Jesus: "Hey, John. The one who dips from this cup will betray me." ... "Well lookie there, Judas..." Peter: "Is it me?" Jesus: "Judas, what you do, do quickly." Peter: "IS IT MEEE???"
Or something like that. I have often wondered how all that talking and predicting went on and everyone seemed so naive. It always seemed that everyone except for John was deaf as a stump. Until... I started a great book a while back by Edersheim called 'The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah' Edersheim is an amazing Jewish historian that brings to life all of those Gospel narratives with historical data. To me, this little mystery is now solved...
So here is how it probably worked. Of course it never worked the way we see it in Da Vinci's famous painting. The Pashal table was usually a low-to-the-ground Eastern table. It was raised a bit to avoid ritual defilement. The Disciples would have then reclined on pillows sitting on the floor. It was custom to recline at the table, lying on the left side and leaning on the left hand, the feet stretching back towards the ground, and each guest occupying a separate divan or pillow. Pretty relaxing arrangement I would say. No where near as stuffy as the cruddy church steel chairs and rickety fellowship hall tables we decorate in the Baptist Church.
So now we can get a good picture of how the table looked.
As far as the arrangement of the table. Jewish documents are explicit as to that of the guests. It seems to have been quite an established rule that, in a company of more than two the "Head Hancho" or Head-in this instance of course, Jesus- reclined on the middle divan or pillow. We know from the Gospel that John occupied the place on His right, at the head of the table. So the "Head" was actually in the middle of the table, not the end of the table. So Da Vinci at least got that right.
This is the REALLY interesting part. The chief place next to the Master would be that to His left, or "above" Him. In the strife of the disciples, when they were arguing over who would be the greatest, this had been claimed, and it is believed to have been actually occupied, by ... Judas. This explains how when Jesus whispered to John, at the end of the table to Jesus's right, how to spot the traitor, none of the other disciples heard it.
It also explains how when Christ would first hand to Judas the sop, which formed part of the Paschal ritual, exciting special significance. If you are Star Trek fans, Judas would have been "Number 1", second in command. Lastly, it accounts for the circumstance that, when Judas, desiring to ascertain whether his treachery was already known by Jesus who he knew could see beyond the physical realm, dared to ask whether it was he, and received the affirmative answer, no one at the table knew what had passed. So no, they weren't deaf. This could not have been the case, unless Judas had occupied the place next to Christ, to His left, the place of chief honor.
As regards to Peter, we can understand how, when the Lord with such loving words rebuked their self-seeking and taught them of the greatness of Christian humility, Peter would have, in his eagerness of shame, rushed to take the LOWEST place at the other end of the table. This would finally explain how Peter could beckon to John, who sat at the opposite end of the table, over against him, and ask him across the table, who the traitor was. The rest of the disciples would sit wherever they would want.
I just love this kind of stuff. It brings the Gospels to life and enriches my Spirit.