The Ministry of Presence
We talk about time in a similar way we talk about money: we "spend" it. Like the cash in our accounts, our time is limited and it is always used up faster than we expect. Uncomfortably faster most of the time. Like money, time is a valuable resource, so we know that where a person spends her time shows what she cares about.
Even though Jesus said this in the context of money I think it is fair to say that it works for the currency of time also: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21 ESV) Where we spend our life-time shows what we value, who we love, and where are heart really is.
In the last week of his life it is surprising to me to see how often Jesus is spending his life "reclining at table" with small groups of people. He is showing where his heart is: to be present with people. They would get to see how he radiates grace and truth in his laughter and his teaching around that table, the way that he leans in to listen to someone's story about their day even if it seemed trivial to the rest of the table, and how that his commitment to them for that entire evening showed that God does not anxiously move on to his next appointment like we do. He was present in a way that those people would feel the full weight of his personality. He showed the the gospel lived out in his words, but also through the overflow of his heart among them.
Betrayal at the Table
"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8 ESV; emphasis mine)
There is a danger in committing to someone or to a group of people enough to spend your life on them: they might hurt you. The more I get to know someone and the more I spend time with them, they "imprint" on me. I am not sure how to explain that other than to say that people not only grow on me, but affect me. When they hurt, I start to hurt. When they celebrate, something rises up in me to celebrate with them! Every person in whom the Spirit of Jesus lives does the same to some degree because that is the very heart of Jesus that beats in us.
So, I would imagine that when the woman poured expensive perfume over his head at dinner, he had compassion on her, smiled at her lavishness, and saw the reality of how his grace affected her enough to love him back. I would imagine that the selfish, willful misunderstanding of the disciples affected him in a similar way. He could not help but be affected. One moment joy and the next moment disappointment. This is the beautiful reality of life spent around the table with people.
When Jesus and his disciples "reclined at table" to celebrate the Passover, Judas had already sold Jesus to those who counted Jesus as an enemy. Judas did not betray Jesus and then to safely run away to watch what happened, but he came back and boldly sat at the same table as Jesus, eating the same meal as Jesus.
Eating together like this was a sign of enduring friendship. Sharing a meal was a statement to everyone at the table (and those who would hear of it) that "these people are as close to me as family. These people are people I commit to sharing my life with." So, when someone at the table breaks that trust... oh how much deeper is the betrayal!
Jesus felt every bit of that betrayal. His sinless heart was not burdened with the callousness of sin so he took in everything deeper than we can experience. It was one of many wounds, but it was a wound that affected him, disturbed him.
Grace Flowed From The Woundedness
But, in this woundedness, Jesus showed who he really is: full of grace and truth (John 1:14). In truth, he spoke up and called out that someone would betray him. The hidden sin would be revealed! But, in his grace he didn't push Judas away. As a matter of fact, he continued to share the meal with him until Judas decided to leave.
What did Jesus think in those moments? What did the disciples see? What did Judas feel as he walked out of the door into the night, breaking the fellowship with Jesus he had enjoyed for years?
Jesus spent his final few days and, especially, his final few hours around a table sharing a meal with those he had affection for. He spent that time on people (not on agendas), showing the character of God in a very real, very personal way. In the final time he could spend before his crucifixion, Jesus showed where his heart was: with the people he loved.