Willful Blindness

04.18.21

The table, particularly sitting with others around the table while enjoying relationships and food, was one of the most precision times to Jesus. I am assuming this, of course, but I think it is a valid assumption – it seems to be that the table is Jesus ‘go to’ tool for connectedness, counsel, consideration, and comfort.  We see him sit at the tables of tax collectors, sinners, gentiles, friends, and even those plotting his demise, at tables on beaches, on the sides of hills, in the homes of this friends, and even next to a well in Samaria. It is at these tables that there is an intimacy, a connectedness that opens ears, hearts, and minds – moments when lives are transformed and sacrifice takes place, it is at these holy moments that decisions are made and new path’s are taken. 

The thing about the table is that it is a true face to face, it was in those moments that a true self came through, vulnerability, devotion, hope, redemption, and sometimes opposition, hate, and rejection.  However, it was still face to face, it was still the place where everyone opened their eyes, let down their guard, and allowed themself to see the savior.

It is no surprise, then, that it is at a table that Jesus spends his final moments with his disciples. As he sat there, he knew that among those sitting at this table with him, those who were face to face, those who had no choice but to look up and see the face of Jesus, in this group was one that would betray him and another who would deny him, and ultimately all but one of them would desert him. In these final moments these were the ones he chose to sit with and who chose to sit with him. Jesus told the men that this would be the last time he would sit at a table with them until after he had completed what had to be done.  He would not sit at a table with these again until after the cross, the grave, and the resurrection. 

Before there was church, there was table, where sinners and saints, disciples and outcast, believers and betrayers gather to remember, to anticipate what is still to come, and to embody together the restoring and unifying power of God. The Lord’s Table is living theater, the communal enactment of unity amidst diversity, rooted in who God is and demonstrating where humankind and creation are headed. The Lord’s Table is the founding practice from which the church grew.

Dr. Stanley P. Saunders, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

After the cross, the grave, and the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples again, it did not take long until it was also a table moment. Jesus appeared in the room and said ‘Peace’.  The disciples were burden with guilt, crippled by fear, they were confused and humiliated, the room was filled with all the enemies of Peace. And Jesus said Peace. They took a breath and remembered peace.  They had forgotten peace, they had blinded themselves to ever experiencing peace again, and her was peace manifested in this man they had sat with, this friend they had listen to, this savior they had experienced face to face, eyes open, this was peace.

Jesus reached out his hands, he let them see the wounds of the cross, the bruises of beatings, the marks of a sacrastic crown.  In those wounds the disciples saw beyond the marks, they saw beyond the pain, they saw the love that had carried Jesus through brutality of every kind, the love that  had brought him back to their table, just as he had promised.

‘While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”’

Luke 24:41

Can you imagine, after the days the disciples had just went through, in this place where they were hiding from the world, that in this moment, in this place, Jesus was hungry. I’m sure it made them grin, this was the Jesus they knew, he liked to eat just like them, just like any human. This was Jesus, resurrected, transformed, risen, alive, but still, it was the man they knew.  Eating meant reclining, reclining meant being at the table, being at the table would mean understanding.  Even in the doubts they still had, even after their actions that caused shame, still Jesus was there to teach them, to open their minds to truth.  It was just a matter of joining him at the table.

And, then, Jesus begins to teach, clarify, demystify,  

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. YOU are the witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 24:44-49 

Measured Faith

This last week in bible project we looked at Romans 12, in which the apostle Paul says, 

‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.’

Romans 12:3b

Now, you can imagine our question, why does God not give us a full measure to prepare us for anything and everything.  We see the answer to this in Jesus engagement with the disciples following the resurrection.  It all began with the first measure of faith –  sight. This was a group that had been following, listening, and learning from Jesus for the past three years, and that only began because they were first looking for Jesus – God had given them the first needed measure, the will to look instead of remaining blind. 

Let’s go back to that first encounter of Jesus and his disciple Andrew. Andrew had been looking, searching for truth, seeking the Messiah. His  mentor at the time, John the Baptizer, said to Andrew:

“Look, there he is – the Lamb of God!”

John 1:36

Now, God gave the second needed measure of faith, Andrew physically began to walk after Jesus, he followed him until he could ask the loaded question, 

“where are you staying?” 

John 1:38c

To which Jesus replied,

“Come and see.”

John 1:39a

Then came the third essential measure of faith, Andrew ran looking for his brother Simon Peter,  upon finding him he said, 

“We have found the Messiah, the Anointed!”

John 1:41

And then the process of faith continue with Peter.

Look again at that room full of Jesus disenchanted, frightened, and confused disciples,

This entire life changing experience of the past three years had actually begun long before this moment in the room – when God gave them the measure of faith needed to seek the Savior.  They had been willing and eager to receive this faith, to risk acting on it, to willingly accept the sacrifice all the while have no idea what any of that meant.  But they had enough to do what they were called to do – seek truth, search for the Deliverer, keep their eyes open removing obstacles along the way.

They had huddled together after the crucifixion clinging to the measure of faith they had been given.  Seeing no hope, they still clung together around an unused table. Here, with each their combined common faith, in their same heart and soul, they held on and held together.

Jesus appears in the room, very unexpected, he had never had that power, no one had ever seen someone with this power.  This was hopeful, scary, confusing, but they continued to look and listen, this was God giving another measure of faith.

Jesus knew that they needed more, and he knew that they were still looking, they had not accepted the lies of the religious and political officials of conspiracies and deceit. More faith was given.

They disciples were overjoyed, still looking and seeking, but still doubtful. Jesus gave them the next measure as he proved who he was to them, he asked about food and questioned why they were not at the table. This was the final measure of faith needed, a measure of faith they accepted and grasped with all their heart and soul. They sat together and Jesus opened their minds because they were ready to see more.

Later, after Jesus ascension back to heaven, apostles Peter and John were headed to the temple to pray. As they approached the entrance to the temple they encountered a man who had been crippled since birth. Sitting at the gate asking for monetary assistance had been his vocation for most of his life. Peter and John could not give him money but instead, God used these two to heal the man. Soon, he was up and walking, everyone noticed, they all saw, they knew this man had always been crippled now he could walk.  The crowds rushed to see and hear Peter and John, these two who had just preformed this miracle.

Peter began to speak. He spoke of their willful blindness, how Jesus himself, the one that was responsible for this miracle, had been before them but they had refused to see him. Peter reminded the crowd that Jesus had repeatedly invited them to the table but they had consistently refused the invitation.  He led them to consider the obstacles they had placed in the way of their sight, as well as those they had willingly allowed to remain blocking their sight.  Their willingness to accept the lies told about Jesus, the fact that they had allowed religious and political officials to stop their search willingly accepting the blindness these individuals had called them to. Petter pointed out the fact that they had all been given the needed measure of faith but they had been unwilling to use it, refusing to pull away the blindfold to see the table in front of them. The apostle confronted their choice of ignorant blindness. Peter called them to pull off the blindfolds, to see the table, to turn from the things that had led them to turn away from God, and to sit down in the refreshing presence of the Lord at His table.

It was a call to repentance, a call to see, a call turn away from the things they had given power to, the thing to which they had rendered their faith.

It is the same call that is proclaimed to us. A call to sit at God’s table, to accept his work, to choose to live in the faith he gives.  It is a call that requires we recognize those ways that we are willingly choosing blindness, it is a call of refreshment and redemption, a call of risk and reconciliation, a call to see and to seek.

The church at the table, Matt Skinner words it this way,  

“There is a diversity of encounters as well as the diversities of responses in these harmonious communities of believers where everyone belongs there.’

Dr. Matt Skinner (Paraphrase), Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary

Being at the table, and welcoming others to the table, is our call: 

‘“We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Jesus is finally revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him continually strive to purify themselves, just as Jesus is pure.”’

I John 3:2-3

What his your response to the invitation to come to the Table?

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