Last night I went a Maundy Thursday service at a church that I’ve never been to before. I’d seen photos of the church before but had never visited myself. I didn’t really know what to expect. And for those who know me personally, they would appreciate that it took me “twenty seconds of insane courage” to walk through those doors initially.
And I was immediately taken aback by what I saw. Their beautiful altar had been relocated to the middle of where we were sitting. And surrounding the table were twelve chairs. And when we came to participate in communion we did it in groups of twelve at a time, sitting at the table and slowly consuming a chunk of bread and a glass of grape juice.
Part of the focus for a Maundy Thursday service is often The Last Supper, a remembering of that final meal that Jesus ate with the twelve disciples, that final meal that Jesus ate with his friends.
And that’s what it felt like. Each of the twelve of us who sat at the table last night were a friend of Jesus, sharing with him in his last meal. The sadness and fear and anxiety hit me in that moment, that this was Jesus’ last meal and he knew it. He knew that his life was about to end and this was his last meal before he would die. And I had been invited to join in with this ‘last’ experience.
The experience was particularly more poignant for me as tomorrow, March 31st, will be the 5th anniversary of the passing of a family member. And many of my strongest memories, the ones that played in my mind as flashbacks for months following his death, are of his ‘last’ experiences. Of the last time that I sat in his unit and heard him talk cars. Of the last time that I rode in a car with him. Of the last Christmas that I spent with him. Of hearing of his last breath.
And last night I experienced one of Jesus’ ‘lasts’. My heart hurt for what Jesus must have been feeling, the fear and anxiety about what was to come, the sadness for who he was leaving behind.
‘Lasts’ suck sometimes. I could write here about how Easter Sunday means that they don’t, that instead ‘lasts’ can become ‘firsts’ and point to something new and better. And I don’t want to discount that. But I think it’s also important to sit in and acknowledge that ‘lasts’ can suck, they can be unfair and they can hurt. And Jesus knows that.
To share in the Last Supper last night hurt. My heart ached for what Jesus must have felt. My heart ached for what his disciples would feel in the coming days. I was sitting at a table with Jesus who, being human, knows what it means to hurt and feel scared and miss people. I was sitting at a table with Jesus, who’s own heart aches in solidarity with ours.