The New Testament has plenty of instances in which Jesus interacts with those with a disability, but what about in the Old Testament? There are still some great examples of how to treat someone with a disability, and one of the best is David’s example in the way he interacts with Mephibosheth. The Bible tells us, in 2 Samuel 9, that Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, David’s closest friend. At the beginning of the chapter, David asks, “‘Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’” (2 Samuel 9:1).
One of Saul’s servants tells David that, yes, “‘There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet’” (2 Samuel 9:3). Instead of using this as an excuse not to show kindness or treat Mephibosheth as if he were somehow less human, David seeks him out and brings him near. Instead of pushing him away, David draws him into his inner circle, even allowing Mephibosheth to dine with him. David, as the king, could easily have had Mephibosheth given his own apartments so that David never had to interact with him. He could have blessed him from afar without truly engaging with him and seeing him. However, in a mirror of the Father’s love, David enfolds Mephibosheth into his daily life, especially the routine of eating. They see one another multiple times in the day because David chooses to engage with him.
We see some of the ways Mephibosheth has been treated when he says, “‘What is your servant, that you should show regard for such a dead dog as I?’” (2 Samuel 9:8). When David extends the invitation to his table, Mephibosheth can’t believe it. It feels too good to be true, and the people around him have always rejected him. For a king to not only accept him at arms’ length but to embrace him and keep him close at all times is unfathomable. God gives us this example in the Old Testament as a portrait of the way he pulls us close, despite our sinfulness. While Mephibosheth’s disability is no fault of his own and does not reflect a lack of moral fiber, our sin is our responsibility and reflects the evil of our hearts.
What David did in welcoming Mephibosheth was amazing, but what Jesus did in welcoming our broken, wandering hearts is even more unfathomable. There is no reason, besides love, for Christ to welcome us as He does. Our presence does not offer Him more praise and acclaim – in fact; He stoops to dine with sinners like us. Jesus engages with us at our worst and redeems us. In Mephibosheth’s story, we see our own quite clearly. We may be ashamed of things about us or that those around us might see as shameful. We sin and dishonor our God, as everyone has done since the Fall. However, instead of pushing us away and keeping us hidden from His face, Christ chooses to look on us in love. He chooses to sacrifice His own life for us. Like Mephibosheth, we may question why. We may doubt that we are worthy of being looked upon with such kindness. And we are unworthy. But God chooses to look on us in kindness anyway, out of His unending love and mercy for us to save wretched sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Emily Mayfield is a rising junior at Covenant College studying English. She attends church at New City East Lake when at school in Chattanooga. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and sewing. She also loves volunteering with her home church’s special needs ministry in Nashville, Tennessee.