The Table - Part 2 by Heather F.
The Table- Part 2 An Invitation to Serve and be Served Most of us are familiar with the part of the Last Supper where Jesus served the disciples by washing their feet. But prior to that, Jesus had asked his disciples to go and secure the location of their meal and to make preparations. “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.” Matthew 26:17-19 We see in these verses that the invitation to the sitting at the table with Jesus started as an invitation to serve and then was followed by an opportunity to be served. Some cultures are naturally much better at this idea. When I first moved to Asia and began having local friends over for meals, I resisted their offer to help prepare the food and wash the dishes. Where I come from, you never let your guests wash dishes- you’d be a bad hostess if you did! But in Asia, it is a part of the DNA of hospitality- this idea of mutual service and helping one another. Friendship isn’t meant to be this lopsided exchange where one person does all the work and the other person receives. That leads to unhealthy, co-dependent relationships. If you find yourself only serving or only being served, that’s not friendship, it’s entertainment. The kind of friendship that Jesus models means that we both have something to bring to the table. I think about the disciples that night, working busily to prepare this special meal that they would share with Jesus. They probably argued over where Jesus would sit and who would sit closest to him, since that seemed to be a bit of a theme for them. When Jesus showed up, they probably proudly showed him to the table they had set for him, thinking that they had really done something. And sometimes friendship looks like setting a place for a guest in such a way that lets them know they belong as soon as they walk through the door. But we have to be careful, because our culture and society has taken self-sufficiency and labeled it “service.” If our “service” is more about our own pride and saying, “look at what I can do all by myself,” we have missed the mark. That kind of counterfeit “service” is more about us than the people we’re serving. The kind of service Jesus modeled wasn’t about doing it all himself. It was about seeing a need- even the most lowly, unpleasant need- and meeting it.
“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.” John 13:4-5 In the disciples’ aim to serve Jesus, they were only thinking about what they could do for him- the guest of honor. So when he took off his cloak, wrapped a towel around his waist, and started washing their feet? That was not at all what they had pictured. They resisted his act of loving service to them. Why? Because it takes humility to let someone help you. It takes an admission that you actually can’t do it all and don’t have it all together. And that can be hard and look messy and we don’t always like that part of relationship. But when we come to the table both to serve and to humbly let others serve us, there is something holy that happens in this tender, sacred space of belonging to one another. Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet. But Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” (John 13:8) Jesus was telling Peter that true friendship, a true sense of belonging to one another only comes through service. If we want to push past superficial, surface-level relationships and get to the deep, life-changing, belonging-to-each-other kind of friendships, we have to come to the table to serve and be served. Join us next week when we look at Jesus’s second invitation- an invitation to vulnerability.