death. Rest assured, although these men do not know me…although they may spit upon me, and call abuse, and wound me, they shall remember me, even after death, and this will prepare the way for them to come to me freely, in their coming lives.’
‘What did he say?’ said Andrew.
Simon-Peter, stunned by his master’s words, now lost his composure entirely. ‘Why don’t you listen Andrew! Must I always be your ears? He says that everything that happens to him is destined to be, but that after he dies his death will bring about freedom, so that even those who do not love him now, in the future, may choose to love him!’
When they reached a clearing bordered by trees their master said to them, ‘John, Peter, James, come with me, the rest may remain here…pray that you do not fall asleep, that you are not tempted to lose yourselves, that the world might know how I have fought to wrest men’s souls from the clutches of death.’ 
John followed Christ Jesus his brother James and Simon-Peter to a different place, deeper into the garden. Around them lurked the shadowed corners, and above where the moon came and went behind clouds. A damp, frozen wind, swept the trees, and wound around the shivering group.
What would they do without him?
Where would they go?
Behind them the others huddled together: Andrew and Phillip, Thomas and Matthew Levi, Jude and Simon the step-brothers of the Lord, and young James, the son of Cleophas, as well as Bartholomew. Those who had walked with him, and broken bread with him, and suffered with him all the deprivations of the last three years. 
Christ Jesus left the three of them in a small clearing. He would go nearby alone. He warned them not to fall to sleep.
They sat together, pulled their cloaks around them and looked at one another with dread-filled faces, for they understood with clarity, that the hour had come.They had been warned of it, time and again, and yet in their eyes was matched their un-readiness for it. Fear made a longing for the oblivion of sleep, a longing for the comfort of nothingness. Above, winged shadows menaced the moon and the wind was full of voices.
John’s exhaustion was deep. He remembered that such a feeling had come over him before, upon the mountain of spirit, when he had not endured the vision of his master’s glory. It struck him that he should not sleep again. No. But his eyes were heavy. He could feel a dullness rise upwards to wipe away his thoughts – like a dreadful guardian who bars the mysteries from those who are undeserving. Perhaps his will was unequal to sleep’s unstoppable force?
He looked at the others, they were already asleep.
He pinched his skin, he rubbed his eyes, but the sounds of their regular breath lulled him. He made a prayer in his heart for strength to withstand it, since he did not want to fail his master when he needed him the most! He told himself, he must stay awake and ‘watch’…and yet…how blissful the others seemed to him in their numb peace! Perhaps he could close his eyes for a moment…surely a moment would scarcely matter? How consoling it would be to rest, to forget the unpleasant and dreadful events that he knew would soon come; time enough to worry about them on the morrow.
He blinked. It was only one blink, and then came the sound of his brother calling through the darkness of the garden,
‘Get up! They come!’
Standing among his fellows now, with his mind in a fog and his mouth dry, he rubbed his eyes and saw torches, striking a path through the garden. He realised that with a blink, fear had drawn a frozen hand over his eyes and he had failed his Lord.


  1. Hi Adriana, here is the critical Gilbert again.;-) I compared your description of the Last Supper with the images I have from reading Judith von Halle's experiences on the actual event. It seems to me that what she saw and experienced is quite different from your descriptions. Is that correct or does my memory fail me? I know there is artistic freedom, but I think we owe it to Anthroposophy to be as correct to the facts as possible. Or am I really far off the track? Happy Easter to you too.

  2. Hey Gilbert, how are you?

    Thank you for your comments, I haven't read Judith Von Halle's description so I can't speak to its accuracy. I have stuck to Rudolf Steiner's Lectures on the four Gospels and Fifth Gospel and have tried to bring them together. In truth Judith Von Halle's work, as far as I know, is not endorsed by Dornach, so one cannot call her work, strictly speaking, mainstream Anthroposophy. Also, the stigmata does not necessarily give one a complete picture as Katherine Emmerich showed when she failed to see the two Jesus Children. Having said that there are many points of view to any particular mystery - at least 12, so I don't discount either Emmerich's nor would I discount Von Halle's had I read it, because I think no one can say whether something is truly accurate until they have seen all twelve and I haven't, have you?

    R.S thankfully added a fifth and people found it very confronting because it challenged their 'view' but open mindedness is one of the most important requirements in spiritual development as we know.

    Happy Easter to you too :)

  3. Thank you, Adriana, for bringing us this seminal moment through the eyes of John,one who's eyes were open. To envision ourselves among the 12 not only deepens our understanding, but brings the gospels to life through the centuries, and isn't that the experience of the true Christ - Christ here and now?

    I was deeply touched by Christ's words at the washing of the feet,'For you are like my feet, and hands, and arms,’ he said to them, ‘what would I do without you?' So it is, least we forget.

  4. I am very happy you have been touched by it Patricia.

  5. I'm so glad you feel that way Jackie! Thank you for your comments. I will check out the museum it looks wonderful! I would just love to Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in person!

    All the the best to you!