What We Can Learn From Who Jesus Ate With
The group Jesus ate with that no one talks about
I think we all know the feeling of betrayal when a friend of ours decides to commune with someone who has wronged us.
There is this feeling that tells us “if they were really our friends they would have nothing to do with them.”
Especially when that person hurt us in a very big way. However, our standards, as a culture at least, have gone down for who we will and won’t have fellowship with.
Whether you lean closer to the left or right, there are certain groups of people who are unacceptable to be friendly towards. But it can be for good reasons. I mean there are definitely behaviors that are unacceptable and need to be displayed as such, right?
One aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry that is repeated throughout the gospels is when he would have meals with people. However, the Bible is very specific to include who it was Jesus was eating with.
Stories of Jesus going to someone's house to enjoy food and fellowship with them is a major part of his ministry. We’ve all heard the stories in Sunday school where Jesus is seen eating with sinners and tax collectors.
The Pharisees witness this and shame, Jesus, for it. After all, who you ate with said a lot about you; or at least who you chose to commune with said a lot about you.
Tax collectors, for example, were very hated in ancient Jewish culture. It may be easy to write it off as “people don’t like to pay taxes so they hated tax collectors.”
But the truth is much deeper than that. Rome was not just a bad government or even just an oppressive one, they were cruel. The history between Israel and Rome was a bloody one.
They were known to torture and kill any people who did not accept their rule and Israel was a nation that tried to resist at one point.
In the end, Rome conquered them and heavily oppressed their people. Therefore, the tax collectors represented the sell-outs. They were the few Jews who profited from the oppression of their own people.
If that wasn’t enough, they were also known to charge more than was required to increase their profits. The Jews had good cause to hate the tax collectors and would have been enraged to see someone like Jesus enjoying a meal with them.
We use examples like the tax collectors and prostitutes to show how forgiving and loving Jesus is, even towards those who society or the Pharisees of our time have deemed unworthy of it.
Which is great! Because there truly is no end to Jesus’ infinite love and forgiveness. So we tell these stories to help show the world that. Especially those who do feel like they are too far gone.
The Pharisees and religious people of today would much rather see us turn our heads from these types of groups. We all know these so-called Pharisees when we see them.
They will always have something to say when you mention that you have a gay friend or one of another religion. They boycott certain brands or movies for being too “progressive” or being against Christianity in very particular ways.
They are absolutely the ones who would have hated to see Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors.
However, the one group that would likely anger all of us most to see Jesus eating with is no other than the Pharisees themselves.
It’s actually pretty ironic that those “religious people” we try not to be in church in fear of being labeled a “Pharisee” are exactly the type of people we encourage one another not to associate with.
The tables are turned and now they are in the very group they wanted to cast out. Now they themselves are the cast outs of Christianity. But Jesus still ate with them.
He communed with them the same way he did with tax collectors and sinners. This is a reality that most of us would rather ignore. Again, it’s ironically for the same reasons those “Pharisees” want you to forget he ate with sinners and prostitutes.
Because we ourselves don’t want to be associated with them. We find what they’ve done worthy of being cast out from our midst and separated from the church. But if that’s how we choose to treat them, all we have done is taken their place.
I think what we learn most from who Jesus ate with is that following Him is hard. No matter what group you are in, there is someone you would rather not commune with.
But Jesus wants us to be His hands and feet, especially to those who don't deserve it. What Jesus seemed to excel at more than anything was loving people that the world wanted to cast out.
We just tend to forget that sometimes the world has good reasons for it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus loves them and wants us to love them too.