In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt had a meeting scheduled with the well-known African-American academic, Booker T. Washington. On a whim, Roosevelt decided to make the meeting a dinner and quickly rushed an invitation over to Washington. Washington accepted, and the two men dined at the White House. When news of the dinner became public, a furor erupted. Many in southern America fumed at the news of the president inviting a black man to dine at his table. One news editor even quipped that by issuing the invitation, President Roosevelt insinuated that black men were equal to white men.
When you welcome a person to your table, you invite them into the life of your family. It is an invitation to relationship. Meals in Jesus’s day were intimate affairs. People often reclined at the table, resting on one arm while eating with the other. In Luke 7, we read about a meal Jesus and His disciples had with Simon the Pharisee. While they were gathered together at Simon’s house, a woman with a notorious reputation came in and made a beeline for Jesus. Would He welcome her or would He do what any self-respecting man in His day would have done and send her back out of the door?
Her appearance caused quite a scene, not only because of her reputation, but also because of her actions. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume with her, which she used to anoint Jesus’s feet. Then she kissed those feet and wiped them with her hair. Her actions were extraordinary acts of worship and hospitality. Jesus’s host offered Him none of the customary acts of hospitality, yet this woman, out of her great love for Jesus, offered them to Him at great expense and without regard to the awkward scene it created.
Jesus explained her actions and those of the Pharisee. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much. He had been forgiven little, so he loved little. Then Jesus looked at the woman and told her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). Jesus’s boldness caused His dinner companions to wonder, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” (v.49).
With four little words, Jesus taught His dinner companions an important truth about Himself; He has the power to forgive sins. In one simple statement, Jesus affirmed His divinity, but also offered good news: forgiveness is available for even the “worst” of sinners. No matter how far we’ve stumbled. No matter how far we’ve wandered from the Father’s heart, forgiveness is available through Jesus.
Forgiveness breeds change. It beckons us to treat people the same way we have been treated by the Father because of the gospel. We forgive the wrongs we experience at the hands of others, because we know the joy of being freely forgiven. Since we know what it is to be welcomed into the family of God, we spread a table, warmly welcoming others into our lives that they might know life in the Father’s family too.
Written by Scott Slayton