Weekly Teachings by Erik Momsen
He prepares a table for me
by Erik Momsen
As I joined the assembled church a while ago, an image formed in my mind. It was of Jesus wanting to offer a table of good things to the people of Bluewater Bay. The table was set and available for the people to share in.
In Job 36:16, Elihu, one of Job's four companions, encourages Job with a message of compassion. "He is wooing you from the jaws of distress, to a spacious place free from restrictions, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."
David gives a similar encouragement in Psalm 23:5 when he says: "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies."
Both do speak of food, but it is much more than "steak on your plate".
The image of a supper table is common in the Bible and speaks of friendship, hospitality, generosity and kindness. The table is the place were people have time to get to know each other and express their love and appreciation for each other. It is not by accident that the central rite of the Christian church is a table and the start of Jewish religious observance is a meal. The place of the table cannot be underestimated - it must also be a place of truth.
WINE FOR THE TABLE
Jesus' first miracle was one for the table. He and his disciples arrived at a wedding with His mother. For us, a reception is an optional and often extravagant expense. We might rather buy the newly weds a dishwasher or a second car. But for a people steeped in hospitality, a wedding feast that did not last for a few days was unthinkable and a great embarrassment for the family.
When the wine ran out, perhaps because Jesus and his crowd had arrived and joined in, His mother tries to get Him involved. Typical of mothers to try and get the best out of their children and perhaps even bask a little in their achievements. Jesus' response is, "Woman why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." (John 2:4). He knew that the moment the miraculous was revealed, the demand on him would not stop. There would be more calls for food, miracles and healings, and the clock would start the countdown to His meeting with the cross.
John describes this as the first sign (2:11), indicating that the meaning of the event rather than the miracle itself was important. What happens here is that the water used for ritual cleansing was turned into the best wine people had ever had. This sign showed that the old order of the Pharisees gave way to a new celebration of the Good News that Jesus brought. Even the disciples of John the Baptist, steeped in repentance, fire and brimstone preaching, took part in the celebrations. Jesus replaced law, ritual and outer observance with forgiveness, relationship, friendship and hospitality. I hear the song in the back of my head - "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world."
BREAD AND FISH FOR 5000 MEN
This is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. John the Baptist had just been beheaded and Jesus wanted to get away from the madness of hundreds of sick and deranged people and the critics. Jesus says "Come with me by yourselves to a quite place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving ... ran on foot and got there ahead of them." (Mark 6:31)
Mark records that "he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (6:34). He taught them, and when it was late he fed them miraculously. The miracle comes out of compassion and despite the danger of a crowd-pleasing performance. He had had a glimpse of this temptation in the wilderness when Satan tempted Him with the possibility of taking the kingdom by magical power. God always had the option of disregarding justice and the price for sin by waving a "fairy wand" and making everything all right. Jesus' miracles are not performed to take a short cut to success but out of compassion for suffering. There was no by-passing the need to deal with sin and the lack of faith. The miracles were a foretaste of the restoration that the Father would bring even as the Father restored the sacrificial lamb.
Jesus' telling words describes the crowd when they catch up with him again: "you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (John 6:26)
The people couldn't see past a quick meal and a show. Jesus wanted faith.
The longing of the God is to prepare a table for us, but it is much more than our daily bread. He is the bread of life - all other bread will rot in our stomachs without a real, even sacrificial, faith - Jesus looked for faith. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all other things will be added" are the words that haunt us.
Date Added: 2008-08-27
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