10 Lessons from Jesus' Table | Wycliffe Bible Translators

Feasting on Scripture

10 Lessons from Jesus' Table

Jesus often used meals to engage with people and teach important lessons. And he continues to call us to his table to feast on who he is and learn more about him through his Word. Jesus’ example provides an opportunity to invite friends, outcasts and even enemies to know God’s story of love and salvation.

By Susha Roberts

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In the book of Luke alone, there are 10 stories of Jesus dining with various people. Let’s look at each of these meals and what they could mean for you.

1. Dining with the enemy — Luke 5:27-32

In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were pretty much hated by the people. These were Jews who were taking advantage by collecting Rome’s taxes plus a surcharge to line their own pockets (Luke 19:8). To many, they were considered “outsiders” and just as much enemies as the Romans. Jesus eating a meal with a tax collector would be like you having dinner with a loan shark. How would your friends and family react to that?

“Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him” (Luke 5:27, NLT). Jesus wanted this man — this enemy of the people — to be saved. Each of us, before we came to Christ, were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10). But God loved us so much that he not only wanted to make us friends, but he also wanted to make us family (Ephesians 1:5).

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2. The uninvited guest — Luke 7:36-50

Have you ever hosted a dinner party only to have someone unexpected (and possibly unwanted) show up?

Jesus went to Simon the Pharisee’s house for a prestigious dinner, where topics of the day were to be discussed. Since the dining areas in the homes of the elite were often partially open to the street, the public could listen to the conversations.

Jesus is anointed by the sinful woman in Simeon's house by Alexander Bida

Enter the “sinful woman” (7:37). She crossed the invisible barrier into the invited, elite space and shocked all in attendance with her actions.

She was coming to seek forgiveness. Jesus was often interrupted in his ministry — from those who called out for help from the sidelines or touched him in a crowd. He wasn’t angry with any of them for messing with his agenda. Instead, he had compassion and stopped to meet their needs.

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3. Feeding the hungry — Luke 9:10-17

In Luke’s account, Jesus fed 5,000 people (not including women and children) who had come to hear him speak. He didn’t have to feed them. After all, they were getting fed truth. Wasn’t that enough?

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus by James Tissot

Jesus knew they also had physical needs. In Matthew 25 Jesus reveals that those who truly know him serve others in very real ways, such as feeding the hungry and giving a drink to the thirsty. This can apply to serving food to the homeless or simply finding out if someone who’s visiting you might be thirsty.

Meeting the basic physical needs of people often ministers more than words and ultimately gives you a kind of integrity that can lead to a deeper conversation.

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4. Smell the roses — Luke 10:38-42

Just like us, Jesus had friends. Siblings Lazarus, Mary and Martha were dear to him and no doubt he enjoyed getting together with them. Martha — the hostess with the mostest — was working hard to prepare a good meal for Jesus.

When Martha complained about her sister, who was just sitting and listening to Jesus, she was probably surprised when he rebuked her. Essentially, he said that Mary’s choice to sit and listen to him was better than all the work she was doing.

Whether you’re having friends over for dinner or serving at church, make time to enjoy the people you’re serving. Consider taking that five-course meal down a notch, because it’s the laughs and the meaningful moments that are most memorable.

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Jesus talks with Mary and Martha in their house by Gustave Doré

5. Wash what matters — Luke 11:37-53

Life is messy. In Jesus’ time the roads were dusty and traveling guaranteed a certain measure of dirt on your person. When he was invited to dine with a Pharisee, he was criticized for not washing. They weren’t talking about washing your hands before dinner. They were judging him because he didn’t perform their complex washing ritual.

Jesus, always perceptive, saw their error wasn’t about hygiene but about the heart: “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy — full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside?” (Luke 11:39-40, NLT).

The perception of holiness is sadly often tied to outward appearance. The heart of a godly or truth-seeking person isn’t subject to clothing, style or even personal care. Don’t judge what you can’t see. Instead, wash your own heart to love and accept all as they are so God can use you to wash them with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).

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6. Consider your conversation — Luke 14:1-24

When Jesus accepted a dinner invitation to the home of a Pharisee, he came prepared to speak on the hot topics of the day: working on the Sabbath, places of honor (at the table) and who gets to sit at God’s banquet table. Hot topics and touchy subjects still come up at the dinner table today. How do you deal with them?

When Jesus had a point to make on a difficult subject, he didn’t go into a long, drawn-out monologue. He asked well-thought-out questions that engaged people and told interesting stories (parables) to make a complex subject understandable.

Group of friends having a picnic

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7. Invite yourself over — Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus but only expected to observe him from afar. The “wee little man” of Sunday school fame couldn’t see over the crowd, so he climbed a tree to catch a glimpse. He was probably surprised when Jesus noticed him. As the chief tax collector, he was even more surprised — and excited — when Jesus wanted to have a meal at his house.

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus by James Tissot

Zacchaeus, a “sinner,” was not going to reach out to Jesus, the respected rabbi. He didn’t know he needed salvation, and he likely had little hope of acceptance in the community. It might seem ironic that Zacchaeus’ name means “pure” or “innocent.” But not when you consider that Jesus came to make us white as snow; he saw Zacchaeus’ potential.

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8. Put your guests first — Luke 22:14-38

Jesus’ last supper — the Passover meal — with his disciples is filled with meaning. The scene that is set reveals that Jesus is the lamb of God, that in Christ there is a new covenant, and that we are to remember his sacrifice through communion (Luke 22:14-38). Jesus is clearly the center of this meal.

His death and resurrection were going to change their lives and the world itself. He could have talked about his terrible suffering to come, but instead focused on what they would need to remember from that night.

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Communion bread and cup

9. Disciple over dinner — Luke 24:28-32

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. With his identity cloaked by God, he talked with them about all that had happened and explained the significance through the Scriptures: “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, NLT).

They couldn’t get enough of what he was saying and implored him to continue at dinner. As soon as he gave thanks for the bread and broke it, as he had at the last supper (Luke 22:19), their eyes were opened. They were dining with the risen Savior! Not only that, but they had been taught to understand the Scriptures.

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10. Serve comfort food — Luke 24:36-43

When the two from Emmaus went back to tell the disciples, suddenly Jesus appeared. They were very afraid — they thought they’d seen a ghost! But Jesus reassured them with a simple gesture; he sat down and ate with them. Then Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scripture” (Luke 24:45, NLT).

By eating, Jesus wasn’t just proving that he wasn’t a ghost. He was doing something familiar to put their minds at ease. Like the ultimate comfort food, Jesus was ministering to his disciples’ weary hearts. Meals still can work that way, melting away a frazzled work day or soothing an aching heart.

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Group of friends having a picnic

His example provides you with an opportunity to invite friends, outcasts and even enemies to know God’s story of love and salvation.

There are millions in this world who have yet to receive Jesus’ invitation because they don’t have any of God’s Word in their own language. As you give thanks over your meals, would you pray for the Bibleless?

Join our prayer team and pray for people who are waiting for God's Word in their own language!

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