The Christian needs Radical Meals
As he spoke, a Pharisee invited Jesus to have a meal with him, so he went in and took his place at the table.
But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you.
“Would any one of you say to your slave who comes in from the field after plowing or shepherding sheep, ‘Come at once and sit down for a meal’?
We are in a short series on the theme “Radical”. As has been mentioned, the idea came from some reflections on the book Radical, but this series is by no means a repetition of that book. We are using the word radical in this way: Jesus came to bring people to a fundamental and extreme change in our relationship with God and our way of life before God. First we saw that true Christianity is based on the Radical Redeemer. Those who follow Christ Jesus get involved in his radical way of life. Next, we considered a group of women who became radical in their relationship with God and in their way of life. They experienced radical change when the encountered the authority of the Radical Redeemer. And they exhibited radical consecration when they joined his followers and contributed financially to Christ’s ministry. Last week we saw that the person with radical faith is confident in God the Father’s provision, devoted to the Father’s vision, and participating in the Father’s mission.
Christ has given us, his people, a mission. We are to make learners or followers of Christ in all nations (Lk 24:45-49). Christ has given us the Holy Spirit for power in that mission. I think most Christians understand this much. We know that there is no “Plan B” and that unless the Spirit works, nothing of spiritual significance happens. However… well, to speak frankly, in spite of our knowledge nothing much of anything happens, especially after you’ve been a Christian a couple years. There simply isn’t much radical about our lives.
At this point we might give a number of explanations, from which we all might perhaps acquire a weird combination of guilt, blame shifting, committee forming, and program making that in the end also accomplishes nothing. Before we run down those paths again, I’d like to make a bold suggestion. Let’s look at how Jesus actually connected with people. Let’s listen to some passages from the Gospel of Luke 4:39; 5:4-11; 29-32; 7:31-35, 36-50; 9:1-6, 10-17; 10:5-9, 38-42; 11:37-38; 12:16-21, 29-31, 35-44; 13:29; 15:1-2, 22-32; 19:1-10; 22:7-38; 24:28-31. As this brief survey shows, Jesus shared meals with people, or told his followers to share meals with others, or used the subject of food to teach people.
We should follow Jesus and use meals as opportunities for the gospel. But to do this in his way, we must have his attitudes permeating our way of life.
I.The attitude of compassion (14:1-6)
A.Jesus found himself in an unpleasant situation.
1.He was a dinner guest in a home of a prominent Pharisee. Jesus was willing to eat with those who opposed him at their place. He did not think that he had to be in control by having others on his turf.
Illustration: Success of going to a Kurdish coffee shop instead of a Christian coffee shop
2.He was being carefully watched, because they wanted to catch Jesus in some real or supposed fault. Then they could attack him. Obviously, this is not a happy crowd at the dinner, but Jesus was willing to go there for his Father’s glory. We don’t do things to feel good, but to love God and to love people (cf. Ph 1:12-20).
3.He saw a man with a serious physical problem. (There is no need to speculate on its exact nature.) Jesus tried to have some before dinner conversation about helping the man, but no one would talk with him. A good reply to his question would have been, “Yes, it is lawful to help him. Jesus, will you heal him for the glory of God and his good?”
B.Jesus pressed on in spite of the coldness of his hosts. [Some things aren’t easy!]
1.He healed the man, which solved his physical need. Then he sent him away, which provided for his social need, since the healed man would not be the object of their hostility. (Yes, they did turn on those Jesus healed. Think of the man born blind, Jn 9).
2.He stood up for God’s ways in the face of their lack of pity for the man and obvious hostility toward Jesus. They kept quiet, not wanting to say that Jesus is right.
Apply: What about you—do you agree that Jesus is right and then live in conformity with his word?
II.The attitude of humility (14:7-14)
A.Jesus saw people acting out of selfish ambition. They were looking for the best seats at the dinner table, so that others could see how important they were. Have you thought about how these matters work? If you are put before someone, then they are beneath you. And those higher up the pecking order are usually treated better than those who are lower. Those above are served first, fussed over, and things like that. This is the way of the world. Contrast the attitude and action of Jesus (Luke 22:24-27).
1.In response, Jesus decided to tell a story, not about any dinner, but about a wedding feast. (Remember that history is heading toward the wedding supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9.) Since Jesus had been to wedding feasts before, he had probably seen this scene. You know how it is. “Oh, you’re seated at table #22.” And when you get to your assigned table, there is jockeying for position at the table to get the best seats.
2.The point of Jesus’ story is to act with humility for the good of others and not with pride to satisfy yourself. The Lord’s way is to humble yourself, as he did by coming from heaven to become truly human, in order to die for us (Ph 2:5-11). God awarded Christ’s service for others with glory. We should serve one another humbly in love (Gal 5:13).
B.Jesus also corrected his host about how to serve others and not oneself.
1.Use meals to help others, not to satisfy yourself. People too often give meals or parties to exalt themselves before others and then expect to be repaid with an invitation to another party. Jesus upsets all social conventions by saying to invite the disadvantaged who cannot possibly pay you back.
Comment: You and I fit each of those categories (14:13) in a spiritual sense. When we know what we were by natural and God’s grace to us, it is easy to draw people near with grace.
2.Jesus also points to what is really important—the resurrection of the righteous. It is another way of telling us to lay up treasure in heaven by serving others now. Use meals to win others to the Lord.
Apply: We must seriously ask ourselves if we are willing in love to eat with people unlike us. Or are we seeking our own pleasure and some kind of worldly repayment?
III.The attitude of generosity (14:15-24)
Illustration: Were you ever in a class where there was a show-off, who was always trying to impress the instructor with their knowledge? It is a miserable situation for everyone else in the room, including the teacher! Someone at this dinner thought they had something very profound to say. Jesus uses the comment to teach more about the importance of meals.
A.Jesus tells the story of a snubbed host of a great banquet. If you’re going to give a banquet, you have many preparations to make, chief of which is getting food and preparing it. This involves great expense for the host.
1.The man in the story acted according to the social customs of the time. He gave proper prior invitations, and then informed his guests that the banquet was ready.
2.But when the time for the banquet arrived, all the invited guests failed to show, giving ridiculous excuses for their failure to come. Only fools would buy animals or land without first inspecting them. And to talk about needing to be alone with your new wife was a matter of “too much information” and socially unacceptable.
B.The man giving the banquet was angered by their rejection. But he did not allow his anger to stop him from being generous.
1.So he told his servant to invite all the disadvantaged people that he could find—those who could never repay him. Notice that Jesus uses the four same categories of disadvantaged people. His servant did just that.
2.But there was still room, so he told his servant to go bring in anyone he could find, so that his house would be full. This is our challenge: to bring people to Christ, so that they will be ready to celebrate with Jesus at the wedding feast of the Lamb!
1. Let us evaluate ourselves. Jesus welcomed and ate with socially outcast sinners (15:1-2). Do we? Can we call ourselves his people, if we fail to draw near to people he drew near to?
2. “Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission” (Chester, A Meal with Jesus, in chapter four).
3. “Don’t start with a big program. Don’t suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community…. You don’t need a big program. You don’t need to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home” (Schaeffer, quoted by Chester in ibid).
4. Start this summer. Invite your neighbors and perhaps one or two from our church. Pray with your gospel partners ahead of time. Have a meal. Just talk with your neighbors. Find out what is on their heart. Ask questions that show you really care about them. Then use your newfound opportunities to gently lead them toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.