Winter is gone. Spring has come.

IMG_0025 As I drive down Lakeshore Drive in Birmingham this week it is as if every living thing is in bloom. What appeared dead and dull and bare last week is now shooting forth leaves and blooms this week. The changing of winter to spring has always been my favorite time of the year because there’s a rebirth in nature. The plants that once lay dormant for many months are now standing upright; trees, which showed no sign of activity, now wave their branches clothed with life. It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new season.


What I have seen unfold in nature in Birmingham this past week correlates well to what I see happen in the Lent and Easter season. In Lent it is intended that we reflect on the gravity of our sins and the separation from God that our sins bring. For it is these two aspects that Jesus carries with him to the cross and bears with him on the cross. We prepare our hearts as we journey with Jesus in remembrance to Good Friday. It is winter. Death hangs over us.


"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -- Romans 3:23

"For the wages of sin is death..." -- Romans 6:23

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -- Romans 5:8

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." -- Isaiah 53:6


But on Palm Sunday the tone begins to change. Seeds of hope sprout forth as Jesus, fulfilling his role as the promised Davidic King and Messiah, comes riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey.


"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." -- Zech. 9:9


The people spread out palm branches, and, although they didn't understand the significance of what they were saying, they rightly praised him as King of kings. This triumphal entry and branches serve as signs of his coming victory that “spring” was coming, although on Friday it would seem like the world would forever be in a perpetual winter.


And to be sure the deepest, darkest day of winter would come on Friday, when the King of kings, the Son of heaven, would die on a cross. The Son of God, who left all the riches of heaven and the blessed, eternal company of the Father and Spirit, came down, taking on the form and nature of those whom he created, whom had rebelled against him. Those who said they didn’t love him. Yet he still came down, not to show us how to do this life only or how to succeed and become the greatest. He came down to die, to suffer the just punishment of God, so that we, who believe, wouldn’t have to.


"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." -- 2 Corinthians 5:21


What great, great love that God has for us that kept Jesus from calling down angels, from taking himself off the cross and executing judgment on those overseeing his crucifixion, and enabled him to suffer all that he did with grace and submission. It was this incomprehensible love for us that took Jesus to the grave.


And there his body lay for three days.


But on the morning of the third day, the women were too sad, too heartbroken to have noticed that there was a change in seasons. Yet, God in his loving-kindness sent an angel to meet them at an open grave. Jesus, who was once dead, had now come back to life.


This Easter is a reminder for those in Christ and an invitation for those who are from Christ: that in Jesus we have passed by eternal death and have entered into eternal life.


Winter is gone. Spring has come.


“It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen." (The Book of Common Prayer, Palm Sunday, Collect)



Table #5: And they recognized him


"When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him." Luke 24:30-31

Read Luke 24:13-49.

Just about all of us have heard or said the saying, "I'll believe it when I see it!" When a president promises to do something -- "I'll believe it when I see it." When you hear that someone has changed their notorious ways -- "I'll believe it when I see it."

There is a person with whom I have had numerous conversations about becoming a follower of Jesus Christ who continues to tell me that he needs just one more proof to believe. In fact, the last time we spoke about it, he had just bought some lottery tickets. He said that if there was a God who loved him, he would win. Well do you know that this person won $500! Next time I saw him and reminded him about our conversation, he said, "Nah. That wasn't God; that was just a lucky coincidence." He claims that he just needs one more proof. But until he opens his heart to belief there will never be enough proof. For even if God out of his mercy continues to show proof after proof, this person will continue to reinterpret it as something other than God. He has a heart condition called unbelief.

Do you remember the devotional from table 3, the feeding of the 5,000? We discussed that even though Jesus' disciples continued to follow him and witness miracles upon miracles, they still struggled with disbelief. Jesus even asked them once on a ship, "Where is your faith?" Now here we are 15 chapters later and the disciples are still struggling with belief. You would think that after three years of living with Jesus and after listening to Jesus prophesy about his death and resurrection, the disciples would have their Welcome Home banners and signs ready to greet Jesus outside the tomb. Instead, they are hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jerusalem religious leaders (cf. John 20:19). Where is their faith? Did they not believe who Jesus said he was and believe that he would do what he said he would do? If Jesus' prophecies had come true concerning his own suffering, the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, then isn't there reason enough to believe that what he said concerning his resurrection would come true as well? Didn't they believe that the same one who had power to bring back others from death would have that same power over his own life? Rather, when the women returned to share the news about the empty tomb, Luke tells us concerning the apostles that "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:11). Basically they were saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." But would they?

Our passage begins with two men who were not part of the Twelve but were in the larger group of disciples of Jesus; they were leaving Jerusalem to go to Emmaus. We are then told that Jesus joins them. The Greek here is emphatic -- it is Jesus himself! Did you notice the many references to sight and belief and recognition in this passage? I immediately think of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel who rebuked those who had eyes but could not see. "Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears but hear not" (Jer. 5:21). Cf. Isaiah 6:10 and Ezekiel 12:2. What these prophets were saying was "even though you have eyes to see you cannot perceive or believe." Metaphorically speaking, the eyes of their hearts were closed. You think you see, the prophets would say, but the truth is you are blind and unable to perceive the things of God.

In light of this, we read now in Luke 24:16 that "their eyes were kept from recognizing him." Did they physically see a man walking along with them? Yes. Did they recognize that it was Jesus come back from the dead? No. Why were their eyes kept from recognizing Jesus? I posit to you that it was their unbelief that kept them from perceiving. Did you catch the irony? The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. Read that again. The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. "I'll have to see it to believe it." But when they saw it, they couldn't recognize it! Luke already told us that they did not believe the women. Then we are told that Jesus notices they were sad -- grieving. And then there's their testimony. Don't miss this! These two men tell Jesus that some of the women disciples returned from the tomb to the larger group of disciples and told them they saw an empty tomb and angels who testified that Jesus was alive. (Proof #1) Then, "some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said." (Proof #2) But, despite these two testimonies and proof of an empty tomb, they said, "but him they did not see." These other disciples wanted proof. They wanted to see Jesus in order to believe. Now Jesus shows up but they cannot see him, meaning they cannot recognize him. Wow! Chew on that for a moment. Jesus says earlier in his ministry to those following him, "But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe" (Jn. 6:36). Is perhaps the reason you cannot see the proof of God because you do not believe?

Jesus continues in his kindness and patience and doesn't abandon the disciples but continues to reveal himself. The first way he does this is by expositing Scripture. He starts in the beginning and works his way through showing how all of God's Word finds its fulfillment and crown in Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:27). All of Scripture acts as one voice proclaiming the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus will do this again when he appears to those disciples who are still in unbelief in verse 44.

And now we approach our final table scenes. In verse 29, we are told that Jesus is invited in as a guest of honor, but as so often happens, the roles reverse and he becomes the host, seen in the breaking of bread. This mention of the breaking of bread should not, in my opinion, be interpreted as a eucharist meal, but rather a meal of fellowship like we see with the first two tables. Do you remember how I mentioned back in the feeding of the 5,000 that this sequence -- took, blessed, broke and gave -- though a common practice in first century Jewish antiquity is only used by Luke in three places? I suggested that this is a literary device to connect the three stories together -- the feeding of the 5,000, the Passover meal and now the Emmaus meal. It is in the breaking of the bread (v. 31, 35) that the eyes of these two disciples are opened.

You might be asking yourself, Why was it in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened? Luke doesn't tell us why but just that they were opened. I've heard said before that perhaps there was a unique characteristic trait of Jesus in how he broke the bread that made him different from others which then enabled these two men to recognize him. Likewise, I've heard it said that perhaps there was something magical or miraculous in the act of the breaking of the bread that caused their eyes to open. I'm not convinced of these two possibilities.

However, what I am more convinced of is that Jesus was gracious to his disciples, who had already found forgiveness of sins through repentance, to open the eyes of their hearts so that they could see him and believe. What Jesus does in this moment of opening their eyes is characteristic of how he has responded to his disciples throughout -- with patience and love. At the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus responded to their lack of faith by proving again who he was and what he could do. Then at the Passover meal Jesus, over bread and wine, tells his disciples again about the events that are about to take place, reinterprets the bread and cup for them, and then says it is all "for you." So I don't think it's a coincidence that in the moment that Jesus gave physical bread to these two men, they recognized for the first time the bread of life. In Jesus' love and mercy, he made himself known again to them at the table.

Let me conclude with this. When Jesus appeared to the other disciples, he had them touch him to know that he was real. He then ate a piece of broiled fish. A spirit cannot eat; Jesus had a bodily resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). He then sums up one last time the message the apostles are to preach -- Christ's identity and mission. Jesus suffered (fully human) and rose from the dead (fully God), so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all people. Remember our first two tables? The theme for both of those tables was forgiveness of sins! Those first two tables were a precursor for what was to come. Forgiveness of sins finds it realization in the cross and resurrection. This is the good news we are to bring to all people.

Yes, we are also to love our enemies, to serve the least of these, to show others mercy (Good Samaritan), to not neglect the needs of others, and to welcome the lowly and most sinful to our tables. But these acts of love and mercy are only a mirror of and response to the love and mercy Christ has first shown us as we preach, "that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." Preach, teach, model, live out and embody this message in the name of Jesus Christ.

What about you? Are you just needing one more proof before believing Jesus is who he says he is and has done what he has said he will do? Or, is the testimony of these disciples and Scripture enough? If you had one more proof, would you even be able to see it? Maybe like the father in Mark 9 prayed, you too need to pray, "I believe; help my unbelief." Perhaps you are a follower of Jesus, meaning you have found forgiveness of sins, but you still struggle with doubt and unbelief at times. You are not the first disciple nor the only one to struggle in this way. But take comfort. If you belong to Jesus, as his disciple, he will continue to reveal himself to you and to open your eyes. He will not abandon or forsake you as your faith is seeking understanding.

Wherever you are or whoever you are, you are invited to the table. Exclusions don't apply; no particular dress attire required. Come as you are. Come and dine at the table of Jesus Christ this Easter; there you can find forgiveness of sins.

(The image was downloaded from Aspects of this devotional came from my Bible study for mymissionfulfilled.)

Thank you for following along with me in this #ComeDine devotional series. I hope that they've been a blessing to you as you prepare for Good Friday and Easter. With love, Kristen

Come and Dine

Table #1: Dining with sinners

Table #2: The uninvited guest

Table #3: Where is your faith?

Table #4: Do this in remembrance of me

Table #4: Do this in remembrance of me


"This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19

Read Luke 22:14-23.

What is the greatest sacrifice someone has made for you? If you had to list your top 5 greatest acts of love shown to you by someone else, what would they be?

As you think about yours, I will share a few of mine. First, I don't think anyone can compare to the sacrificial love shown to me by my parents. My husband would come close but we've only been married 4 years. (He has many more years to catch up to my parents in practicing sacrificial love!) Being a parent helps me to realize all the sacrifice they made prior to my cognitive ability to remember: changing diapers, staying up through the night, giving up money and possessions, etc. I owe my life to them. Another more recent example of sacrificial love was shown to me by a family in my church in Birmingham when I was still in divinity school and single. I had one semester of school left, and I was a poor student. My roommate had gotten married just in time for our lease to end. This family took me into their home, charged me nothing, gave me a room and bathroom on the same floor as their daughters, and treated me like another family member. They allowed me to live with them until I got married, which meant I was with them for a year and a half! I was living on their kindness and hospitality, and their sacrificial love moved me deeply. It still does.

An untypical Passover meal

Just like our first two table scenes (here and here) shared a lot in common (reversal of status, dining with sinners, forgiveness of sins), our last table (the feeding of the 5,000) and the Last Supper share a lot in common. In both today's meal and yesterday's meal, Jesus is the host and giver of the meal. Again, Luke uses the same sequence -- took, blessed, broke, gave -- to describe what Jesus does with the bread. Both stories have references to Exodus, and the content of the message of both is the kingdom of God and suffering. (Isn't it exciting to see how the table scenes share common motifs and that they are not completely isolated events?)

Prior to our text, Luke tells us that it was the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed and the Passover meal eaten. Passover is mentioned five times in verses 7-15, so it's important we don't miss that this was a Passover meal. This is very important to understanding how Jesus then interprets the bread and cup.

Passover meals were no longer celebrated hurriedly but had evolved into lengthy banquets. The meal would take place among family or "fictive kin." According to Joel Green, here's how a typical Passover meal would follow.

  • The head of the family blesses the first cup and passes the cup among the family members. This is followed by dipping herbs in a sauce.
  • After the second cup is prepared, the youngest son asks the head of the family questions such as, why is this night set apart from other nights, why do we eat unleavened bread on this night, etc. The head replies with the story of exodus and gives an account of Deut. 26:5-11. "The meal is interpreted as a present act of remembrance of and thanksgiving for God's past liberation of an oppressed people, a celebration of God's faithfulness leading to hope in the future deliverance of God's people." They would then sing Psalm 113 or 113-114 and drink the second cup.
  • The head of the family takes the unleavened bread, blesses, breaks and gives it to the rest of the family. Then they partake in the meal itself.
  • Finally two more cups of wine follow with the singing of Psalms 114-118 or 115-118.

Reflections on the passage:

1. Jesus was in control of his death. As God, Jesus is sovereign, and has power over when and how he dies. We first see this exhibited right before our passage when Jesus tells his disciples what to do in preparing the Passover meal. He is very specific about who they are to see, what they are to say and where they are to go. Jesus has taken care of all the details leading up to his death. Then during the meal itself we see Jesus' sovereignty continue. He has "earnestly desired" or "I have desired with desire" to eat this meal. It's safe to assume that this isn't their first Passover meal during their three years together. They were good Jews, remember! But it is at this particular Passover meal that Jesus will interpret what is coming later that night and next day -- his suffering and the crucifixion. Jesus tells his disciples how they are to understand his death. We cannot understand the meaning of the cross without the Last Supper and Jesus' interpretation of it. By including the detail, "when the hour came," Luke is again alerting us that Jesus is in control of even the very hour in which everything had to take place. Why is this important? Later Jesus tells his disciples that his body would be given for them and his blood poured out for them. They needed to know that the Jewish religious leaders could not arrest Jesus, torture or kill him without his consent. Rather, Jesus would allow these things to take place for his disciples. "This is my body, which is given for you." He also tells the disciples that he will be betrayed by one of them, again showing that Jesus knows the events that will take place. He is not a victim of angry religious leaders. Rather, he gave himself willingly for he was the one orchestrating it all (cf. Acts 2:23).

2. With anticipation of his death is also anticipation of life. Twice Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat of the meal or drink of the cup again "until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." As we have already noted, the kingdom of God was inaugurated with the coming of Jesus Christ. The kingdom is here on earth present among Jesus' disciples with the giving of the Holy Spirit. But the kingdom won't be finalized or completed until the second coming of Jesus when sin is no more, the old earth has passed away and the new earth is in place. The kingdom of God has a past, present and future reality. It is to this future reality that Jesus now speaks of. Although he will suffer and die, he will come back to life and will take this meal again. This continues to give us hope as Jesus' disciples that just like he fulfilled his word concerning his death, he will fulfill his word about life after death. We look forward to that great banquet with Jesus where we will eat and drink with him commemorating what he did to liberate us from sin (cf. Revelation 19).

3. We are the recipients of the cross. The bread and cup, which had once found its significance within the context of the exodus, has newfound significance in Jesus Christ. Notice, however, that Jesus does not compare himself with the Passover lamb, which he very well could have done (and which Paul does later in 1 Cor. 5:7). Notice also he doesn't make a comparison between the breaking of the bread and breaking of his body, which is a fair comparison as well. Rather, he emphasizes the giving of the bread or the distribution. "'Giving one's body' is potent as an image for giving one's life (in battle) for the sake of one's people." (Joel Green). "Blood poured out" is a cue for a violent death. "The cup" is reference to both divine judgment and participation in salvation. This deliverance of God's people from sin is going to cost Jesus his life. It will be violent. It will come at a great cost. But the emphasis is on he is doing it "for you." Here's where the use of "apostles" comes into play. As apostles, these men are to be messengers of the gospel and leaders of the new Israel. Therefore, this new covenant is extended beyond the table to all who believe. Through faith, you and I sit as recipients of the bread and cup and much more, his death on a cross.

4. As followers of Jesus, we are to continue the practice of both the Lord's Supper and table fellowship. After the giving of the bread, Jesus says, "Do this in remembrance of me." Jews had been taking the Passover meal as an act of remembrance of the exodus, but now Jesus says to take this meal as an act of remembrance of him and his death on a cross. The act of remembering as a motif in Scripture is not limited to cognitive recalling. Rather, remembrance was recalling of the past for a present or future benefit (see also Joel Green). Remembrance is often used in conjunction with present obedience and faith. When the people "forget" in Scripture it thus follows that they have forgotten God and are living in disobedience to his Law. In taking the Lord's Supper we recall a past event that has present and future implications for our lives. Not only are we are to continually take the Lord's Supper, but also we are to make table fellowship an important part of our lives and ministry. Just like Jesus, we emulate his table ministry: openness to the poor, outsiders, and sinners; willingness to become a servant (see John 13:1-20), having an "indifference to status, honor and the like." Just like Jesus and his disciples, we are to bring the good news of forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and the death of Jesus.

I asked you at the beginning to think of a great act of sacrificial love shown to you by someone. These acts of love, though great, fail in comparison to the greatest act of love and self denial shown to you by Jesus Christ. As Paul later writes in Romans 5:7, "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Perhaps someone will die for a righteous person and perhaps someone might even dare to die for a good person. But we were neither good nor righteous and yet Christ died for us. Who would give their lives for someone as undeserving as us? No one but Christ himself.

As we approach Maundy Thursday, the celebration of the Last Supper, in just a few days, may we think on these things and may the power of Christ on high work in our hearts, convict us of sin, and draw us closer into relationship with Him.


Come and Dine

Table #1: Dining with sinners

Table #2: The uninvited guest

Table #3: Where is your faith?

Table #5: And they recognized him


If you've been following along the Come and Dine devotional series, you'll notice no new post today. Originally when I planned this series, I put down the calling of Zacchaeus for today's table devotional. However, I discovered yesterday there's no real table/dining event in this story! Even teachers of Scripture make mistakes. :) Tomorrow we will continue with the series and finish on Wednesday. Hope these devotionals have been a blessing to you as much as God has blessed me in preparing them.


In case you've missed one, here are the devotionals thus far:

Come and Dine

Table #1: Dining with sinners

Table #2: The uninvited guest

Table #3: Where is your faith?

Table #3: Where is your faith?

"And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces."

Read Luke 9:10-17.

I imagine you are by yourself somewhere reading today's devotional. There's no one but you, God and the words on this page. So let's get reflective and honest for a moment. It's a safe place to do so. What is causing unbelief in your life at the moment? What is it about the identity of Jesus that you seem to struggle with at times? Perhaps because of a prayer that wasn't answered how you prayed you are struggling with whether God is good or able or loves you. Perhaps you are very intellectual and your intellect tells you that Jesus cannot be God or that He no longer intervenes in the world. Perhaps you have seen God's faithfulness over and over again in the past and instead of it giving you confidence in who God is you think that at some point His goodness is going to run out, that you've used up your quota for answered prayers. Where are you?

The disciples

After studying this passage I'm almost convinced that this feeding story is more for the disciples' faith than for anyone else. Let's back up a minute. Since the calling of the first disciples in chapter 5, we learn that while these men have left everything to follow Jesus and have found forgiveness of sins, they still don't fully grasp the identity of Jesus. In fact if you read Luke all the way through, which we'll see when we look at the last meal scenes, they still don't believe Jesus is who he said he was. If they did, they would have been waiting anxiously outside the tomb for Jesus to appear! (Jesus had told his disciples on at least 3 separate occasions that he would be raised from the dead.) Instead, after Jesus' death they were locked away in an upper room brokenhearted and afraid of the Jerusalem leaders. Where is your faith, disciples?

So prior to our passage, Jesus' disciples had witnessed numerous healing miracles and the raising of a widow's son from death! Then in Luke 8:22-25, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat when a dangerous storm came upon them. They woke up Jesus believing they were going to die. Jesus rebukes the storm; the storm ceases, and Jesus asks, "Where is your faith?"

Now at the beginning of chapter 9, Jesus sends his disciples out on a mission to preach the kingdom of God and heal with a stipulation. "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money." Talk about a HUGE leap of faith! Imagine as an American setting out on a journey with no car, snacks, suitcase or money. It's unthinkable. Jesus wanted them to learn total dependence on God.

Our passage begins with the return of the disciples from this mission. It's safe to assume that the apostles had no problem with their needs being met. In fact, they accomplish the mission that Jesus sent them to do and had experienced the power of God upon them as they preached and healed. Then, as we read, it's not very long after their return that in his attempt to withdraw with them, Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by a huge crowd. Jesus not only welcomes the crowd but does the very thing he sent his disciples to do: preach and heal. And again, the kingdom of God is the content of the message being preached!

{The expression the kingdom of God, from a Greek grammatical perspective, should be understood as God reigns, hence the reign of God. The kingdom of God as seen in Luke was inaugurated with the coming of Jesus Christ.}

Now you would think that after seeing the supernatural over and over again manifested in healings, raising of the dead, provisions, and calming of a storm, that when it came to feeding a multitude of people the disciples would have had no problem trusting Jesus. Instead, the apostles say, "Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place (or, wilderness)." Jesus responds, "You give them something to eat." Peter, John, James, and the rest of you disciples, you just got back telling me about all the miracles you were able to perform, you give them something to eat. Show me your faith. But the disciples again respond, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." Their response shows that they still do not get it. You might even begin to wonder, will one more miracle make a difference? And perhaps they're being a little sarcastic in asking Jesus if he wants them to go buy food when, remember, they took no money with them on their recently-returned mission. Again, Where is your faith?

But Jesus doesn't rebuke them or say, "Just forget about it; I'll choose new disciples." His patience is a supernatural one! But before we think we would somehow have done better than the disciples at having faith, Luke gives us a detail that will help us understand the magnitude of the problem. Luke says there are about 5,000 men. Let's put this number into perspective. I grew up for part of my life in a small town in Arkansas called Sheridan. I just checked and the last consensus had the town's population at 4,779. Samford University, where my husband teaches, has around 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students and faculty/staff. Trying to imagine that many people, whether in Sheridan or at Samford, all congregated together at one time and only having 5 loaves and 2 fish is ludicrous. It would take an act of God to feed that many people with that little of food.

And that's what happened. Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave the bread and fish to the people. This sequence -- took, blessed, broke and gave -- was a common practice for Jews. But Luke only includes this detail in three places. I don't think we should try to read too much into it. Rather, I think it is a literary device Luke uses to connect the three stories together. (Put this on the back burner in your mind and we will look at it later.)

Jesus not only multiplies the food, which is reminiscent of God providing manna from heaven in the wilderness, but he multiplies it enough that each disciple would have a basket to pick up of scraps! Can you imagine? Jesus in his kindness didn't want the disciples to miss what had happened. Each one carried a basket of leftovers as a reminder that Jesus is able to do abundantly more than is imagined. Now, Peter, as you hold the basket, Where is your faith?

Further reflections:

1. Whereas the first two table stories we looked at were hosted by other people, this table scene is hosted by Jesus. Instead of a literal table, here we have a conceptual table, much like having a picnic. Whereas the first table scene was a celebration of redemption and hospitality shown by the recipient of grace, this table shows us the provision and hospitality of God toward people. But where there are differences, here is where our three table stories thus far reach the same conclusion. All show that Jesus is divine, the Son of God. In the first two events this is evidenced by the ability of Jesus to forgive sins, and in today's passage it is seen in the power he has over food. We can't miss what Luke is doing here. Right before the feeding miracle, we are told that Herod is perplexed by the identity of Jesus. He has heard rumors that perhaps Jesus is John reincarnated, Elijah or another prophet from old. The question, Who is this Jesus?, is left dangling for us as we move into the feeding miracle. During the feeding miracle, clues such as the word for wilderness, also translated as desolate place, are used to remind us of the Jews in the wilderness in Exodus. Who is the only one who can provide bread to feed a multitude? God! Who provides bread and fish out of basically nothing for a multitude? Jesus! Then following the feeding miracle Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter responds, "The Christ of God." If we walk away from this passage not grasping that Jesus is divine, then we've missed a very big point.

2. Jesus is also fully human. Following a miracle and a confession that claims his deity, Jesus explains what being the Messiah, or the Christ, means. He will suffer. It's the greatest oxymoron that Jesus, who is God, and is the king of the kingdom of God, will also suffer and die. Immediately following Peter's confession Jesus foretells his death and then foretells it again a little while later (see 9:22, 44).

3. What does the identity of Jesus -- that he is fully God and fully man -- have to do with me? How does this information have any influence over my life and how I live? First, Jesus' identity gives us the infrastructure for belief. If I place my faith in Jesus, who is God, then I know he is able to have power in my life. He has power over my sin (first two tables); he has power to heal, to provide, and to protect. And the greatest power? To raise us from the dead. He has power over death and life. If Jesus were anything less than God then I would not have reason to believe. Second, Jesus' identity helps me to trust him during the hard times. I have struggled personally with unanswered prayers, with seeing and experiencing suffering and death, with trials and pain. If Jesus had only been God and not human I would have question whether he loved me. But I follow a person who has experienced suffering and death to the fullest. In Hebrews 4:15 we're told, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." While this verse talks about sin, the same could be said of suffering. We have a Savior who is able to empathize with our suffering, for he, too, suffered and shares in our humanity.

4. If you've been following along you will have noticed that I talk about Jesus -- a lot! I probably do so to the point that you're thinking, "Say something new, Kristen. Jesus is God and his mission is to forgive sins; I get it." But I want to make sure we get it, because if we don't find our identity in Jesus and make our lives all about him then we are building for us a life on shifting sand. There is no power within myself to give me peace, forgiveness, or grace. I don't have the power to heal, to protect, or to not die. But yet when I read a lot of popular bloggers, all I hear bleating off the page is "I, I, I, me, me, me, you, you, you." Pray to make you feel stronger and sit up straighter. Love to make you feel better. Use your gifts to make you feel empowered. Be who God has called you to be so that you will find fulfillment. (Excuse my little rant, but...) I'm sick of this, y'all! These words tickle our ears and make us feel better...for a moment...but if it doesn't have to do with Jesus (and I'm talking about the Jesus of Scripture) then it's rubbish. It's trash. Don't believe it; stop reading it. Within the larger context of our third table scene, Jesus tells his disciples if you want to follow him and be part of his kingdom then here's what you must do. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (9:23). If you want to follow Christ then you must deny yourself and take up a cross? "That doesn't sound very American! That doesn't jive with my wealth and health gospel that I have begun to believe." No, because that stuff being preached is not the gospel; it's not what Jesus of Scripture said. Following him is hard; suffering and death may come by following Him. Whether or not we suffer and die for the name of Jesus, as followers of him we take that risk. We do so knowing that the road won't be easy and that there will probably be suffering along the way. But with suffering, my friends, also comes future glory. 

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:3

Table #2: The uninvited guest

Table #1: Dining with sinners

Come and Dine

Table #2: The uninvited guest

"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven -- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Read Luke 7:36-50.

Have you ever had an unwanted, uninvited or unexpected house guest? To be honest, the first thing that came to mind was the scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie when Clark Griswold's wife's cousins show up in their run-down RV and park it in front of their house. The look on Clark's face is priceless! Not only is his cousin Eddie loud and annoying, but they seem to be throwing a glitch in Clark's attempt to have a "good old-fashioned family Christmas." But if it weren't for Eddie kidnapping Clark's boss later in the movie, then Clark probably wouldn't have gotten that big end-of-the-year bonus he was so desperately hoping for.

Luke 7:36 begins with the introduction to a second dinner party in which Jesus is invited as a guest, presumably the guest of honor. But right away we notice some contrasts with the previous dinner. Whereas the first dinner party was hosted by a group of sinners and the Pharisees were on the outside looking in, this dinner is hosted by a Pharisee and is presumably attended by other Pharisees. Whereas Levi had found forgiveness of sins and became a disciple of Jesus, Simon was still deciding who he thought Jesus was -- at best, a prophet.

But while these table scenes unfold very differently, the theme is still consistent with where we left off in chapter 5 -- Jesus has come to sinners to offer forgiveness of sins.

Let's take a deeper look.

Although Jesus ended our last passage by saying he is called to go to sinners, it doesn't mean he is refusing the same offer of grace to the Pharisees (the so-called "righteous ones"). Did you notice how often Luke says "Pharisees" within the first couple of verses of our text? We're not to miss that Jesus was having dinner with a Pharisee! Now Pharisees were what you would call legalists; they interpreted the law in such a way that they added more restrictions than the law itself. The goal was to "build a fence around the law," so that one would not even get close to breaking the commands of the Torah. They were very concerned with holiness and separating themselves from those who were sinners or impure. This often led to an arrogant attitude.

So knowing how concerned they were with purity, we shouldn't miss the exclamation in verse 37 -- behold! Oh no! Or, oh my goodness, as my son likes to say. The most embarrassing thing has happened! "A woman of the city" came in uninvited and crashed the party. In case you miss what kind of woman she is, Luke adds, you know, the sinner kind of woman. Most likely, if you can read through the lines and get what Luke is trying to say without saying it bluntly, this woman was a city prostitute and probably had clients who were Gentiles! Not only does this woman come in and break all impurity rules and, God forbid, transmit some of her impurity onto those around the table, but what she does next is completely inappropriate and socially unacceptable. Joel Green writes that this woman's actions were "erotic." He says, "Letting her hair down in this setting would have been on a par with appearing topless in public, for example." Can you even imagine! Well let's not imagine too much, but I think it gets the picture across how shameful her actions would have seemed.

I know this is not the same thing, but what if a house guest of yours took of his shoes and socks and put his feet on the table during dinner? If you have a foot phobia like my sister and my friend Katie, then you probably just shuddered or felt ill. If either of the two analogies (topless or feet on table) made you sick or disgusted, then Simon's judgments might seem defensible. Who wouldn't be offended by this woman wiping her let-down hair on Jesus' feet! Green says further that her actions could have "appeared to be fondling Jesus' feet, like a prostitute or a slave girl accustomed to providing sexual favors." Isn't Jesus concerned by how he might be perceived? Isn't he concerned that associating with her and letting her carry on in this way that he might damage his reputation or his mission? Won't Jesus risk leading men in the room astray? Already we see that Jesus isn't too concerned with whom he associates and how others might incorrectly interpret his associations. Just read Luke 7:33-34! His mission is to bring the message of forgiveness to sinners. Period. End of the story. Jesus isn't so much concerned how their reputation will rub off on him or contaminate him, like the Pharisees thought. Rather, Jesus will rub off on them, so to speak. They will be transformed into his image.

Simon thinks that because Jesus is letting this woman touch him in this way that Jesus must not be a prophet. If he were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman she was! However the irony is that Jesus is able to perceive Simon's thoughts and heart demonstrating that he is indeed a prophet (and much greater!). Jesus reinterprets this woman's actions for Simon (and the others). She isn't asking for favors; rather, her actions show a broken and repentant heart. In humility she washes one of the most undesirable parts of the body giving up probably one of her most costly possessions at the feet of Jesus. She is serving Jesus out of love.

In Simon's judgment of this woman, he failed to see his own sin. It was easy to see this woman's sin. It was obvious. But, unlike Simon, she knew she was a sinner and was broken over her sin. As a result she found forgiveness of sins. Not only does this woman get Jesus and his mission, but through her actions she shames Simon as host. And Jesus calls Simon out over it. Whereas Simon failed to fulfill his role as host or the social expectations of hospitality, this woman acted as host and in her hospitality she went over and beyond what is even expected.

The uninvited and unwelcomed guest was a sinful woman in need of grace. But don't miss this beautiful irony. (I just love this! And it's beautiful for all of us sinners who have found grace!) When the great banquet, called the marriage supper of the Lamb, spoken of in Revelation 19 comes Jesus will be the host and this woman who was once uninvited will be invited. Whereas her name will appear on the guest list, the Pharisees around that table (that is those who never repented) will be the uninvited ones. The uninvited in our story will be invited.

What about you? Will you be on that guest list? Have you found forgiveness of sins like this woman in our passage? Or, like Simon, are you unaware of the sin in your life and unwilling to recognize Jesus as having the authority to forgive sins? Is there anyone you are refusing to invite and welcome to hear the gospel because you've already made a judgment that they are "too far gone"? Is the identity and mission of Jesus as outlined in yesterday's and today's post the same Jesus that you follow? Or are you posturing Jesus as just another prophet or great teacher?

Table #1: Dining with sinners

Come and Dine

Table #3: Where is your faith?

Table #1: Dining with sinners

"And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them." Luke 5:29

Read Luke 5:27-32.

What type of person or what group of people would make you feel real uncomfortable to share a meal with? Think about this for a moment. Addicts? Sexual predators? Legalists? Rich people? Poor people? Someone of a different race or ethnicity? Homosexuals? People dying of cancer? Perhaps you'd feel uncomfortable sharing a meal with your extended family because of severed relationships. Be honest with yourself.

Now take that feeling you have toward a group of people and imagine seeing Jesus sitting among them sharing a meal. What would your initial reaction and feelings be? If I were honest, my first thought would probably be, "What is he doing with them?" "Of all the people these are the least deserving to be at that table." "Why would he extend grace to them?"

Turning to the text, we are told that Jesus calls a tax collector to follow him. Now I think it'd be helpful to know something about tax collectors to understand why the following actions of Jesus were so repugnant to the Pharisees. A tax collector, also known as a toll collector, was "a person given to dishonesty and abuse of authority" and viewed "in the wider Greco-Roman world as a person of low status." "Toll collectors as a group were despised as snoops, corrupt, the social equivalent of pimps and informants." (See Joel Green, Luke, p. 245-246) This really puts things into perspective! Stop for a moment and imagine sharing a meal with pimps. Now imagine seeing Jesus with pimps. Or, imagine seeing your pastor or your Bible study leader at a table with pimps. Get the picture?

If nothing else I want you to hear this today: To dine with Jesus is also to dine with sinners. We don't get to pick and choose who gets the invitation to follow Jesus. We don't get to pick and choose to whom we are to take the gospel. It simply doesn't work like that. If Jesus was lowly enough to go to the least desirable, the rejects of society, then so must we.

Sometimes as Christians we want to show grace to whom we want to show grace; but God's grace pushes the limits we so often put in place. We think that we are somehow more redeemable, more deserving of grace, than others. The fact of the matter is none of us is deserving. (Read Romans 1-2!) That is what makes grace grace. It is unmerited, undeserving. While the Pharisees were shocked by the group of people Jesus chose to associate with, it was for these people he came. Notice that Jesus doesn't try to defend them as innocent people. He acknowledges to the Pharisees who they are -- "sinners" (v. 32). In fact Jesus uses an analogy in which this group of people is compared to those who are sick (v. 31). What Jesus said might be interpreted as harsh in today's postmodern America. We don't want to call sin sin or people sinners. But if we don't acknowledge sin and our state as sinners, then we will never think we need forgiveness of sins or a Savior.

Notice too that although Jesus calls these people sinners, he doesn't expect for them to stay in their current state. Rather, he associates himself with them so that they might be transformed into the image of God through the process of repentance. His mission is to redeem people from sin.

But this passage tells us more than who Jesus dined with; it tells us about the identity of Jesus and his work. Here are some further reflections from this table:

1. Jesus is divine, the Son of God. If you were to read Luke all the way through, you would find that the author is concerned with the identity of Jesus. When an angel appears to Mary in chapter 1 he tells her the baby she will conceive "will be called the Son of the Most High," and "will be called holy -- the Son of God." Then in 5:17-26, right before our passage, Jesus does something that only God Himself can do -- forgive sins. Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic, and the words of the Pharisees are very poignant here. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (v. 21). They recognize that only God has the power to forgive sins. Jesus then heals the paralytic so that "you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (v. 24).

2. Flowing out of his identity as God is Jesus' mission and work of forgiveness of sins. His mission and identity go hand in hand; they are inseparable. Let's look at Levi's story. Luke tells us that Jesus calls Levi to follow him. The invitation to follow was an invitation to having a relationship with Jesus, to become a disciple. What is implied in following Jesus is repentance, seen in the act that follows in which Levi leaves everything behind. At first glance we might think he just left behind his career, his place of work, his possessions or salary. But then Luke tells us Levi makes a great feast in his home and invites a large group to come, which would have been very costly. Perhaps Levi did leave behind his work, but most likely what he left behind was his life of sin. He left behind that which was displeasing to God. We can perhaps see it symbolized in that Levi was sitting when Jesus called him to follow him and then Levi stood up and left everything. His repentance was active, a complete change. If we read Levi's calling in conjunction with what Jesus tells the Pharisees in v. 32, I think it is fair to say that Levi's change wasn't just a moral or economic or career change but a heart change. Levi had found forgiveness of sins.

3. I love how once Levi found forgiveness of sins he invited all of his friends to come meet Jesus. We aren't told if or how many people at that table also found forgiveness of sins but it is very likely given the context that many did. Isn't it such an awesome thing that when people experience the grace of God they want to share it with others? All the more reason that we should share our tables with people who need to hear about the love of God.

4. We often want to separate the identity of Jesus from the mission of Jesus. We also have a tendency to reduce the mission of Jesus to something that is merely physical and not spiritual. In the name of social justice, we give people bread and medicine. We want to change their economic status and provide them with education. We want to emulate Jesus by associating with the least desirable. These are all great things! But if we do these things apart from the identity of Jesus and his mission of forgiveness of sins then we are no longer particularly Christian. If we don't couple our social acts with the message that Jesus, who was fully God, also became fully human, to bring salvation and to forgive our sins so that we might be reconciled to God, then we really do not know the Jesus of Scripture. On the other hand, if we preach this but do not extend God's grace to the unlikely of people and dine with sinners, then we aren't being obedient either. We must do both.

So this Easter, we will dress up and look our best. We'll go to church and then have a family meal. Let me ask you, will you consider getting dirty and dining with those who most desperately need to hear the Easter story? Will you be messengers of God's grace to them?

(I took some of this material from a Bible study I wrote for mymissionfulfilled.)

Come and Dine

Table #2: The uninvited guest