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Jesus and Table Fellowship

The recent homegoing of a senior member of our church inspired a memorial message centered around the resurrected Jesus’ invitation to His disciples in John 21:12: “Come and dine.” That Christian was known for his joyful and generous hospitality. He was emulating Jesus, Who, throughout His earthly ministry, used meals to build up humans spiritually as well as physically. Thus, Jesus has equipped us with “table fellowship: as an important tool to pursue our great commission, and we should dedicate that tool, especially during the upcoming holidays, to offer the Christian fellowship that Jesus offered.

Our Father God foreshadowed Jesus’ effective use of table fellowship in a powerful Old Testament story. II Samuel 9:18 reads, “So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table and was lame on both his feet.” After David became king of the united Israel, he commissioned a search for any surviving descendants of his friend Jonathan that he might bless them “for Jonathan’s sake.” (9:1) Both Jonathan and King Saul, the hateful pursuer of David, had died in battle, but one of Saul’s servants pointed the way to Jonathan’s only surviving son, Mephibosheth. The young man was found in the town of Lodebar, its name describing a place of “no pasture.”

Mephibosheth was also found to be “lame on his feet” (9:3), a condition much less correctible by the human knowledge and skill of the time and much more debilitating than now to a person’s existence.

But when King David looked upon Mephibosheth, he did not see an impoverished cripple from a desolate place. Instead, he saw selfless and loving Jonathan, willing to act against his father and his interests as a princely successor, to protect and support David. David’s actions were a human shadow of the Lord’s great love and opportunity for disabled sinners for Jesus’ sake.

What are some of the elements of this table fellowship that David gave Mephibosheth and God offers us? First, acceptance. The gulf between the king and the disabled person could not have been wider. The source of Mephibosheth’s injury was his nurse’s fear of death when a new king took over. (4:4) Yet, to honor Jonathan, David made Mephibosheth “as one of the king’s sons.” (9:11)

Secondly, access. The scripture tells us that Mephibosheth enjoyed table fellowship with the king “continually,” not just on special occasions crowded with others seeking David’s attention. He had daily opportunities to hear and be heard by the king.

Thirdly, protection. By David’s blessing, Mephibosheth was freed from hunger and poverty, from the consequences of disability and threats of jealousy. His affliction didn’t matter anymore. He was safe in the presence of the king.

Finally, Mephibosheth was given a purpose, a testimony of reciprocal love and loyalty to David. The king’s son, Absalom, rebelled and forced David to flee Jerusalem. Upon Absalom’s defeat and death, and because of the slander of a servant, David questioned Mephibosheth’s loyalty, as he had stayed behind in Jerusalem, unable to join in the fight (19:24–27). Mephibosheth demonstrated through physical mourning as well as by his declaration of David’s sovereignty his submission and dedication to the king.

The testimony of the blessing Mephibosheth received and his thankful response sounds across the centuries. It reminds us that because of Jesus, we have the opportunity for both temporal and eternal table fellowship with God. We may receive acceptance by Him, access to Him, protection with Him, and a purpose from Him. It also reminds us to share with others this holiday season the joy and gratitude we have for being invited to come and dine with God through Jesus Christ.

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