Jesus Dining with Sinners and the Salvific Significance in the Communal Meal

Table fellowship anywhere in the world is a relatively serious matter. This is especially true in the Middle East. In his most recent statement Jeremias says, ‘To understand what Jesus was doing in eating with “sinners,” it is important to realize that in the east, even today, to invite a man to a meal was an honour. It was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood and forgiveness; in short, sharing a table meant sharing life…. Thus Jesus’ meals with the publicans and sinners … are an expression of the mission and message of Jesus (Mark 2:17), eschatological meals, anticipatory celebrations of the feast in the end-time (Matt. 8.11 par.), in which the community of the saints is already being represented (Mark 2.19). The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God.” In the East today, as in the past, a nobleman may feed any number of lesser needy persons as a sign of his generosity, but he does not eat with them. However, when guests are “received” the one receiving the guests eats with them. The meal is a special sign of acceptance. The host affirms this by showering his guests with a long series of compliments to which the guests must respond. Jesus is set forth in the text as engaging in some such social relationship with publicans and sinners. Small wonder the Pharisees were upset.

Kenneth E. Bailey. Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined edition) (Kindle Locations 1591-1599). Kindle Edition.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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