The table is a common meeting space across cultures.
A true epicenter of hospitality, tables around the world are used to cultivate relationships and foster conversations that matter. As such, tables serve to forge families, friendships, and even faith.
It’s at the table that we see glimpses of the Kingdom of God.
Scripture often depicts Jesus at dinner parties. In His time, who you dined with mattered. It was a statement of allegiance and declaration of relationship. And it’s the variety of people who had a seat at Jesus’ table that led the religious to cast harsh accusations of gluttony and drunkenness and His reputation as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34).
So who did Jesus meet at the table and why does it matter to us? To answer this question, let’s enter one story from Jesus’ time at the table.
“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.” -Luke 7:36
1. Jesus meets the religious at the table.
The Pharisees were model religious citizens. Their outward devotion to the Law was well known across the Roman Empire. Though known for fearing God, Jesus called them “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28). They had the outward appearance of right standing with God, but their hearts were far from His presence. The Pharisees ultimately were unable to see Who the Law was designed to point to—Jesus.
Even with the prophesied Messiah reclining at their table, the Pharisees often missed His message. But Jesus willingly meets them over a meal to remind them, and us, that righteousness is given freely by grace, not works.
His method of teaching? An interaction with a woman no one else believed had a right to be in His presence.
“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.’” -Luke 7:37-39
A woman with a marred reputation was welcomed at Jesus’ table. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she represents those with no regard for God and the moral code often tied to religion.
2. Jesus even invites the irreligious and rebellious to break bread and fellowship with Him.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to [the Pharisee], ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” -Luke 7:44-50
This unnamed woman wasn’t one of the religious elites, yet she sensed something different in the character of Jesus. Something about Him compelled her to come to Him regardless of her reputation. He didn’t shove her away because of her past. Jesus welcomed her at His feet and leveraged her radical faith to reveal the depths of gospel grace to an audience bound by law.
Jesus dines with sinners and perceived saints, reminding us that grace isn’t a matter of works, but faith.
In the final stages of His earthly ministry, the table is set again at a somber dinner party because the Savior knows what’s on the horizon. God’s salvation plan was in full play. Within hours, Jesus would endure the horror and gore of the cross. Getting up from the table, he takes on the role of servant and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter objects and is met with a response that unveils the key to entering Jesus’ Kingdom and forever accessing His table.
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” -John 13:8
It is in being washed by the righteous blood of Jesus Christ that are given an eternal seat at the table.
3. At Jesus’ table, all are welcome but only the righteous get to stay there forever.
Those who accept Jesus’ invitation to follow Him remain at his table.
And He has left us—His followers—to continue His work. He wants to use us to pass out invitations to His table, and it often starts with a seat at yours. So who’s invited to share a meal with you? May we be a people who set our tables to fellowship with the religious, rebellious and righteous.