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Meals As Enacted Community by Tim Chester
by Joanne Liaw
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Getting Started…

Imagine you’re at a dinner party. The host is a respectable church leader and local councilman who lives in a big house on the posh side of town. Tonight the dinner party is in honor of a visiting speaker. You’re glad to have been invited, because there’s been a lot of talk about this man. He’s been causing something of a stir with his radical views. Some people won’t have anything to do with him. But you’ve got an open mind. It’s good to have an opportunity to find out what he’s really like. You hear the doorbell but think nothing of it, until a woman pushes her way into the room. You see the despairing face of the host’s wife. This new arrival is wearing a tight-fitting, low-cut blouse; a skirt that’s way too short; and stiletto shoes. She’s painted up to the nines and totters slightly as she walks—she’s probably had one drink too many. She looks like the sort of woman who stands on street corners. She goes straight to the visiting speaker and throws her arms around him, clasping his head to her bosom. “I’ll always be yours,” you hear her mumble. She begins to massage his shoulders. It’s then that you notice she’s crying, her mascara streaking down her cheeks….
(Page 37, A Meal With Jesus)

1. How would you have felt and responded to such a spectacle?

Everyone in the room seems to freeze. What a thing for a respectable person to have to endure. You feel for him. How embarrassing. But instead of pushing her away, he reaches up and puts his arms around her. He says something to her that sounds like, “And you’re mine.” But he can’t have said that. It’s obvious what kind of woman she is. He can surely see that for himself. He ought to show some discernment. She might think it’s a come-on. Maybe it is. Maybe he’s one of her “customers.” This visiting speaker clearly has big problems. Luke tells us about a dinner party much like this.
(Page 38, A Meal With Jesus)

2. What is your opinion on the manner in which the speaker responded?

Investigating and Applying the Text…

Read Luke 7:36-39

We are told that the woman in the Bible passage was a sinner and most probably was a prostitute. She was that kind of woman whom respectable people did not associate with.

1. Take a quiet moment to reflect on the various kinds of people who are shunned and stigmatized by society.

2. How do you feel as you read about the way the woman expressed herself to Jesus in verse 38?

3. Why did the Pharisee disapprove, in his heart, of the manner in which the woman was acting in verse 39?
Answer: Because she was considered a sinful woman and her act towards Jesus was considered highly improper especially in a highly conservative Jewish culture. Furthermore, the Pharisee concluded that there is no way that Jesus could be a true prophet because a true prophet would not have allowed a sinful woman to touch him.

Read Luke 7:40-50

4. We can marvel at the wisdom exhibited in the parable that Jesus told to rebuke Simon, the Pharisee in verses 41 to 43. Just to be clear on the representation of people and imageries in the parable, who do you think the following characters refer to?
a. The Moneylender. Answer: God who graciously forgives unworthy sinners like us not based on our merit of good work and self righteousness.
b. The Debt. Answer: The massive debt of sin that people owe to a holy, righteous God which is impossible to repay.
c. The Debtor of 500 denarii. Answer: The Sinful Woman.
d. The Debtor of 50 denarii. Answer: Simon, the Pharisee.

5. From Jesus’ reply to Simon in verses 44 to 46, briefly list down the comparison of responses between:
a. Simon the Pharisee
b. The sinful woman

6. What is your opinion on Simon’s attitude towards Jesus?
Answer: He was an inhospitable host who did not really care about Jesus’ well being as his guest and was quick to pass judgment on Jesus’ reaction to the woman in his self righteousness.

Before we start pointing an accusing finger at Simon, we should stop to examine our own hearts and attitude.

7. Do you look down on people who don’t seem to fit in with the pleasant, courteous, cultured and respectable class of society? They might not only be prostitutes, like the sinful woman in Luke 7, but they could be those you look down on for being difficult, rude, rowdy, disorganized, lazy, promiscuous, socially inept, bitter or just simply unbearable.

8. What are the steps you could take to be more gracious to those unlovable people? What could you do to encourage them and help them fit into the community of God’s people?

9. What is your opinion on the sinful woman’s attitude towards Jesus?
Answer: Although her act would have been considered improper, it truly took great courage to honor Jesus in this way. She did not care about how others would criticize and rebuke her. Her tears are tears both of thankfulness and also of reverent awe as she senses the presence of God in the person of Jesus.

10. Are you willing to put your reputation at stake out of your love for Jesus? How much are you willing to put on the line for the sake of Christ? What are the things that are holding you back from giving your wholehearted devotion to God?

In verse 49, we see the other guests on the table questioning Jesus’ authority as God to forgive sin. They truly could not see Jesus for who he is and therefore they could not understand the measure of God’s grace and willingness to forgive the worst of sinners.

11. Do you truly see Jesus for who he is? Do you genuinely, and not just intellectually, understand the measure of his grace to broken sinners regardless of their social standing and background?

The church is a community full of differences that humanly speaking ought to result in conflict. But we have a shared life-and-death experience. We’re sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus. His death is our death and his life is our life.
(Page 53, A Meal With Jesus)

P/S: If you are interested in this Bible study material, please contact me via the following email address: liawjoanne@gmail.com


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