WWJE: What Would Jesus Eat
At 19 years old I traveled around the country and in and out of Mexico in a beat-up 1967 Ford hippie van, filled with hitch-hikers. I’ll never forget the nights sitting around a long table at The Salvation Army sharing dinner. Someone would always bless the food first, and then, along with anywhere from 20 to 200 men I’d share a hot meal. The commonality around that table is still etched in my mind. Sinners, smiles, and salvation. It was all there.
The front of our sanctuary at church this week is set up like a huge feast. A dinner. All are invited. Some might debate however, whether most people feel more welcome in the local church or the local sports bar. The WWJE question reminds me of a chapter in “A Glimpse of Jesus” by Brennan Manning. He writes:
Through table-fellowship (meal-sharing) Jesus ritually acted out his insight into the Father’s indiscriminate love—a love that causes his sun to rise on bad people as well as good, and his rain to fall on the honest and the dishonest alike (Matt. 5:45). The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most dramatic expression of the message of the redeeming love of the merciful God.
It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners in Jesus’ day. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to Him as people He gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their old captivity. The physical contact which he must have had with them at table (John 13:25) and which he obviously never dreamed of disallowing (Luke 7:38-39) must have made them feel clean and acceptable. Moreover because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and a prophet, they would have interpreted his gesture of friendship as God’s approval of them. They were now acceptable to God. Perhaps their sinfulness, ignorance and uncleanness had been overlooked and were no longer being held against them. “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4
Unfortunately, the meaning of meal-sharing is largely lost on Western society today. In the East, to share a meal with someone is a symbol of peace, trust, brotherhood, and forgiveness; the shared table is a shared life. To say to an Orthodox Jew, “I would like to have dinner with you,” is understood as “I would like to enter into friendship with you.” ~ Brennan Manning
One of the best meals I remember was in a small village in East Timor where a young couple set out a magnificent spread of food which they had prepared all day. Ants and bugs were all over the table, but I remember how Jesus filled that room. These days, in the same given week I might have dinner with a member of the Country Club or McDonalds lunch with an addict who’s entire belongings can fit in a nap-sack. Both are blessed and beautiful when the love of God in Christ Jesus is present. Oh, and if you’ve read this far and want to have lunch, it’s on me. Seriously. Just email me.