One of my favorite conversation-starter questions goes like this: “Imagine you were given the opportunity to travel into the past; what historic event would you choose, where you could be present as either an observer or a participant?” Another variation narrows the opportunity down to, “what biblical event…” or, my favorite conversation, “what event in the life of Jesus?”
I have tons of potential answers, much like the 25-plus scriptures included in Rebekah’s “top five” Bible verses! But invariably, and especially at this time of the year, I would choose to be a guest at one of the dinner parties Jesus attended; and today, specifically, The Last Supper.
Why The Last Supper?
Not just to hear Jesus speak, dropping those quotable quotes and one-liners with such mastery, wisdom, and wit, but to soak in the atmosphere, to watch him break the bread and pour the wine. Even, if I dare, to be an active participant in the conversation.
It had to have been a long meal, I’m sure of it. The evening can’t have been a series of quick events: a) foot-washing, b) monologue, c) prayer, and then off to Gethsemane. Oh, and don’t forget, “Everyone who wants to be in the picture get over on this side of the table…”
Here in America we’re used to the waiter (you remember restaurants, right?) delivering the main dish before we’ve had three bites of salad, then saying “are you done with that?” and dropping off the tab ten minutes later! But Jesus and his disciples lived in a Mediterranean country, where dinner lasts the entire evening. At my dinner party with Jesus there will be opportunity for serious conversation, time for deep reflection, and probably some penetrating questions from the Lord himself.
But then Jesus talks to me and it all changes:
“Welcome, Derek,” I can imagine the Master’s voice, “I am so glad you are here to break bread with us. But tell me, what is it about this evening that draws you in? What is it about this moment that you want to hold onto and take back with you into your own life?”
And I would look around the table into the earnest faces of the others and I would think about what the next few hours would bring for them and then (after the glory of resurrection morning) what they would experience over the next few years… And I would have to rethink my whole approach, the way this conversation with the Lord had played out in my mind, my glib sense of “take a selfie with Jesus and post it on my blog.” I would begin to accept the real truth – the truth that I paddle around the edges of the Jesus story sometimes, without having the courage to plunge all the way in.
And I would stumble on my prepared oh-so-clever answer for Jesus, I would end up saying something lame like, “I wanted to ask you a couple of questions I’d been wondering about…” And Jesus would smile kindly and ask, “Were the words John gave you not enough?” And, “Have I not made it clear?” And, “Be honest, Derek, what is it that you really want?”
And then I would – I will – smile back at him, disarmed, suddenly more at ease, not needing anymore to look the part or to sound wise. I will look into those dark, penetratingly intelligent eyes, and I will say – truthfully – “I just wanted to experience a deeper sense of your presence, Lord, so that I can tell the story to those who do not know you yet. I wanted to penetrate the walls of time and bring this illusive immediacy to the way I write. I am here because I believe… and I am here because I do not believe enough.”
Finally, remarkably, Jesus will place his hand on my shoulder as he prays:
“My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for [Derek, and for others] who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-24).
Yes, Jesus is enough – real enough, present enough, challenging enough – without a journey through time and space to Jerusalem two thousand years ago. He is present. He is willing to be a part of today’s conversation around the table. He is more than remembered, he is.
Please join with us this evening, live at 7:00, as we celebrate the first Last Supper (WFPC Videos).
May you meet him there also – DEREK