It has been said that when you read Luke’s gospel that Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal or coming from a meal. Meals dominate Luke’s Gospel. Why? Because meals help us understand what Jesus is all about – welcome, community, grace, mission and friendship.
Maybe most strikingly Jesus’s meals reveal who has really understood the kingdom of God…and who hasn’t!
Sinners and tax collectors, a drunkard and a glutton
Famously this comes across in Luke 15:1-2 where we read:
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered: ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”
Tax collectors (traitors and greedy extortioners) and sinners (those who have clearly made mistakes which are obvious to everyone) are those who find themselves at Jesus’s dinner table, whilst the pharisees and teachers of the law (those who externally look very morally impressive) are standing at a distance casting doubts on Jesus because of his dinner companions. Jesus then tells the famous story of the prodigal sons who are both lost but one finds his way into the feast of the party (the younger brother who is a ‘sinner’) and the other is still in the fields outside the party when the father goes to see him (the older religious brother).
In fact Jesus’s reputation as someone who enjoyed food and drink got him a negative reputation among the religious types, we read in Mark 7:34:
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say: Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
A method of mission & discipleship
Tim Chester, in his excellent book A Meal With Jesus, which will be the springboard for the up-and-coming series reflects on this verse and the two other times where Jesus, referencing Daniel 7, says: “The Son of Man came.”
Here they are, from Luke’s gospel, in reverse order:
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Luke 10:35)
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (Luke 7:34)
Now we may know the first two very well, but number three is often missed out. Tim Chester helps us understand the three statements when he says:
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 is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. (p. 12)
So Jesus came to seek and to save us and to give his life as a ransom for many. He came to usher in the kingdom of God and rescue rebels. How did he do it? Through meals. Chester goes on to say
Jesus spent his time eating and drinking – a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.” (p. 13)
Our series (17th June – 29th July)
So we’re going to spend seven weeks thinking about the meals in Luke’s gospel and what we can learn about how we do mission, community and discipleship today. Here is the order of our series and the different people Jesus is going to eat with:
- 17th June – Luke 7:36-50: A sinful women & some pharisees
- 24th June – Luke 5:27-31: Levi & his friends (summer party)
- July 1 – Luke 9:10-17: Five thousand people
- July 8th – Luke 14:1-13: A prominent pharisee
- July 15th – Luke 14:15-24: God’s great banquet
- July 22nd – Luke 15:1-32: Sinners & tax collectors (The banquet)
- July 29th – Luke 14:13-35: Two people leaving Jerusalem
I have a number of Tim Chester’s books, so if you want to do one or two studies around this, then do let me know. July-August will be different for our City Groups since we’re encouraging the groups to take a break and do one good social and one serving-project, as well as prioritising the prayer & worship nights on the first Wednesday of the month. But for the end of June and any other times you might meet, even into September, this could be a good resource. Let me know. Plus the social and the serving project could be based around food…which would be following in the footsteps of Jesus himself!