15 April 2018

If Jesus comes for coffee

[RCL]: Acts 3:12-19 • Psalm 4 • 1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48

The language of the Bible is, for the most part, a graceful and formal language. There is one occasion in one of Paul’s letters where he uses a word that we would not think of using in polite company today, and the Bible has instances of whining, of rudeness, even of insult. Of course, there are the stories of things we don’t associate with a godly people: incest, drunkenness, rape, murder, adultery, prostitution, and so on.

But for the most part, the Bible is a wonderful and unified story of the history of God’s chosen people, of God’s ways and plans and desires for all of his creation, especially humankind. It is a book that shows us where we have gone wrong, how we can get cleaned up, and how we can live the lives God has always had in mind for each one of us. There are bits that are not dramatically exciting to read and over the centuries numerous different English translations that have tried their best to be faithful to the original texts, whilst communicate in the language usage of the day. By faith, Christians believe that the 66 books contained in the Old and New Testaments, is what God intended to use to teach us and show us His character.

For example, some say The Jerusalem Bible renders the Old Testament the most beautifully. Others think The New English Bible was a breakthrough in rendering a compromise, readable, accurate text. Good News for Modern Man polarised a paperback version and has been tremendous for those whose English is not the greatest standard. Today we have the New International Version, The Message, The Voice Bible, the New English Translation — all seeking the same end — to make the Bible more accessible, better read, and easier to fathom. Not to mention all the Children’s Bibles and Bible Stories for Kids books that have simplified the major stories of the Bible so that even the adults can understand them!

I think there is a result of having so much familiarity, accessibility, with texts we have grown accustomed to, and it is that we think we know what they’re saying. We tune out a scripture reading after the first few words are read **because we already know what it’s going to say**. ‘Who, me?’ I expect some of you are thinking, but let’s be truthful, we all do it.

It gives us a handle, but in so doing, it makes us lazy about looking at the story for new, even deeper, meaning. Let’s try an example from the Parable of the Unjust Judge, a story of a woman who comes to a judge demanding justice, asking again and again and again — before the judge relents and gives her what she asks. How might we understand that parable differently if we called it **How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?**

Today, we read from the Gospel of Luke about the time Jesus joined the disciples for a meal **after** he had been crucified and laid in the tomb. Let’s call this story **‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’**

Usually, we focus upon Jesus saying ‘peace’ and this is what is usually preached about from this passage. The disciples are their usual frightened, doubtful, selves, and Jesus reassures them and offers proof that he is the Son of God. After that, there is a long statement of faith which rehearses the history of expecting a Messiah. A great story, but Luke wasn’t there as a witness – he was reporting this as a historian.

Now, more than one person has observed that Jesus showed up wherever there was food. For me, that’s promising! Let’s take another look at a familiar story then: the great drama of the cross is over and the disciples are talking. Jesus suddenly makes an appearance and says**“Hello chaps, how are you?”**

In today’s language, he might even ask, **“What are you lot looking at?”** Jesus then asks the disciples: **“So fellas, have you got anything to eat?”** Which is why I decided to call this message, “If Jesus came for coffee”.

**“Do you have anything to eat?”**

This has to be one of the great questions of the Bible, up there with Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the time Jesus asked Peter, “So Peter, who do you say I am?”

**“Have you got anything to eat?”**

Actually, we could also call this passage **Jesus Gets Right to the Point**, because eating and food are so basic, so necessary, so very ordinary, and so very much a part of human life. Here in Luke’s account, the telling of this incident emphasises Jesus’ humanity — and being human, it makes sense he would inquire about food. It’s been three days since he died upon that cross, and I am sure that resurrection makes you hungry! Or wait: having risen from the dead, would he need to eat? Would he even be able to eat? Would he want to eat?

If he’s not asking for food because **he is hungry**, then what else might be going on here? It might be as simple as wanting to emphasise that Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, is human as well as divine. Asking for food and eating a meal with the bewildered disciples is pretty human. It may be that simple.

But there is another possibility. Luke had firmly established that Jesus was human. He didn’t need to interject again, between Jesus having reassured the disciples he wasn’t a ghost, and then a lengthy statement about Jesus being God’s Messiah. Unless it has a particular meaning.

We must realise that Luke was Greek, and writing for a Greek audience. The popular religions of the Greek world were the mystery cults, where gods and goddesses were worshipped from a distance, and always with fear and awe. Their deities were far off, other-world, distant, hard to approach.

We must also realise just how significantly Jesus brought a different understanding of God. He is Emmanuel – which means ‘God with us’. He was God as one of us, God in human flesh.

This passage in Luke is a little like the story about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. They were so wrapped up in Jesus as their Lord that they had trouble letting him be one of them. And here in Luke, the disciples are so caught up in their own misery, their fear, their doubt — they forget their deeply-ingrained instincts of hospitality. It was embedded in their culture that when a stranger visits, when a guest comes among you, you don’t huddle in a corner, you invite them in. You can tell they aren’t English, right!

The disciples forgot their manners. Jesus reminded them. He reminded them simply that he was human, one of them, and he would only enter into their community if he was invited. That’s so interesting, and crucial because Jesus has done his part. We have to do ours.

Two thousand years later, we still prefer the **divinity** of Christ to the **humanity** of Jesus. Maybe, in the glory and grandeur of our Easter celebrations, we forgot the reminder of Christmas: that Jesus was God in human flesh. That is the mystery, the wonder, the miracle of the one we call Jesus the Christ.

Luke’s Jesus reminds us that he’s human, but there is more to it than that; to enter into our hearts, our lives, our community, he **wants** to be — indeed he **needs** to be—invited.

Jesus was born into a tradition of absolute, compulsory hospitality. It’s what he lived. It’s what he taught. And it is what we are called to and to be.

So, how can we offer hospitality to Jesus at the personal level? I think that is what it really means when we say that we want an invite to or say we have invited Jesus into our heart. He has come, he has offered himself for our sin, he has defeated death, sin and Satan, and now he comes and says, ‘I did this because I love you, I have made a way to know God personally, intimately. Will you invite me in to tell you all about it?’

Beyond the personal response to Jesus, we can also practise Christ-like hospitality as individuals, as families, as a congregation. Tea and fellowship, family dinners into which we invite others, every social thing we do, gives us opportunities to practise what we preach. So the next time you meet someone for a cup of coffee, or a meal, or offer them a drink, or some help along the way, offer the knowledge and the love of Jesus, as well. Amen.