Most of us in advanced societies make it a point to avoid dining with people who we know can bring up uncomfortable subjects at a meal. We have in our minds what constitutes proper etiquette for meals where we are hosting guests or are guests ourselves, such as not insulting the host, not insulting the guests, avoid inviting guests who would offend your other guests, etc. If you take time to read the gospels, you will find that based on some of this proper etiquette, Jesus would probably not be on our guest list for dinner. Why? He was a dinner guest (and host) who didn’t mince words if something took place that he didn’t like. He addressed situations right away without concern for who might feel offended.
In Luke 7, a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. When Jesus arrived, a woman who was a known sinner (Mary Magdalene?), broke her alabaster box to anoint Jesus’ feet then wiped his feet with her hair. The Pharisee, Simon, was disgusted by it because he felt it was bad etiquette for prophets to allow such a woman to touch them. Jesus then pulled out the parable of the creditor to teach Simon a lesson about love and forgiveness, pointing out that the sinful woman, being forgiven much, showed Jesus more love than his host did in that she welcomed him with kisses and washed his feet. Simon had done neither one, which was customary for hosts to do. Then the proper guests felt insulted even more when Jesus told her that he forgave her sins.
In Mark 7, Jesus sat down to eat with his disciples after a long, hard day of healing people and jumped right into the meal without the disciples going through the Jewish handwashing ritual. The Pharisees and scribes who joined them felt offended by it and attempted to rebuke them for their bad manners. Then Jesus defended his disciples by rebuking the Jewish leaders with a scripture from Isaiah to point out how they put their traditions above God’s commands, giving them concrete examples of their guilt.
Finally, in Luke 11 Jesus was again invited to dinner by a Pharisee. Were they gluttons for punishment? It seems he would’ve known by that time what type of dinner guest Jesus was. The Pharisee got on Jesus’ case about not properly washing his hands just as in the previous incident. And Jesus rebuked him and his colleagues for their many unrepented sins to the point of calling them fools and hypocrites. When the Pharisee’s lawyer friends jumped in to say how insulted they were at what he said, Jesus rebuked them also and said they were like their ancestors who murdered God’s prophets and accused them of trying to hinder the knowledge of the common people. This led to an even bigger argument.
So much for polite dinner conversation. Was Jesus just being a rude dude? Hardly. He confronted them because his time was short on this Earth, so he knew he had to take advantage of each moment to teach out of his love for Israel. As he said in Revelation 3, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten…” It was his ultimate hope that they would repent and be saved.
The fact that the Lord can confront us about what we need to change about ourselves is part of the reason why many avoid or resist his word and many of us leave him outside the door of our heart standing and knocking instead of allowing him to come in to sup with us. But accepting the uncomfortable things he confronts us with can only serve to make us better.
Harry A. Gaylord