Do You Smell What Jesus is Cooking?

Article by Bill Petri

Every October, families gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada. The central part of this holiday centers around our dinner tables. Family and friends will eat good food and perhaps, more importantly, converse with one another. These conversations at the dinner table are often times what we look forward to the most. The joy of fellowshipping one with another is a joyous event. Yes, this is a great time to enjoy one another over dinner. Interestingly, our Lord Jesus Christ did the same thing. The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus having dinner and conversing with others while breaking bread. I would like to look at some examples of these dinners, and perhaps give you, the reader, a greater appreciation of what dinner can be.

Matthew 11:18-19

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. [19] The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

In societies where there are barriers between classes, races, or other status groups the separation is maintained by means of a taboo on social mixing. The scandal Jesus caused (in the above passage) in Israeli society by mixing socially with sinners can hardly be imagined by most people today. To eat and drink with them meant that He accepted them and that He actually wanted to be a friend to tax collectors and sinners. The effect upon the poor and the oppressed themselves was miraculous. Interestingly, the vast majority of Israelites who accepted Jesus' ministry came from individuals who were considered socially unacceptable.

Mark 2:15-16

And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. [16] And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

Community emerges in the midst of diversity when all are invited and embraced, accepted and included. The most provocative image of community that Jesus modeled in His life was His fellowship around the dinner table with people who were considered sinners and outcasts in society. Jesus intentionally shattered the boundries instituted by society and fashioned a new understanding of community rooted in the idea of acceptance of God. There was not an individual in Israel who could ever feel that Jesus' ministry did not include him or her. Jesus actually counted Himself as one of them, and could thus, minister to these individuals in ways they never before had been ministered. Notice in the above passage that it was the "scribes" and "Pharisees" who had a hard time with Jesus fellowshipping with the societal outcasts. In their mind, Jesus was a very influential person and His decision to destroy the social boundaries could only weaken their influence upon society.

Luke 7:36-39

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. [37] And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, [38] And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. [39] Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

The concerns of the religious leaders did not intimidate Jesus. In the above, we see Jesus allowed a woman who was considered a "sinner" to annoint His feet with tears and kiss them right at the table of a Pharisee! It would be impossible to overestimate the impact meals such as this must have had upon the poor and the sinners. 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 the captivity of their own feelings of worthlessness. The physical contact that He must have had with them while resting at a table and which He obviously never dreamed of disallowing, must have made them feel clean and acceptable.

Luke 15:2

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

Jesus publicly ate meals with individuals like Zacchaeus, a chief tax collecter, and others who had been ostracized and isolated by society and religion. Jesus' acceptance of them would have been perceived as a claim that they were accepted by God.

Luke 19:5-10

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. [6] And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. [7] And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. [8] And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. [9] And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. [10] For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

This marvelous account shows us Jesus' idea of total acceptance of His people. When Jesus tells Zacchaeus that He was going to abide with Him, we see a fantastic response. Read verse 6 carefully. Zacchaeus could not move fast enough to get to Jesus! Here was Jesus, a man many thought to be the Messiah and universally accepted to be a prophet, wanting to be with him, a filthy dishonest tax collector. If a prophet could accept him, that woud mean that God had also accepted him. The rest of this account goes on to tell us how this corrupt tax collector who was oppressing his own people would admit to it, and then commit to making restitution.

Jesus gained quite a reputation because of the people He invited to join Him around the table. Jesus was not your normal teacher. He taught about community by living in the presence of those who hungered for it most. No one was excluded from the table. Jesus even shared a table with Judas, who was preparing to betray Him in a few hours (John 13:25)! Jesus' table fellowship also had implications for the broader Jewish society. The meals of Jesus became a vehicle of cultural protest, challenging the ethos and politics of holiness under the law as taught by Israel's religious leaders, even as it also painted a different picture of what Israel was to be, an inclusive community reflecting the compassion of God. The table fellowship of Jesus truly gave birth to the contrast community for which the Hebrew Scriptures had expressed hope. Jesus' parable of the great banquet described this revolutionary reordering of community by inviting the oppresed to the table (Luke 14:15-24). In the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke16:19-31), Jesus made it clear that excluding the poor from one's table of fellowship could lead to one's exclusion from God's table in the life after death.1 The table fellowship of Jesus must be seen both as a protest against a religious zeal that is judgmental and exclusive, and as a lived-out expression of the openness of God's grace being extended to Israel.2

It is clear that Jesus' table fellowship turned first-century Jewish society upside down. His message included what the religious leaders of Israel had never taught: the inclusive character of Messiah's reign to all members of the nation of Israel who would accept Him as their Messiah. Jesus lived out His teaching by freely associating with, and showing preference for, the poor and marginalized -- sinners, outcasts, women. They were the last who had become first; the humble who had become exalted. It has been said jokingly that Jesus was killed because of the way He ate. It would be hard to dispute that as partial truth.

Jesus states that solidarity for Israel does not exist in a corrupted government, or religion, which thus corrupted all Israeli society. He defended prostitutes, He spoke with lepers and the impure, He praised Samaritans, He permitted ostracized women to follow Him. These positive actions of His were calculated to create a new collective Israeli awareness of what National Solidarity is, and that it actually can exist. Jesus' meals for the poor have special importance for this point.

2 Cor. 5:16-20

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth Know we him no more. [17] Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

From the above passage, we understand that God has had a dispensational change. We do not know Christ after the flesh anymore. We are not Israel, but a new creature, that never before existed on this planet. Jesus is not on this planet walking and conversing and eating with others. Instead, we as members of His body, act in His stead and in that sense, Jesus is still here.

Philip. 2:2-5

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. [3] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. [4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. [5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

We are to have the same mindset towards those whom society has refused. We are to exhibit the same love and care to all with whom we come into contact offering to them the terms of God's all wonderful Grace, and the total acceptance that being in Christ produces in this Dispensation of the Grace of God. As members of the Body of Christ, it should be easy to welcome all who are members of the Body into our fellowship. We should never be exclusive because of economic, racial, or any other societal barrier that exists. Instead, we must work towards inclusiveness of all members of the Body of Christ. Far too long, we have separated ourselves from one another. If we read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 carefully, we will see the importance of being inclusive. We, who understand "right division", should know this better than any denominationalist ever could.

At this Thanksgiving, let us rejoice in the individuality of every member in the Body of Christ! Let us work towards having "all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery!"

 1 We need to realize two things about the account of the rich man and Lazarus. First, this is not a parable. Jesus teaches it as fact and as two individuals who actually lived. Second, this account speaks of things that are true of Israel and their future kingdom that are not necessarily true of us in the Body of Christ.

2 We must realize this exclusiveness dealt with Israel alone. God Himself, made Israel an exclusive people (Ephesians 2:11-12). What Jesus was shattering was the societal norms of Israel, He, Himself, excluded the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:24; Romans 9:3-5; Romans 15:8).