When I pour over the pages of the Gospels, observing the life of my Savior, I realize how fully human Jesus actually was. We talk a lot about the human nature of His suffering, the excruciating pain that He endured, the solemn moments of his human-ness. There is weight and significance to those motifs. But, I never want to forget that Jesus knew the joys of His humanity too. He knew what it was like to walk in the cool of the day, to feel the sun on His skin after it had rained for too many days in a row. He knew the sound of His own laughter, familiar with the voices of His siblings and parents and friends. Because of the implications of His humanity, He deeply understood and shared in the need for both spiritual sustenance and physical sustenance.
This Thanksgiving week, I am reminded that Jesus knew what it was like to eat, to favor different foods and perhaps dislike them too. The Gospel writers, especially Luke, take note of His many meals with people. He was fully aware of the power that food held, and He used it to draw people near to Him and extend to them an invitation into the Kingdom of God. The Scriptures are brimming with stories that tell of the countless scenarios where He shared meals with people; a small representation no doubt of the meals that took place in His ministry, of the conversations He held with people, and the healing and laughter and transformation that took place at the tables He sat at. I think often of the scene next to the ocean after His resurrection in John 21, when He eats breakfast on the beach with the disciples (sounds pretty nice right?). Or, earlier on in John’s gospel account, where in some wide open space, Jesus prepares a table spread with bread and fish, picnic-style, for a crowd of thousands (John 6:1-14). He understood the beauty of sharing food in a corporate sense, and He also knew the satisfaction of preparing food and eating it with the humans that you love.
Jesus sought to eat with those who were hard to love, and those who had been deemed detestable and unlovable by society altogether, by many of those who claimed to walk in the ways of God. Though He had little to His own name, Jesus freely extended hospitality to those around Him, even when it would have cost Him His reputation.
There’s no doubt that our own world is in turmoil as we speak, with colorful opinions and angry Facebook posts and signs on street corners flying in all directions. Common ground can feel so incredibly out of reach, and almost impossible to find. But it cannot be lost on us that in the time that Jesus walked the earth, He sensed the same about the world. Nevertheless, He made a point to create space to be with people from all walks of life. The hardest conversations, the tearful responses, the opposing sides… Jesus gathered them all at the dinner table, together, in the union of His love and undying compassion. He chose His family, intentionally and sacrificially, and He used food to live this out.
I sense it, in the space that I currently call home, where I share my sink and cupboards and hot sauce and dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joes with four other women. I sense it in the evenings when each of us happens to be home all at once, and we migrate to the living room, congregated around the coffee table because we only own four chairs and there are five of us. I sensed it at a waffle place just this morning with my friend Morgan. Food is nothing short of being a form of worship for me, especially when shared with the family of God. Jesus met the most unlikely characters in the story of God, and so it is with us.
He sought out simplicity with those around Him, and not because He was merely biologically related to a group of people. No, He did this because He understood the overarching plans of the Father, and was well aware that He was foreshadowing what would eventually be revealed in the early church. Jesus knew that after the event of Pentecost, the table would be open to everyone: to the Gentiles and the Jews, to you, and to me. Jesus sat with the marginalized and those who held power, with the sick and those who brought sacrifices to the temple to be considered to be clean, simply because it was who He was, and is.
Walking through the mountains and valleys of 2020, I’ve realized how fully human I am too – that I’m flesh and bone and I feel pain and loneliness and joy. More than ever, I’m aware that I need people and human connection and someone to look me in the eye and ask me how I’m really doing. I need to feel worthy of belonging and of love, and of being listened to. I need a place at the table.
I’m not sure which table you will find yourself at this week, or the number of people that will join you. I don’t know if they are family, or chosen family, or friends who were once strangers, or maybe even strangers themselves. Wherever we do find ourselves, I pray that we are rich witnesses to His presence at our tables. That we would be agents of His hospitality, compassion and joy as we consume and commune with one another.
To the ones gathered together with your loved ones, may you sense Him there, in the pieces of His character that He’s deposited in every person, whether they are aware of it or not.
I pray that your conversation is meaningful, and that you might be brave enough to ask questions that acknowledge the hard things and offer up hope to one another.
To the one who sits alone – may you feel His arms gathering you up, and holding you close.
And let us not be surprised at Jesus’ appearance at our tables, but take our places in expectancy of His arrival, because we have long since asked Him to come. He is consistent in His showing up.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
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