If I were to ask you to finish that statement (The Son of Man came…), how would you? Preaching and teaching the Kingdom. To serve. To give his life as a ransom for many. To seek and to save the lost. These are all very true and exactly how I would have answered the question.
However, there is one more way the gospels finish the sentence. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke explicitly tell us that the Son of Man came eating and drinking (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). These two verses were pointed out to me by Tim Chester in his book A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table.
The Gospels tell us that (1) “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); (2) “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); and (3) “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).
As Tim Chester points out, the first two statements tell us the very important reasons on why the Son of Man came, but the third statement tells us how he came (p. 12). Yes Jesus also came preaching and teaching, but the gospels go out of their way to tell us specifically that the Son of Man came eating and drinking.
It is important to understand that the Son of Man title refers not to Jesus’ humanity, but is a reference to his deity. The title is used first in Daniel 7 as a title to the one to whom is given all “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one what shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). Therefore, the Jews associated the title “Son of Man” with deliverance and vindication from the hands of their enemies. They would also have associated the title with one who comes in clouds and glory, which Jesus says is true (Luke 21:27), but not yet.
So the idea of the Son of Man coming eating and drinking was almost beyond comprehension for the Jews of Jesus’ day, let the alone the idea he would do dine in the home of such “horrible sinners” like prostitutes and tax collectors. But in Luke, as Robert Karris writes, “Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal” (quoted in A Meal with Jesus, p. 13).
I am pretty positive there was a lot of teaching that occurred during those meals that probably lasted well into the night. But my guess is that Jesus was not lecturing them, but rather entering into a dialogue with those around him. I say this because when I have dined with folks, the idea is never to listen to a lecture by a person, but rather to dialogue together.
Also the Son of Man entered into these houses not as superior, whether religiously or morally, but as an equal in some respect. By dining with the people Jesus did, he was in effect saying to the most disgraced members of Jewish society (tax collectors and prostitutes), “The grace I live and move and have my being in is available to you.” Power struggles and exclusion still arise around the table (see 1 Corinthians and Paul’s rebuke of their treatment of the Lord’s Supper), but it would seem far less likely to happen. I challenge you to hold animosity towards someone if you invite them into your home to linger over dinner and a bottle of wine.
All of this has had me thinking about the Evangelical culture in which I have grown up in, not only physically but spiritually. Preaching and teaching, which I completely support, reign supreme in Evangelical churches – everything revolves around the preaching of Scripture. Even small groups typically involve rehearsing the sermon or some other text. Even the Lord’s Supper is typically only celebrated once a month, and even that is done in an individualistic manner, from my observations.
It is easy to sit here and write this and lament and point fingers; it is quite the other thing to offer suggestions on what to do differently.
The one suggestion I can offer is this: the small group which Claire and I are apart of through our church shared in a Passover Seder together (my summary). For many of us it was one of the highlights of our time together, and as we resumed this Fall, we as a group want to do more of this. Maybe this is where it starts – homes across the country where people can feel safe to be who they were created to be sharing in the joy and merriment of a meal.
Inviting others into my home will not be easy; it will in fact be messy, but I am messy myself, and Jesus still came to seek and save me.