To Choose

It’s dinner. The last one. And Jesus is here with his friends. The one who loves him. The one who hates him. And all the ones in between. Behind him is the juggernaut of all history, the weight of it pressing in on him. His life, His parent’s lives. The lives and failures and unexpressed hopes of generations. And he feels it. Feels what is behind. What is coming. The climax looming before him. There are only few hours left before then. A few hours until humiliation. Until the pain of a whole world is poured out upon him. It will come in the sticky darkness of death, melted onto the skin and into the brain and soul. But before that will come a hail of metal and leather, the puncture of thorns. And a desert of thirst. The gushing, dripping, seeping of blood. Those crucial hours are almost here. But now he eats. He must want to throw up. Maybe rant and rail and accuse and curse. The way I would. Let hatred loose, a verbal spew that lashes everyone. Eats into them with the acid of rejection. But Jesus passes by all of that, passes through these penultimate moments with his eyes fixed on the mission. On his Father. It is the last breath before the plunge into his final hours. And he spends it with his friends. Lets the remaining bits wash over him, into him in a series of freeze-framed experiences. The gurgle of water poured into a bowl. The audible slosh as he cleans the feet. Another teachable wrangle with Peter. And then a different bowl. Wine and bread and words about love and serving. Words that his disciples for generations will take to heart, wrestle over. And then there is John, leaning back, asking the question: “Who?” So Jesus tells and Judas leaves to commit his final theft. Not of money this time, but of a life. The sounds of laughter and eating and plates fill these hours. Grains of sand pour and pile, spill out of Jesus with grace. Of love.

The stunning fact is that Jesus knows, of course, perhaps has always known what would happen in these coming hours. He knows the defection of Judas, the denial of Peter, the scattering of friends. And still he loves. Patient. Accepting. Envisioning. How is this possible? The picture of this final meal drags me to an uncomfortable truth: that in every group of people, in every hand-picked dozen someone will kiss me on the lips and stab me in the back. Someone who once agreed with me will fail to speak, will ignore my phone calls. Someone will steal from me and rip me off. And when push comes to shove, some of them, my friends, will run away. Talk is cheap. And allegiance is for rent, scared by shadows. And the irony of it all is that in that same group of people I will be that someone. Robbing. Smiling with betrayal in my heart. Distance under my feet. Unrecognition. And yet…

And yet, God picks me. I don’t know why. I don’t know how he could. But he picks me. Picks us. Intentionally. Knowingly. He sits at our table and eats with us. Chooses to be with us. Jesus does this. He still does this. It is uncommon. Unnatural. Defies description and logic. To know and still to choose. This is the inexpressible, unimaginable, incomprehensible love of God. And words like “love” and “grace” are too small to describe this. To describe this quality in him. But they are all we have. Little words for a reality that strains the heavens and breaks our knowledge.