Jesus spends a lot of time at dinner tables. Many of my favorite stories involve Jesus as a guest at someone’s home. He stops to spend time with Mary and Martha, invites himself over to stay with a despised tax collector named Zacchaeus, and he even goes to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee.
The gospel writer Luke gives us a taste of the conversation in each of these interactions. I have spent the last four months living in these stories as preparation for sharing them with my campus fellowship, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the conversational aspects of the stories lately.
First, with Mary and Martha, Luke shares with us Martha’s distraction and worry about the many preparations involved in serving the Lord and his disciples. Luke then tells us how Jesus answers Martha’s plea for help by reminding her that “few things are needed” and directing her focus back to himself and enjoying his presence (Luke 10).
Then, although the people grumble when Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house to stay with their least favorite tax collector, a “sinner,” the interaction with Jesus transforms Zacchaeus’ life. He declares on the spot that he will give up half his possessions and repay back anyone he cheated. After time with Jesus, Zacchaeus’ life does not look the same (Luke 19).
Finally, when Jesus goes to dinner with the important religious people around, the Pharisees, Luke records a fascinating conversation. Jesus heals a man with nasty bodily swelling during the Sabbath meal, then he tells a parable calling everyone out for considering themselves the most important person in the room, both in an earthly sense and in a spiritual sense. Jesus even gives the host some advice on who he should invite to his next dinner party (Luke 14).
These conversations with Jesus never seem dull or superficial. He doesn’t spend time on the polite questions or local news topics. Instead, Jesus engages in conversation meant to challenge, to transform, and to point people back to himself.
In studying these interactions this semester, I have developed a craving for more conversation like this in my life. I want to spend time with my brothers and sisters in Christ talking about meaningful things. I want them to challenge me, so that I can be transformed and pointed back to Jesus like Martha, Zacchaeus and the Pharisees.
I am so thankful for the great conversations and interactions I do have in my life, especially for the people on campus who challenge me and make me think during our conversations on a regular basis. As I prepare for Urbana, I am also eagerly anticipating the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with my roommates, with my friends, and maybe even with strangers around the Urbana dinner table! I have no idea what we’ll be talking about, but it is my hope and prayer that through those interactions I will be transformed and reminded of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.