Editorial: Setting the Table

How do we do this again? The pandemic made us a bit rusty in several areas. Having people into our homes is one of them. For some, entertaining was a regular activity before life was interrupted by mandates, masks, and staying at least six feet apart. With these regulations now largely in the rear-view mirror, how do we get back to what we were doing before? And can we do it more effectively, more enthusiastically, and maybe even more evangelistically?

These questions and more will find helpful answers from our contributors in this special edition of Truth & Tidings devoted to the subject of hospitality.

Some observations from two homes in Bethany, at which our Lord was a guest, may prove useful as we begin this study together.

During Jesus’ visit to Martha’s home[1] in Luke 10:38-42, the main course was discourse. Mary was commended by Jesus for having sat at His feet, listening to what He said. We don’t need to go overboard with multiple main dishes and endless casseroles as Martha seemed to do. She ended up “distracted with all the preparations” (v40)[2] and missed out on conversation with her guest. Let’s not repeat her mistake with those we invite into our homes.

Another home in Bethany belonged to Simon,[3] where the Lord was invited for a meal (recorded in John 12) at which Martha and, doubtless, Mary were among those serving again. And as before, it was Mary whose behavior received acclaim. A guest should be welcomed with foot-washing. Mary made Jesus’ reception special by washing His feet with the outrageously expensive ointment she had reserved specifically for Him. The Lord approved: “Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mat 26:13). It was the reception, not the menu, that made the headlines. We know nothing about what was included in the evening’s cuisine. And the house didn’t smell of Simon’s supper but of Mary’s sacrifice. How important it is to be attentive to the needs of our guests. Although we may not be able to provide a five-star feast, our sacrificial acts to meet others’ needs could make headlines where it matters most.

As we survey the guests at the dinner in John 12, note that the table was a testimony of changed lives. Simon the Leper was there, but he wasn’t a leper anymore. He met Jesus and his life was changed. His miraculous story is one of those included in John 21:25: “There are many other things that Jesus did.” Lazarus was also sitting with them (12:2). Not so long before, he was in a tomb; now he is at a table. He experienced the life-giving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Lazarus, we were once dead; like Simon, we were unclean. But we can testify of the change Christ has made in us to those who may sit at our tables.

So make those calls, pull up the chairs and set the table again. And oh, by the way, even paper plates are permitted.

[1] Presumably also the home of Lazarus and Mary.

[2] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the NET.

[3] Compare Mat 26:6-13; Mar 14:3-9; Joh 12:1ff.