“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” ~Luke 5:30
Jesus broke in to the tax collector’s world so he could eat and drink with Levi and his friends. This is God’s great goal through Christ: relationship with you expressed and experienced around a table. Eating and drinking with Jesus communicates relationship. Everybody around the same table, eating the same food, sharing the same drink; community and acceptance, nothing between us, no barriers or animosity. Perfect face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow, feet under the same table, please pass the mashed potatoes relationship. This is how our Lord communicates the new realities in the Kingdom of God.
It’s not that people are in two different categories so you’re either righteous or you’re a sinner, you’re either healthy or you’re sick. It’s that we are all sinners, we are all terminally ill and racing towards eternal death, but Christ Jesus has come to us and changed everything! Jesus totally blows up all our categories and classifications. His table is for everybody! The table says God’s mercy and forgiveness is alive and active, there is healing and celebrating, there is the creation of a brand new world, and all are invited to receive it.
If this is the mission of Jesus – and it is – then it is also the mission of Jesus’ Church. We initiate with others. We go to the sick and dying, we invite the lonely and lost, we go out and we bring in, we make room for others at the table.
Jesus went to Levi’s workplace, he went to Levi’s house. Jesus is always looking for lost people and, when he sees them, he runs to them. We’re not always like that. We typically run away from people who don’t have it all together like we do. We think it’s going to be too messy. They’re going to have issues. It’ll be awkward.
See, there are two strategies on sick people. The Pharisees say quarantine. Isolate. Keep them at a distance. But Jesus says herd immunity all the way! Everybody together around my table at the same time! In my grace! In my presence! That’s how we heal the sick!
There are lots of women and men out there who have negative feelings about Jesus. They’ve had bad experiences with the Church. They’ve been ignored or neglected, judged and condemned. But if we will show a steady, regular, consistent, and persistent expression of Christ’s love and grace and invitation to his table, or to yours, they will see Jesus. They will experience the Great Physician, the promised Messiah who came here to shoulder our sins and to die our death so we can be forgiven and saved and healed.