A final reflection

Alan Culpepper [287-88] offers these final thoughts

These are liberating words that can free us from the necessity of succeeding in our culture’s contests of power and esteem. They free us from over-under relationships and the attitudes and barriers they create, so that we may be free to create human community and enjoy the security of God’s grace.

This commentary on ancient meal practices and social stratification makes two points. First, one should cultivate and practice humility, if only because it is a prudent means of avoiding embarrassment. The eschatological application at the end of each of the two sections drives home a deeper meaning. Although the practice of humility is proper and prudent for disciples, the kingdom of God will bring about an even more revolutionary reversal. The very standards and practices of discrimination will be overthrown. The outcasts will be accepted as equals. Those who live by kingdom standards and values now will not only bear witness to the kingdom but also will be rewarded in “the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14). Righteousness, not social position or the esteem of others, should be our goal. God does not look on the glitter of our guest list. Instead, God looks to see that we have practiced the generosity and inclusiveness of the kingdom in our daily social relationships. One standard offers the reward of social position, the other the reward of God’s favor.

The distinctiveness of Jesus’ vision of the kingdom was nowhere clearer than in his protest against discriminatory meal practices. Jesus and the Pharisees ate differently. For Jesus, meals were times of celebration and an inclusive fellowship that foreshadowed the inclusiveness of God’s kingdom. The last supper, therefore, not only pointed ahead to the eschatological banquet, but also it reflected on Jesus’ meals with the disciples, Pharisees, crowds, and outcasts in Galilee. The greatest crisis the early church faced, moreover, was not the delay of the parousia but the burning issue of whom one ate with (see Acts 10:9–16, 28; 15:19–20; Gal 2:11–14). Perhaps it is time we learned new table manners

Image: A Place of Honor According to Jeshua from https://www.breadforbeggars.com

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