In 1495 in a convent dining room in Milan, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci, dipped the bristles of his brush into paint and began a masterpiece high upon the wall. This began his commissioned work of the last supper, 15 by 29 feet, covering an entire wall. A known procrastinator, he finished three years later.
His art, on that occasion was not the only portrayal of Christ at the last supper. However, Leonardo’s Last Supper wins acclaim as the first depiction to show the disciples displaying real emotions. The scene records his interpretation of the disciples’ reactions to Jesus’ announcement that one of the twelve would betray him. Their collective countenances reflect questions, appall, and denial.
Over the years, the painting gradually deteriorated as paint flaked and dirt and grime settled upon it. Further damage occurred when a construction worker stood in the room behind the painted wall. Not quite aware of his exact location in the convent, he proceeded to open up a wall for a doorway. He chiseled out the opening about mid-center of the wall, pushed plaster aside, and when he walked through his roughhewn doorway, he discovered he had ripped out the bottom portion of the painting that showed Jesus’ feet beneath the table.
In Leonardo’s Last Supper, the disciples focus on the central figure of Jesus, very fitting. The apostle Paul wrote about that meal: “The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23).
Some Christians eat this “remembrance” supper each Sunday, while others do so at regular intervals or gatherings such as funerals and weddings. Each time Jesus meets believers at the table, the mutual time together offers opportunities for believers to look to the past, to the future and inward.
Looking back one might choose to remember the everyday Jesus, who brushed tears away with his fingertips, nurtured whole villages, or chucked children under their chins and held them in his lap. In addition, one might remember his ultimate sacrifice, his display of forgiveness to those who harmed him, and his call for his followers to forgive as he did.
Looking forward one might choose to pray for more workers as Jesus instructed, or pray for revival of goodness and honoring of God among humankind. Pray the movement forward that Jesus’ loving kindness could invade homes, churches, communities, governments, workplaces, and schools, so peace remains prevalent. Pray a better world forward where purity and peace prevails. Pray that Jesus becomes the standard for imitation not Hollywood.
Finally, during the meal with Jesus, look inward for traces of betrayal of the best friend you could ever have. Search to find out if Jesus’ example is the standard for your personal behavior. Explore your thought life. Does pride reign there, or humility, considering others before self?
Like the construction worker, we can chisel away at the image of Christ in us, until we no longer resemble our Savior. Consider this: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelations 3:20). Written to believers, not unbelievers, what’s the key to answering his knock on our doors? From relationship and feeding on the Holy Bible, know his voice, his prompts, his way, and always leave the door unlatched for easy entrance.
Happy Palm Sunday.
Hunger for Humility (12): “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)