In my last post I suggested three perspectives from which we might view the table:
- Jesus on the Table–the sacrifical victim who nourishes us with new life
- Jesus at the Table–the hospitable host who welcomes all to the table
- Jesus serving the Table–the master who waits on tables
Before unpacking #2, one further comment on #1. While some might object that “on the table” might sound a bit too literalistic or substantial (in terms of transsubstantiation or consubstantiation), I think my point illuminates that “on” is used metaphorically here but yet with a true, authentic spirituality. Jesus is “on” the table in the sense that the risen Christ nourishes us as one who already participates fully in the new creation. Through eating his body and drinking his blood, we truly participate in that new creation ourselves as Christ nourishes us with his own life–a life-giving body and humanity. This is accomplished through the Spirit by whom we participate in that new life. This is the meaning I attach to “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” that is, it is a true communion with the life of Jesus. It that sense, since by the means of the bread and wine, Jesus is “on the table.”
Today: Jesus at the Table.
This is the major theme of my book Come to the Table. My central thesis–though not the exclusive meaning of the Supper–is that Jesus sits at host of his table in the kingdom of God. The Living Christ is present at the table, seated with his welcome guests, eating and drinking with them, welcoming them to the table, and providing the meal as a gracious gift.
Several key phrases in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper reflect this motif. For example, Luke 22 announces Jesus’ intent to eat the Passover and drink the wine again when the meal finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God (22:16-17). Jesus is no mere spectator at this meal, and neither is he merely the content of the meal (the Passover lamb). Rather, he is an active participant as he eats and drinks at the table.
More explicitly, in Matthew’s account, Jesus explicitly states his expectation that when he drinks the cup anew in the kingdom of God he will do so–as he says to his disciples–“with (meta) you” (26:29) just as earlier in the narrative Jesus had stated his intent “to keep the Passover…with (meta) my disciples” (26:18). In Matthew this is very significant language as he begins his gospel with the “Immanuel” which means “God with (meta) us” (1:23) and ends his gospel with the promise that the risen Lord would always be “with (meta) you” (28:20).
This language is pregnant with meaning and evokes significant theological reflection. It is about presence, but more than presence. It is about participation with, but more than even that. It is about, in Matthew 26, a shared meal–a mutuality, a reciprocity, an experience of active communion with the living Christ.
At the table, Jesus hosts….eats and drinks…communes…shares…and loves. God is with us in the human, risen Christ and we eat at God’s table in God’s kingdom. We eat at the table of the king.
This is a gracious gift and a demonstration of the love of God. We–undeserving, unworthy–eat with God. We–unexpectedly, wondrously, joyfully–eat with Jesus.
In such a light, why does sadness dominate our tables in the church? Why can we not eat and drink with joy since we eat and drink with the living Christ? Jesus is at the table!