The Table: A Story Retold

Simon Ushakov's icon of the Mystical Supper.

Icon by Simon Ushakov.

From the humble room came soft sounds of celebration: voices raised in familiar song, prayer, murmured questions and answers, even broken by tender silence. These men were, so very literally, close to Jesus. They had walked the same road; the dust he washed from their feet had brushed his own as well. They called him Teacher; he called them friends. One leaned on him as they reclined at table, close enough to hear a heartbeat. Their hands received broken bread from his still-whole hands. Their fingers mingled in the bowl.

He looked around the room and he loved them, noticed in each individual face the details that have faded from collective memory. He knew what he had seen in them when he called them, and he knew what they would do to him in the next few days. His heart held it all: how they’d slip into sleep while his tears fell like blood, deny knowing him in the flickering light of a pre-sunrise fire, say hello and goodbye with a horrific kiss. And still he loved them.

Their fingers dipped bread into the bowl together. He shared the earthiest of foods with them. He begged them to remain with him. He refused to be anything less than a man, to shield himself from a broken heart. Knowing what fools they were, he trusted these fools. Yes, he called them his friends.

The room was small enough for thirteen and big enough for millions. Whenever I do this – eat, serve, share – I must think of these sinners shoulder to shoulder, invited to share a meal they didn’t deserve. It was so much more than bread and wine. It was forever fullness, unreserved forgiveness, the love in his eyes meeting theirs across the table.

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