I saw a print of Diego Velasquez’s The Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus for the first time about 14 years ago. I was attending a gathering of pastors and our speaker used the painting as an illustration in her message to us. The image drew me in immediately. It said so much in such a simple way. I was captivated by the stories it was telling and the truths about the discipleship journey it was depicting. Without sounding any words it was sending a message that both convicted me and encouraged me. It hit me over the head with the truth about the barriers to faithfulness within me and at the same time offered me a hand up and over that blockade.
The scene is the meal that follows Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus and one of those two disciples are engaged in conversation at the table in the background. In the foreground is the kitchen maid who in her work of serving the meal is also attentively listening to the conversation going on behind her. The picture subtly intimates that the maid is aware of something the men with Jesus have yet to discover.
When I let my imagination go, I see a man staring into Jesus’ face who doesn’t really “see” him, and a girl on the margins of that conversation who is aware she is serving one who is greater than all of them. I hear the man at the table discussing theology and the pregnant silence of the servant in the kitchen as she strains to listen. I see a confused disciple in the background who has trouble being quiet and the pensive gaze of a teenager in the foreground who is savoring the words of her Lord. I see the privileged insider who is really outside and the subservient outsider who is enjoying a place in the heart of Jesus.
For me Velasquez’s Kitchen Maid is a picture of the simple profundity of listening prayer. It illustrates the fruit of being still. Jesus is present in the everyday realities of our lives; yet more often than not he moves among us unnoticed. But occasionally as we pause in the midst of preparing a meal, commuting to work, waiting for the computer to boot up, or cleaning up the kitchen we catch a glimpse of the One who says he is with us always. At these moments we know we are part of a story that is bigger than the one we are writing for ourselves. We bask in an eternal light and thus begin to grow in the confidence that enables us to reflect that light in our world.
Dave Rohrer 2/14/18