Monday, June 11, 2012

At The Table

At our Bible study last Wednesday, we continued our look at Peter and his relationship with Jesus. It was clear that prior to going down to Jerusalem, Peter and Jesus had begun to grow closer and the bond of an intimate friendship were being strengthened. However, upon arriving in Jerusalem, things began to change. Peter and John were given the task in Luke 22:7-16 of making preparations for the Passover meal, what we have come to know as the Lord's Supper. The disciples had no idea that this would be their last time together with Jesus. The famous painting of Leonardo DaVinci capturing the Last Supper is an inaccurate reflection of the actual set up. Jesus and the disciples would have been reclining at the table known as a triclinium. "Tri" indicating three sides and "clinium" meaning to recline. The place to the right of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "honored guest." The place to the left of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "intimate friend." On the far side of the table opposite these two special places is where the servant normally sat. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, (John 13:23) occupied the place of the honored guest. Judas Iscariot, Jesus' betrayer, occupied the place of the intimate friend. This comes as a surprise since intimate friends are typically those we trust and with whom we have a close relationship like Jesus and Peter had begun to establish in Capernaum. So, where was Peter? Surprisingly, he was at the far side of the table occupying the place where the servant sat. What was Peter feeling? Perhaps confusion and a sense of personal betrayal and insult. I can imagine him thinking to himself,"I don't get it! I thought Jesus and I were friends! Jesus even stayed at my home in Capernaum after leaving His home in Nazareth." Perhaps this prompted some of Peter's resistance in allowing Jesus to wash his feet, aside from the fact that such a menial task was the work of slaves. Disciples would perform all sorts of tasks for their Rabbis, but loosing sandal thongs was expressly forbidden. And a Rabbi would never do such a thing for his disciples! However, then comes the final shocker in Luke 22:31-34 when Jesus predicts Peter's coming denial. The interesting point is that although Jesus remarks that Satan had asked to sift all of the disciples like wheat (22:31), He turns to Peter and specifically tells him, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (22:32) Peter's place at the table in some ways foreshadowed just how much Jesus truly valued him. Jesus told His disciples when they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, "..Who ever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and who ever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)  Upon discussing these passages in our study group, one of the ladies asked the question,"Where would you be at the table?" It was a question that has challenged me and gives all followers of Christ something upon which to reflect. If we are honest, we would probably prefer to be sitting next to Jesus as the "honored guest" or "intimate friend." Would we really be content sitting on the other side of the table as the servant? Although John was the beloved disciple, Peter's friend Jesus specifically prayed for him. And indeed Jesus' intercession gave Peter the power to strengthen his brothers and take the lead in Acts 2:14-41 at the birth of the church and subsequent spread of the gospel. So remember, as servants of the Most High God, we don't bear a mantle of shame but of power and grace because our Lord intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
Praise the Lord!
Pastor Sheree

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