Peace in the Face of Death
The Last Supper by Simon Ushakov - 1660
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A very clean, easily identifiable picture of the last supper is before us. Jesus Christ is in the center with the disciple John to his left leaning close to him. Peter is most likely the disciple on the Lord's right side as the senior disciple.
The only other disciple clearly identified is Judas Iscariot. He is easily spotted as Ushakov draws him without a halo around his head. He has already agreed to betray the Lord. Annointing and blessing are gone from his life. His hand holds tightly the reward for betrayal. In the sack that he clutches are thirty pieces of silver, a handsome sum for making sure the Jewish leaders know who to kill.
Judas is different from the other men in the picture. His back is to the Lord and with a fleeting glance he is ready to leave the assembly. He is no longer part of the group even though he has been their comrade for three years. He will not stay to partake of the passover feast.
The other disciples are looking half at the Lord and half at Judas. They do not yet understand the full sense of Judas's betrayal. Jesus gives him a last glance. "What you must do, do quickly." What did the Lord mean in saying that to Judas?
The disciple to the right of Judas extends a hand to him as if pleading "don't do this my brother." But Judas is anxious to be gone. He wears a dark brown outer garment that will blend with the night and swallow him whole. He will soon by gone and will have become the most famous traitor in all the world.
Jesus remains perfectly calm with his right hand extended in blessing the bread and the wine. He knows all that will happen this night but he has no anxiety. The stage is being set for fulfilling the reason he was born.
Red is one of the main colors in the painting signifying Christ's blood about to be shed. Notice that Jesus wears red and the cloth behind him is red as well. On this night the Lord's blood will be poured out for all mankind -- yes even for Judas, even for you and I.
But green is the second main color in this painting. It is a symbol of new life, hope and a fresh start. After this night of red will come the dawning of a new era. Man will have a new relationship with God almighty and God in turn will pour out his Spirit upon men as his dwelling place.
God and man will start over. Even Judas has a chance to rethink his alliance with evil but his decision is firm. The dye is cast for him. Sin is about to swallow him whole. The greatest evil the world has ever seen is about to take place followed by the greatest good.
We'd expect there might be more excitement and emotion but Simon Ushakov captures the complete control that Jesus has. He will not be dragged to his death. He has already chosen to die. It's the reason he came to earth.
Peace reigns in this picture. God is in control despite the fact that for a moment it will seem like evil men have the upper hand. Jesus is certain of where he came from and where he is going. He is settled that his Father will take him through the night ahead and lift him once again to sit at His right hand. There is no need for anxiety, worry or frantic action.
The Lord indeed has set a path of peace in front of everyone of us. No matter what the night ahead holds for us we can choose to walk in peace knowing that our Father in Heaven has gone before us and will bring us through.