Jesus’ Table Evangelism


Jesus socialized as a means to reach the lost.



table evangelismIn a previous post I highlighted Jesus’ scandalous habit of eating with sinners. He was known to sit at the table with tax collectors such as Levi and Zacchaeus, and at least once we see him at the table with a prostitute who comes to worship him.
Scandalous as all this was, Jesus defended it as in keeping with his saving mission. He had come to call sinners. He had come to seek and to save the lost. He was the “doctor” come to heal sin-broken souls. This was the very reason for the incarnation – he “came into the world to save sinners.” And so, of course, he socialized with sinners, and he used the occasions to call them to repentance.
Can we call this Jesus’ table evangelism?
It would seem that there is something more for us to learn from all this. It is difficult not to think that Jesus is here establishing himself as a kind of role model also. In fact, insofar as the Gospels were written for believers, it is not difficult to see the Evangelists themselves presenting Jesus as our pattern here also.The point is this: Jesus socialized as a means to reach the lost. Now be careful. Jesus did not dine with sinners just to “fit in” with them. He was called a party animal because of his association with them, but his behavior at the parties shows that he was anything but one of the number. He called his hosts and the other guests to repentance. He spoke out against “acceptable” sins. In a way that to our sensitivities, at least, would seem rude he rebuked his hosts for their pretentiousness and self-serving motives. He rebuked their hypocrisy. Still, we have to notice that his association with them was not conditioned on their repentance. Rather, his association with them was often the means he used to call them to repentance.
Again, it would seem that here he establishes a pattern for us to follow. We are not the Savior, but we are, like him, on mission. We are called to spread the good news of Christ to all who will hear. We are not called to cloisters but to be beacons of lights. We are to enter into Jesus’ work of gospel advance. And “dinner evangelism” is one way in which our Lord himself has shown us to do it.
And so it seems that this should call for some creative thinking on our part. You will find some helpful hints to this end in Craig Blomberg’s Contagious Holiness – at the end of his excellent study he provides some helpful examples of how this has been done by others. Christians could easily invite their lost friends to their table as a first step, at least, to gospel opportunity. One simple, non-threatening way to do this would be to invite Christian friends along also. Or perhaps you could invite your friend with the explanation up front that after dinner your friend from church would like to take just five minutes to tell him what we are all about at our church – and then you can get on with the games and such. Or you can invite them to church socials. Surely there are ways for us to follow our Lord’s example in this, are there not?
~ Fred

Fred Zaspel
Pastor Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012). In addition Fred is the editor of Books At A Glance.
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