Wonder of God Meditations 11: Sheep or Sharer
Psa 23:5 “You prepare a table before me.”
Before we move on to our next example of God’s mercy and grace, let’s hold on that picture of Jesus coming in to eat with us, us failures, doubters, prone-to-weakness people. We’ve just been seeing it in the Letter to Laodicea but now we turn briefly to the famous ‘Shepherd Psalm’.
David pictured himself as a sheep and God his shepherd (Psa 23:1). The focus is on the Shepherd who leads (v.2) and guides (v.3), who guards and protects (v.4), but who goes way beyond that. Have you noticed the change in the earlier part of the psalm, from a sheep follower (who needs feeding on grass, tends to get lost, needing rescuing, patching up and being saved from prey) to one who sits at a table (v.5) while Jesus serves and blesses them? A bumbling sheep? Or transformed into a dinner-sharer in his house (v.6).
But of course there are various such pictures in scripture. There is a preparation for a wedding feast (Rev 19:9) and of course it was at such a celebration that Jesus performed his first miracle (Jn 2). YOU and I are to see ourselves as special, called to a wedding that opens the way for a life of intimate sharing with Him in eternity.
There is also the time of the calling of Zacchaeus (Lk 19) and we tend to take it for granted that when Jesus says, “I must stay at your house today,” (Lk 19:5) it implies receiving hospitality, i.e. eating together. Then there is the calling of Levi (Mk 2:14) which is followed by, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples.” (v.15). This clearly wasn’t a casual ‘coffee & biscuits’ snack but a proper ‘dinner’.
How easy it is to take for granted these references. For example, later in Luke, we read, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Lk 15:1,2). Jesus didn’t just sit around chatting with the underclass, he sat and ate with them. Now what is interesting, of course, is that this reference comes before the incident with Zacchaeus and so it is quite likely that Zacchaeus, who had responsibility over of the whole area as chief tax collector, was talked about in earlier conversations – over food with these other tax collectors. Did Jesus go to Jericho to specifically pick him up? The point is that clearly the Scriptures point to this aspect of Jesus’ ministry – he loved talking with people over food and he loves talking with us (can you believe it?). Sharing over food is an opportunity for intimacy. That is part of the wonder of this relationship, his desire.