It’s great to have you join us for Tuesday’s podcast. Today our Bible focus is Luke chapter 14 v1-14.
Chapter 14 is set in the home and around a meal table. As a whole, Luke’s Gospel contains more meal-time scenes than all the others, but what we see in chapters 14 and 15 in particular is not just teaching in a home, around a meal table, but also teaching about our homes, and how we use our meal tables.
When we look at Jesus’ life, we see that he spent the majority of his time in 3 places: with the crowds, in the synagogue, and in homes. In our context this could best be applied as: in the world, in the church and in our homes.
If we want to be more like Jesus, we have to live more like Jesus – we need to create and cultivate God’s kingdom in the world, we need to commit to being in church on Sunday, and we need to understand what it means to develop a discipling culture in our homes.
In his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Joel Green has a whole chapter entitled “Table Practices/Table Talk” where he explains that Jesus didn’t accidentally end up teaching in people’s homes or spending so much time eating with others by chance; but that this was an intentional part of his ministry, where his deeds and actions were deliberate and for a purpose.
Luke chapter 14 v1 says, “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.”
The Pharisees were carefully watching Jesus to try and catch him out. However, as we look at Chapter 14, let us carefully watch Jesus, and see what he was purposely and deliberately wanting to teach us and show us around the meal table.
In the culture that Jesus was living in and speaking into, the meal table wasn’t just a place where you ate food. It had a central function in re-enforcing and hopefully enhancing, a person’s social standing (as seen in verse 7). It was used to maintain a political system of obligation. There was no such thing as a free meal – but rather an invitation always came with strings attached, as is explained in verse 11. And finally, who you ate with was controlled by a host of rules regarding religious or ritual purity, with many people being declared unclean or unworthy to eat with.
The meal table was therefore exclusive. It was all about establishing an in-group and securing your place and status within this. Inviting someone for a meal was about what you could get in return. Those around the table were the pure and blameless ones, whilst those excluded were sinful and shamed.
These are strong words and it is unlikely that we instantly want to connect with them, and say, “Yes, that’s what my meal times are like!”
But, as we think about growing deeper with God, let’s ask ourselves some deeper questions:
– How often do we ask those outside of our immediate family to eat with us? Are our meal tables equally exclusive? If we do eat with others, is it just “our group” or “our friends”?
– Do we subconsciously make our meals about social status or improving our standing in community? Serving Jamie Oliver’s latest recipe or the new food craze (avocado or kale anyone?), makes us look so much better than sticking a pizza in the oven.
As I sit writing this, the phrase “An Englishman’s home is his castle” also springs to mind. Do we see our homes as the place we retreat to? Where we can pull up the drawbridge and keep out the world?
Jesus’ words in Luke Chapter 14 don’t really give us this option however – in verse 12 he quite clearly says “When you give a luncheon or a dinner…..” not If.
So, if practising hospitality in our home and around our meal table is a given, how can we do this more and who can we invite?
Is there someone new, or someone we don’t know very well, on our street or in our workplace that we could invite round for coffee or a meal?
Perhaps we do have people round, but it is a bit sporadic – where can we intentionally build in regular times to eat with others each week? Are there predictable patterns or new routines that we can seek to establish where we extend hospitality to others?
In doing this, it is good to remember the why.
Ultimately having an open meal table is a physical expression of the Gospel in action. By challenging the old norms of eating with others that were linked to social standing, favour and religious acceptance, Jesus was constructing a new vision of how we do everyday life with those around us. He reveals a vision for society that is completely different, a total reversal of, that which has gone before. And in verses 11 and 14 we see that those who seek to live in this way – who watch Jesus closely, and model the table talk and table practices that he speaks of, will be exalted, blessed and righteous; not before men, but before God.
Around Jesus’ table there is no concept of insider and outsider. Everyone is invited and no-one is excluded. Coming to be part of the feast with Jesus is free, no strings attached. As we see in verse 4, as the man with dropsy approaches Jesus, around the table of the Lord there is healing and redemption. The hallmarks of the Christian life are to be unity, generosity and celebration.
How can our home and meal table model this vision for Gospel living?
Lord Jesus, thank you that you welcome everyone. May our homes, our meal tables and our lives express this same openness to others. Amen.
READING: Luke 14:1-14
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’ And they had nothing to say.
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your 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.’