I can feel your broken heart, O Lord, as you watched the fingers reach for food in your final Earthly meal with your disciples. You saw the gulf between them and you. Some banally argued over rank and prestige while one tabulated his silver reward. All missed your foot-washing portrait: Brawls over crowns and garlands are for Gentile leaders and would-be CEO’s and partisan kingpins ruled by the latest opinion polls. Such spats are worse than irrelevant. They’re spiritual tear gas. They blind us to your vision of the self-effacing servant with a towel: The first is last and the last is first.
I think of your disciples even more. They were like an amnesiac church committee feuding over who cleans the altar linens, forgetting the icons representing you on the altar itself. Perhaps they viewed this meal as a routine Passover – a scene of rote we’ve-been-here-before prayers: Bless you, Oh God, for the deliverance of our ancestors from Pharaoh’s slavery … Now hurry up, Jesus. We’ve grabbed the temple – Israel’s political, economic, and religious hub – so stop the peace talk. Mount the war horse. Become a militant Messiah. Overthrow our current Pharaoh, the Roman Caesar.
They couldn’t see this Passover’s distinction. They were actually performing what other Middle Eastern feasts symbolized: They were eating a meal with God. Their frustrating Messiah was the Lord who freed their ancestors from slavery. They couldn’t see that the first Passover meal foreshadowed this one and that this meal foreshadowed yet another: the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Their minds possessed no interpretive grid for your strange words, so did they did not hear.
We say that in sympathy. We confess that the tear gas blinds our Western 21st-century eyes. We see things through our own self-focussed, libido-riddled grids: Former obligations are now options and former privileges are now rights. We’re so fixed on our urges and desires that we cannot see our genuine needs. Our thinkers talk as if our technological savvy has altered our DNA. We live longer, travel faster, and gather billions of information bytes in a single keystroke. Therefore, we’re a different species. They’ve squeezed the spirit out of our bodies and shrunk us to a fleshly machine while hollowing the universe of deity – and they call such a vision more “sophisticated.” Our meetings with the reaper are shuttled into quiet rooms and secluded homes – and talk of eternity is dismissed as irrelevant. The man with a towel is a schmaltzy picture at best, offensive at worst.
But that meeting with the reaper inevitably comes – and we discover, in those rooms and homes, that we’re still the same species as our ancestors. Our issues were their issues after all.
Yet we take heart, even within the gas’s haze. You give us the same grace as you did the original disciples – even while your heart breaks for us. We pray that you will magnify your grace all the more. Widen our parameters so we can see your vision. Wipe our slates clean of our assumptions. Sync our hearts with your broken heart so we’ll feel your redemptive grief. We’ll then walk your path to the cross, experience your death to sin, and rise up with you in your victory over death through your resurrection. The gas will clear and we will see with your eyes and we will dwell in a more brilliant joy than we ever imagined.