29. Meals for Prodigals

Luke records several parables in chapter 15 about the lost condition of sinners and the redemption available following repentance. These culminate in the parable of the prodigal son, where Jesus describes a famously wayward son who returns home hungry after squandering his inheritance. By rights, his father need not take him back. But, this father has been watching for his son’s return, and sets in motion a grand feast to celebrate the son’s reinstatement in the family.

Here is a feast to note. When a lost loved one returns home with a changed heart, when s/he seeks forgiveness, our natural response should be one of joyful celebration through feasting. It’s a recurring theme throughout the meal stories in the Gospel of Luke; repentance, reconciliation, and redemption are available to all. Our place at God’s table is waiting for our change of heart, which is the catalyst leading to a reformed and responsive life, reenergized by eating the spiritual food Jesus provides.

Not long after preaching the “lost” parables, and getting closer to his last days in Jerusalem, Jesus finds himself in Jericho, peering up into a sycamore tree at Zacchaeus, the town’s chief tax collector. Looking him in the eyes, Jesus doesn’t bother asking Zacchaeus what he wants. Instead, Jesus tells Zacchaeus that he plans on staying at his house. One minute Zacchaeus is “lost” among the tree’s leaves, and the next he is jumping down with rejoicing. Immediately, another meal with “sinners” is in the works. It must have been a very happy meal indeed, marked by a festive welcome unlike any Jesus had experienced in the homes of the Pharisees.

Just imagine:  Jesus coming up to you and asking you to set a place at your dining room table for him!  What’s the menu?  Who else would you invite?  What would the table conversation be like?  Believe it or not, the day is coming when you WILL be seated at the wedding feast table with Jesus the bridegroom. Jesus the lamb of God.  The bread of life.  The Lord of your life.  Wow!  Jesus welcomes you, the prodigal, you, the sinner, with open arms, and the first order of business is a shared meal!

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