Breaking Bread with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke

As the holidays approach, Adventurous Obedience will look at meals shared around the table, inspiring both ordinary and sacred connections. Jesus breaks bread with all sorts of folks where they live in order to teach simple truth. And the truth is that we will experience and understand more of who we are as we break bread in community.

Story 1: An Invitation to Community at Levi’s Banquet Table

Read Luke 5:27-39.

For a deeper experience using this material please let me suggest the following:

  1. Find a Sacred Space where you can remove yourself from distractions.
  2. Read the passage from Luke through once and sit with it.  Read it again and listen for a word or phrase the Spirit helps you notice. Read it a third time and respond to what you heard in prayer.
  3. Read the blog and finish with the REFLECT and PRACTICE ideas.

Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with misfits and ‘sinners’?”Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”

Luke 5:29-32 (MSG)

One of the joys of being a global traveler and a cross cultural minister has been shared meals with a diversity of peoples.  I’ve been invited to share food in homes, huts, and under a tree.  Three wonderful ways to welcome and be welcomed into relationship and community are by speaking someone’s language, dancing to their music, and eating their food together!

While living in S. Asia, we visited a neighboring country to meet people from the indigenous minority group that we worked with in ministry.  Our host from the majority population warned us that we should not enter this dangerous minority community because they were commonly known as thieves.  Undaunted and curious, my husband and I walked into the closed area alone and asked to meet with the leader of the “tribe.”  Not only were we taken to his house, but we were warmly welcomed and invited to sit down at their table, which by the way, was beautifully hand-carved and the centerpiece of their home.  We broke bread together, large round loaves baked daily in coal ovens, and talked about their culture, lives, and faith.

Luke’s Gospel uniquely takes us to settings away from religious gatherings to focus on Jesus’ humanity and compassion for the poor and marginalized. In his stories shared around a meal in the homes of ordinary people, Jesus makes it clear that those who have been excluded also need personal repentance and inclusion in a discipleship community. By meeting them where they work, and eating with them where they live, he openly shares his message and identity.  Jesus calls Levi, a man of high position, yet despised in the religious community, to relationship, saying, “Follow me.” 

Leaving his lucrative career, Levi chooses to follow Jesus on an uncertain and risky adventure. He doesn’t keep it to himself, but celebrates new life with a great party.  The guest list includes his colleagues as well as Jesus and his disciples to come together around the banquet table.  Then and now, we really get to know people and their culture by joining festivals and sharing food at family gatherings.

Yet, what would a radical, inclusive event be without some judgers, to hang around and complain, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But why were the judgers even at Levi’s house? Maybe they were “God-fearing” conservative people who thought it “right” to publicly judge others. Sound familiar?

They address their complaint not to Jesus, but to the disciples, objecting to their presence at a table of outsiders.  By eating in Levi’s home with his friends, Jesus and the disciples demonstrate solidarity with them. Wasn’t it those same outsiders, who demonstrated hospitality and relationship with Jesus and his followers by inviting them to dinner?

 Jesus answered the judgers’ complaint saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Jesus called Levi to new life and he responded by hosting an opportunity for all to hear Jesus at the same table. 

Jesus leaves them with an interesting parable, prompting them to go deeper: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins…but new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” Welcoming all to our table as well as being invited to the table is like new wine being poured into fresh wineskins.  The new wine of Jesus’ forgiveness cannot be put into old wineskins of our own self-righteous judgments.

REFLECT: As you sit with this story, allow Jesus to challenge any “old wineskin” ways of thinking about those people who are in opposition to your values, beliefs or politics.  Talk with others about how we can pour new wine at the table of our culture of quick judgments.

PRACTICE: Plan to invite a neighbor or colleague to the table who are outside your normal circle of friends. Check out events or festivals that would help you explore new ideas or communities of people.

AROUND THE TABLE: As a young adult I was challenged to draw a picture of my childhood kitchen table and look at how family interactions shaped me. Talking it over with my spiritual mentor was both enlightening and freeing. Try doing this with a trusted mentor.

Or read this poem with a friend or small group to talk about your family kitchen table. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49622/perhaps-the-world-ends-here

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