You know how people today talk about cliques, racism, and bullying? Children and adults alike are defined by whether they sit at the popular or unpopular table. The popular table is for the well-dressed, the ones who look like they have it all together, the ones who look like they belong. The unpopular table is for those who are forced to go there because they don’t fit the above criteria, or they choose to go to the unpopular table because they feel that they just do not hold up in comparison with the “popular people.”
Did you know those things are nothing new?
The separation of popular and unpopular, often interpreted as lovable and unlovable, is very much alive today, but we aren’t the ones who started it.
This separation has existed for centuries. Jesus Himself dealt with the separation of status and nationality constantly. But this is where we find one of my favorite things about Jesus:
Jesus did not care what people thought or said, He only cared about the souls of those in need of His love and mercy.
So often when looking for Jesus in Scripture, we find Him in the most unexpected places and circumstances.
Jesus was willing to go where no one else dared go, touch those that no one else would touch, and be viewed as no one else wanted to be viewed in order to save another soul.
In case you aren’t familiar with this truth about Jesus, here are 7 times when Jesus chose to sit at the unpopular table:
1. Jesus Invites Himself to stay at Zacchaeus’ House.
Zacchaeus, described in Luke 19 as a short, rich, tax collector, is up in a Sycamore tree trying to see Jesus when Jesus suddenly looks up at him and says, “Hey Zacchaeus, Get down here! I need to stay at your house! (I’m paraphrasing of course).”
Verse 7 then says, “When the people saw it, they all began muttering [in discontent], “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a [notorious] sinner.”
How could Jesus do this? Shouldn’t He, of all people, know better? Yes. He should. In fact, He did.
Jesus knew that it was more important for Him to bring salvation to Zacchaeus’ home than it was for Him to remain popular with those watching.
2. Jesus Eats Dinner with Tax Collectors and Sinners.
Mark 2:14-17 tells the story of Jesus calling Levi (Matthew) as His disciple and then going to have dinner at his house. There were many tax collectors, sinners, and non-observant Jews among the dinner guests.
As is expected in the life of Jesus, along came the Scribes and Pharisees to judge and criticize Jesus’ actions.
“Why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”17 When Jesus heard this, He said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but [only] those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners [who recognize their sin and humbly seek forgiveness].”
Jesus didn’t care what the Pharisees and Scribes thought of Him, they weren’t the ones He came to save. Don’t get me wrong, if they would have recognized their imperfection and believed He was the Son of God, Jesus would have saved them just like anyone else. But because of their stubborn pride, that wasn’t the case.
Jesus came for those who recognized their inward sickness and desperately sought the great Physician.
3. Jesus has the Audacity to Touch a Man with Leprosy.
In the custom of the day, Leper’s were cast out of cities and sent to Leprous camps so they would not infect anyone else with their disease. Did that phase Jesus? Why would it? He’s Jesus. “He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases (Ps. 103:3).”
Luke 5:12-13, “While Jesus was in one of the cities, there came a man covered with [an advanced case of] leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean and well.” And Jesus reached out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately leprosy left him.”
Jesus wasn’t afraid of what might happen if He touched the leper; He was more concerned with what might happen if He didn’t.
4. Jesus allows a Sinful Woman to Wash His Feet.
The people watching, even the disciples, are appalled that Jesus would (1) allow this defiled woman to touch Him and (2) that He would allow her to waste this expensive oil that could have been sold to benefit the poor (Luke 7:39 & Matt. 26:8-9).
Jesus silences all of their criticism by pointing out that they have never anointed Him with oil and they have not yet begun to prepare for His death.
Because of her faith and willingness to press past the crowd’s judgment, Jesus forgives the woman’s sins and says that her story will be told wherever the gospel is preached.
Jesus didn’t care if it didn’t make sense, He cared that the woman acted out of a heart of worship.
5. Jesus sits down with the Woman at the Well.
As if it isn’t enough that Jesus is sitting alone with a woman (so against the custom of the day), this particular woman just so happens to be a Samaritan. As pointed out in John 4:9, “The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.)”
But did Jesus let that stop Him? Absolutely not.
After Jesus has spoken to the woman about living water and true worship and has told her own personal business to her, the disciples returned and, “were surprised to find Him talking with a woman. However, no one said, “What are You asking about?” or, “Why are You talking to her? (John 4:27).”
The disciples were finally starting to understand that questioning Jesus and His motives was pointless.
Jesus always knew that the benefits outweighed the risks. He knew that this woman would be saved and, in turn, so would many people from the Samaritan city (verse 39).
6. Jesus Delays going to heal a 12-year-old Girl in order to Heal a woman with a 12-year-long disease.
Jairus, a Synagogue official, begs Jesus to come and heal his daughter before she dies. As Jesus is going to heal the girl a huge crowd is pressing against Him. Suddenly Jesus stops and asks, “Who touched me?” Everyone looks around confused. Umm, tons of people have been touching you, Jesus. But Jesus knew the difference.
“Someone did touch Me because I was aware that power [to heal] had gone out of Me (Luke 8:46).”
The woman falls at His feet and confesses that it was she who touched Him, and she was immediately healed. Jesus replies, “Daughter, your faith in Me has made you well. Go in peace (My emphasis added for significance).”
Jairus watches this miracle take place as he feels the miracle for which he asked, the life of his daughter, slipping away.
He receives word that it’s too late, his daughter has died. Leave Jesus alone.
But Jesus wasn’t worried. “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be made well.” He continues to Jairus’ house, heals the girl with just a few Words, and goes on His way.
Jesus did not let Jairus’ status stop Him from taking the time to heal the woman. The daughter of the synagogue official was no more important than this Daughter of God.
7. Jesus Remains Silent as He is Rejected in Favor of a Murderer.
The most unpopular moment of Jesus’ earthly life. He is accused of blasphemy. He is arrested and brought before Pilate, the Governor, to be tried.
As is customary, Pilate gives the people the choice to release one of two prisoners.
At the persuasion of the priests and elders, the people choose Barabbas, the murderer. And they demand that Jesus, the innocent Lamb, be crucified.
Matt. 27:18 says that Pilate knew the Priests and Elders handed Jesus over because they were envious of Him, yet, in order to avoid a riot, Pilate washes His hands of Jesus’ blood and gives Him over into the hands of the vicious mob to be beaten and crucified.
Jesus could have defended Himself. He could have released Himself. But He chose to remain silently still. He chose to allow the crowd that cried, “His blood be on us and on our children! (27:25)” to flog Him so that, One day, His blood could truly wash over them… and over You and I.
Jesus Himself said that He came to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). No matter where He has to go or what He has to do, Jesus always keeps His promise and fulfills His purpose.
If it means sitting down with sinners, if it means hanging out by a well, if it means touching someone with a disease, even if it means being brutally betrayed, beaten, and buried, Jesus will do it to save a soul.
No matter how strange, no matter how bold, no matter how unpopular, Jesus will do whatever necessary to get to His beloved. It was true then and it is true now.
Jesus went to the darkest places for most desperate souls, and He does the same for you and me today.