Who Is Welcomed At Your Table?
There is this great moment in the Gospel of Matthew from the New Testament where Jesus eats at Matthew's house after asking Matthew to come and join him as his follower.
Matthew was a tax collector, which in the first century in Roman-controlled Judea was probably the worst thing you could be. He skimmed his profits from taxes he collected on behalf of the Roman empire. In other words, he stole from his own people.
Then Jesus went to dinner at Matthew's house and a bunch of other "undesirables" showed up.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' Matthew 9:10-13It's hard for us to understand just how radical Jesus' act of sharing a meal with "tax collectors and sinners" was within his ancient Jewish context. To share a full meal with someone who was "outside" meant that you were entering into their lives, that you were in communion with them.
Jesus' critics couldn't get why he would want to do that with people who they considered "sinners."
His reply to them comes them from the ancient Hebrew prophet Hosea: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." In other words, God wants his followers not to put on a show of being holy and religious while neglecting basic kindness, mercy, love, and grace to others.
Jesus radical act of hospitality is such good news for you and I. It's good news because it means that Jesus wouldn't hesitate to show up to dinner with us--despite our messed-upness and brokenness.
It's also good news because it frees us to be open with our "table-fellowship," just like Jesus.
Instead of focusing on all the ways that our world divides us, labels us and defines us in negative terms, we are invited to see everyone as worthy, redeemable and cherished by God.
What are some ways that you can practice radical hospitality this week? Allow yourself to be led by compassion and discover ways to reach out to people "on the margins" just like Jesus.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.