I’m not just talking about His wrath at the temple court being made into a marketplace and its tables being used for changing currency.
Jesus said and did some really unusual things, and many of them were around a table.
He invited Himself to stay at Zacchaeus’ house for the day – and probably a meal, as implied by the little ditty which children sing in Bible school.
He accepted an invitation to a meal in His honor from a Pharisee named Simon the Leper in Bethany. A Pharisee. One of those people He had been arguing with and, frankly, insulting. He let a woman of poor reputation douse Him with perfume and wipe His feet with her hair at the table there. (John says it was Mary, the brother of Lazarus.)
He accepted an invitation to the table of another Pharisee (four chapters later, in Luke) and surprised his host by not washing first – and then used it as an object lesson about the Pharisees’ insistence upon having clean skin, but not necessarily a clean heart.
Three more chapters later in Luke, He was dining at a Pharisee’s house – and being watched – so He joked about people being embarrassed to find that the places of honor at table weren’t always reserved for those who chose them for themselves. Someone referred to a blessing on “the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Then He told a story about a banquet that was given and nobody came; they just sent back ridiculous excuses – and the host gathered the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame to enjoy it in their place.
And though He apparently did not eat with – or even go to the home of – a Gentile centurion whose servant He healed, He did commend the man’s faith, and predicted a feast at which they would sit together: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
Though He probably wasn’t at a table when He said it, He told His followers “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”
Later, John says, He fulfilled His own prophecy by washing the feet of the twelve before converting the Passover meal into a memorial for Him, though at the time He was still alive. We still celebrate at that table, at which He showed the full extent of His love.
Finally, He revealed Himself resurrected at the dinner table to two followers with whom He walked toward Emmaus.
It seems to me that in every instance, in one way or another, Jesus turned the tables – on someone who thought too highly of self; into an invitation of honor to someone humble and dishonored; into an opportunity to level the table for all and anticipate a heavenly feast together.
At my home church this morning, youth minister challenged us to see ourselves as Zacchaeus … to welcome others, who might as a result welcome Jesus into their homes and lives. It is an uncomfortable prospect, though I find it totally Christ-like. It could radically change the (pardon an inevitable pun) complexion of our church.
But first, our hearts must be radically changed.
We’ll have to let Him turn the tables on us.