Jesus in the Margins: Part 5-- For Tim and Jay
Jesus said, "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." '
Jesus is here contrasting his kingdom of God method to his cousin's John the Baptist's way.
"The Son of Man came exegeting Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and correcting the doctrinal errors of the Pharisees, and all the other factions in Israel."
Oops, that's the USAmerican evangelical approach to social change. "Preach the Word!" Too bad our Supreme Example didn't use that approach, eh?
Daily meals became Jesus' "dangerous" method. He welcomed marginalized people to eat with him. They gladly did so at the cafe table called The Kingdom of God. They laughed and swapped stories and had a rousing good time. Jesus' disciples had numerous side conversations with the cultural-culinary-religious police about "Why does your master welcome and eat with these kind of people?" Talk about emerging onversation!
Whoever thought that bread could be a weapon for change? Can't you just imagine Jesus with squinted eyes staring down an upstart Pharisee and in a Clint Eastwood raspy voice saying, "This here is a Zebulun 6" diameter loaf of fresh-baked, butter-topped, wheat grain bread...and I don't know how many bites are left. Feeling lucky, punkisee?"
Whoever thought an ordinary table of people could be the place where heaven and earth meet?
Whoever thought that eating together with the most unsavory of friends would reshape a nation's vision of holiness?
I marvel at the Jesus Way. Creating a national storm with bread, fish and wine, not with swords, F-16's and bunker-busters.
"As oft' as you quote this verse and preach this Bible text and argue stringently for justification by faith alone, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." How does that verse go again?
Oh, how we have changed from the Jesus Way.
People at the margins might not be able to follow our fine, finessed, exegetically precise, "inner logic" trails to getting right with God, but they sure do know how to eat. And they'll eat with Jesus when he invites them. It was the spiffy, religious know-it-alls who were "too good" to mix with the dusty riff-raff. "Why do you eat food with unclean hands? Why do you eat food with homosexuals, terrorists, racy women and social rejects? God just wouldn't eat with people like that."
Jesus of Nazareth, gritty as he was, was and is and will forever be God.
Here's the clincher. Some of you will have to bite your tongue. There's no record that they had "to repent" to eat at Jesus' table. The fact that they came--tax-collectors, prostitutes, lame, blind, diseased--and ate and enjoyed Jesus' welcome was repentance enough.
Now, I didn't say that they didn't ever change, did I? I said there's no evidence that they had to change before they came to the table. There's a word that is really loved and lived by those in the margins. It's the word grace. Grace. Embracing Grace.
I dedicate this series to Tim Jeffries and his wife Jay in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia who, with a new church plant, are living what I have merely written about.
Tim and Jay and your team of friends, may you know the deep joy of the Father's heart and experience the power of the Holy Spirit as you incarnate the living presence of Jesus the Messiah to those you love in your community. I truly admire and respect you.