John 12:2-3 So they gave a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
It was the end of the summer, as I remember it. A long table was set with candles. Music played and the sound of cicadas thrummed even through the closed windows. Eight to ten of us gathered around the table.
I do not remember food or the details of our conversation. I do remember the contours of faces lit by flickering flames. The fullness of real intimacy. A sense of longing for the hours to stretch long, and longer still .
This was a last supper of sorts. Kathi, the woman who had put up with a ragtag group of high school girls for the past year, was leaving. She had spent a full year of her life with us, taking us to and from school, on retreats, leading weekly Bible studies, and generally putting up with all of our 16-year-old drama. (Which was, as you may imagine, a lot.) I think she asked us about our dreams, our goals, where we saw each other in ten years.
I cannot remember the small dreams I might have shared around that table.Twenty years later, I'm not sure I am where I thought I'd be, but I am more than content. The words of the night are not what matter--the sense of intimacy and fellowship has carried through the years in my memory, one of my favorite dinners I remember.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Another time, another dinner. Candles because there were no electric lights, but maybe they would have used candles anyway. Friends reclining around the table for long hours.
This was not Jesus' last supper, but I think of it this way. For the day after this meal, he will enter Jerusalem. His friends did not realize what was ahead, but Jesus did. He had tried to tell them: I will be handed over and crucified. But they couldn't, or wouldn't, hear it. The next day begins the slow march toward the cross.
They reclined with him at the table.
A common question asked as an ice breaker: If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be? Christians, sometimes without thinking really, would say Jesus. I always roll my eyes at that answer, because it seems so church-y. I don't know about you, but there are plenty of places where Jesus does and says things in the Bible that make me uncomfortable. I might have to clean up my act a little, or clean my house a little more if he came.
But when I think of Jesus that way, I am not thinking of the Jesus who reclined around the table with friends. The picture we get of this night is that of intimacy and fellowship, the same kind of feeling I remember from my dinner with Kathi and the girls in my Bible study years ago.
There will be feasting in heaven, and I imagine that there might be room for both joyous, exuberant feasts, and more quiet, intimate meals. I think of these men who reclined with Jesus at the table, and of Jesus who says, "To all who are hungry, come! To all who are thirsty, come!"
There are places at the table for us. If you aren't sure you know the way, Jesus said that he himself is the way. There is not a formula or a map, but there is the person of Jesus, calling you into fellowship with God through his redeeming work on the cross. He took your place there to make the way for you, to make a seat at the table.
Come to the table. Come and eat. Let the house of God be filled with the fragrance of perfume, the light of candles, and the sound of rejoicing and intimate conversation.