If, like me, you live in the South, you know that fall brings many wonderful things. Cooler weather, falling leaves, college football, and preparations for the upcoming Holiday season. Though football season kicks off before Fall technically arrives, it does usher in another time of year that coincides with, and continues through, Fall into the Winter, this is a season I call “Feast.” Game time often means meal time. When the game is on, so is our appetite. As the temperature start to drop we crave hearty dishes which lead us directly towards Thanksgiving lunches and continue into Christmas Parties and dinners. I believe that we love to eat year round, but there is something about this particular time of year that brings our inner food connoisseurs to the surface.
While the bible warns us against gluttony, the idea of meals and even feast are deeply Biblical. When Abraham meets the mysterious King of Salem named Melchezidek, the King brings Abraham wine and bread, and they shared a meal together (Genesis 14) David proclaims in Psalms 23 that God longs to prepare a meal for us to sit down face to face and dine with our enemies. Many of God’s greatest moments in Israelite history became annual feast, where families and friends would gather together to remember what God did for their forefathers, these continue to this day. The very first sin was centered around food, of which God had provided more than enough, yet we chose to eat what we had been commanded not to eat. God even chose to reveal His plan to include the gentiles and free them from the Old Testament system by revealing a mystical dinner menu to Peter on a rooftop (Acts 10). We even find that in eternity there will be a great feast.
The source material for meal illustrations in the bible is endless. Jesus often chose to use food as both teaching points and to display His divine nature. After all, His first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast, and one of His larger miracles was multiplying food. John the Baptist’s followers complained to John that they were constantly fasting while Jesus and his band of misfits feasted constantly. Jesus knew the value of sitting down face to face in community with people and sharing a meal and a conversation. When we sit down to eat with someone, we take the time to get to know them. The early church in Acts took this to be the model for how the body of Christ should function. They met daily in each others homes, eating together (Acts 2:42), bonding with one another. This was deeply important to Jesus, it should be important to us as well.
The first five years or so of my marriage, my wife and I, often ate dinner in our living room. There was no greater joy than eating a large New York style pizza with Bacon and White Sauce while watching the TV show Lost on DVD. While we have very fond memories of those times, and this is a common practice among young couples, when my wife became pregnant with our first daughter, we both made a conscience decision to begin a tradition of eating together at the dinner table as a family. Now my oldest daughter is seven and each night we all sit around the table and have the age old conversations about how our days went and what happened at work and school. We engage with one another. That has always been the point.
Meals also provide us with the nourishment to make it through life. Just before Paul’s infamous shipwreck he instructs his fellow inmates to eat so that they will have the strength to survive what is coming. Go didn’t stop the ship from wrecking, but He gave them what they would need to survive the coming disaster. This is something we need to remember, following God does not mean there won’t be a shipwreck, but following God means He will supply what we need to get through the crash. This is precisely what Paul told his shipmates in Acts 27:
“As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” (Acts 27:33-35, ESV)
God created our need for sustenance which enables us to carry on. Often our need to engage with people and our nourishment coincide with one another. I recently lost a good friend; he passed away after a very short and devastating battle with cancer. Our church family had spent nearly two weeks fasting and praying for my friend. There were endless nights that bled into brutal days sitting in waiting rooms and around an ICU bedside. Some were not eating because they had committed to fast; others of us were not eating simply because the situation had drained the desire to eat from our bodies. Early in the morning on the day my friend passed away, the family and a few of us from the church sat around the bedside as they turned off the machines, and my friend silently slipped into eternity. We all stood silently weeping not knowing how to move forward from this moment. Then something miraculous happened. One of the family members spoke up and said, “I’ll be back, I’m going to run to the store and pick up a bunch of stuff, I think we could all use some breakfast.”
I’m not sure I could have seen this coming. An hour after the ICU room had been cleared, the family and friends gathered in the dinning area of the near by Ronald McDonald house and ate one the most amazing breakfast meals I have ever eaten. With that said, I’m not sure I could tell you today what was served. We sat together sharing stories about my friend, talking about old hunting stories, at times we laughed deeply, at other times we cried bitterly, but we were together. I was reminded that morning of King David, after spending an endless night weeping and pleading with God to save his son, the King got the news that his son had passed. The bible says David washed himself and went to eat. When we go through things like this, God created us to need food to replenish our bodies, but more importantly He created us to need the personal interaction that typically comes along with a feast.
The night before Jesus went to the cross, he hosted a meal for his friends. This meal has a very deep spiritual meaning (which we will come to in a moment,) but, like Paul before the wreck, he also recognized His friends need the sustenance to get through what they were about to see, and they needed this time together with Jesus; face to face to make it through what was coming. Also, through breaking of bread Jesus taught them a mystery, that through this meal Christ was providing them, and us as well, everything we need for life. The bread was His body broken for our healing, the wine was His very blood that has paid in full the debt of sin we owed. When we gather together and eat Christ want us to remember these things. This is the most important thing He taught them, and it was echoed in Acts to the early church, and it was all displayed through a meal, a mystical union with God and each other called “CommUNION.”
With all this talk of food, I am hungry, and perhaps you are as well. Hunger is a gift from God. As you gather this fall around Thanksgiving tables, football screens, and Christmas parties for a meal, take the time to commune with friends and family, maybe neighbors and maybe someone you don’t know all that well. However, all of our earthly conversations over food can simply be just a meal. There is one more great meal that is mentioned in scripture that make all other meals pale in comparison.
In Revelation we are told that Christ is longing to dine with each of us, one on one. John puts it like this:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)
What a simple, beautiful picture of the Gospel of Christ. Did you know that Jesus desire is to walk into the room and share a meal with you and you alone? The God who created the heavens and the earth is knocking on a door because He wants to share a meal with you. He longs to have everything that comes along with the kinds of meals we have looked at. He wants to provide you companionship when you are feeling alone. He wants to give you the strength to make it through what today will hold. He wants to comfort you in times of loss. He wants to laugh with you in moments of joy, he wants to know you intimately, and more importantly for us to know Him intimately, the way only someone who would share a meal with each other can. All we have to do is open the door; He is waiting to share a feast with you.
Grace and Peace to you.