I’m guest posting for my friend Preston Yancey today about Jesus’ habit of alienating the religious leaders by having dinner with the wrong people. While you’re visiting his blog, be sure to check out his upcoming book Tables in the Wilderness. Here’s a sample of today’s post:
If you were going to get really angry at Jesus over something, what would you choose?
What if you chose to get mad at him over the company he chose for dinner parties? Lots of people really didn’t like the way Jesus organized his dinner parties, and he made some of his most controversial statements during dinner.
For starters, he chose to eat dinner with tax collectors while never clearly demanding that they change their lives. The Pharisees found his fellowship with notorious sinners repulsive, but Jesus didn’t run out to say, “Chill out guys, I’m just practicing friendship evangelism! I’m hating the sin, not the sinner.”
Jesus let his critics think the worst of him.
He also welcomed the “wasteful love” of a wealthy woman who poured expensive perfume on him. His disciples who had to scrape by to make a living made the most level-headed observation about her action: This was folly. Why didn’t Jesus demean this wealthy woman’s wasteful act of love?
When another woman with a shady past fell at his feet, weeping and wiping his feet with her hair, he didn’t require a specific confession in front of his guests to make it clear that he demanded repentance. He allowed her to rub her unclean hands all over his feet, making him impure in the eyes of the religious leaders.
Jesus’ choice of company at dinner became a defining aspect in his ministry—a clue that he wasn’t on the same page with the religious authorities. His ministry was essentially undermined because he ate meals with the wrong people. As a result, he lost popularity and influence. That brings up an important question for disciples:
Who will you join at a dinner table?