This is Part 1 of a four-part series leading up to Holy Thursday. Each day, three disciples who were present at the Last Supper will be highlighted. It is partially inspired by the Unity teaching of the Twelve Powers.
I am sitting here imagining the Last Supper. It is first-century Palestine, in a room with a simple, wooden, rectangle table where Jesus and 12 disciples are seated. There are no chairs, and everyone is sitting on the floor. It is a dirt floor, and the room has a low ceiling and a narrow doorway. Since houses were often arranged around a central shared courtyard, I imagine I’d hear voices in the streets—voices of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—“bumping into one another.” Some are friendly, some hostile … children as well as adults … probably a few religious conversations, yet I’m guessing much of what I am hearing is highly secular, more about life in general.
Families are gathered around the water cistern, filling their earthen vessels and catching up on the day’s activities. Perhaps the call of livestock—donkeys braying, the bleats of goats and sheep, and clucking chickens—echoes in the distance. The traditional aromas of bread baking as well as spices of cumin, coriander, mint, and dill, waft through the air. Maybe the sight of wine and smells of fermented grapes ignite my senses as the glow of oil lamps fills the view outside the small window of our room.
As I imagine the 12 in this place, I wonder what the conversation would have been. I can never know, but I’d like to think at some point Jesus is telling the disciples what each has meant to him, how they have supported him, how his life has been made more abundant and meaningful because of their friendship the past few years.
I’d like to think each disciple also represents someone in my own life who demonstrates similar qualities. Who is Peter in my world, or Judas, or Simon? We don’t navigate this world singularly, so who are the 12 who make up my own “disciples?” Who walks this journey with me, time and time again, through my own crucifixions and resurrections?
Peter, let me speak to you first. I want to make sure you know what a powerful demonstration of faith you are. You have embodied this, spoken of it, and brought faith to life for me. Unbeknownst to you, I have watched you intently as you came to understand that faith isn’t something that arrives one day with a giant thud, but rather as a faculty that grows, expands, and comes to life when invited.
It is you, Peter, who has always made sure I felt welcomed wherever we have been, even among strangers and foreign lands—oftentimes not even knowing where our journey would lead us! In the same way, you have welcomed your own doubts, fears, and guilt, yet remained true in your heart to love your God with your whole being and to love your neighbor.
You have at times been impetuous and strong-willed, yet courageous beyond measure. You made peace with challenges that have come our way and have remained steadfast in knowing faith directs each of us to express God as generosity, gratitude, love, harmony, and life. Rather than faith being a set of principles, dogmas, or creeds, you have shown me that it becomes the activity of trusting and committing to a constant listening to the eternal voice.
You, Peter, are the reminder of staying harmonized with the place of grace within each of us that does not change. Your presence has taught me that faith is not absolute. Rather, my faith absolutely knows, and at the same time asks me to remember that I don’t know at all. Faith simultaneously involves a connection with the immensity of Infinite Spirit and a feeling of the intimate touch of God. Before I leave this world, Peter, I want you to know this is who you have been for me, and the world is better for it.
Sweet, gentle, strong Andrew … You were the first of the 12 … I extended my hand to you, and you said “yes.” A strength like no other is what has been your foundation, and therefore, mine. I could never have walked this journey of the last few years without you. How many times did you hear my frustrations and upsets with those who would not help the less fortunate? How many times did you see me weep for those who were unwilling to accept the love we so freely offered? How many times did you silently witness my own doubts and fears, and then gently whisper the words I didn’t even know I needed to hear: “You are not alone. I am uplifting and strengthening you. When you fall, I will be there to hold you.”
This is what we are for each other: strength of body, mind, and spirit. Each time I looked at you throughout the past few years, I have seen the power and the purity of your steadfast perseverance that carries you through any difficulty. You have survived because you have learned to ride the natural current of life. You remind me, and those around you, that our strength comes from our joys and our sufferings. You have held on to that, always knowing it is the guide through the chaos, and ultimately to the remembrance that God is everywhere present. Before I leave this world, Andrew, I want you to know this is who you have been for me, and the world is better for it.
This may sound strange, James, son of Zebedee, but one of the first things I noticed within you when I met you was what I call an “eternal lighthouse.” This lighthouse has guided you, always supporting you in spiritual understanding, which has lead you to taking right action, regardless of the circumstances. Your ability to always turn within, to be still and listen, amazes me.
Sometimes on our long walks, I would listen with rapt attention as you shared the depth of your understanding of this great web of life, and where we each fit into it. Few grasp this knowledge, yet it is not of the intellect, but rather the out-picturing of your living heart. You seem to be able to keep experiencing life without holding on to the experiences. Your mastery of using each life experience as a way to stay alive, to be more alive, to live life more abundantly, with greater purpose and meaning, is a gift for all humanity. I love this most about you. Do you see this for yourself? I hope you do.
James, you are the manifestation of the living God, and I offer my deep appreciation for your being an eyewitness to my life and work. You have acted with great wisdom, with right seeing and knowing, always understanding beyond what our eyes see. Before I leave this world, James, I want you to know this is who you have been for me, and the world is better for it.
The Twelve Powers are core abilities within each of us that we are using whether we know it or not. We consciously use them to handle every life situation so we can be the best we can be. Each of our Twelve Powers has a focused use and purpose, and we use them together, in concert, to master the art of living. They are faith, strength, wisdom, love, power, imagination, understanding, will, order, zeal, elimination, and life.