Wednesday: Psalm 50, 52; Nahum 3.14-19; John 13.21-38

From: Kendall Vanderslice

I study commensality—the social dynamics of eating together—and so I read about meals almost every day, from articles waxing poetic about how the meal bonds people together, to theories about the propensity of the meal to reinforce social division. But in all that I read about meals, I never encounter anyone who hosts a dinner to tell guests, “Hey, so I know that you’re about to give me up to some folks that want to kill me. But first I just wanted to make sure you know how much I love you.”

This dinner between Jesus and his disciples is no Sunday after-service meal. Jesus has just taken off his jacket, gotten down on his hands and knees, and washed everyone’s feet. They’re reclining on couches and against one another, dining by lamp/candlelight. It’s intimate, everyone is vulnerable, they all feel safe. And then Jesus drops his news, “Hey, so one of you is about to get me killed.”

He’s not afraid; he’s not blocking the door so Judas can’t get away. He loves Judas; he loves the person who is about to give him up. At this intimate dinner, Jesus looks his enemy deep in the eyes and offers him a piece of bread. This love doesn’t keep him safe; Judas still goes ahead with his betrayal. And yet, Jesus doesn’t say, “Okay, never mind. I guess this loving our enemies thing is not working out as well as I’d expected. Time to defend ourselves.” He says, “Keep loving one another. Just as much as I have loved you—washing the feet of the person who’s about to get me killed—go on loving one another.”

That’s the only way, he says, that the world will know we are his followers. If we continue loving one another: loving our enemies, loving those who would give us up, laying down our desire to defend or to fight, and offering bread to our enemies. 

I’m convinced that food is at the center of reconciliation, so I bake bread and set tables to foster dialogue among people who disagree. Read more about my work at www.KendallVanderslice.com and www.simpleumc.org.