Friday, August 22, 2014

Good Conduct, Good Deeds, Good Works (part 14)

Though it may be somewhat disconnected, and though it may be a tenuous stretch, in reaching the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, it should be noted with interest that Abraham, the one that was blessed of the Creator God for the expressed purpose of exemplifying divine blessing, “looked up and saw three men standing across from him.  When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.  He said, ‘My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by and leave your servant.  Let a little water be brought so that you may all wash your feet and rest under the tree.  And let me get a bit of food so that you may refresh yourselves since you have passed by your servant’s home.  After that you may be on your way.’” (18:2-5). 

It is further reported that “They ate while he was standing near them under a tree” (18:8b).  Though one should not presume that Abraham washed the feet of his visitors, as this was most likely performed by a servant, a kingdom-of-God-minded observer should be unable to pass by such words without a contemplation of the washing of the disciples’ feet that Jesus undertook before returning to the table where He would speak of “the one who eats My bread” (John 13:18) before passing a piece of bread to Judas. 

While this action has naturally become associated with Judas’ betrayal, the record of the Gospel of John only makes this clear in retrospect.  When Jesus gave Judas the bread and accompanying instruction, “none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas.  Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor” (13:28-29).    

In keeping with the theme of covenant bearers being identified with the meal table and with meal practice, especially as it relates to the identifying practice of the messianic feast (as highlighted in Luke 13:29 in a well-placed elaboration on the pronouncements of prophets like Isaiah), and in-between the use of “non-Christian” (4:3) and “Christian” (4:16), one should not be at all surprised to find Peter instructing this church to “Show hospitality to one another without complaining” (4:9).  This is the language of conduct, deeds, and works.  It is not possible to escape the implications of the meal table here, as this is yet another demand to contravene the existing customs of the table and of the existing social constructs that would be on display. 

This showing of hospitality, without concern for social rank or honor, could be quite difficult to achieve, as the corrupted nature reacts against such notions.  This is where the mysteriously transformative power of the Gospel is sorely needed, and where it and its Spirit-empowered love is most visible and achieves its greatest impact.  It is as such considerations are made, letting the implications sink deep into hearts and minds, that one is left with little wonder as to why Jesus spent so much time at banqueting tables.  Clearly, this is something to which the culture, in His time, was attuned.  Accordingly, the impact of the table fellowship that Jesus displayed as He modeled out the messianic banquet was significant.  His followers seemed to have understood this well, making it a major focal point of the life lived in accordance with confession of Jesus as Messiah. 

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