In preparation for my sermon last Sunday, I read Tim Chester’s excellent little book, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, andMission around the Table. It’s a great book that explores the eating practices of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. If you’re a church leader, consider using this book for a small group or Sunday school class.
Here are some of the key quotes I highlighted:
“There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, ‘The Son of Man came...’ ‘The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45); ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10); ‘The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . . ‘ (Luke 7:34). The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.” (p. 12)
“Jesus spent his time eating and drinking – a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.” (p. 13)
“Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people:
- In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.
- In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed in the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal.
- In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand.
- In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary.
- In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal.
- In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends.
- In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus.
- In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.
- In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem.
Robert Karris concludes: ‘In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.’” (p. 13)
“In the ministry of Jesus, meals were enacted grace, community, and mission. So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. But they give that new reality substance. Jesus’s meals are not just symbols; they’re also application. They’re not just pictures; they’re the real thing in miniature.” (p. 14)
“I…want to argue that meals should be an integral and significant part of our shared life. They represent the meaning of mission, but they more than represent it: they embody and enact our mission.” (p. 14)
Peter Leithart: “For Jesus ‘feast’ was not just a ‘metaphor’ for the kingdom. As Jesus announced the feast of the kingdom, He also brought it into reality through His own feasting. Unlike many theologians, He did not come preaching an ideology, promoting ideas, or teaching moral maxims. He came teaching about the feast of the kingdom, and He came feasting in the kingdom. Jesus did not go around merely talking about eating and drinking; he went around eating and drinking. A lot.” (p. 15)
“Every version of salvation involves a principle, a rule, a law. If your idea of salvation is to have friends accept you, then your first commandment will be: ‘Thou shalt not be uncool.’ And uncool people must be avoided at all costs. If your idea of salvation is a beautiful home, then your prophet will be Martha Stewart. Your rule will be antique pine, tiled floors, and distressed paint. Or maybe clean lines, white walls, and no clutter. Your first commandment will be: ‘Thou shalt not be untidy.’” (p. 28)
“Robert Karris says: ‘In Luke’s Gospel Jesus got himself killed because of the way he ate.’” (p. 30)
On Luke 15: “The shepherd, the woman, and the father each hold a party (15:6, 9, 23-24) that mirrors the celebration of heaven (15:7, 10).” (p. 31)
On Luke 7: “Luke seems to pick stories involving tax collectors and prostitutes. They exemplify notorious sinners. It’s as if he’s testing us. Have we grasped God’s grace? How do we react when a promiscuous woman kisses the body of Jesus? Do we celebrate God’s grace, or are we scandalized? The grace of God turns out to be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Jesus is socially disruptive; his radical grace disrupts social situations. And we don’t like church to be disrupted. We regard marginalized people in the church as ‘a problem’ to be ‘handled.’” (p. 40)
“He’s the friend of riffraff, traitors, the unrespectable, drunks, druggies, prostitutes, the mentally ill, the broken, and the needy – people whose lives are a mess.” (p. 40)
“Problem people, difficult people, different people have a habit of exposing our hearts. Behavior always comes from the desires of the heart – Jesus says as much in the previous chapter (Luke 6:43-45).” (p. 45)
“Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list.” (p. 47)
Peter Leithart: “Life in the kingdom . . . demands that we adopt a new set of table manners, and as we observe this etiquette, we become increasingly civilized according to the codes of the city of God.” (p. 50)
“The withdrawal of hospitality is the ultimate sanction of the church community: ‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one’ (1 Cor. 5:11).” (p. 52)
“The discipline is for someone who claims to be a believer, but acts like an unbeliever without any sign of repentance. The sanction only makes sense if meals are integral to church life, and church itself is to some extent embodied through shared meals.” (p. 52)
“Our meals express our doctrine of justification. It’s possible to articulate an orthodox theology of justification by faith, but communicate through your meals a doctrine of justification by works.” (p. 53)
“Mark puts the story of the feeding of the five thousand immediately after the story of another party (Mark 6). Herod holds a birthday banquet for himself to impress his nobles. The climax is an erotic dance by his stepdaughter. Then Herod is manipulated into having John the Baptist murdered. Jesus welcomes everyone to his party. The poor are included. Jesus’s motivation is compassion. He proclaims good news. And the party ends with everyone satisfied. Herod, in contrast, only welcomes the in-crowd. The poor are excluded. He is motivated by pride and enslaved to his need to save face. Herod’s party ends in death.” (p. 60)
Parallels between Luke 9:16 and 22:19: “Taking, thanking, breaking, giving – the same words in the same order. Luke is making a connection. Jesus is the Messiah who provides for God’s people and hosts God’s great banquet. Ultimately he provides by dying and he welcomes us because hew as abandoned. As soon as he is acclaimed as the Messiah, he explains that he must suffer and die (Luke 9:20-22, 43-45). Jesus is the Messiah, but he is not the Messiah people expect. He won’t conquer the Roman army and liberate Jerusalem. There will be judgment, but it will fall on him. He’ll be judged in our place, so that we can escape God’s judgment and be welcomed to God’s great feast…. Jesus is the host of God’s banquet, and he provides for us by dying for us.” (p. 64, 65)
Peter Leithart: “The Lord’s Supper is the world in miniature; it has cosmic significance. Within it we find clues to the meaning of all creation and all history, to the nature of God and the nature of man, to the mystery of the world, which is Christ. . . . Though the table stands at the center its effects stretch out to the four corners of the earth.” (p. 101)
On Luke 22: “The Last Supper looks back on the first Passover meal, but it also looks forward to the messianic banquet promised in Isaiah 25. Jesus says: ‘I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God . . . . I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:16, 18). ‘The Eucharist is our model of the eschatological order, a microcosm of the way things really ought to be.’” (p. 103, quoting Leithart)
On how we misuse food:
- We use food for control instead of looking to God’s greatness
- We use food for image instead of looking to God’s glory
- We use food for refuge instead of looking to God’s goodness
- We use food for identity instead of looking to God’s grace (p. 104-5)
“We often use food as an escape instead of finding refuge in God. We self-medicate with food. We become priests bringing offerings of chocolate to ourselves. We find comfort in sugar, salt, and fat instead of the living God.” (p. 105)
“At the heart of the Bible story, at its turning point, is….the Last Supper. The Last Supper, which becomes for us the Lord’s Supper, is a celebration of the story’s central act: the cross of Jesus. The Last Supper was not only looking back to the Passover and forward to the messianic banquet, it was looking ahead to the following day, to the cross.” (p. 112)
“Eating communion bread is the beginning and sign of the new creation” (p. 115)
“What we call ‘the Lord’s Supper’ is a foretaste of ‘the Lamb’s Supper’ in Revelation 19. It’s a beginning of the feast we eat with Jesus and his people in the new creation. It’s not just a picture. It’s the real thing begun in a partial way. We eat with God’s people, and we eat with the ascended Christ, present through the Holy Spirit.” (p. 118)
Why the communion meal?
- The meal is an act of remembrance (Luke 22:19)
- The meal is an act of community (1 Cor 10:17)
- The meal is an act of dependence (Luke 4:4; 11:3)
- The meal is an act of participation (1 Cor 10:16)
- The meal is an act of formation (1 Cor 11:26) (pp. 120-124)
“meals create and reinforce community” (p. 121)
“We proclaim his death by eating together as a reconciled community through the cross” (p. 122)
“We live by the word of the cross. Each mouthful is a reminder that we cannot save ourselves. We eat bread, rather than merely say words, to remind us that we rely on his grace afresh each day just as much as we rely on our daily bread.” (p. 122)
“Participation in the Communion meal is habit-forming. The Lord’s Supper is a drama in which we’re active participants. Each time we participate, we’re learning and relearning our role.” (p. 123)
Leithart: “Though the Eucharist does not bypass the mind and conscious reflection, the effect it has is more in the realm of acquiring a skill than in the realm of learning a new set of facts; the effect is more a matter of ‘training’ than ‘teaching.’ At the Supper, we eat bread and drink wine together with thanksgiving not merely to show the way things really ought to be but to practice the way things really ought to be…. Not automatically, but in the context of biblical teaching and a robust community life, the skills and virtues practiced at the Lord’s table will spill over to fill the whole church with a Eucharistic ethos. In short, the Supper exercises the church in the protocols of life in the presence of God.”
Table fellowship has been a major theme of Scot McKnight and our current pastor, Brian Zahnd--both men whose ministries have influenced me.
I've struggled with how to understand I Cor 5 in light what I see in the gospels about Jesus's table fellowship.
The role of meal has also enhanced my (malnourished) understanding of the Eucharist.
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