I’m looking at our dining room table right now. It’s one of those long harvest tables with the two leaves on the ends, and it has been a fixture in our dining room since the kids were little. This old table could write quite a family history if it had ears and the will to record the activities that took place on and around it. It has been home to fierce games of Battleship and Scrabble; it has endured the dripping glue gun of countless science projects. Permanent-marker ink has bled into its woodwork. It’s where all the pictures of kids and parents blowing out birthday candles have been taken; it’s the place of serious talks between daughters and their mother; and of course it’s the place where we pray, eat dinner, and do devotions together every night, although the numbers sitting around it are dwindling as kids go off to college. Eventually everyone but the two of us will be sent forth from the table into the world that we’ve been talking to our kids about for their entire childhoods.
Like no other corner in the house, our table is the place where communion happens daily. The table brings us together, sits us down, and connects us. It’s a place of comfort no matter how badly the day has unfolded. In a world where electronic devices have taken everyone off to their own places, the table is a place of rest where face time is valued, where we all look inward at one another.
It’s no surprise that Jesus chose a table as his final meeting place with his disciples before being arrested and put on trial. His time on earth had come to an end. Scriptures had been fulfilled. He even invited his betrayer, Judas, to commune with the family of disciples.
And at that table, Jesus broke bread and poured wine and began what would become a sacrament played out at tables in the Christian church all over the world. We read of this meal in Luke 22:14-19:
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me” (NLT).
As I write this, we celebrate Ascension Day, which is exactly forty days after Easter and ten days before Pentecost. Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples as they embarked on a journey to spread Jesus’ message and to build God’s Kingdom.
I was listening to a pastor recently who was focusing on the scene when the disciples were gazing into the sky after Jesus had ascended. They thought he was going to come right back, of course. The pastor said that as a kid he had always dwelled on the emptiness the disciples must have felt as Jesus disappeared into the clouds. But, he said, he has switched his focus to the celebration in heaven when Jesus arrived and reunited with his Dad. Imagine the excitement around God’s table that night when his Son came home!
Together, God the Father and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit onto those very same disciples a week and a half later. And the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit send you and me out to share God’s Word, to tell others of the wonderful news that Jesus is indeed alive, as the words of Zephaniah 3:17 proclaim: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT).
That’s what the table means. It’s a place where we gather and remember that Jesus is Lord over all the earth, where we can celebrate his gift of grace to us, and where he calms our fears and rejoices over us.
That’s right, God rejoices over us, his children, in the same way that parents rejoice over their own children at beat-up old harvest tables at dinnertime.
Ron DeBoer is a writer and educator living near Toronto.