Jesus did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled-fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.
Jesus came “eating and drinking.” If there was a party, a dinner, or a wedding, and Jesus was invited, he was there. And such behavior by Jesus baffled the Pharisees. Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! (Matthew 11:19).
When Jesus eats with the “tax collectors and sinners,” his message is clear: “Jesus has come for losers, people on the margins, people who’ve made a mess of their lives, people who are ordinary. Jesus has come for you. The only people left out are those who think they don’t need God” (p. 30).
Tim Chester, in his book A Meal With Jesus, makes this point of who Jesus came for over and over again. Jesus has come for the lost, the broken, and the disenfranchised. And we know he has come for such people because he pulls up a chair, sits down with them, and has a meal.
In the culture of Jesus day, you had to be careful of who you ate with. This was especially true for the religious leaders. They would never eat with someone who was considered “unclean.” But Jesus broke the rules. Why? Because those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Luke 5:31).
To those who needed grace, Jesus offered grace. To those who needed hope, Jesus offered hope. To those who needed salvation, Jesus offered salvation. And Jesus offered these around the table. And this is why Chester believes that we need to learn the power of sharing a meal with others.
“Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events,” writes Chester. “He ate meals.” So to do mission is to “routinely share meals with others” (p. 89). Meals don’t save people, but they do present an incredible opportunity to know the heart of another. And to know the heart of another sometimes presents moments to speak of the gospel of grace.
But not only does eating a meal provide an opportunity to get to know someone, it also communicates belonging. At a meal you sit as equals. Chester mentions a homeless women who told him at a soup kitchen that “I know people do a lot to help me. But what I want is for someone to be my friend”(p. 83). What this woman is saying is, “I really wish someone would eat with me so I could feel human again.”
The bottom line for Chester in his book A Meal With Jesus is that what God has called us to do in regards to making disciples is not complicated. He writes, “If you share a meal three or four times a week and you have passion for Jesus, then you will be building up the Christian community and reaching out in mission” (p. 16).
I encourage you to purchase a copy of A Meal With Jesus. It has some good practical theology in regards to mission and hospitality and will leave you rejoicing that God is preparing a feast for us in Heaven.