The world the New Testament was born into was a world where seating charts were everything. There wasn’t a higher form of fellowship than table fellowship at that time and where you sat at the meal was directly related to the honor or shame the host wished to recognize. There was a pecking order. The nearer you sat to the host the more honor you had and the further you sat from the host the less honor you were thought to have.
Greco-Roman dining rooms were called “triclinium” a compound word from tri (three) and kline (couch), literally three couches. It was a room that typically had three tables set up in the shape of a U where the host sat in the central position. The two seats on either side of the host were the seats of honor where the most honored guests were to be seated. Another sign of honor was for the host to serve one of the guests himself…differentiating that person from everyone else.
These two things come together in the Last Supper, delivering a powerful message of grace.
Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus 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, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.“
Here we find John is seated next to Jesus, the host and it hints at Judas sitting on the other side of him as Jesus doesn’t need to get up to serve him. This is further demonstrated in Luke 22:21
“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.”
We see again that Jesus and Judas are in close proximity, if not sitting directly next to each other. What is more, you notice in John 13 that Jesus personally serves Judas…another sign of honor.
All of this is entirely consistent with the rest of Jesus’ ministry where Jesus showed mercy, grace and kindness to all…even to his betrayer. What is equally profound is that Jesus invites all of the rest of us, who have also betrayed him at times, to the table in spite of our past but with a hopeful look to the future!