Eating like Jesus

Eating like Jesus

by Andy Constable

Jesus proclaims in Luke 7:34, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. It’s interesting as you read Luke’s gospels just how many encounters Jesus has while eating. There are over 10.  It’s one of his main mission strategies. He uses the dining room as a place to teach, to challenge social norms and show up people’s hearts. Jesus’ actions around meals, as one commentator writes, “represented a new world, a new kingdom and a new outlook.”  I was really struck by Jesus’ counter-cultural eating habits as I was reading through Luke’s gospel this week. I just want to look at one story in particular and challenge us to look at whom we show hospitality to and our attitude to certain groups of people.

The story is found in Luke 7:36-50 and is set in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Jesus is reclining at the table when a woman of the city, who was known to be a sinner, comes up to him and begins to wash his feet with expensive ointment and her tears. Simon, the Pharisee, saw this and was indignant that this woman was doing something so inappropriate and that Jesus allows her to. Simon thinks that Jesus can’t be God’s promised prophet because if it was then he would know that this lady was a sinner and wouldn’t let her touch him. Jesus in reply has something to teach these Pharisees and tells a parable: “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon of course gives the right answer and says the one with the larger debt. And Jesus replies you are right and explains that those who have been forgiven little will love little. But those who are forgiven much will love much.

What does this story teach us about hospitality?

Firstly this story teaches us about how to see ourselves. The real difference between Simon and the woman is how they view themselves. Simon has no sense of forgiveness because he has no sense of his need for it. And therefore he rejects the girl and Jesus. The woman on the other hand has a strong sense of her brokenness and so she has an overwhelming love for the one who welcomes her – a love that risks social disgrace by washing Jesus’ feet. Jesus teaches us that we need to have the same view of ourselves if we are going to understand God’s amazing love for us. All through the gospels we meet people who think they are righteous and good enough but Jesus says in Luke 5:31: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Do we view ourselves as sick people in need of a spiritual doctor? Do we see our sin and that we are no different to the girl in this story? If we do then we will be overwhelmed by his love and grace shown to us. This is important because how we view ourselves determines how we view others.

Secondly this story teaches us that we are to be friends with “sinners”. Jesus was dubbed the ‘friend of sinners’. Jesus as we saw came to show the sick grace. He came for the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the broken; those who had a sense of their need. Jesus didn’t simply preach this message to people but spent time with them as well. He welcomed the woman to the table when she washed his feet. He didn’t shoo her away or reject her. He accepted and then praised the woman for her actions. Throughout the book of Luke Jesus visits people from all sorts of backgrounds.. He had dinner with the Pharisees as well as the tax collectors. And in Jesus’ culture eating and drinking were a sign of welcome, association, commitment and belonging. The people you ate with determined ones social standing and whom you viewed to be important. Jesus was a friend of the so called ‘sinners ’and cared intimately for them. The Pharisees, like Simon in this story, often got angry with him for doing this. But we can empathize with their anger sometimes because we might question Jesus today if he were to be hanging out with the prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless, parking attendants, foreigners and homosexuals! Jesus’ actions challenge us to reconsider who we spend our time with and how we view people. People in all cultures spend time with people who are like them – those who think similarly and who we deem good enough to be in our company. But Jesus’ actions round the dinner table challenge us to be making the effort with people not like us. People on the fringes of society. This is what Jesus says in Luke 14:12-14: “Then Jesus said to his host, When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Do we simply spend time with people who think like us or are we spending time with the odd, the vulnerable and the weak? Jesus ate with all sorts and in doing so challenges us to do the same.

Thirdly, this story teaches us to genuinely care for people. This is a two-way story. It’s not only a story of Jesus welcoming sinners but it is also a story of a sinner welcoming Jesus. This woman treats Jesus with a shocking degree of intimacy. Letting out your hair and massaging a man’s feet were inappropriate forms of public behaviour. This simply shows her great love for him in response to his acceptance of her. This is very important. It’s easy to invite people to events at church and have a superficial relationship with non-Christians. But Jesus’ compassion challenges us to be genuine in our relationships. How many people in your community would consider you to be their actual friend? How many non-Christians would count you as someone they love and would spend time with? In terms of working in schemes do you simply do the events and give out the teas but fail to engage on a deeper level with people? How many on the scheme accept you and count you to be one of them? This really challenges to rethink our priorities, our view of grace and how we treat people! We need to show genuine love to people we meet.

I end with some questions that I asked our congregation after doing this study. Do we practice hospitality like Jesus? Who are we inviting round to our houses? Who are we spending our time with? Do we spend time with the lost and broken – not just in the scheme but our work colleagues and friends? Do we know our neighbours well where we live? Are we spending all our time with church people or are we making the effort to get to know people outside the church? Are we simply going to church groups to meet people or can we call people from those groups friends?

Jesus showed grace, spent time with sinners and genuinely cared for them. We are called to do likewise and in doing so represent a new world, a new kingdom and a new outlook!