We have fellowship dinners at our house Wed, Saturday and Sunday. We also serve food daily at our house. We usually serve food before bible time. These are warm and happy times. The children are not made to feel like they are in a “charity” feeding line.
JESUS, MEALS, AND TRANSFORMATION
At the table, the food becomes the medium for the message of love, acceptance, and belonging.
As we cross over the threshold to the table, we find that we are not alone after all. We look up and are reminded that we belong—that we matter and that we are loved.
When we read the stories of Jesus’ mealtimes, we see descriptions of a festive atmosphere. At one point, Jesus was even accused of being a drunkard and a party animal. Our Lord remarked, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard’” (Luke 7:34 NIV). For Jesus, it was not about the food or the drink. Food and drink just allowed Jesus to talk about things that mattered, explore subjects that were interesting, and discuss topics that needed to be covered.
Luke’s gospel is full of stories of Jesus’ mealtimes. Jesus ate in the home of Levi, a despised tax collector (Luke 5:27–32). We see Jesus in the home of Simon, a Pharisee, where Simon was aghast at His willingness to be touched by a sinful woman (Luke 7:36–50). In Mary and Martha’s home, Jesus reminded Martha of the way she busied herself in preparation but not in presence (Luke 10:38–42). It’s a key insight for us about what the real priorities should be in preparing for our own guests. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!”
In the home of another Pharisee, the meal was the setting of a challenging conversation where Jesus shared His most intimate thoughts on life and the challenge of what it really means to be a Jesus follower (Luke 11:37–53). During another mealtime, guests scrambled to get the best seat: the one closest to the Lord. Jesus then took this opportunity to teach about humility and the true value of not fighting for the best position (Luke 14:1–24). Time and time again, the table became Jesus’ pulpit. In Zacchaeus’s home, Jesus was witness to the total transformation of one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax-collecting business (Luke 19:1–10). In mid-Eastern culture, as is the practice of many cultures today around the world, the sharing of a meal is the mark of hospitality. It’s interesting that the word hospital appears within hospitality. When we are served, the service itself can become a vehicle of healing, restoration, and recovery. I also find it interesting that the word restaurant is rooted in the Latin word meaning “to restore.” Together we find, as Jesus demonstrated, that we are restored when we experience the life that comes from God’s table and God’s food.
In a home in Emmaus we find the risen Jesus around another table. It was precisely here that Jesus deliberately chose to reveal Himself as resurrected Lord to His unbelieving disciples (Luke 24:13–35). Here Jesus took the bread once again, and perhaps as He broke it, the disciples’ eyes moved from the bread to the nail-scarred hands, proving once and for all that He had come back to life—body and soul.
The other gospel writers told these and other stories revolving around images of food. While Jesus waited for the disciples to bring Him some lunch, He offered living water to a Samaritan woman (John 4). He fed more than five thousand people (John 6:1–15) and gave Himself as the bread of heaven (John 6:22–40). Matthew documented a story of Jesus feeding four thousand people (Matt. 15:29–39). Jesus told a parable picturing the great feast of heaven (Matt. 22:1–14; Luke 14:15–24). And as I have already mentioned, He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples and instructed His followers to remember Him when they repeat the meal, which we now celebrate in the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13).
Finally, and in a surprising appearance to His disciples after the resurrection, Jesus cooked breakfast over coals on the beach. In their post crucifixion blue souls, the disciples fished—perhaps going back to something that was familiar and comforting for them after Jesus had been crucified. Jesus appeared on the shore and gave them direction about where to cast their nets. But He also did something that might seem strange—He fixed breakfast for them. He built a fire hot enough to grill fish and cook bread. When Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready!” something happened beyond fishing, boats, and water. The disciples were with Jesus. John 21 tells us that Jesus took the bread and gave it to the disciples, then He did the same with the fish. Jesus served His beloved friends a seaside breakfast where the discussion segued into one of the most remembered and endearing conversations recorded in the Bible between Jesus and Peter.
The morning wasn’t about what they ate. It was about the fact that they found one another on that lake shore after such tumultuous events. Food was the medium, the connecting point. For Jesus, the meal was simply the place where He could best connect with and best enjoy those who gathered at the table. Jesus used the table as the meeting place to find the heart. He pursued people by talking with them. They mattered. His dialogue with people who had been long ignored and marginalized validated them and offered them significance.