Who Had the Place of Honor at the Last Supper?


We are continuing our meditation of the last Passover meal that Jesus and His disciples ate together the night before He was crucified. As they were all reclining around the table, the Lord spoke about the one who would betray Him:


21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him." 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this (Luke 22:21-23).


The apostle John gives us more information on this part of the conversation:


21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon (John 13:21-26).


Each of them was bewildered as to who it was. None of the disciples were suspicious of Judas until Jesus revealed it to John at the table. John was reclining at Jesus' right, with his head leaning against Jesus' chest (John 13:25). This position was not the place of highest honor; the person to the left of Jesus was granted that seat. It is doubtful that Peter was in the place of honor since he could only whisper to John to ask Jesus who the betrayer was (John 13:24). We can't be sure, but Judas was likely seated in the place of highest honor at the table to the left and back of Christ. It would have been difficult for Christ to reach any other part of the table if He was reclining on His left elbow and side. With His left elbow on the mattress, Jesus reached onto the table and dipped His bread into the dish, and gave it to Judas.


This seating arrangement explains why Judas could say to Christ, out of earshot of the others, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you" (Matthew 26:25). How Judas got this place of honor is not clear, but it seems highly likely that he sat in the position of honor to the left of Christ. I wonder how Peter felt about his demotion and not being in the pride of place. Perhaps the seating arrangement started the argument around the table: "A dispute also arose among the disciples as to which of them would be considered the greatest" (Luke 22:24). We'll look at that thought tomorrow.


God will often put His servants through the Promotion Test. If you have ever wanted to be used by God in a way that brings life to others, you will be tested by others promoted over you. They will be noticed and thrust forward, seemingly leaving you behind. How you respond to this test reveals a lot about your character. Can you trust God when others are promoted ahead of you? Do you push yourself forward to get the best seat? Any legitimate promotion comes from the Lord. “A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). This test is one of the most difficult to experience for one whose passionate desire is to be used by God. The servant of God is sometimes left on the shelf as a test of his character. The arrow that God wants to use in ministry runs straighter when it is left longest in the quiver:


He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away (Isaiah 49:2-3).


Are you still in the quiver waiting for God to use you? The wood of the arrow must go through many straightening and hardening tests before it can be used effectively by the Heavenly Archer. I pray that you would come through the character tests and serve Him faithfully. Keith Thomas


Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 59. The Last Supper