ancestors in the Faith put their primary and greatest faith
in the family. This was the core of the “inside”;
everyone else was “outside.” At a higher level,
the chosen people of God were the “insiders,” while
all others were outsiders.
The normal way to become an “insider” is to be born into the family
or group. But all societies recognize other ways of becoming an “insider.” One
general method is to share the same substance that a natural-born child would
share with the parents.
Thus unrelated children who share the same wet nurse
become kin to each other and may not marry each other. Or, two unrelated individuals
who share blood become “blood relatives.” Societies often select a
common bodily substance (blood, saliva, semen, or milk), which when commingled
establishes a relationship of kinship between two people.
“By eating with us, Jesus, you have made us kin with you.” A second way of becoming “related” or becoming “an insider” is
by the exchange of food through commensality, or eating together. Friendships
are sealed and strangers are integrated into the community by sharing a common
meal, even when the ritual aspects of this act of eating together are not explicit.
This understanding of table fellowship lies at the heart of Paul’s argument in Galatians 1-2.
Peter the Judean used to eat with Gentile converts (non-Judeans)
and with this ritual action clearly proclaimed that Judean and non-Judean believers
in Jesus were kin.
When some Judean believers scolded Peter for eating with believers
in Jesus who had not also been circumcised (that is, who had not become Judeans
first before becoming messianists), Peter stopped eating with the non-Judean
Paul was livid. Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with non-Judean
believers in Jesus amounted to saying that these non-Judeans were not really
related or part of the same family as Judean believers in Jesus.
Eating with Jesus
Jesus’ contemporaries in Luke 13 are claiming the same thing. “By eating
with us, Jesus, you have made us kin with you. We are your fictive relatives.
Why now are you excluding us from fellowship?”
Jesus’ answer has already
been given earlier in this same chapter (Lk 13:2 and 5): “Unless you repent,
you will all perish . . .” It is not enough to have shared a meal with Jesus.
A radical change of life is also necessary to establish a kinship relationship
Jesus’ contemporaries remind him: “You taught in our streets.” Jesus’
harsh reply to them insinuates: “Yes, but all you did was listen. You did
not take my teaching to heart and reform your lives. You think superficial acquaintance
with me and my teachings suffices.”
Jesus offers a prophetic warning to
believers of all times. Only those will join him at the heavenly banquet who
seek to understand him and his message, who seek to learn “the honest truth
about Jesus” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation,
John J. Pilch
Back to the Word
John J. Pilch is a biblical scholar and
facilitator of parish renewals. Liturgical
Press has published fourteen books by Pilch exploring
the cultural world” of the Bible.
Go to http://www.litpress.org/
Copyright © 1997 by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc.,
All rights reserved.
Used by permission from The Liturgical
Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321
The complete text of the above article can be found
The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle
John J. Pilch. The Liturgical Press. 1997. pp.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year
B, and C).
art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the
collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go to http://www.ltp.org