This question came to me this morning as I was listening to the sermon being given at church. In the sermon, my pastor proposed this question in the context of whether or not Jesus would eat dinner with “healthy” or “sick” people. He continued to explain how it is often times the “sick people” that we see Jesus spending time with in the New Testament, and that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we are considered “healthy” or “sick” because there is space for everyone at the table with Jesus.
Personally, I love and agree with my pastor’s assessment. In fact, I would probably answer it in a very similar way if I were talking with any of my friends or family. But as I sat in church this morning pondering this question, I realized that the answer I would typically give to others–the response that reassures that everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table–is much different than the answer that I would give myself.
Take a moment to think about this question for yourself. Take a moment to imagine yourself sitting down and eating a meal with Jesus.
What is the setting?
Where is He sitting in context to you?
What emotions do you feel?
Has He said anything to you? If so, what has He said?
Is the food any good? (Hopefully it tastes divine)
If I’m being completely honest, I would say that when I think of being in the physical presence of Jesus, most of the time I don’t actually imagine it. Most times, I merely assume that it’s a wonderful experience, because it should be wonderful if I’m in the presence of the Son of God.
But today was different. Today I imagined myself sitting down and eating a meal with my Savior, and it was weird.
Let me tell you about it:
It was just me and him. We sat at opposite ends of the table in a dark room with one light bulb hovering above us, illuminating the table. Jesus was sitting at the head of the table (obviously, because he’s the king), and I was sitting two chairs away from his left.
The first thing I noticed about him was his magnificently trimmed beard (If you’d like a visual, just imagine David Beckham’s beard on the face of Jesus. An unexpected style for him, but inevitably admirable nevertheless).
Secondly, Jesus was eating maple and brown sugar flavored oatmeal and I was eating Froot Loops. Unfortunately, there is nothing divine tasting about Froot Loops, even when in the presence of Jesus.
Thirdly, it was awkward as hell. Neither of us said a word. It was as if we were playing the “silent game” that children are forced to play when they irritate their parents by talking excessively at an obnoxiously high volume.
Fourthly, Jesus kept glancing over at me randomly with a slight scowl on his face, and I had no clue why that was. Maybe he was weirded out by the fact that we were sitting at opposite ends of the table. Perhaps, he was just incredibly dissatisfied with his oatmeal and was discreetly envious of my cereal. Or maybe he was just waiting for me to be the first one to speak. Whatever the reason was, it was making this dinner very uncomfortable for me, and most likely for the both of us.
Lastly, I wasn’t saying anything because I knew that he knew everything that was inside of my heart; even things that I am not currently aware of. He knew them. And how in the world do you initiate a conversation with someone who knows the deepest and rawest truths of your being? Even all of the truths that you’re ashamed of? I’m willing to bet that not even standing butt-naked in front of hundreds of strangers would make you feel more exposed than sitting before the Son of God.
And that was that.
Maybe you’re thinking the same thing as me: the Jesus that I had dinner with doesn’t seem very similar to the Jesus of the Bible, and I think I have an idea why.
Have you ever heard the saying, “you can’t fit God in a box?” For the last three years I’ve been trying to dismantle the box that I’ve placed God into, and I’ve tried to understand why I limit Him in the ways that I do. But recently, I’ve realized that I’ve never once been able to fit God into a box. I’ve never once been able to limit what God can and cannot do. Instead, I’ve discovered that I’m the one who has been living inside a box with all of my distorted pre-conceptions about God, and about myself.
Today, I’m finally beginning to realize the extent of the damage that my self-perception has done to my perception of Jesus.
The truth is that I want to experience the freedom of sitting down at Jesus’ table and to eat a meal in complete harmony with Him. I know that this freedom is accessible to me, yet I haven’t accepted it. The truth is that most of the time I perceive myself as “sick,” and even disgusting at times. The issue is not that I don’t believe that I’m welcome to sit down at the table; the issue is that my self-perception prevents me from taking my seat at the table in the first place.
Perhaps this isn’t the most accurate example, but the feeling would be similar to that of an English major who is invited into a science laboratory full of Chemistry majors to observe them as they execute and complete an experiment. The English major is welcome to observe and even engage with the class if he wishes, but ultimately he knows that the science lab is not a place where he will thrive or fit in. It’s a feeling of misplaced belonging.
Despite this feeling of misplaced belonging, I’m also recognizing a prominent misconception within this narrative, and it’s that Jesus wouldn’t simply invite me to sit at His table with Him. No, no, no… Instead, Jesus would go out of His way to come and sit with me at my table. He would, and does, go out of His way to sit with me–in my sickness, disgust, and all.
The Jesus I worship most likely doesn’t have David Beckham’s flawlessly trimmed beard, but He’s got plenty of scars and bruises–all of which He proudly wears out of His Love for me.
The Jesus I worship probably wouldn’t make oatmeal or Froot Loops for dinner either. He’d probably prepare something simple and extravagantly delicious; something I’ve never tasted before.
The Jesus I worship is someone who I could talk with continuously for an eternity, and I intend to. And I know He intends to do the same with me.
The Jesus I worship would probably never scowl at me, unless He has a good sense of humor and intentionally wanted to make me feel uncomfortable for the sake of a few laughs. So, yes. The Jesus I worship would probably scowl at me.
The Jesus I worship would never conduct Himself in a way that made me feel exposed and shameful about the person I am, and have been. He’d probably look at me and say, “I created you as my child. And I will never be ashamed of who you are, and neither should you, because in my eyes you are more radiant and beautiful than any sunset I’ve ever painted. You, my child, are very good.”
The reality is that Jesus is like this. He is at my table, and He is telling me over and over “Chris, you are very good. I am not ashamed of you.” And He is telling you the same exact thing, because it is so so so true. The real question is when are we going to believe Him? When are we going to stop living inside a box where all we can see and hear are our own self-perceptions, assumptions, and expectations about who we are and who He is? When are we going to step outside of the box and acknowledge that Jesus has been holding the box in his arms this entire time, simply waiting for us to peak out and see and experience Him for who He truly is?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ask Jesus to come over for some left-over pizza.