“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.”
Mark 2:15
In Middle Eastern culture, it is not uncommon to receive warm hospitality from a total stranger. And that hospitality always carries with it, the offer of food. In Genesis 18, we find Abraham preparing food for his visitors, even though he had no idea who they were. Gideon likewise prepared food for his heavenly visitor (Judges 6) and later in Scripture we find Manoah attempting to do the same.
Yet, while preparing food for strangers was a wonderful gesture of human kindness, to actually dine with someone was to take it one step further. To enjoy a meal together with someone, was a sign of identifying with them, a sign of companionship and of closeness. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day understood this, perhaps better than most. And thus, when they perceived that Jesus actually ate with sinners and tax collectors, they became angry.
The religion of the day was to keep as far away from “sinners” as possible, so as to remain unstained by their sin. But Jesus touched, sat down, and ate with sinners. This was astounding to the hearts and minds of the religious elite! It was radical!
But the gospel of Jesus Christ is radical! It is unlike any of man’s religions. It presents a Saviour who is willing to sit down and dine with the outcasts of society! It declares that a God who is infinitely holy, has chosen to dine with the most rebellious of sinners, because the price of sin has been paid for at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The meals that Jesus shared with Zacchaeus and with other tax collectors and prostitutes are pictures of the wonder of the gospel! The last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples was a meal of fellowship, of forgiveness, of love and of grace. But all of these are but faints hints of a far, far greater fellowship meal yet to come. The day is coming when all those who have put their hope and trust solely in the life and death of the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf, will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb to feast eternally! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!