When they all sat down at the table together, they couldn’t have been more different.
Brought together by a sense of discontentedness with the status quo, they yearned for a better life. When the Movement found them, they felt oppressed—socially, economically, politically, and because of their faith. The promise of a new reality seemed possible, and these individuals fell in line with the hope that because of their involvement, the world would be forever changed.
And yet, their journey together had been bumpy. This hodgepodge collection of individuals, cobbled together for a common cause, came from assorted backgrounds and life experiences. They were working class, salt of the earth men. There were passionate patriots, red-faced commoners, and yes--those who were eager to spill blood. Some were traitors. Others were cheats. They were, in truth, a dirty dozen.
Their road to the table had been littered with awkward moments. There were doubts, professions of faith, miracles and setbacks. The men vied for attention, conspired to gain power, and argued with one another about who would ultimately sit closest to the center of the table.
Who were these people and what was their cause?
No, we’re not talking about the forefathers of our nation. We’re talking about the forefathers of our faith.
When Jesus’s disciples reclined at the table in the upper room on the night before His crucifixion, the dinner guests found themselves seated beside individuals they would have never otherwise associated. What brought everyone together was Jesus.
Despite their many differences, agendas, perspectives and politics, Jesus was able to bring everyone together. This was no small accomplishment. Only the presence of God Himself could pull it off. History is replete with examples of how we abhor the Other. The human condition testifies to the fact that we despise the differences that we see in one another, and that we will go to great lengths to wall ourselves off from those who are different from ourselves. We are grateful for the deep oceans that separate us from our enemies, just as we celebrate mountain ranges, national boundaries, and railroad tracks that seek to preserve our like-mindedness.
Jesus, however, confronted this all-too human inclination by calling followers who would have ordinarily been reluctant to call one another friend. And seated at the table with them that last night, this is what Jesus prayed:
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
God desires for us to be one. But how? Communion with God and with one another is only possible through Jesus Christ. In fact, our unity in Christ becomes the way in which we testify to the world about God’s desire to save the world through His son, Jesus.
Unity is possible because of Jesus Christ. Jesus is enough. The witness of the Gospel, and the teachings of Jesus, inspires us to seek unity with others because of, and through the grace of, Jesus.
But first, we’ve got to be willing to sit at the table together.
Brothers and sisters, this is not an invitation. It is Christ’s hope, Christ’s prayer and Christ's command.
Besides, Jesus is already seated at the table. It would be a shame to let him dine alone.