For months, the Holy Spirit prodded at my heart to reach out to a widow down the street from us. Weeks went by and then months of ignoring a growing conviction, until all the excuses I’d wrapped so beautifully started to unravel. With a thumping in my heart and apologies on my tongue, I gave her a call.
I had no idea how she’d react, and I honestly felt overwhelming guilt for waiting so long. Cognizant of her health, I offered a front porch, physically distant coffee date. Without hesitation, without expressing frustration for all the times I drove by her home without acknowledgment, she squealed, “Oh Jen, I couldn’t be any more tickled with delight.”
Tickled with delight. It felt straight out of a Hallmark movie.
Why had I waited so long? It rocked me once again to know that a simple invitation to gather at the table would be met with such joy amidst loneliness.
But should that surprise me?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Luke. I think he’d be the first Bible personality I’d invite to my table if I could. More than any of the other Gospel writers, Luke seemed to understand the significance of mealtime and table fellowship. I imagine him as the quintessential New Testament food blogger, whipping out his cell phone to capture in pictures what can’t be described with words. He’d bring to life the significance of food and community. After all, food was mentioned around fifty times in his gospel. Robert Karris observes, “In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.”
Jesus used the sharing of food throughout His ministry as an opportunity for nourishment on so many levels — to break down barriers, bring community together, radically cross economic and political boundaries, and even give opposing enemies the opportunity to sit together. The context behind many of Jesus’ interactions with His followers was a simple meal. He modeled its importance, and yet Luke seems to be the only one who highlighted this in his writing. Maybe he didn’t want us to miss out on Jesus’ simple yet revolutionary method.
We can learn and apply a lot from this. In A Meal with Jesus, author Tim Chester reflects on six particular chapters in Luke and poses an interesting question in the introduction: “How would you complete this sentence — The Son of Man came . . .”
Out of curiosity, I asked my husband and son this question, and they followed suit with the majority of Christians. They answered, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 ESV), followed by, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 ESV).
So then I offered, “There’s a third way to respond.” They were as stumped as I had been. The third response I told them is, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34 ESV).
My husband argued, “Oh no He didn’t.”
“Oh yes He did. Open the Bible, and I’ll show you.”
How is it that I’d glossed over that last statement when I’d read it so often? Chester writes, “The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give His life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third statement is a statement of method.” It’s how Jesus came — eating and drinking. Isn’t that a dynamic insight?
How brilliant that His gospel strategy was often disguised as a long, lingering meal stretching out past sunset. He didn’t spend time creating more corporate planning strategy meetings or developing new church programs. He simply fed more. He intertwined His message and His method in such an authentic and natural way that it’s easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.
Jesus came “eating and drinking,” and it blew people’s minds. That’s because when He sat down to eat, there was a lot more going on than just the savoring of fresh fish hot off the grill, a loaf of bread, and a cool drink. Doing life around the table was and continues to be one of God’s favorite ways to enact world change — one of His most profound yet simple strategies for discipleship, evangelism, and the encouragement of the saints.
Our tables may look different this year due to COVID, but more than ever before, let’s take His lead. The profound impact a simple, safe, creative invitation can have on the lives of those around us must be pursued.
Who can you save a seat for this holiday season? Trust me, they’ll be tickled with delight.
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