One by one, twinkling stars appeared in the sky as it grew dark. Thomas snuggled into his bed as the sounds of the day slowly quieted.
He peeked at his grandfather who was settling down for a nightcap in his rocking chair. He knew that he was supposed to be falling asleep, but he just couldn’t. Turning over, he squeezed his eyes shut and waited for sleep to overtake him. As the minutes went by, he was still wide awake. All mice should be in bed at a decent hour and it was getting long past that time.
The squeak of the rocking chair let Thomas know Grandpa was still awake.
Thomas turned over and lay still. He watched as his Grandpa rocked back and forth, back and forth looking into the night sky. His soft ear twitched every couple of seconds.
“Having trouble sleeping, my son?” his grandfather asked in a quiet voice.
Thomas blinked. How did Grandpa know he was awake? Softly, he mumbled a reply.
“What’s keeping you awake tonight?”
“I don’t know. Just can’t sleep.” Thomas turned over to face his grandfather. “Could you tell me a story? One from the time when you were young?”
“Don’t you ever get tired of hearing those stories so often?” he laughed.
Thomas jumped up. He took his blanket with him and walked over to the rocking chair. Grandpa’s lap was warm underneath the blanket as he eagerly waited to hear a good story.
“Which one tonight? The one about your father and the chunk of Swiss cheese? Or the one about your father and the neighbor’s cat?” Grandpa glanced down his grey nose and over his small reading glasses, awaiting Thomas’ reply.
“No, not those,” he replied. “I’ve heard those a million times. I want you to tell about the time when you were a young mouse. I don’t hear too many of those. You always tell the adults about those times.”
“Oh,” said Grandpa as he continued rocking and gazing intently out the window at the night sky.
“Well, I guess you are old enough now to hear of those times.” The silence grew as he continued staring out.
Finally, he cleared his throat. “I guess I could tell you about one particular night, about the one meal that I think of often.”
“Yeah, that one.” Thomas nodded eagerly.
“Well, it was when I was a young mouse. I wasn’t much older than you are now. In fact, it was on a spring night very much like this…….
“Every now and then, a group of people ate their meals in the topmost part of our new home. I loved it when they came to eat. I never failed to get some good eats on those days.
“They lounged on their couches and spoke of many things. I could rarely keep up with their discussions, but, then again, I was more interested in the bits of food I could find.
“There were always at least twelve men who ate together. Many familiar faces came and went, but these twelve men were always present. Their leader always dropped a few extra crumbs for me. He always acted as though it was accidental, but every now and then he’d catch my eye and wink ever so slightly.”
“Grandpa, what was he like?” Thomas eagerly asked.
“Oh, it is hard to describe,” he replied. “At times, his laughter would fill my entire heart. At other times, his sorrow would break it. He was a man with deep emotions. I have never again encountered such intense emotions. I loved to see a twinkle in his eye as he told a joke that made everyone laugh.
“His friends were a mixed bunch. Listening to them talk, you could tell they were from various areas of the kingdom. From what I heard, a few were fishermen and others used to work for the government. It seemed all of them gave up their jobs just to hang out with this one man. I thought that was a little strange, but what was I to say about these creatures? I was there for the food.
“This one particular night, they were all eating as usual. But that evening was different. It was a special night in their religion, a night in which they were remembered some special event that had occurred several centuries before.
“Every action was symbolic of this great “escape.” Everything held such meaning for them. The entire meal was a solemn event. There was very little joking going on that night.
“But the seriousness went beyond the religious meal. Looking into the leader’s eyes, I could see this meal meant more to him than it did to the others. He seemed to know something they did not.
“About that time a piece of bread distracted me and beckoned me near one of the table legs.
“As the meal progressed, I noticed a sadness fell upon the leader. This time, the usual twinkle in his eye seemed more like unshed tears. I forgot the cheese in front of me as I intently watched the scene in front of me unfold.
“He spoke in such a quiet voice, yet it seemed to carry out the windows. Everyone turned to look at him. He said one of them would betray him. All of a sudden, every man around him broke out in chatter, stating loudly that it could not possibly be him. He raised his hand with great authority and said it was true and, that very night, the man who washed his hands in the same bowl with him would be the one to do it.
“I cannot begin to describe the looks on their faces as they glanced down at their hands. Each one of them realized that he had shared the bowl.
“They looked at each other, wondering who could possibly commit such a horrid act.
“But one man in particular caught my attention as I watched the scene. He had been rather fidgety all night. Very much like you are, young Thomas, when you’ve ventured out without permission and barely made it back. He could not be still and his eyes kept darting about. That is, until the leader spoke those words. While everyone else began to raise their voices and move around a lot, he remained stone still. His eyes got wide, and his breathing was almost nothing. As I watched, he moved closer to the leader and rather nervously said, “Surely, you don’t think it is me!” He even laughed a little at the end.
“The leader turned his clear dark eyes directly onto him and very quietly said, “Yes, I know it is you.” As he said those words, he handed him a piece of bread that he had dipped into the wine. I don’t think anyone else heard those words because of all the noise around us.
“The look on the man’s face was devastating. He was as still as he could be. It was as if he was unsure of what to do next. The leader then told him, “Go, and do your deed quickly.”
“It was only then that the other man blinked and quickly ran out of the room.
“The sadness in the leader’s eyes grew heavier as he looked around at the remaining men who were still so engrossed in their talking that they never even noticed the other man’s abrupt departure, or at least they didn’t seem to think much of it.
“I was so intent on watching all this that the crumbs on the floor went untouched by me. My father would have gotten me good for letting such an opportunity pass me by, but there was something about what I was watching that seemed so much more important.
“The leader then addressed all the remaining men and said the time was coming that all would be fulfilled. It seemed that the men were in the same boat I was and just weren’t sure what he meant. He said he would only be with them a little longer. He said that where he was going no one could follow.
“One man who always seemed to be in front of the others spoke up and asked why he couldn’t go since he was willing to give up his life for him.
“The leader looked over at him and quietly asked, “Would you really give up your life? In fact, before the rooster crows by morning you will have denied knowing me three times.” The man protested, but the leader raised his hand and quieted them all down.
“He passed around pieces of flatbread. The bread was symbolic of the event that happened long ago.
“But he said the strangest thing! He said the bread was his body, broken for them.
“The other men looked at him strangely as they ate. He passed a goblet of wine around and said it was his blood, poured out for them. As they all drank, they grew even more quiet as though they sensed something was going to happen that would change the rest of their lives.
“The leader ended the meal with a song and led them all to a garden a little way out of town.”
“What did you do, Grandpa?” Thomas asked in a whisper.
“I stood still for the longest time,” his grandfather replied. “I don’t think I even took a breath. Very slowly, I gathered the crumbs before the women came to clean. I stuffed them all into every pocket I could find, though my heart wasn’t in it. My thoughts were on the last thing he did to me.”
“To you?” Thomas asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “As he got up from his seat, he laid down the remainder of the bread for me and ever so softly whispered, “This is for you.” I never got over that moment.”
“What happened to the man and his friends?” the youngster asked.
“Well,” he continued. “I heard from several other friends of mine who were there and saw much of it firsthand, that he was betrayed.”
“By that one man?” Thomas asked, sure he was correct.
“Yes, by that one man,” the grandfather said. “But that is a story for another night, my child. The night is growing late and you need to sleep.” Grandpa tucked Thomas into bed and kissed him on top of his head.
“Grandpa, what does that night mean to you?” Thomas asked as he yawned.
“I discovered love can go deeper than anyone can possibly imagine, even for a little mouse like me,” his wise grandfather replied.
Want to read the real story? It comes from the Bible and is about the last meal that Jesus Christ ate before His death and resurrection.
If you are interested in reading the first-hand accounts of this event, look in the Bible at Matthew 26:20-35, Mark 14:17-26, Luke 22:14-34, John 13:21-38.