Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eating With Sinners

I have an entire chapter in my book on this topic, but I thought this quote was a nice little summary regarding the scriptural significance of sharing a meal at the same table. It is a profound concept when we consider of the implications of how blessed we are to be able to take the sacrament each week.

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? Matthew 9:10-11

To understand what Jesus was doing in eating with ‘sinners’, it is important to realize that in the east, even today, to invite a man to a meal was an honor. It was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood, and forgiveness; in short, sharing a table meant sharing life.

The report in II Kings 25.17-30 that Jehoiachin was brought by the king of Babylon from prison to the royal table is a public proclamation of his rehabilitation. In a similar way, king Agrippa I had the supreme commander Silas, who had fallen out of favor, invited to his table as a sign that he had forgiven him.

In Judaism in particular, table-fellowship means fellowship before God, for the eating of a piece of broken bread by everyone who shares in the meal brings out the fact that they all have a share in the blessing which the master of the house had spoken over the unbroken bread.

Thus Jesus’ meals with the publicans and sinners, too, are not only events on a social level, not only an expression of his unusual humanity and social generosity and his sympathy for those who were despised, but had an even deeper significance.

They are an expression of the mission and message of Jesus (Mark 2.17), anticipatory celebrations of the feast in the end-time (Matt. 8.11 par.), in which the community of the saints is already being represented (Mark 2.19). The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God.

(Jeremias, Joachim. 1971. New Testament Theology. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons., pgs 115-116)

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