Christian Hospitality: Strangers at Table

On the Road to Emmaus:
Today, another story of biblical hospitality. Another story of a stranger welcomed for a meal.

The story – And so it is with these two disciples as a stranger approaches them and joins them as they travel. The setting is after the crucifixion and resurrection. The crucifixion they saw and believed. They knew Jesus had died. The resurrection they did not know. They tell of the women at the tomb and the vision they see: a vision of angels proclaiming that Jesus is alive. They tell of their friends visiting the tomb and they too find it empty, but they do not see Jesus. This stranger comes alongside their conversation. The two are amazed as the stranger asks about what they are discussing. The two respond, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” When in fact it is this stranger who can and will reveal more fully the things that have happened, as he explains from the Old Testament scriptures.

As the two reach their destination, the stranger acts as if he will continue on. But as an act of hospitality, the two welcome him to stay the night with them. It is near evening. The day is almost over. As the stranger accepts, we next find them sitting at table, sharing a meal together. Food is a requirement for good, biblical hospitality. And it as the stranger takes the bread, gives thanks for the bread and breaks the bread that he is revealed to the two as the risen Lord. And Jesus then disappears from their sight.

Matthew 25.35-36 – Jesus is many times the stranger that we welcome in our midst. He says, For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Jesus as host and meal
In Jesus appearance and presence, and in the revealing of himself in the Emmaus account, Jesus promises to be present and recognized at shared meals. At Emmaus, Jesus comes as a stranger, the two welcome the stranger Jesus as guest, and in the breaking of bread Jesus becomes host.

Jesus is the gracious host when he feeds the more than 5,000 on the hillside from five loaves and two fishes. Jesus becomes both host and meal as he declares, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6)

And he sends out the invitation, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink as he offers himself as living water. (John 7) At the Last Supper, Jesus takes two basic elements of the full meal, bread and wine, and fills them with rich symbolic meaning. The bread is his body, broken. The wine is his blood, shed. These, the cost to welcome strangers to his table. He is once again host and meal.

Jesus says, “Come, come and be filled.” “Come and be made whole.” He offers forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and he offers a relationship, a relationship with himself and with others who gather at this table. He promises that he will reveal himself, and so that he will no longer be stranger to us. He promises that we will no longer be stranger to him or to one another but as we gather at table together he will make us the “household of God”.

It is also at this table that he offers nourishment for the journey toward God’s heavenly banquet table. As we participate and commune at this table, we anticipate that final Kingdom banquet, that time when we will see him face to face, that time when we will no longer look through a glass darkly, we will know Christ fully, and we shall be fully known. (1 Cor 13.12)

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