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Thursday, April 13, 2017

My Clearest Vision of the "Last Supper"

John 13New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.[a]It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[b] son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

What does a group of 13 men (Jesus and His 12 disciples) in the upper room look like?  Well, the picture above provides a clue.  But allow me to stop for a moment and explain to you that I'm sitting at home on what the church often refers to as "Maundy Thursday[i]."  This is the night that the church recognizes as the moment when Jesus did what you just read from The Gospel[ii] of John.  I was hoping to be with this group of men and their families but a major computer issue has had me redoing my taxes all day two days before the due date.
Although two are missing from the picture – me taking the picture and one who simply missed the moment – this is a gathering of 13 men this past Tuesday night at Urban Hope on the upper deck of a building redeemed from the use of local drug dealers and high ranking drug distributers (one of whom is in this picture).  We gathered in this upper room, the thirteen of us numerically equal to the original night with Jesus.  We read the above Bible passage, washed each other’s feet as did Jesus, had dinner together, as did Jesus, had communion together, as did Jesus and prayed together as did Jesus. 
Warning – Warning – The following is a run on sentence:  I have never grasped the sense of that original “Last Supper[iii]” as I did this night in the heart of the “Badlands”, (the unfortunate and inaccurate name given to this section of Philadelphia) – otherwise known as the City of Brotherly Love - casually led by the national director of CE National (who lives in a two room apartment on A Street), the parent ministry of Urban Hope, when thirteen of us experienced God like most never do.  Allow me to anonymously introduce you to this group of redeemed[iv] and delivered[v] men of God…
One is the father of the serial hugger.  He met nine bullets as no one should in his pre-Jesus days and now lovingly searches for and prays with homeless people when we go out to serve them.  Then there is a dad and local hospital chaplain/army reserve chaplain who provides Biblical council to all who ask.  Near him is a former high ranking drug distributer who used this same building (pre Jesus) as his building for housing his drugs, weapons and porn.  He invited Jesus into his life, rehabbed the building and now preaches Jesus on some Sundays.  Near him is the national director of CE National who has the time to call me and personally chat about stuff in my life.  Next to him is his relative who lives in Philadelphia.  Next to him is a man who pretends to be terrible at leading games for Kingdom Kids on Sunday afternoons.  Next to him is a man who I don’t know well but I’m guessing he’s awesome.  Next to him is a veteran of the Badland streets and my personal advisor if he feels I should duck as fast as possible.  The next man is our local expert on loving Jesus AND being Jewish, mostly because he does and is.  Then there is a man who shows enormous courage as he learns to read and prepares for marriage at the same time.  Finally, there is a soft spoken man whose peaceful nature exemplifies the peace of Jesus. 
Among all the somewhat expected lessons to be learned from such a night, I noticed this:  The “Last Supper” that original “Last Supper” night was in Jerusalem, a city.  As Jesus did His thing during this sacred[vi] night, there were totally unrelated sounds just outside that room.  These sounds of common everyday life had no choice but to infiltrate an outrageously sacred moment of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and leading the first “communion service.”  There were kids and adults just outside the window down on the street making all kinds of unrelated sounds.  They were talking and shouting this or that and not all of it was polite.  I’m guessing with a degree of understanding that I never had until 48 hours ago that there must have been a few first century equivalent versions of the “f word” and more floating into that sacred room that night even in the exact moment that Jesus was saying “This is my Body… Take and Eat…  This is My Blood…  Drink and Remember…” 
Imagine that!  God’s Words Spoken by God Incarnate[vii] sharing ear space with the common and occasionally vulgar words of local everyday life…  As it was meant to be…

To be continued….

[i] a Christian holy day marking the Last Supper.
[ii] a book of the Bible belonging to a set of four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ
[iii] the last meal that Jesus Christ ate with his disciples before his crucifixion, commemorated by Christians in the Communion ceremony
[iv] to pay for the sins of humanity with death on the Cross
[v] transitive verb to free or save somebody from captivity, hardship, or evil
[vi] worthy of or regarded with religious veneration, worship, and respect
[vii] having a bodily form, especially a human form

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