Read Mark 2:15-17
15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house,many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples-for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors,they said to his disciples,”Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this,he said to them,”Those who are well have no need of a physician,but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (NRSV)
Apparently studies have shown that most families don’t regularly have family meals around the one table. It seems we eat at different times,and in different places. We may even eat different food. The old idea of a family meal is not so common. We may debate just how much harm that might do to family cohesion and communication.
In Jesus’ day it was all rather different. Eating food together was deeply significant. It implied acceptance,friendship and respect. This is why the religious authorities were shocked that Jesus ate with disreputable people. It was one thing to be seen conversing with them or preaching to them,but something else to actually sit at table with them. This suggested Jesus saw them as friends,as equals.
Jesus explained that he loved these people and wanted to bring them into a state of spiritual health. So it was natural he would spend time with them. And the truly significant way of spending time with people in his day was to eat with them.
Because eating was no rushed business of gulping down a meal which was zapped in a microwave or bought from a shop. It was a ritual,even a celebration. It took time to prepare and time to eat. Which meant time to talk and relate.
Not having meals together may not mean the end of Western civilisation as we know it. But consider that rushed and separate meals just might contribute to isolation and misunderstanding in families. Not to mention indigestion!