July 11 I Sunday
“When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’” —Luke 14:15
When we think of life in New Testament Israel, there were certain people that a self-respecting Jew would not associate with—they were the Gentiles, unclean and sinful, but along came Jesus, who upset the social order and biblical boundaries that were part of Jewish life. One particular aspect of Jewish life that Jesus began to challenge was table fellowship.
On top of Middle Eastern hospitality rules, Jewish leaders overlaid their purity laws, thereby eliminating certain people from table fellowship. In Brennan Manning’s book The Ragamuffin Gospel he explains the deep meaning behind table fellowship. “Sadly, the meaning of meal sharing is largely lost in the Christian community today. In the Near East, to share a meal with someone is a guarantee of peace, trust, fraternity, and forgiveness—the shared table symbolizes a shared life….a dinner invitation is to say, ‘Come to…the miniature sanctuary of my dining room table, where we will celebrate the most sacred and beautiful experience that life affords—friendship.’” There were people that one would welcome to the table, and then there were people one would never welcome at the table.
Around Jesus’s table were tax collector and sinners, but the Pharisees criticized Jesus’s choice of companion by muttering, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). What is interesting with this criticism is that the people that were drawn to Jesus were sinners, those who felt they were far from God, while the ones who were upset with what Jesus was doing were the religious leaders, those who felt they were close to God.
Jesus told a parable about the kingdom of God as a banquet to confront the Pharisees’ understanding of table fellowship. Jesus said, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses….The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’” (Luke 14:16-18, 21). Jesus was not saying that the poor, the crippled, the blind or the lame had preferential treatment; rather, He pointed to the Pharisees’ flawed theology—those whom they rejected were the very people welcomed to God’s table, into His kingdom.
Are we like the Pharisees, barring people from Jesus’s table because of whom we think He should welcome? May we surrender our flawed theology, and know that His gracious invitation to the table is for everyone.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus. I am filled with gratitude that the King of this world would choose to dine with me. Praise You!