Friday, April 19, 2024

Servants of God

Have you seen the painting of the Last Supper? Of course, you know it's not realistic.

The painting depicts Jesus and the disciples gathered on one side of a very long table in a very big room, the food all spread out in front of them and everyone sort of picking at whatever happens to be set in front of them. 

If we're not thinking of the painting at this Table, we're thinking maybe of a more realistic picture, where the disciples are reclining at a table with Jesus, as they would have been in that time in history, laying on their side and nibbling on the food as they celebrate the Passover, perhaps with some servants milling around to refill things or clean things up. 

This is where it gets complicated. 

On one hand, we know that the meal didn't just magically appear on the Table. We know that Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him into the city to find the Upper Room and prepare the meal and the space ahead of time. And we would be foolish to assume that the plates and dishes just magically refilled themselves during the meal. Of course, there were servants. 

And of course, we know that in that time, it would have been socially taboo for the men to get up and serve themselves or refill their own glasses. That's what servants and women were for. 

Still on another hand, we know that Jesus had women among His disciples, that women traveled with Him and supported His ministry. 

Yet, we also have to confess that we know that God treated servants in Israel the same, largely, as the rest of the house. They were included in worship, and they were allowed to eat the Passover. So would we be talking, then, about two Passover meals - one for the family and one for the servants afterward? That seems unlikely; we would be talking about one Passover meal in which the servants would be invited to partake, as it was a meal holy unto the Lord and for the people. 

As someone who has spent more than a decade "passing the plate" in my local congregation, I think about things like this. I think about the servants who must have been in that Upper Room, about how it's so easy for us to forget about them, about how we can only wonder at what their role really would have been, about who these servants were and how they fit into the Table. About who was serving who and how the plates were passed and how the cups were filled and how the dynamics in the room were established. 

Then, I also remember that at one point, Jesus stood up, tied a towel around His waist, knelt on the ground, and became the servant to all of them. 

That is the social dynamic of this Table.  

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