Leonardo Da Vinci’s depiction of “The Last Supper” is arguably one of the most famous pieces of art in the Western World. This masterpiece, painted in the late 1400s, depicts the hugely varied responses of disciples when Jesus dropped the bombshell that one of them will betray him. Immediately to the right of Jesus (the viewer’s left) is the “disciple who Jesus loved,” who appears to faint onto Peter’s shoulder while the other disciples react with anger or disbelief.
The “disciple who Jesus loved,” is thought to be the same John who authored (with the help of posthumous editors) the Gospel that bears his name as well as the book that contains his “Revelation” on the isle of Patmos. If true, to say that John had a flair for the dramatic would be an understatement.
John begins his Gospel with a hymn to Christ who was, is, and always will be. Throughout his Gospel, John paints Jesus as one who walks just a bit above us mere mortals. John is also numbered with Simon Peter and James as a member of Jesus’ inner-inner circle. In his apocalyptic book, John depicts Jesus as the superhero who saves the faithful from judgment and ushers in the fullness of the Reign of God. To me, all of this points to a special relationship between the disciple and his teacher, one of particular fondness and affinity.
Given this reality, the space between Jesus and John as Da Vinci depicts it is striking. A huge chasm is created in this moment by our Lord’s groundbreaking news. As much as I want to be one of the other disciples, loudly declaring my love for the Lord Jesus, it occurs to me that I often occupy that space. We are human after all and, as the hymn says, we are “prone to wander.” Our Lord knows that we possess the proclivity for the worst. Yet through his daily visitation and invitation to “take up our cross and follow,” he speaks to our propensity for the best. That space between us and him represents our ongoing journey towards full union with Christ, space we can only recognize when we hear the hard truth of Christ.
In what area of your life do you feel most separated from Christ? One of those areas for me personally is in the area of patience. I want what I want and I want it now. I struggle with waiting for anything. That’s probably why I love Chipotle so much (except when the line is long): great burritos in 5 minutes. AMAZING. Whenever I hear scripture read about waiting and patience, I see the chasm opening between myself and Christ. I also hear our Lord’s invitation to me, “come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will refresh you.” Jesus knows all about our troubles and brokenness, and yet he still invites us to come to him and become whole.
Where do you struggle in your relationship to God? Perhaps your family might start reading the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20.1-17) or Jesus’ Great Commandment (Matthew 22.36-40). Take note of where the words hit you and what that might say about the space that exists between you and God. Name it out loud, and then look for opportunities to do the thing you struggle with most. Look for opportunities to honor your parents, or keep Sabbath, or love your neighbor.
Jesus knows we are capable of the worst and he still sees us at our best. The trick is for us to go and do likewise.
A Prayer for Today
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
[Image credit: By Leonardo da Vinci – High resolution scan by http://www.haltadefinizione.com/ in collaboration with the Italian ministry of culture. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.]
Where do you struggle in your relationship with God?
Evelyn C Miller says
This is delicious food for thought; I will always see myself in this ‘space” from this day on!
Lindsay Hardin Freeman says
Well thought out piece! Thank you! I like the way new thoughts here are combined with classic insights. Moving. There are many words out there this time of year; this is definitely worth reading. Blessings!