I like to try new restaurants, but I’m challenged with a problem you may find relatable. I have chronic order envy. If you’re not familiar with order envy, its basically evaluating my order against the orders made by others in my dinner party and comparing mine to theirs. It seems that I usually wish I had ordered what someone else ordered.
Psalm 23:4 makes a shift in location. The Psalmist transitions from being out of doors…green pastures…still waters…a valley of shadows…to indoors. In Bible times, people only ate with trusted friends and family. The table was reserved for the closest, most trusted relationships. But in Psalm 23, this table is set in the presence of enemies. It sounds strange to us, but it was even more strange to David’s original audience.
But King David was not the only one who experienced this phenomenon. Hundreds of years later, Jesus found himself in a similar position at the last supper. John 13:1ff tells the story of Jesus inviting the disciples to “table” to observe the Passover in preparation for the crucifixion that would happen the following day. Who are his guests?
One of the guests was Peter, who denied him later that night. Another was Judas Iscariot who had already planned the insidious act of betrayal of Christ.
Yet Jesus was resolved to behave with radical inclusivity as a means of introducing the Kingdom of God. He humbly served those at the table, Peter and Judas included, by washing their feet. He behaved with a redemptive spirit as he offered Judas the “sop” as an act of honor and an invitation to friendship. Then he relinquished control as he watched Judas exit the dinner to carry out his plan.
Paul does not directly cite this event in Romans 12:17-21, but I think it must have been on his mind. He counseled the Roman readers to do the right thing by overcoming evil with good and then leave their enemies in hands of God. The behavior of those who wish me harm is not my problem. The behavior of those who attempt to do wrong does not make me exempt from doing the right thing. That’s hard, but Jesus did it. And he expects me to do the same.