One of my favorite experiences was the meal, the table at the graduation of ESL, English as a Second Language Classes. One of the last ones I did I included people from many countries, many languages, and many religions. There were people and food from Africa, from the middle East, from Central America, and from Mexico. They were so proud of their accomplishment and the varieties of ethnic foods they brought. I got to say a word and offer a prayer. Everyone bowed their head and I ended the prayer ‘In Jesus Name” even the middle eastern people.
Luke 15:1,2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, this man receives sinners and eats with them! Jesus had been doing the things Jesus did, preaching, teaching, working a miracle now and again, and now entering a home to eat a meal with publicans and sinners. Publicans where tax collectors who gathering taxes from their own people, the Jewish people of Israel, doing so for the Roman Occupiers. They were hated and considered the worst of the worst. Sinners were normal people who simply did not keep all the intricate Jewish laws that the Pharisees and Scribes lived by and demanded everyone else live by. The religious leaders would have nothing to do with “sinners” and would never consider eating with them, this would make them unclean too. It stirred up a lot of fuss, this precedent that Jesus seemed to be setting.
With this simple meal Jesus teaches us what it looks like to follow Him, that its less following the religious rules and more eating with sinners:
If I want to be a disciple of Jesus, follow Him, then I need to find a sinner to eat with on occasion. They are not hard to find.
Its learning to look at the world like Jesus did. Its understanding life the way Jesus did. Its living into relationships like Jesus did.
Human beings are typically attracted to, drawn to, connected to people just like us. Its easier and less demanding to “eat with” people that look like us, act like us, believe like us, vote like us, Etc.
there was the day I was having Coffee at Starbucks meeting with a man who was going through a very difficult job situation. A young special needs girl saw me, probably in her early 20s, I had known her since she was little. She rested her bicycle on the window, gave me high five and a big smile. Then a young many saw me. I had known him since he was in college. He had recently recovered from a serious period of drug addiction leading to a season on the street. He was now getting married, had a good job, and life was good. It was good to greet hem. Then an older man waved as he got in his car. He is in his 90s, a veteran of D Day. I had presided at his wifes funeral a few years before.
These moments reminded me of what real discipleship is.
real life includes real community; Jesus had a different way of looking at himself and others; Jesus refocus Kingdom rules from the rules, the laws, to love and to people. If we want to follow Jesus then the way He lived becomes the way He lived,
We need to find a sinner to eat lunch with and understand that kind of moment is what faithful discipleship looks like.
The kingdom of God is about a table, a table everyone is invited to eat at, where the family at the table is not defined by being alike, believing the same thing, being of the same race, of following the same rules, but the common denominator that “We all need Jesus”, a common love for one another.
The Pharisees and scribes were oblivious to the fact that their insulation from so called sinners also isolated them from their own messiah. Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone years my voice, and opens the door, I will come it and eat dinner with them and they with me”. Revelation 3:20