Those who have listened to enough of my sermons will know that Tim Chester is a modern author I tend to quote frequently. I’ve read many of his books and have always appreciated his engagement with Scripture and challenging application to the church today.
Both of these qualities are evident in his book based on Luke’s Gospel- A Meal with Jesus. He picks up the fact that Jesus describes himself as the Son of Man who came “eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). The book is then based around the meals that Jesus has in Luke’s Gospel- at the house of Levi the tax collector (Luke 5), with Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7), at the feeding of the five thousand (Luke 9), with the Pharisees when Jesus teaches about the Great Banquet (Luke 14), at the Last Supper (Luke 22) and after the resurrection (Luke 24).
There are some fascinating asides on the subject of food as you go through the book- an important (and personally challenging) subject that isn’t normally mentioned a great deal. Perhaps most striking though is the way in which Chester picks up these meals as indicative of Jesus’ grace and then challenges us to do likewise.
The scandal of Jesus’ grace was that he ate with tax collectors and sinners. The people of the day complained about that frequently (see Luke 5, 15 and 19). But Jesus replies that to come eating and drinking with such people was part of his very mission. Chester puts it like this,
“This is why eating and drinking were so important in the mission of Jesus: they were the sign of his friendship with tax collectors and sinners.” The wonder of the Gospel is that Jesus offers to all of us the opportunity to eat with him- in our case at the end of time at his great wedding supper.
Chester goes on to make the point that if eating with sinners was central to Jesus’ mission then it should be part of our lives. In particular he poses the challenge as to whether we are more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees. He writes this,
“Those who avoid the contamination of sinners are like the Pharisees. Those who earn the label ‘friend of sinners’ are like their Saviour.” Whilst the Pharisees condemn sinners from a distance (“Today’s Pharisees might condemn the poor for their dysfunctional families, but lift not one finger to help”), it is Jesus who goes out to eat with them.
The book is full of helpful examples and illustrations from the Crowded House church in Sheffield as they have sought to use shared meals as a basis for mission. I would warmly recommend the book as a way of studying how the one who came to seek and save the lost (19:10) did so by eating and drinking (7:34).
I think I’ve reflected enough on Luke for the time being. We have looked at the theme of the Great Reversal from different angles. Here is one last quote from Chester that summarizes the contrast that runs throughout the Gospel:
“Look at the two lists: gracious, inclusive, welcoming, feasting, rejoicing and recognizing your need, compared with religious, exclusive, unwelcoming, fasting, grumbling and self-righteous. Are you living as someone who belongs to the new way?”