27. A Woeful Dinner with Jesus

Once again, Jesus is invited by a Pharisee for a formal meal (Luke 11: 37-54). From the start, and to the surprise of his host, Jesus is immediately confrontational by purposefully neglecting to wash before the meal (washing was not demanded in the law, but was an expected ceremonial act of cleansing in Pharisaic tradition). “[H]is surprising disregard of the ritual washing before a meal functions as the fait divers that sparks the dispute of this banquet symposium.”[1]

Jesus uses the opportunity of the table’s intimacy to launch into a diatribe against the vainglory of his host and dining companions. Can you imagine a more uncomfortable scene? Jesus pronounces woe on them all, calling them dirty, greedy, wicked, unjust, self-inflated, foolish, irresponsible, and bloodthirsty. The Jewish religious leaders and experts in the law find themselves in an indefensible situation, and their self-righteous anger mounts with each new invective from this itinerant (and unclean) teacher.

Luke does not make us privy to how this meal concludes. But, the message here is important. It is at these shared meals that Jesus calls sinners to repentance; the meals anticipate both the Last Supper and Lord’s Supper and are always concerned with the redemption of the lost. Furthermore, we should realize that not every meal we share with others will be a love fest. Sometimes, sin must be confronted, even with the knowledge that people will be hurt, insulted, and become angry. Not only that, but there’s every possibility that we will be the ones being shown our mistaken ways by others who love us.

We would do well to honestly consider how we live our inner life on a regular basis, and address those places in which our self-congratulation may very well be a woeful thing to our Lord.

In post 28, we will look at yet another of Jesus’ meals with Pharisees-this time when a man with dropsy just “happens to show up” while Jesus is eating.

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] John Paul Heil, The Meal Scenes in Luke Acts: An Audience-Oriented Approach, p. 83.

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