You are Invited to a Dinner with Jesus of Nazareth
The mysterious envelope arrives on Nick Cominsky’s desk amid a stack of credit card applications and business-related junk mail. Although his seventy-hour workweek has already eaten into his limited family time, Nick can’t pass up the opportunity to see what kind of plot his colleagues have hatched…
The normally confident, cynical Nick soon finds himself thrown off-balance, drawn into an intriguing conversation with a baffling man who comfortably discusses everything from world religions to the existence of heaven and hell. And this man who calls himself Jesus also seems to know a disturbing amount about Nick’s personal life.
“You’re bored, Nick. You were made for more than this. You’re worried about God stealing your fun, but you’ve got it backwards.… There’s no adventure like being joined to the Creator of the universe.” He leaned back off the table. “And your first mission would be to let him guide you out of the mess you’re in at work.”
As the evening progresses, their conversation touches on life, God, meaning, pain, faith, and doubt—and it seems that having Dinner with a Perfect Stranger may change Nick’s life forever.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
David Gregory is the author of A Day with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level, The Last Christian, and the coauthor of two nonfiction books. After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion, sociology, and communications. He holds Master’s degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. He has been a frequent teacher, trainer, and conference speaker since 1996. A native of Texas, he now lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Ava, and their four children. Learn more about this book at www.dinnerwithaperfectstranger.com.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter Two: The Seating
“Dinner for one, sir?” The maître d’s appearance from behind the wine bar dashed my option of bolting before anyone noticed me. “Sir? Dinner for one?”
“No, I’m… I’m supposed to meet someone. I’m Nick Cominsky…”
“Ah, Mr. Cominsky. Right this way.”
He grabbed a menu and led me past the wood lattice that bordered the single dining room. The place hadn’t changed since I had brought Mattie for Valentine’s two years back. Two staggered tablecloths, one white and one red, covered each of the tables. Large mirrors created the image of a side dining area. The windows on two sides of the room overlooked the Ohio River. I could see lights from the Kentucky side reflecting on the water. The current provided nice background noise, like those ocean CDs you can buy to help you sleep. Unfortunately, some lame Andrea Bocelli song that Mattie loved virtually drowned out the river.
Tuesdays looked slow at Milano’s. Guests occupied only four tables. I inhaled the smell of toasted bread as we passed an older party of six laughing at a front table. A couple in their early twenties held hands and made goo-goo eyes at each other in the far right corner, the guy oblivious to his shirt sleeve dangling in his ravioli. In the middle of the room, two weight-challenged women giggled as they plunged into a monstrous chocolate torte. And in the far corner on the left, a thirty-something man in a blue business suit sat by himself, perusing a menu.
The maître d’ led me over to him. Rising from his chair, he stuck out his hand and firmly grasped mine.
“Nick Cominsky,” he said. “Hi. Jesus.”
In retrospect, a thousand comebacks were possible—“Jesus H. Christ! So good to finally meet you!”…“Are twelve of our party missing?”…“I didn’ t know they buried you in a suit.”
The absurdity of the scene, though, stunned me into silence. What do you say to that? The man and I continued shaking hands a little too long, until I issued a weak “Uhhuh.” He released my hand and sat back down.
My eyes caught the maître d’s. He quickly averted his glance and picked my napkin off my plate, cuing me to sit. He placed the napkin in my lap, handed me a menu and, with an “Enjoy your dinner,” left me alone with…
“Thanks for meeting me,” the man started. “This probably wasn’t the most convenient time for you, middle of the week.”
We stared at each other. Well, I stared. He resumed looking at his menu. He had an average build and was a little shorter than me, maybe five foot ten or so. His complexion olive toned, his hair dark and wavy, cut short and combed forward. His bushy eyebrows (Mattie would make me trim those,I thought) hung over deep eye sockets and brown eyes dark enough that you couldn’t quite tell where the iris ended and the pupil began. His slender nose and thinnish lips matched a chin that receded slightly, as if knowing it couldn’t compete with the brows above. He wasn’t GQcover material, but he definitely spent more time in the gym than I did. His suit wasn’t Armani, but it wasn’t Discount Warehouse, either.
He looked up and caught me scrutinizing him, but he didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable. Since my eyes provided few clues as to what this whole thing was about, I decided to give my ears a shot.
“Excuse me, but am I supposed to know you?”
“That’s a good question,” he smiled, to himself I guess. “I would say the answer is yes.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve never met you, as far as I can remember.”
I looked around the room, waiting for the guys to jump out from behind the lattice or maybe from the men’s room. But no one hid behind the lattice. As for the men’s room…I turned my attention to the guy across the table.
“Come at me again. You are…”
“Jesus. My family called me Yeshua.”
“Your family, from…”
“Well, I grew up there. I wasn’t born there.”
“No, of course not. That would have been in…”
“Bethlehem. But we didn’t stay long before we left for Egypt.”
That was about all I needed to hear. This guy was a nut. Without saying a word, I got up, retraced my steps past the lattice, took a right, and entered the bathroom. Mr. Ravioli was rinsing off his sleeve, but besides him, no one. Backing out, I momentarily considered cracking the door to the women’ s room but dismissed the thought as premature. I took a left and peeked through the circular window to the kitchen. Nothing. I paused, scanned the restaurant, and, deciding this warranted a more direct approach, returned to the table.
“Look,” I said, sitting on the edge of my chair, “I’ve got better things to do tonight than have some mystery dinner with… Who are you really, and what’s going on here?” My question had an unintended edge. After all, the guy hadn’t done anything to me except meet for dinner.
“I know this isn’t quite what you expected. But I think if you give this evening a try, you’ ll find it meaningful.”
“Of course!” I retorted. “Who wouldn’t find a dinner with Jesus meaningful? Last week I had dinner with Napoleon. Socrates the week before. But Jesus! Thank you so much for coming all the way from the Holy Land!” I realized my voice was carrying more than I wanted. The two women had turned our way.
He sat silently.
“Hey”—I rose again from my chair—“I need to get home to my wife and daughter. Thanks for the invitation.” I stuck out my hand in a conciliatory gesture.
“Mattie went out to a movie with Jill,” he said without flinching. “She got Rebecca to baby-sit Sara.”
Okay. Finally a few pieces were starting to fall into place. He knew my wife. He knew Jill Conklin, the wife of my best friend, Chris. He knew our regular baby-sitter, Rebecca. He knew Mattie and Jill had gone to a movie. Once more I reclaimed my seat.
“Did Chris put you up to this?” I couldn’t imagine how Chris could be involved; it was way too weird for him.
“No, he didn’t.”
I returned to my original suspects. “Are you a friend of Bill Grier and Les Kassler?”
He slid his menu aside and leaned forward. “I’ll tell you what. If you stay for dinner, I promise to tell you at the end who set it up.”
The last time Bill and Les had done something like this, I ended up wearing fake cement overshoes and getting tossed into a swimming pool on Halloween. A heated pool, fortunately. Now I was having dinner with some guy claiming to be Jesus.
The waiter interrupted my contemplation, addressing the man across the table. “Have you selected a wine, sir?”
“I think I’ll let my friend decide,” he responded, turning to me. “Would you care for some wine?”
“Okay,” I replied, “sure.”
I opened the wine list and scanned thirty or so offerings, none of which I recognized. I was tempted to order the most expensive one on the list, but instead I pointed to a midrange white. “We’ll take the Kalike.”
I handed the wine list to the waiter. He looked back at my host, who gave a slight nod.
“The Vermentino di Gallura–Kalike ’98,” the waiter confirmed to me. He departed, passing a busboy with a water pitcher. The busboy filled my glass first, then the other guy’ s, eliciting a “Thank you, Carlo.”
We both picked up our water glasses and took a drink. I had to admit, this guy was good. Where did they find someone willing to play Jesus for an evening? And in such an unassuming way, as if he were just a normal guy. My coworkers had outdone themselves this time. But why? What was the point to all this? Les and Bill weren’t particularly religious. Bill went to Mass on Christmas and Easter, when his wife dragged him there. As for Les, he worshiped only at Western Hills Country Club.
Glancing back over at the pre-honeymooners, the mirror caught my eye. Could the restaurant have a two-way mirror? That seemed a little far-fetched but no more so than the evening had been thus far.
Our waiter appeared behind me with a bottle of wine, opened it, and set the cork down for me. I picked it up and took a whiff. “Smells good.” I looked up at him, detecting a slight roll of his eyes.
He poured a small amount into my wineglass and'handed it to me to taste. Mattie and I frequently had wine at home but not in this class. “Very nice.”
He poured me a full glass, then one across the table before leaving the bottle, prompting a “Thank you, Eduardo” this time. Is he on a first-name basis with the entire wait staff? He must come here weekly.
I was tempted to ask, but I had already decided on a different strategy. I leaned back in my chair and turned to “Jesus,” suppressing my customary sarcastic smile. “So your family called you Yeshua?”
“Most of them. James called me a few other things.”
“Well, Yesh— Do you mind if I call you Yesh?”
“Whatever suits you.”
“Yesh it is, then. Tell me,”—I held up my wineglass—“can you turn this wine back into water?”
Reading Group Guide
1. WEEK ONE: CHAPTERS 1—4
What was your initial reaction to the premise of the book?
Do you ever wish you could have some sit-down-and-talk time with God? Why? If you could sit down one-on-one with Jesus, what are two questions you would like to ask him?
Is there such a thing as actual reality? Why is it important for our belief system to correspond to reality? What difference does it make if it does not?
What’s wrong with saying about someone’s belief system that “It’s true for them”?
How is Christianity distinct from the other primary world views, such as Islam, Hinduism, and atheistic naturalism (the material world is all there is)?
How does the Christian concept of God differ from the Islamic concept of God? Why does this matter in regard to humanity’s deepest longings? How does your experience relate to this?
On page 28, Jesus makes the statement, “You don’t want what you’re ultimately trusting to be wrong.” What are you ultimately trusting concerning your eternal destiny? How do you know whether you will be with God for all eternity?
What are you trusting in the day to day aspects of your life, to live life to the fullest?
2. WEEK TWO: CHAPTERS 5 & 6
Why isn’t God interested in having people try to perform for him? What is the implication of this for your own life?
If God’s business is restoring relationships, what does he want your response to be toward him? Toward others?
What do you think are the primary indicators that humanity is in rebellion against God?
Are there rips in the fabric of your life that only God is big enough to fix? Do you go to him with these things? How do you think he wants to use those rips for good purpose in your life (Romans 8:28-29)? How can you cooperate with God in his fixing process?
How does Islam water down God’s perfect holiness and justice? What is the way God can be both perfectly just and forgiving at the same time (see Romans 3:23-26)?
How would you answer the question Jesus poses to Nick on page 56: “Don’t you think God loves you at least as much as you love Sara?”
Discuss the parable Jesus tells of the two schoolboys. How would describe the character of the friend with the better grades? How is God like this friend, only more so? Why?
What should be the impact on your life of knowing that God longs to have you with him, both in eternity and in your daily life now?
If you have not received the free gift from God that Jesus explains on page 58, what is keeping you from doing so now?
3. WEEK THREE: CHAPTERS 7 & 8
How is belief in God not a blind leap of faith? How is belief in Jesus as God in the flesh not a blind leap of faith?
What happens to someone on the inside when they place their trust in Jesus Christ?
If Jesus came to restore us to our original design, is God living in us part of how we were designed to live? What are the implications of this for you own life?
What aspects of your life would you like to change, but you don’t seem to have the strength to do so? How does God want to be the one to do them through you?
In what sense is marriage “not about rules”? Why can God’s relationship with us be described the same way?
What does it mean to you personally that God became human?
Jesus said that he came to reveal the Father. Based on what you know about Jesus, how would you describe God the Father?
Most of the New Testament teaching on hell comes from Jesus himself. How does knowing this affect your view of hell?
How would you explain God’s purpose for the present time? In what sense will one day everything be made right?
What are the implications of the fact that God chose to suffer more than his creation suffered?
Are there hurts in your life that it seems God doesn’t care about? If you are willing to share, what is one of them? What does this chapter have to say about whether God actually cares or not?
How does God use personal pain in His plan of restoring his relationship with people? Have there been wounds in your heart that have driven you to God? What were/are they? How did they drive you to Him?
4. WEEK FOUR: CHAPTERS 9 & 10
Are you stuck on a performance basis with God, trying to please Him through your own efforts? How does He want you to depend on Him living through you instead?
In what way is “God living in you” the best part of the message of Jesus? What difference should it make if God lives in us?
If God lives in you, is it possible to love those whom you don’t have a positive emotional response to, at least at times? How does this happen in a practical sense?
Read the gospel of Luke, chapter 15. If you have placed your trust in Jesus as your Savior, is God “doing back flips” over you? What is the implication of that for you?
From the characterization in the book, how would you describe Jesus? What kind of person is he? What qualities of his stand out to you the most?
Which of the following aspects of the good news of Jesus Christ is most important to you:
·getting your sins forgiven
·being with God in eternity
·have a real relationship with God now
·receiving a changed heart with new desires from God
·God living in you now and forever
Overall, what was the most important aspect of the book to you personally?
What questions remain in your mind concerning any of the issues the book raised? Is getting an answer to these questions important to you? How are you going to go about getting your answers?
What is the personal application for you of Revelation 3:20, the Bible verse that the book closes with? How can we dine with Jesus daily?
What are action step(s) you would like to take concerning yourself as a result of reading this book?
What are action step(s) you would like to take concerning someone else as a result of reading this book?