Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent: February 28, 2024

“[The] Great Altar window is divided into three parts . . . The central panel . . . uniquely depicts the Last Supper. This Lorin-designed window shows Jesus sitting at the head of a long table around which the disciples are seated, rather than being in the center of a long table with disciples on either side, as depicted in the famous rendition by Leonardo da Vinci. St. John is leaning his head against the shoulder of Jesus, just before Jesus announces that one of the disciples will betray him . . . . ” 

Thus begins Richard F. Grimmett’s artful description of the grand stained-glass window we see every Sunday over the altar at St. John’s Church. No one knows the identity of the Beloved Disciple “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” in the narrative which appears only in the gospel according to John. Scholars have debated the matter for centuries. Some have argued that it was the Apostle Thomas, or Benjamin, or Philip, or Nathanael, or Andrew, or even Judas! Lazarus, whom Jesus restored to life, is proposed for it because his sisters sent a message to Jesus saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” In the second century, the Church settled upon John, son of Zebedee, brother of James, as the person who “leaned back on Jesus’ breast” at the Last Supper and authored the gospel. We at St. John’s Church embrace that conclusion because we are honored to have our church named for the Evangelist. But it may not be so.

Our faith is a narrative faith, not a mere prescription of principles. Ours is the faith of living, breathing, passionate people growing and changing; a New Testament built upon the narratives of the Hebrew people in covenant with a living, desiring, immanent God. John, son of Zebedee, was one of the disciples blessed to have been in the company of God incarnate. But was he the disciple leaning on Jesus at the Last Supper? It does not matter. Lent is a time for self-assessment and reexamination of settled assumptions. What matters is the committed faith of members of St. John’s Church who come and receive communion every week beneath the great stained-glass depiction of our living Lord’s Last Supper.

Carter Keithley
Pathways Contributor

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© Brian Kutner

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