Wednesday 7 August

The #NH2019 Media Team is delighted to bring you summaries of all the main sessions this week so you don’t miss a thing!  Tim Chester is the pastor of Grace Church Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire.  His the author of over 40 books including A Meal with Jesus and his latest book Enjoying God:  Experience the Power and Love of God in Everyday Life.  On Wednesday evening, Tim explored lessons from the meal described in Luke 7.

Luke 7: 31 – 50 

What should you do if you want to serve more in your local church?  No doubt there are plenty of things to be done on a Sunday:  chairs to be set out, serving drinks, leading prayer, teaching in the Sunday School.  But what can we do to serve our local church throughout the work?  What would it meant to serve like Jesus?  What does Jesus-shaped ministry look like?

Jesus explains it in Luke 7:34 by saying, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking…”  According to Jesus, His core activity was eating and drinking. We see that in Luke’s Gospel. There are at least nine set-piece meals in Luke. Jesus is either going to a meal, leaving a meal or at a meal.  His opponents said, “He is a glutton and a drunkard.”  Cleary there was enough evidence for that to be an accusation against Him (even though it wasn’t true).  Meals were not incidental to His life and ministry; they were at its heart.

Meals are the context in which Jesus’ ministry takes place and at which His identity is clarified.  We are going to discover who Jesus is, around the table and what it means to follow Him.

A friend invited a drunk guy to come into church and the guy said, “I’ll come when I get my life sorted out.”  How on earth did we give this impression that the church is for people who have it all together?

Jesus was a friend of sinners.  Messed up people liked Jesus.  Jesus is the Holy One of God, the eternal Son. And yet people whose lives were broken, who were notorious for their sin, were comfortable in His company.  They liked being with Him!

I want to look at the main players in this story that we read together:

The gate crasher who welcomes Jesus

Luke describes her as a woman in that town who lived a sinful life. This is her hometown.  Everyone has heard of her.  Some of the men perhaps know her all too well.  She is notorious.  She gate crashes the party ignoring the normal social conventions. She risks shame and violence but feels compelled because of her love for  Jesus. She has seen something in Him that makes her risk shame and violence in order to meet Him.

And when she meets Jesus, she lets her hair down (in that culture, that is a precursor to sex).  This is a fancy dinner party and in the middle of it, this notorious woman starts treating Jesus as a prostitute might treat a client.  I think she is expressing her love for Him in the only way she knows how.  She risks everything to show her love for Him.

The host who doesn’t welcome Jesus

Simon has invited Jesus because he is intrigued.  Maybe He is a prophet?  But Simon quickly dismisses this idea.  He assumes that a true prophet would be able to read people’s hearts and that a true prophet would recognise this woman was a sinner.  He is right. But Simon also (wrongly) assumes that the kingdom of God is for religious people, for moral people like him and certainly not for notorious sinners like the woman.

Jesus knows Simon’s thoughts.  Jesus loves what He sees in the heart of this woman and hates what he sees in Simon’s heart.

Why does the woman risk everything?  The answer is grace.
Why does Simon reject Jesus?  The answer is grace.

Simon is supposed to be the host.  He has not welcome Jesus.  He has not greeted Jesus in the culturally appropriate way.  He is the host who is not a host.  It has been left to the woman to welcome Jesus.  She is the true host except she is not supposed to be a host.  She is not even supposed to be a guest.

The unwelcome gate crasher becomes the host because of what is in her heart.  This woman has a profound understanding of how much she has received.

Imagine a prostitute gate crashing your dinner party and sitting in the lap of your honoured guest. How would you react?  Or imagine a prostitute or a drug dealer or an ex convict coming to your church.  How would you react?

Simon’s heart is full of pride, distain, self-righteousness and self-reliance. Simon has worked so hard climbing the ladder of moral effort.  Perhaps Simon feels like he has made it – a righteous man in the eyes of his community. But Jesus has come in with a whole different set of values.

This woman plays the grace card: Advance to “Go” and collect 200 pounds. Advance to God and be welcomed with open arms!

Suddenly all Simon’s effort looks like a waste of time. We all have our ways to feel good about ourselves.  Pharisees need sinners because they need someone to look down upon.  Maybe you say, “At least our church doesn’t do boring sermons like that conservative church down the road”  Or, “At least our church doesn’t do emotionalism like that charismatic church down the road” (delete as applicable).

Let’s be clear, nobody has been forgiven little. When we stand before the holiness of God, we are utterly undone.  Those people who think that they don’t need forgiveness, don’t understand God’s grace or recognise the depth of their own sin. They receive nothing from God because it doesn’t occur to them that they need something from Him.  And because they receive nothing from God, they have little to give.

If your service feels like a burden.  If evangelism has to be squeezed out of you (like toothpaste from a tube) then maybe your pride is blinding you to the love of God and the grace of God.

Simon has no sense of forgiveness because he has no sense of need.  He thinks God owes him.

This woman is overwhelmed by her brokenness. She has an overwhelming love for Jesus because she has been overwhelmed by His love.   Her sense of her sin drives her to Jesus. Meanwhile Simon’s pride blinds Him to the glory of Jesus.

Jesus the Friend of Sinners

The religious leaders have no problem with the promise of the “Son of Man” and even that there would be a feast.  What bothered them was the guest list.  The Pharisees accused Jesus of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners.  How does Luke defend Jesus?  The answer is he doesn’t.  In effect Luke is saying, “You think Jesus the friend of sinners? That’s exactly what He is.”

One day Jesus will judge the living and the dead.  But first He came graciously, quietly, gently, loving the broken, the outcast and the sinner.

The truth about Jesus is even more amazing. That reference to the “glutton and drunkard” came from the law of Moses.  Parents of a rebellious child could take that child to the elders to be stoned to death.

The Pharisees were effectively calling Jesus a “rebellious son” when in fact Jesus is actual the faithful son of Israel.  In fact, it is the Pharisees who are the rebellious ones .

The second irony in that statement is that Jesus does go on to die the death of a rebellious son?  He is executed.  He is the faithful Son (the only true and faithful son).  But He dies in our place, for our rebellion.  Jesus takes the curse spoken to Adam and gives us the blessing promised to Abraham.

So Jesus truly is the friend of sinners – there is no better friend. (Greater love has no one than this to lay down his life for his friends…)

If you can see yourself in Simon – climbing the ladder, looking down on other people… then come to Jesus. Leave behind your pride and fear and rest in Jesus the faithful son who dies for the rebellious son.

If you see yourself in the woman – your sins are great and sometimes it feels like they are going to crush you. Come to Jesus. Leave behind your shame and guilt and find refuge in Him.

We are called to offer grace around the table

We can show a welcome to the people of Jesus and to our neighbours.

Here’s the lovely thing about the way Jesus does ministry (eating and drinking) – we can all do it.

We are not all preachers.  We can’t all heal the sick and cast out demons but we can all eat and drink with people. We can all express welcome. There are lots of ways that people make Christian ministry complicated.  They have strategic frameworks and social analysis. If you want to follow the strategy of Jesus Himself, here’s what you have to do… have meals with people. Simple!  Sit round the table . If you don’t have your own home be creative – go on picnics, be creative or get yourself invited round.

What I’m calling on you to do today you already do. You all eat three meals a day. That is 21 opportunities every week to show the grace of God around the meal-table. Next week in the staff canteen, put your book down and talk to a colleague. Invite a single person or a neighbour to join you for a family meal.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.

But meals alone are not enough.  Meals will only communicate God’s grace if you yourself have had a profound experience of God’s grace.  If you love Jesus because you are overwhelmed by His grace to you then as you share meals, you will be doing great ministry around the table.  Your words (about Him) will be reinforced by your welcome.