What is the best meal you have ever had? Do you remember a time when food was so good that it changed your mood entirely? Sometimes the food isn’t the focus, but it is what brings people together. Relationships are deepened around meals together. Throughout his gospel narrative, Luke weaves stories of Jesus sitting at tables and eating. In Luke 14, he is sitting at a prominent Pharisee’s house. The observe him and what he is going to do and say. Jesus also observes them and begins to provide commentary on both who they are as guests and who the host is. This commentary comes in the form of parables and sits within the context of what these meals mean in the ancient world.
In the ancient world banquets provided occasions for philosophers and teachers to impart their wisdom. Even more so, for Judaism, for Jesus, and for the early church, table fellowship was loaded with very important meanings, religious, social, and economic. Luke typically uses meal scenes in the Gospel to teach about the Kingdom to emphasize its radical inclusivity, and to present Jesus as the host or provider of the kind of fare and community that truly lends to blessing. The table presence throughout Luke’s gospel is where some of the most serious events took place. Who all do you see Jesus eating with? We often focus on the downcast and neglected but Luke does point to Jesus eating with the leaders and the wealthy. Jesus did not find it necessary to exclude the religious in order to include “publicans and sinners.” His spirit of inclusivity is in the broadest possible sense.
Who do you struggle the most to include at your table? It might not be the people you think. Will you fellowship with people on the other side of the political divide? With people who are more liberal than you? More conservative than you? Will you dine with people who are confused about their identity in ways that make you uncomfortable? Take some time to ask God to reveal to you who you struggle most with to be in relationship. Then, ask God to provide you with opportunities to be in relationships with people who make you uncomfortable.
Luke portrays Jesus at tables all throughout his ministry. On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus takes time to challenge the “table fellowship” system in Luke 14 to show what the Kingdom of God should look like. Luke, being the beautiful writer that he is, continues the table fellowship after Jesus’ resurrection. The “Breaking of Bread,” which is Bible talk for the Lord’s Supper, reveals Jesus in his resurrection to disciples in 24:28-32. It was while eating together (literally, "sharing the salt") that Christ gave his disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit and their commission (Acts 1: 4–8) and it was by table fellowship that Jews and Gentiles were able to be the church (Acts 10:9–16; 11:1–18). Luke is a good writer and he is providing a model for us to follow for being the church.
What can we do different in our lives as Christians to break down the barriers between people and gather around the table to celebrate our common bond in Christ?