BY RJ GRUNEWALD
Something happens around the table that changes those who are given a seat at the table. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he invited a rag-tag group of sinners to have a seat at the table. The table was so important that while Mark described, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,” Luke suggested, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.”
There’s something about what happens at the table that demonstrates what matters to Jesus.
From the table at Zacchaeus’ house where Jesus surprisingly hung out with a tax collector, to the table where Jesus’ reputation was at risk while his feet got washed by a prostitute, to the table where he ate with his closest friends just before they all abandoned him - each table was about more than the food they ate.
Brennan Manning in Ragamuffin Gospel describes the crowds at these meals, “The guest list would include a ragtag parade of donkey peddlers, prostitutes, herdsmen, slumlords, and gamblers.”
At the Last Supper, the guest list was the disciples, but even then, it was a ragtag group of broken people who surprisingly had a seat next to Jesus.
AT THE TABLE, YOU ARE KNOWN.
When Jesus shared the Passover meal with the disciples, Jesus wasn’t oblivious to the kind of friends he had. He knew that one of them is going to betray him, “The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” He knew that Peter, one of his closest friends, would soon pretend he didn’t know him, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Jesus knew what they’d done and what they were going to do. And that didn’t change that fact that Jesus invited them to have a seat at the table.
Jesus invites you to the table knowing not only your past sins but your future ones too. Jesus knows the failures ahead - perhaps even your biggest ones - and invites you anyways. No amount of sin or failure or doubt or struggle will get your seat removed from the table.
AT THE TABLE, YOU ARE FORGIVEN
At this same meal, it wasn’t about the disciples’ annual tradition. It was more than just some friends hanging out. Jesus had a meal that initiated something even greater than what they’d previously experienced. During this meal, Matthew recorded Jesus saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
At the table, there was more going on than might meet the eye.
It was more than just bread and wine. It was more than just remembrance. Jesus gave of himself. He still gives himself to us. Jesus isn’t holding back some of himself for when you get your act together; he is giving it all to you. He’s saying, “Take. Eat. Trust.” Your sins - all of them - are forgiven.
AT THE TABLE, YOU GET A TASTE OF WHAT’S TO COME
When Jesus said, “For I tell you, I will not eat again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” - Jesus also connected it to something greater than even that moment. The meal they were eating became about a future meal, a feast.
It’s a feast that all who believe will celebrate. It will be people from a bunch of different backgrounds and who struggle with a wide variety of sins, all brought together around the table. It will be a feast with people who surprise us and could only be united to us by the work of Jesus. And it will be a feast with people who we’ve longed to eat with again, finally reunited because of the power of the one who can raise the dead.
At this feast, no one will be there because they deserve it. There are no hopes of paying back the cost of the meal; it’s already been covered.
Isaiah describes it as “a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and the finest of wines.” It’s the feast of all feasts. The party you’ve been waiting for.
And so when we come to the table, Jesus reminds us of his desire to give us a seat. He says to us what he said to the disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this…with you.”
He’s been waiting to eat with you. He’s been waiting for you to sit, to talk, to eat. He’s been waiting to give himself to you.
You may not have expected to be welcome at his table, but that’s what Jesus does. Jesus invites broken people to the table and says, “Take and eat; it’s for you.”
RJ Grunewald is a Pastor at Faith in Troy, Michigan. He is a theology nerd who believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He is the author of The Art of Law & Gospel and Reading Romans with Luther. He’s also got a digital copy of The Art of Law and Gospel that you can download for free by subscribing to his emails. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 3 kids, Elijah, Emaline, and Alice.